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Shuttle vs. Needle
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© 1996 Christiane Eichler
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Tatting Tips

. Tatting Videos
. Fast Joins
. Joins with a seperate crochet hook
. Shuttles
- Sources update!
- Shuttle Recommendations
- Tips for the Aero shuttle
. Split Rings (usage of)
. Even Picots
. How to stiffen your work
. Continous Thread Method
. Ironing or pinning down?
. How to do the stitch after a join

There are many ways to accomplish something, and that is true for tatting as well. It is important to choose the way of working which suits you best. What I describe here is what works best for me.


Tatting Videos

For everyone who learned tatting from books I recommend watching a tatting video. Doing so was a revelation to me. Being misguided by some books my way of working the knots was weird and slow. After watching a tatting video I relearned the technique; and today I'm a fast tatter and can even tat while watching TV. The title of the Video I watched was "Tatting" by Pam Palmer. It is an English video, but is available in an American (NTSC) version. For a source please refer to the Newsletter of the Ring of Tatters.


Fast joins

Joining is a process that takes some time. Even with my tips I need 4-5 as much time as I need for a double stitch. That's why I'd be thankful for any tips you have for speeding this process. These are my tips:
  • Put the picot you want to join to over the thread with which you want to join. No need to fish for the thread with your hook. (Thanks Kathy Morgret (Sysop Fibercrafts Forum) for the tip!)
  • Use an Aero-Shuttle. They have a bobbin and a fine metal hook. With these you won't have to look for your crochet hook any more, and you won't have to pick it up and put it down for every join. At first the hook might be in the way, but you wil get used to it. Hold the shuttle in a way that the hook faces away from you.
  • If you have problems with the hook use a shuttle with a pick like the Clover shuttles. Clover shuttles have a rather fine pick, which is useful when working with thicker threads (like no. 20 crochet cotton).
  • If you prefer a shuttle without hook or pick, then try a tapestry needle which you wear around your neck on a piece of ribbon, pearl cotton or floss. You can pull the thread easily through the picot with such a needle. I don't recommend putting a crochet hook on a ribbon to wear around your neck, because it will catch on your clothes.


Joins with a seperate crochet hook

  • If you prefer working with a seperate crochet hook, I recommend using an ordinary crochet hook. The small hooks that come with some shuttles aren't very suitable since they tend to get lost.
  • I love one of my Jeans shirts which does not only have a pocket, but a second one which is very narrow, usually used for a pen or pencil. I use it for storing my crochet hook when I don't need it.
  • There is another handy gadget, a ring worn on the finger, which has a hook attached to it by a short chain. I wear the ring on my thumb and slip the needle under the ring when not in use. This helps it not to catch on somewhere you don't want it to.
  • Be sure to use the right size of hook for your work. When using a finer needle than required you might split the thread, and for a thicker hook you need bigger picots which might make your work loose or uneven.




Every tatter will need more than two shuttles. You will be glad to find beautiful as well as functional ones. There are several sites on the Internet that offer shuttles. My favourite shuttle maker is David Smith, whose wooden shuttles are available in various sizes and woods, for a good prize, and who does custom sizes as well. He made my big shuttles for big thread, as well as several of my shuttles I love to work with.

Silver Shuttles are available from Karen Bovard, the Shuttlesmith. Her shuttles are a joy to look at *and* to work with. They are sterling silver, and are available in lots of designs and sizes. Photos are on her page.

There are several mailorder sources for shuttles, like The Lacemaker, Lacis (good online catalog with photos), Snowgoose. This is just a random list of what I know about, there are sure others. Some of the bobbin makers make shuttles as well.

Before you do mailorder, first ask in your local crafts store. They very often have at least simple plastic shuttles (Clover style).


