Since I started this little blog, I've noticed a steady stream of folks landing here after searching for free tatting patterns. I do this all the time too, mostly for inspiration, but it can be a tiresome search. So I have a wonderful link to share with you, the Antique Pattern Library. This place is overflowing with amazing knitting, crochet and tatting pattern books that are all in the public domain. That means you can download the PDFs for free and there's no one to yell at you for selling your finished work created from these patterns.
Although I do have to warn you, these were written in a completely different pattern format than you may be used to. It's best to try and read through the entire pattern and visualize the finished piece before you begin. The patterns tend to assume that you have a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the art and their particular names for stitches to begin with, so do look through the first few pages of each book for unfamiliar techniques before attempting a pattern. All these tatting patterns are written for shuttle tatting, but they can be adapted for use by needle tatters, if you have problems, let me know, maybe I can help.
I love using these old books as a jumping off point for my own patterns. I see an old collar pattern as a Gothic choker and small motifs as pendants. Some patterns need a massive re haul to make them wearable today and some are perfect as they are. If you are inclined to sell what you make from these patterns, I highly suggest sharing the origin of the patterns and never claiming that you made them up yourselves. I find that people love knowing that the pieces they buy have a history and they aren't bothered that you didn't do all the design work yourself. With that in mind, experiment with beads and colors, but not black, black's mine...seriously, I'll find you, I'm a spy remember.