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How to Use a Tatting Shuttle to Create Lovely Lacy Designs

Updated on May 27, 2015
Tatting with a Shuttle
Tatting with a Shuttle | Source
Beautiful Bobbin Lace Pendant
Beautiful Bobbin Lace Pendant | Source

Lace Making - A Centuries Old Craft

In the eighteenth century, handmade lace would have cost many dollars per yard, in fact, old lace is still collected as a valuable antique. Today, nearly all lace is machine made and therefor cheaper by comparison.

There are basically two kinds of hand lace, needle-made and pillow or bobbin lace.

Needle-made lace evolved from embroidery in colored silks, on net fabric, and was probably introduced into Europe by the crusaders.

White lace developed in the fifteenth century, when it was used to decorate fashionable linen underwear. At first the design was embroidered straight on to the garment after threads had been drawn, this was known as cutwork.

Later, it was found, a more delicate effect could be achieved by embroidering on a background of netted mesh. In sixteenth century France, this became filet lace.

The regularity of the mesh made it easy to reproduce designs drawn on squared paper. In England, it became as holy lace because it was used to decorate church furnishings and vestments.

Meanwhile, needlepoint lace evolved. A piece of parchment, with the design drawn on it, was tacked on top of two layers of linen. Several threads were laid along the outlines and tacked in place.

The main design was in buttonhole stitch and when the work was complete, a knife was drawn between the two layers of linen, and the delicate lace revealed.

Teneriffe work evolved in Spain, in the sixteenth century. Circular holes were cut out of the material and the spaces filled with embroidery on radiating threads.

Pillow lace has the same early beginnings as macrame. The early weavers in the East did not like to cut off the ends of thread left on a piece of cloth after it had been taken off the loom.

Instead they wove and knotted them into decorative edgings. The technique spread to southern Europe.

Later, to obtain a softer edging, a pillow was used. A pricked out pattern was fixed to the pillow and the threads wound on to bobbins. Designs were formed by twisting or plaiting the thread from the bobbins, and the patterns made were held in place by pinning them to the pillow.

Handmade lace making was a slow process and today, few people have time to do it.

Tatting and hairpin lace are techniques that are much quicker to work and many decorative and lacy effects can be achieved.

Weight and type of thread or yarn used will affect the finished size of the work, so keep in mind the eventual use of your lace or tatting when choosing these.

Tatting Dragon
Tatting Dragon | Source
Figure 1 - Holding the Shuttle
Figure 1 - Holding the Shuttle | Source
Figure 2 - Holding the Thread
Figure 2 - Holding the Thread | Source
Figure 3 - Raise Middle Finger and Hold Thread at  Comfortable Tension
Figure 3 - Raise Middle Finger and Hold Thread at Comfortable Tension | Source
Figure 4 - First Stage of Double Stitch
Figure 4 - First Stage of Double Stitch | Source
Figure 5 - Drop the Thread from the Small Finger of the Right Hand and Pull the Shuttle Tight.
Figure 5 - Drop the Thread from the Small Finger of the Right Hand and Pull the Shuttle Tight. | Source
Figure 6 - Raise Second Finger of Left Hand and Draw Loop Between Thumb and Forefinger.
Figure 6 - Raise Second Finger of Left Hand and Draw Loop Between Thumb and Forefinger. | Source
Figure 7 - Pass  Shuttle Over Circle Loop and Back Under Circle Between It and the Loop Hanging from the Shuttle.
Figure 7 - Pass Shuttle Over Circle Loop and Back Under Circle Between It and the Loop Hanging from the Shuttle. | Source

Tatting the Double Stitch

You need a tatting shuttle and a ball of crochet thread.

To wind the shuttle

  1. First fasten the end of the thread with a knot to the center bobbin
  2. Wind evenly around this center until the shuttle is a little more than half full.

The double stitch is the one basic stitch in tatting.

Several double stitches in a row may be drawn together to form a ring.


Hold the shuttle, with the thread wound on to it, in the right hand and allow 15 inches of thread to hang from the back of the shuttle.

Figure 1 - Spread out the second, third and small fingers of the left hand and pass the thread over them in a circle, allowing the end to hand down, and holding the circled thread between finger and thumb.

Figure 2 - Bend the third and little fingers to catch the thread and hold it against the left palm.

Figure 3 - Raise the middle finger of the left hand to open the circle and hold it at a comfortable tension.

Pull the shuttle thread out to its full length, keeping the hands level.

Pass the thread around the little finger of the right hand and begin the double stitch.


Drop the second finger of the left hand and pass the shuttle under both threads and through the circle.

Figure 4 - Bring it back over the circle and under the thread from the shuttle.

Figure 5 - Relax the left hand and drop the thread from the small finger of the right hands. Pull the shuttle tight.

Figure 6 - Raise the second finger of the left hand and draw the loop between the thumb and forefinger.


Figure 7 - Bring the shuttle forward, leaving a loop handing down, and pass it over the circle loop and then back under the circle between it and the loop hanging from the shuttle.

Remove the second finger of the left hand and pull the shuttle tight.

Raise the second finger and slide the loop along next to the other.

This completes the double stitch.

Holding the stitch you have made between thumb and forefinger begin the next double stitch.

Angels Made by Tatting
Angels Made by Tatting | Source
Figure 8
Figure 8 | Source

Tatting Picot Loops

Make four double stitches and then make the first half of a double stitch, but slide it only to 1/4 inch of the preceding stitch.

Then complete the double stitch. Slide this along against the first four stitches.

Figure 8 - There will be a small loop standing up.

These can be made in different sizes.

Make three more double stitches and a picot, and repeat this until there are three picots.

Figure 9
Figure 9 | Source

Tatting Rings

Hold the stitches firmly in the left hand and pull the shuttle thread tight so that a ring is formed.

Position the thread in the left hand as if to make another ring.

Leave a space of 1/4 inch from the end of the first ring and make four double stitches.

Figure 9 - Insert hook through last picot of previous ring and catch the circle thread, pulling it through to form a loop avoiding twisting the thread.

Bring the shuttle through this loop and draw the thread tight. Raise the left-hand middle finger to draw up the circle thread.

You now have the first half of the next double stitch.

Finish this off, make another three, then a picot, and so on.

Figure 10
Figure 10 | Source

Tatting Chains

You will need to use the end coming from the ball of thread for these.

Figure 10 - Hold the thread across the back of the fingers of the left hand, winding it round the little finger to maintain tension.

To make a chain, work double stitches over the thread coming from the ball rather than the shuttle. Picots may be added.

To Join Threads

Use a reef knot close to the base of the last ring or chain.

Do not cut off the ends as the string during working may loosen the knot.

When work is finished overcast the ends with fine thread on the wrong side.

Following a Tatting Pattern

When instructions say reverse work, turn the work so that the rounded end of the working ring or chain faces downwards instead of upwards.

Many designs are worked in two or more colors so an appropriate number of shuttles, each wound with a different color are needed.

To Finish Tatting

Make a reef knot close to the base of the last ring or chain.

Over sew the loose thread to the wrong side.

If needed, wash the tatting in warm soapy water. If not, just dampen.

Do not pull or strain the stitches.

While damp, pin the tatting to the article and when dry press lightly with a hot iron.

This should give you a general idea of how to do tatting.

Thanks for stopping by, and until next time,

Happy Crafting

© 2015 Dawn


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    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I love lace. My grandmother-in-law tatted and I have her shuttles, but I haven't made time to learn yet.


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