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What is Tatting?

Updated on November 30, 2016
Pine Pattern Collar in Tatting
Pine Pattern Collar in Tatting

Tatting is a delicate handmade lace, or the process of making such lace by using a small and shuttle usually to knot and loop a single cotton thread into various circular designs. Known for centuries, tatting became popular in the early 1700's, before the advent of textile machinery. Appenzell and St. Gallen, Switzerland, and Plauen, Germany, were centers for its manufacture.

Although delicate in appearance, tatting is quite strong. Each stitch is a unit by itself and does not rely on a neighboring stitch for strength. The stitch is a minute knot over a single running thread, and two stitches, reversed to each other, form the base of the work. A break or a mis-stitch does not cause the fabric to ravel—a new piece fills the gap. Shuttles are of bone, plastic, steel, or tortoiseshell. Experienced tatters use a hook at one end. The best thread is a tightly twisted, mercerized cotton of 20s or 30s yarn count.

In tatting, stitches are worked over a thread on the left hand. A foot (30 cm) or so of thread is unwound from the back of the shuttle, which is held in the right hand. The thread end is placed between the first finger and thumb of the left hand so that the idle portion of thread is below the thumb. The thread is then passed around the left hand and brought back to lie to the right of the thread already held, thus forming a loop of thread around the hand.

The single stitch is a half stitch. The second half of the stitch, which is called a double stitch, completes the stitch binding making the loop secure.

Picots, which are small decorative loops, are most popular, for they provide the lacelike effect that makes it possible to join the rings together as work progresses. The use of a second thread makes the chain formation possible, increasing embellishment. Picot-edgings are very popular. Other uses of picots include collar and cuff sets, doilies, matting, and "narrow-work" of several types.

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