Following a few basic tatting instructions will have you creating beautiful pieces of art before you know it. Tatting is a fiber art that commonly uses a shuttle and cotton thread to make lace. It uses a knot called a double stitch made on a single thread. The knots are drawn into rings and chains that are then made into increasingly larger motifs that become a unique style of lace. The origins of tatting can be traced to 16th century Venice, and can even be found in earlier times. The art of knotted fiber originated as macrame, and examples have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs.
Tatting as we know it today reached its height of popularity in the mid 19th century, when women used the technique to make lace for collars and cuffs, as well as household decor. It continued to be popular until the 1930s, when affordable manufactured lace became widely available. Since the 1990s, there's been a resurgence of interest in fiber arts. While knitting remains the most popular, tatting is coming into its own again.
Basic Tatting Supplies
Basic tatting supplies include a ball or spool of thread and a tatting shuttle. Tatting shuttles range in size from about 2 ¾ inches, suitable for fine thread, to nearly seven inches for coarser thread, such as the thread used in cotton crochet. The thread must have a firm twist.
Most tatting is done with cotton, but linen can also be used. Tatting shuttles are made from a variety of materials, including bone, wood and ivory, but plastic and metal shuttles are the most widely used. The shuttle is formed from two elongated ovals joined at each end. In the center of the shuttle is a post or a removable bobbin to hold the working thread. The working tip of the shuttle has a hook or a tapered point used for joining.
Other tatting supplies can include a small steel crochet hook for joining threads, a needle for finishing loose ends of thread in a completed project and a second shuttle to hold a different color thread for two-color tatting.
Tatting Terms and Abbreviations
Like knitting and crochet, tatting has its own language. In order to read even basic tatting instructions, you must learn the terms. The following are the most common terms and their abbreviations:
Double stitch: ds
Slip join: sj
Lock join: lj
Reverse work: rw
* * Repeat the directions inside the asterisks for the specified number of times
Some Basic Tatting Instructions
Tatting has been called the hardest craft to learn and the easiest to do. It involves all of your fingers on both hands, so some degree of coordination is required. Once you've learned the basics, following tatting instructions is easy.
The only stitch in tatting is the double stitch (ds). Made in two steps or stages, it's actually a type of clove hitch knot. (The following instructions are for right-handed people. Reverse them if you are left-handed).
Creating a Double Stitch
Wind the bobbin or post until it is evenly filled. Pull out a length of thread about 12 to 16 inches long. Hold the shuttle horizontally in your right hand, with your thumb on the bottom and your forefinger on the top, with the next two fingers beside it. The thread should come out from the right side of the bobbin, go over your raised little finger (which will support it as you work) and then go over the top of the rest of the fingers on your right hand.
In your left hand, hold the thread near its end between your thumb and forefinger. Spread out the rest of the fingers of your left hand, wrap the thread over the top of your forefinger and the rest of your fingers, then under your little finger and back up to the thumb. Hold it along with the end of the thread, making a large loop.
Move the shuttle towards your left hand, under the right hand thread, and under the top thread in the left hand's loop. Keep the shuttle horizontal and slide it backward over that top thread. Let the shuttle thread glide off your right hand and pull it tight while relaxing the fingers of your left hand so the loop forms around the shuttle thread (Part one).
Next, make the left hand loop again and, keeping the shuttle horizontal, push the shuttle thread down with the last three fingers of your right hand. Pass it over the top of the left hand loop, then bring it back out under that thread. Again, pull the shuttle thread tight so that the new loop slides onto it and next to the first part (Part two). You've just completed your first double stitch. Practice the double stitch with a thick thread until the movements become comfortable to you.
The basic shapes in tatting are chains, rings and picots. A chain is a group of double stitches snugged into a line. A ring joins one end of a chain to the other with a slip join. A picot is a loop of thread put into the space between two double stitches. The picot can be purely decorative, or it can be used to join two rings.
Other Kinds of Tatting
Traditional shuttle tatting is the most popular form of tatting, but two other methods-- needle tatting and crochet tatting-- can also make tatted lace-style items. Needle tatting uses a long tatting needle and tatting thread to make the double stitch and picot. The only real difference is that the stitches remain on the needle until they're ready to be joined into a ring.
Crochet tatting, sometimes called cro-tatting, requires a regular crochet hook or a special hook designed just for tatting. This form of tatting uses crochet loop techniques to make the double stitch chains, rings and picots. The advantage of the hook is that other crochet stitches can be added to your work.
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