Saturday, March 11, 2017

Art Review

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Tatting is a form of knotting which is known by various names throughout the world. In the East, it is quite simply and literally known as "makeup" or "shuttle". The Italians, however, are far more poetic in their terminology and refer to tatting either as "occhi" meaning "eyes" or "chicchierimo" a word possibly derived from the Italian verb "chqiacchierare" which means to "gossip". Indeed the lace like work does often appear eye shaped and possibly women did traditionally gossip while they tatted. To the French it is called "frivolité - a delightful reflection of the widespread popular enjoyment this craft has long provided. According to the Oxford dictionary the origin of the English word "tatting" is unknown.

Tatting was widely practiced in the courts of the 18th Century in Europe.

This portrait of the Duchess of Albemarle was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723 - 1792) shows her tatting.

Many of the charming and decorative shuttles date from the 18th Century are now valuable museum pieces. One, for example, is of fine wrought steel in the form of flowers; others are known to have been made from mother-of-pearl or rock-crystal set with precious stones; while some are gold and others are elaborately enamelled.

An ornate gold and enamel shuttle made by J.J. Barriére of Paris in 1769.

Although many beautiful antique shuttles survived today, very few examples of actual tatting remain as illustrations of this delicate art. We do know that two primary reasons for tatting was to decorate clothing and even to form household items such as complete curtains. Designs were restricted to the working of simple straight lines, but today with a tatting revival, numerous effects are possible through the use of larger shuttles and various threads such as mercerised cotton, linen and silk.

Tattered top for wedding dress.

Basic Materials and Equipment for Tatting
You will need at least one tatting shuttle if not two. A thread with a firm twist to it. A small hook for joining. The latter sometimes comes with the shuttle but if not a fine crochet hook will do.

Clover shuttles.

In the middle of the shuttle there is a hole. To attach the thread to the shuttle, run the thread through the hole and you can either tie it to the post with a simple knot or pull enough thread out to hold onto the end while you wind. To thread a Clover shuttle you wind the thread around the shuttle. As you do, the shuttle will click each time the thread passes through the ends.The thread should not extend beyond the shuttle edges as this will prevent it from running smoothly.

Additionally, Clover shuttles have a long pointed end, which can help with joining rings and chains together. You will want to have a small crochet hook on hand to help you with joins though, because sometimes the pick just does not work for pulling thread through.

Hold the shuttle in your strongest hand (right hand for right handed people), gradually letting out the thread as required. Form the knots with your other hand (left for right handed people). Note: which hand you use for what purpose is your choice - try making the half stitch (see below) with one choice and then reverse your choice to determine what combination suits you the best!

Basic Stitches
The Half Stitch
The"Half Stitch" requires three actions. Release from the shuttle an end of about 51 cm or 20 inches. Hold the end to it with your left hand between thumb and index finger and take the thread over the back of the remaining three fingers and back under them to between the thumb and index finger again, thus forming a ring. Spread the fingers out to enlarge the ring.

Throw the thread from the shuttle into a loose loop over the top of the left hand and pass the shuttle from underneath, up through the ring and loop from right to left.

The next movement is very important because if it is not made correctly the work will lock and the stitches will not run as freely as they should. Lower the middle finger on the left hand to loosen the ring. Tug the shuttle to the right so that the loop is transferred from being formed by the shuttle thread to being formed by the ring thread around the shuttle thread. Eventually the procedure will become instinctive but this is where beginners most often make mistakes.

Raise the middle finger of the left hand to tighten the stitch, sliding it along the shuttle thread until it is in position. Hold it in place with the thumb and index finger of the left hand.

The Josephine knot (see below) is formed by making several half stitches, slipping the ring off the left hand and pulling the shuttle thread so that the stitches form a ring. The size of the Josphine knot depends on how many half stitches are worked.

Double Stitch
There are two stages to this knot - the first being the "half stitch", which we have already discussed. The second is, in fact, the same movement but worked in the opposite direction, which locks with the first.

With the right hand, pass the shuttle through the loop on the left hand downward from left to right. Tug the shuttle thread as before to transfer the stitch from the shuttle thread to the ring thread, then draw this stitch up against the first "half stitch" to lock.

Make several double stitches. Remove the ring from the left hand and draw up as for the Josephine knot.

Make a double stitch. Leave a space of about 0.5 cm (0.25 inches), then make a second double stitch. Draw the two double stitches together so that the thread between the arches forms a picot. The size of the picot is determined by the length of the space between two knots.

Joining the Rings
Rings are joined at a picot. Usually a ring will have a picot at the top and at each side. Make the second ring just before the first picot. Insert the hook through the picot of the previous ring, draw the ring thread through to form a loop and hold it in the thumb and index finger of the left hand. Pass the shuttle through the loop and draw up the thread. Make the second half of a double stitch to lock the join. The join takes the place of the first half stitch.

These are made with two shuttles and the knots remain in straight lines or curves. Because there are two threads, the tatting can be done in two colors. If both threads are of the same color, it will help - especially if you are a beginner - to have two different coloured shuttles.

Hold the end of the thread from the first shuttle between the thumb and index finger of the left hand, pass the thread behind the middle two fingers and wind it around the little finger. Allow the shuttle to hang loose.

Hold the end of the thread from the second shuttle together with the first thread between the thumb and index finger of the left hand. Make double stitches as before but around the thread from the left-hand shuttle. After the tug, which transfers the knot, the thread from the right-hand shuttle becomes the running thread and this is usually the thread, which has made any previous ring. The left hand thread is usually the extra one, and often this thread can be used straight from the ball of thread and so is not wound onto a shuttle at all.


There are numerous tatting website dedicated to this form of lace making. Each of these websites give tips and recipes for creating tatted lace as a finishing item or as a featured item. Below are a few images that illustrate both aspects.

Floral Mat.

Edging for a lavender bag.

Handkerchief Edgings.



Coffee Table Mat.

Stars Tattered Collar, 4th of July Costume, Tattered Ruff.

Tattered Lace Bracelet Hand Stitched Cuff.

Tattered lace wedding card.

From the Gilded Dragonfly - GHOST - oak tattered lace steampunk gothic choker

[1]Creative Crafts Encyclopedia, Octopus Books, London (1977).
[2] Macramé and Tatting, Octopus Books, London (1973).

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