I have been tatting for over 20 years, I love it, yet I have been very reluctant to put down in writing how to do it. Yet when I look at other peoples tutorials, they seem to miss important parts that hung me up until I found someone to teach me. I have taught many people how to tat and I have several others who want to learn, but getting together has been the challenge. Tatting has been around for a little over 200 years. A lot of the best vintage patterns are found in women’s magazines dating from 1930’s and 40’s. Those patterns are beautiful and although I do a lot of vintage tatting, I rewrite their patterns and write my own patterns using more modern notations, because they are just easier to read. So here is my attempt at explaining how to shuttle tat.
Supplies: Tatting Shuttle (plastic ones are about $2 each) #10 crochet thread (please make your life easier and get thread that has a strong twist to it, without the twist the knots don’t slide well, and the better they slide the easier it is to tat) Scissors
First I will go through the terms you need to understand and then the instructions on how to do them. Second you need to practice, a lot.
Terms: Round- instead of rows Ds=double stitch R= ring P= picot (or “-“on a pattern) Ch = chain Round = row Connect picots = + RW=Reverse Work
Load the shuttle by sticking the end of the thread through the hole in the center of the shuttle and wrap the thread round the shuttle until it is fully loaded. The pattern will never say this, they assume you already know it.
Other terms: Round: tatting is done in rounds, going around the center of the design or motif
ds=double stitch: The double stitch is the basis of all tatting. As its name indicates it has two parts, the first half and the second half. To do the first half of the ds, pinch the end of the tread coming off the shuttle, between the index finger and thumb of the left hand.
Wrap the thread around the extended fingers of the left hand, and place the thread through the pinched index finger and thumb. This “ring” of thread is the basis for creating rings in tatting.
Hold the Shuttle with the index finger and thumb with the right hand. Wrap the pinky of the right hand around the thread coming out of the shuttle.
Slide the shuttle underneath the shuttle thread and the ring thread.
Pull the shuttle up- see the triangle hole.
Push the end of the shuttle down through the triangle hole. Release the thread held by the pinky.
See the loop in the shuttle part of the thread? Relax your left hand middle finger and pull on the thread with the shuttle.
The loop flips over to the ring thread. This is what you want.
Now straighten the left middle finger and use your right index finger and thumb to slide the first half of the ds down the thread under the pinched fingers. You will notice that the ring thread gets tighter as you create stitches. To loosen the circle, pull on the thread below the pinch on the left hand. Unwind or rewind thread from shuttle as needed.
Second half of ds: Take the shuttle go over the top of the thread between the middle and index finger, place it bottom first-from right to left-through the hole (under the same thread) created by the thread, the left index finger and the middle finger and your palm. Flip the loop from the shuttle thread to the ring thread like you did in the first half. Again straighten the left middle finger and you’re your right index finger and thumb to slide the second half of the ds down the thread an under the pinched fingers.
This is what a “ds” looks like completed.
r- ring: once you have completed as many ds as desired, you pull on the shuttle string to close the ring. If it doesn’t slide and close, then one or more of your ds were not correctly created, and what you have instead of a sliding knot is slip knot that won’t slide. You have two choices, cut if off and start all over again or unpick all the knots until you release the bad one then start all over from that point.
“-“ or p = Picot: A picot is created when you leave a length of thread between two ds. So to make a picot, you create on ds, then made another ds with about ¼ inch of thread between the double stitches. (I am really tempted to have a line ¼ inch long tattooed on my left index finger. It would help my picots be more consistent in length.) When you push the 2 ds together the extra thread forms a loop that is the picot. Picots are important to connecting one round or motif of tatting to the next round or motif.
ch = chain: You will need two loaded shuttles or one shuttle and a ball of thread. Pinch the end of the ball thread with the pinched index finger and thumb. Drape the ball thread over the fingers of the left hand and anchor it by wrapping it around the left pinky finger (this will provide a little tension). Pinch the end of the shuttle thread and then use it to create double stitches and/or picots.
Connecting picots = “+”: Follow the pattern until you reach a point where you need to connect two picots together. Lay the first picot over the ring (or chain) thread.
Use the tip of the shuttle (or small crochet hook) to pull the thread up through the picot.
Pull the loop large enough that you can pass the shuttle through the loop going from right to left.
Pull the loop tight and complete the stitch by adding the second half of the double stitch.
RW=reverse work: While working a round, you will be creating ring(s) and then RW, or in other words flip the project from the bottom to the top and create a chain, then RW again and repeat the rings, the RW, etc. until you are done with that round. RW is why when you look a doily and you think you see 14 rows, when in reality it is 7 or less rounds.
When you run out of thread on your shuttle, leave a long tail and refill your shuttle. Tie the new end from the shuttle to the old end from the last shuttle.
When you are done with your project, you take care of these ends by tacking them down with a thread and needle, or by putting a dab of fabric glue on the knot.
Once the glue is dry the knot will stay tied, so cut the tails off short.
Tatting is a slow compared to knitting or crochet, yet oh so worth it! Enjoy.