Shuttle recommendations

When discussing shuttles the opinions of tatters vary greatly. Because there are different ways to work the knot there are no flat rules. The only way to know whether you like a shuttle is to try it. I'll write down my experience with shuttles. I prefer different shuttles for different kinds of tatting, depending on the pattern and the thread size I use. I haven't yet tried all kinds of shuttles. People who have tried out other brands please send me a note!
  • Aero:This shuttle is either loved or hated. There seems to be no way between the two because of its integrated hook. Some people have difficulties with the hook catching on their work. I love working with it. Since it has a bobbin it is much faster to refill. You can even wind it with your sewing machine.

    I love the Aero type of shuttle especially for patterns done with shuttle only, or for patterns with only few changes between doing chains and rings. Because the hook is really fine I don't use it for thicker threads (bigger than no 30 crochet cotton).

  • Clover: The shuttles are small, but hold lots of thread. They have a pick, which is very handy for thicker threads (no 30 crochet cotton and up). They are easy to work with. Some other manufactuers (Boye, e.g.) offer the same type of shuttle. There is a shuttle winder for this kind of shuttle.

  • German shuttles (Inox brand): Simple plastic shuttle in white or blue. Flat, rounded Form. Very good for fast tatting. I don't like this shuttle that much, because it is difficult to wind, some of mine tend to seperate in two halves. Furthermore the edges are quite fragile. When small pieces break off the edges it snags on the thread.

  • Boye: Metal shuttle with hook and bobbin. Unfortunately this is not a very good shuttle. The hook is very big, so you just have no use for it. If the bobbin is full you pull out a little thread with every knot you do, which can be very annoying. I don't like working with this shuttle, although the additional weight feels good in my hand.

    Boye also have a plastic shuttle which is the same design as Clover.

  • Lacis: They sell a Metal shuttle that is a reproduction of an original from the 20s of last century. It is made from silver coated brass and engraved with a vine pattern. It is a big, but flat shuttle, which I like to work with. It has a pick, but it is wide and has a round tip, so it is not of much use. One of my favourite shuttles.

  • Wooden shuttles made by David Smith. Very good shuttles, available with or without pick, or with a hook. Since he has several sizes and does custom sizes as well they are useful for every tatter. They are easy to wind, and just lovely to work with. There are many different hard woods with wonderful grains to choose from. They look good, they feel good in your hand, and work well. David also has some very nice tatting accessories.

  • Silver Shuttles by Karen Bovard, aka the Shuttlesmith. These are wonderful shuttles made from sterling silver, moderately prized (especially if you compare them with antique ones), and available either in plain or with wonderful celtic style knotwork patterns. Since the shuttles are made by a tatter, they rest well in your hand, and the additional weight just feels right in my hand. The tips have just the right tension.
  • Comfy-Shuttle by Deborah: comparatively big shuttle, form like a clover shuttle, with ridges. It does not slip from your hand, but I don't like it, because it is somewhat thick, and so awkward to use.
  • "tortoise" plastic shuttle by Inox: Big shuttle which holds lots of thread, but is not as big as the Tatsy Shuttle. It has neither hook nor pick. There is a new version of this shuttle out, which I like working with, and up to now has none of the flaking off of material. It has a rounder form than the previous version. It has very tight tips, which make it difficult to wind, and the tips are hard on some of the finer threads.

Working with the Aero shuttle

Since I love that shuttle so much I want to add some tips on using the shuttle:


Split rings

are suitable for rows of Rings which are connected with their tops and bottoms respectively instead of being connected side by side. But this is not the only design possibility they open. You can also work rows of simple flower motifs with this technique. It is not important how many petals the flowers have, provided the number is divisible by two. You can also join the flowers at more than one picot if you wish

The adjoining graphics shows you an example where the two shuttles hold different colors. This makes it easier to see what is going on. The first ring is a split ring worked with knots done by both shuttles. First you work normal double stitches with the red shuttle, then reverse stitches with the blue shuttle. Now you close ring, reverse work and work two rings with the blue shuttle. Reverse work again, and work the two red rings of the first flower.

