Tatting is a technique for handcrafting a particularly durable lace constructed by a series of knots and loops. Tatting can be used to make lace edging as well as doilies, collars, and other decorative pieces. The lace is formed by a pattern of rings and chains formed from a series of cow hitch, or half-hitch knots, called double stitches (ds), over a core thread. Gaps can be left between the stitches to form picots, which are used for practical construction as well as decorative effect.
Tatting dates to the early 19th century. The term for tatting in most European languages is derived from French frivolité, which refers to the purely decorative nature of the textiles produced by this technique. The technique was developed to imitate point lace.
Technique and materials
Tatting with a shuttle is the earliest method of creating tatted lace. A tatting shuttle facilitates tatting by holding a length of wound thread and guiding it through loops to make the requisite knots. It is normally a metal or ivory pointed oval shape less than 3 inches long, but shuttles come in a variety of shapes and materials. Shuttles often have a point or hook on one end to aid in the construction of the lace. Antique shuttles and unique shuttles have become highly sought after by collectors — even those who do not tat.
To make the lace, the tatter wraps the thread around one hand and manipulates the shuttle with the other hand. No tools other than the thread, the hands, and the shuttle are used, though a crochet hook may be necessary if the shuttle does not have a point or hook.
Traditional shuttle tatting may be simulated using a tatting needle or doll needle instead of a shuttle. There are two basic techniques for needle tatting. With the more widely disseminated technique a double thread passes through the stitches. The result is similar to shuttle tatting but is slightly thicker and looser. The second technique approximates true tatting because a single thread passes through the stitches.
Needle tatting originated in the early twentieth century, but did not become popular until much later. A tatting needle is a long, blunt needle that does not change thickness at the eye of the needle. The needle used must match the thickness of the thread chosen for the project. Rather than winding the shuttle, the needle is threaded with a length of thread. To work with a second color, a second needle is used.Although needle tatting looks similar to shuttle tatting, it differs in structure and is slightly thicker and looser because both the needle and the thread must pass through the stitches.
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