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Tatting - Is It A Lost Art?

Updated on January 25, 2018

Most of us remember grandmother's doilies on the arm of a chair. The lace tablecloths and bureau scarves and handkerchiefs were as comforting to us as the smell of apple pie cooling in the kitchen. Lace is now old-fashioned, those old doilies now sought after by collectors. Rarely do we see a young woman today adept at needle skills, quietly crafting a thing of beauty. Yet lace is still exquisite and brings to mind brides and femininity. I lied. The art of tatting is not lost at all.

The History - Tracing down the history of tatting is challenging as many countries lay claim to the craft. Most credible is the reference to a woman named Mlle. Elenore Riego de la Branchardiere who was appointed Artiste in Needlework to the Princess of Wales in the mid to late 1800's. She went on to develop the "continuous thread" technique as well as many others. She wrote eleven books on the subject between 1850 and 1868. Yet there are references to the ancient Egyptian use of a shuttle (called a makouk) to create rings and circles with thread. Some forms of tatting were depicted in paintings and mentioned in literature a far back as the 17th century. The belief was, through the years, that a woman's hands must not be idle.

What Is Tatting? - Dictionary definitions of tatting usually say "a kind of lace or knotted work used for trimming". But it really is so much more than that. Unlike other forms of needlework that require pins, needle, thread, and bobbins, tatting is a simpler technique using the hand and a shuttle to carry the thread. It produces such delicate lace and is the most demur expression of textile art. Lace contains compact texture with open spaces and both transparent and heavy parts. It is dainty and elegant and complex and has its place both in history and the modern world.

The Shuttle - Vintage tatting shuttles are a hot collector's item. Shuttles come in different sizes, shapes and materials. Shuttles have been made out of wood, ivory, sterling, mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell (some inlaid with gold), porcelain, steel and, in modern days, plastic. Collectors are passionate about their hobby and are able to discern the reproduction from the original. Not only is there artistry in the finished product of tatting but in the tools themselves. Here is a photo site to some beautiful shuttles.

Tatting Today - Everyday new tatting techniques are created. Modern day tatters are innovative and creative always keeping in mind the history of the work they do. There are international organizations that support the craft and are very active in both promoting its growth and widening its appreciation. At International Old Lacers, Inc., you can study how to recreate historic laces or design contemporary ones. These folks find lace intriguing and it is. Beads and shimmering thread are now being introduced into patterns. There are numerous sites that sell tools, patterns, and learning materials for tatting. Here's one.

What You Can Make - Besides doilies and dresser scarves, there are many items to tat. Chair covers, slip covers, trim for clothing, even jewelry. Homemade Christmas ornaments can be beautiful and unique. Each piece can be like a snowflake - no two are alike. Please check out the following link to a slideshow of modern tatting projects. You will see why tatting is not a lost art after all.


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    • profile image

      Angela Robbins 

      15 months ago

      I am glad you are promoting tatting, but the first picture of lace you displayed is not made by tatting.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub and I still tat several times a week~ I was taught how by my paternal grandmother~ currently working on a table runner for my daughter~ yup, I'm a granny~ 54 w/ 3 darling grandkids :)))

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a very well put together hub. Thanks for sharing. I tat as well as crochet, knit, counted cross stitch, crewel and regular embroidery.

      To the lady who has tatted her very first flower. You can make some very pretty note cards by free handing some stems and leaves on blank cards; then using Elmer's glue to attach the tatted flowers to the stems you've drawn.

      I am looking for a tatted name doily pattern. Can anyone help me out here?

    • creativelycc profile image

      Carrie L Cronkite 

      7 years ago from Maine

      Very nice, I always wanted to learn tatting, this hub has encouraged me to start. I love crocheting and embroider,so I don't think it should be too difficult to learn. Very interesting hub!

    • craftlicious profile image


      9 years ago from Russell, Pa.

      Beautiful hub on one of my favorite pastimes, tatting. I just finished up my tatted Christmas cards, tatted name plaques, tatted bookmark, tatted wings and halo on my corn husk doll, tatted hearts, and tatted ornaments for the Christmas season. Such fun! Over the past 5 years I have created 26 new tatting patterns including over a dozen tatted angel patterns. Happy that I can carry on the heritage of tatting for our family.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks, Flobe.

