Tatting dates back nearly 1,000 years to fishermen who wove cords into fishing nets. For nearly 1,000 before that, however, fishermen were laying the groundwork for tatting. The shuttle they used was rather large as the cord used to make nets was of heavy stock and a bit difficult to work with. As time progressed, the knots used by fishermen filtered down to weavers who used smaller shuttles to work with fine threads that produced lace. Of the many types of laces produced, tatting was one of them.
Tatting was spread throughout Europe and to America as well. As lace was always in demand -- and the more ornate the lace, was the more in demand it was -- tatting was a useful skill and a thriving industry. While there is significant disagreement concerning how and when tatting reached different parts of the world, it is known that the Egyptians practiced a form tatting, as evidenced by garments found on at least one mummy. It is known the Chinese tatted as well, but the timeframe on when and to what extent is fuzzy aside from it predating "The Canterbury Tales" (1387).
While some say that America lays claim to tatting, tatting is simply lace-making by another name. In Italy, tatting is called "occhi"; in France, "frivolite"; and in the East it was known as "makouk." The process of knotting to create patterns that are then either used as doilies or similar items or added to garments is consistent everywhere. Also consistent is a slip stitch known as the "Bolin knot," the cornerstone of tatting under any name.
Today tatting is not practiced as commonly as it once was. Rather than individuals spending time tying each knot, automated processes have been developed to carry out the manufacture of lace. It is considered an old and even lost art among most people born after the 1930s, as people today rarely make or even mend their own clothes.
Needle tatting is a simpler form of tatting that uses a needle rather than a shuttle to complete the work.
You may wonder how to make a tatting shuttle once you've caught the tatting bug. Having your own shuttle can make the hobby of tatting even more personal.