Now you start the last ring of the flower which will be a split ring again. Start out with the red shuttle like before. When you work the blue part (reverse stitches) you make a shuttle join to the adjacent ring. Now close ring by tugging at the red shuttle thread, which finishes the first flower.

This way of working will save you lots of ends to hide. If you start out with the continuous thread method you will have only one pair of threads to sew into your work. With the normal working method you would have a pair of ends to sew in for everysingle flower you do.


Even picots

This topic causes lots of discussion and groans from tatters. Most of the time you will not get much more than a sympathetic shrug plus the advice to just practice (which is good advice) from your teacher. But I have some additional tips:
  • The Picot Ruler: A piece of cardboard, 2-4 inches long, which is as wide as the length of your picot. You hold the ruler at a right angle between shuttle and working thread. You can also position the ruler parallel to the shuttle thread, then the picots will be half as long as the width of the ruler. Working with the ruler will slow down your work, though. I use a ruler only in cases when I work especially long picots, which have to be evenly measured.
  • You can mark the length of the picot on your forefinger. Please be cautious when using ball point pen - they might color your work. I heard about a tatter who had the dots tatooed on her finger!
  • You can use the ring you are working as a measure of how long a space of unworked thread should be. Let's say you have a ring 4-4-4-4. For a short space measure thread from basis of ring to first picot. For a longer space measure from basis to second picot, for an even longer space measure from basis to second picot to third picot. And for really long spaces measure from basis to second picot and back again.
  • It is easier to estimate the unworked space of thread when you take into consideration that the unworked space will be 1-2 diameters of thread longer than it seems when you begin your ring. This is because the first knot will slide around the shuttle thread for a bit when the ring is closed.


How to stiffen your work

Many projects, especially smaller ones worked with thick thread, don't need to be stiffened. If you really need your work to be tough (snowflakes and other hanging motifs) there are several ways to stiffen your work. There are some writers who recommend a solution of sugar, but i'd refrain from doing so, because it may attract bugs as well as moisture. Both are harmful to your work! Use fluid starch (usually used in the washer), delute it only a bit (like a tbsp of water and several tbsps of starch). Put your piece into the solution, let it soak, put it on a terry towel, pull into shape and lightly iron over it. Be sure not to dry the piece by ironing, because you might get a shine you don't want. Now you put the terry towel to a save place (no pets, no toddlers) over night to let the piece dry naturally. Don't try to fasten the drying process by putting it on a heater or something.

Continous thread method

When you are working with one color and your pattern calls for rings and chains you can save sewing in 2 threads by not cutting the shuttle thread from the ball. Just begin your first ring and then you can work on in the usual manner.

When working with two shuttles fill the first shuttle and then put as much thread off from the ball (beware of tangling!) as you need for your second shuttle and cut. Now you wind your second shuttle with the thread just put off the ball. You now have a continuous thread between your two shuttles and can start out like above.


Ironing or pinning down?

While pinning your doily to a cushion, piece of styrofoam or the like is lots of work and distorts the picots in a fashion I don't like, I now iron all my tatted stuff. You need a terry towel or other soft cloth under your work so your stitches will not be flattened. It is a good idea to cover your work with the same kind of fabric before ironing. If you want your piece stiffened, starch it before ironing. You pull your doily in shape on the towel, especially taking heed that all picots lie flat. A needle helps to open unruly picots.

How to do the stitch after a join

I usually do the second half of the double stitch after the join, and count the join together with that half stitch as the first knot after the join. I do so because the join leaves a loop around the shuttle thread taking up 1 width of thread. A usual double stitch has two widths of thread on the shuttle thread, so when you do a join you only need that second half of the stitch.

No rules without exceptions, though!

  • When you do a shuttle join this rule does not apply.
  • When you have to do a picot next to the stitch after the join (e. g. the pattern has 5+1-1-5) the picot will be distorted when using only the second half stitch after the join. so in that case make the join, and after that work a full stitch, then the picot.