    • FloBe profile image

      Flo Belanger 

      9 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I had to learn how to crochet and knit as a child but my aunts did tatting as well. While I never learned how, I always thought the result was beautiful. Nice hub.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thank you all for stopping by.

      Sweetsusieg - I checked out your website - Nice work. Thanks so much for reading.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Nice Hub, my Mom did everything BUT tatting, her Mother did though. I am trying to pick this up myself. I made my first tatted flower this morning. It's loose but it resembles a flower none-the-less. Since I can't find my Grandma's shuttle, I used a needle. Tatting - It's beautiful work!

      I do knit and crochet as well, can't stop my hands from being busy I guess! I have lots of crochet thread but can't seem to see the small hooks to do the work that way so I stick to yarn.


    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I never really knew what tatting was. I enjoyed the video, it really helped me understand the process. Which would drive me insane. Christmas ornaments made this way would be such a lovely gift! And great for the old brain as well as eye hand coordination.

    • It's just me profile image

      It's just me 

      9 years ago from Alaska

      About 20 years ago I taught myself needle tatting.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Hi elayne - thanks for the comment.

    • elayne001 profile image


      9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      My grandmother did a lot of tatting. It was mesmerizing to watch her. It is so pretty. Wish now that I had learned how from her. Thanks for your hub. Brought back fond memories.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Asheville, NC

      It's great to know some of you are still tatting. I hope you teach it to your own children. It is too beautiful to die. Thanks for reading.

    • gabriela 777 profile image

      gabriela 777 

      9 years ago

      Hi Suszie,

      I learned titting with my mom, I still can do it. This text took me to my mom's sofa when I was just a teenager. She patiently guided me , step by step, toughing me the art of titting. It was a kind of tradition, passed by her mom, my grandma.Wonderfull thoughts. Thank you :)

    • Teresa Laurente profile image

      Maria Teresa Rodriguez - Laurente 

      9 years ago from San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.

      I learned tatting from elementary school and did not continue learning more. Now I lost it. I wish I can do it again. My daughters does the crochet and I want to impress them with tatting. Hopefully, I will have the time to re-learn it someday. Thank you for sharing. More power.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      9 years ago

      Hello! Tatting isn't lost because of you.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Tatting is very lovely. Thank you all for stopping by.

    • WriteAngled profile image


      10 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      We wear period costume in my West Gallery quire. One of the older members tatted herself some beautifil gloves for her costume.

    • Rose Kolowinski profile image

      Rose Kolowinski 

      10 years ago

      Nice hub! I have some tatting bobbins and I was going to teach myself how to do it but I set them aside and never went back to it. My grandmother taught me to crochet and I have made some doilies and dresser scarves but I treasure the ones she made. Maybe I'll try the tatting again sometime!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hi! Nice post! I liked the part about tatting shuttles being a hot collector's item. I collect tatting shuttles! I love tatting, too! Feel free to stop by my tatting blog at:

      anytime! It's always fun to meet other people who appreciate tatting online! :)

      ~TattingChic ?

    • profile image

      Madame X 

      10 years ago

      I never had the patience to do this kind of work but I really admire those who do. I just love the results.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Very cool Hub.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thank you all. I just sold some old shuttles. They were lovely.

    • KevCC profile image


      10 years ago

      My wife still has some tatting shuttles but she hasn't done any for ages. I'll have to show her this hub.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Wow, and my grandmothers tried teaching me this! Should have paid attention. I've 'mis-placed' my old doilies, and would love to replace them. One grandmother could crochet the same as tat and it was almost identical. Great hub, will bookmark for future reference. Thanks

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks - I love old lace (old things in general) especially table cloths and doilies. It reminds me still of grandma's house - all comfort and love.

    • advisor4qb profile image


      10 years ago from On New Footing

      Cool hub!

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 

      10 years ago

      Tatting is a beautiful art form! I have a friend who does this and her work is exquisite. Very nice instructional piece on tatting.


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