Introduction: How to Shuttle Tat

Picture of How to Shuttle Tat

I have been tatting for over 20 years, I love it, yet I have been very reluctant to put down in writing how to do it.  Yet when I look at other peoples tutorials, they seem to miss important parts that hung me up until I found someone to teach me.  I have taught many people how to tat and I have several others who want to learn, but getting together has been the challenge.  Tatting has been around for a little over 200 years.  A lot of the best vintage patterns are found in women’s magazines dating from 1930’s and 40’s.  Those patterns are beautiful  and although I do a lot of vintage tatting, I rewrite their patterns and write my own patterns using more modern notations, because they are just easier to read.  So here is my attempt at explaining how to shuttle tat.

Step 1:

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Tatting Shuttle (plastic ones are about $2 each)
#10 crochet thread (please make your life easier and get thread that has a strong twist to it, without the twist the knots don’t slide well, and the better they slide the easier it is to tat)

First I will go through the terms you need to understand and then the instructions on how to do them.  Second you need to practice, a lot.

Round- instead of rows
Ds=double stitch
R= ring
P= picot (or “-“on a pattern)
Ch = chain
Round = row
Connect picots = +
RW=Reverse Work

Step 2:

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Load Shuttle:
Load the shuttle by sticking the end of the thread through the hole in the center of the shuttle and wrap the thread round the shuttle until it is fully loaded.  The pattern will never say this, they assume you already know it.

Step 3:

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Other terms:
Round:   tatting is done in rounds, going around the center of the design or motif

Step 4:

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ds=double stitch:  The double stitch is the basis of all tatting.  As its name indicates it has two parts, the first half and the second half.   To do the first half of the ds, pinch the end of the tread coming off the shuttle, between the index finger and thumb of the left hand.

Step 5:

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Wrap the thread around the extended fingers of the left hand, and place the thread through the pinched index finger and thumb.  This “ring” of thread is the basis for creating rings in tatting. 

Step 6:

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Hold the Shuttle with the index finger and thumb with the right hand.  Wrap the pinky of the right hand around the thread coming out of the shuttle. 

Step 7:

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Slide the shuttle underneath the shuttle thread and the ring thread. 

Step 8:

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Pull the shuttle up- see the triangle hole. 

Step 9:

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Push the end of the shuttle down through the triangle hole.  Release the thread held by the pinky.

Step 10:

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See the loop in the shuttle part of the thread?  Relax your left hand middle finger and pull on the thread with the shuttle. 

Step 11:

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The loop flips over to the ring thread.  This is what you want.  

Step 12:

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Now straighten the left middle finger and use your right index finger and thumb to slide the first half of the ds down the thread under the pinched fingers.  You will notice that the ring thread gets tighter as you create stitches.  To loosen the circle, pull on the thread below the pinch on the left hand.  Unwind or rewind thread from shuttle as needed.

Step 13:

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Second half of ds:  Take the shuttle go over the top of the thread  between the middle and index finger, place it bottom first-from right to left-through the hole (under the same thread) created by the thread, the left index finger and the middle finger and your palm.  Flip the loop from the shuttle thread to the ring thread like you did in the first half.  Again straighten the left middle finger and you’re your right index finger and thumb to slide the second  half of the ds down the thread an under the pinched fingers. 

Step 14:

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This is what a “ds” looks like completed.

Step 15:

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r- ring:  once you have completed as many ds as desired, you pull on the shuttle string to close the ring.  If it doesn’t slide and close, then one or more of your ds were not correctly created, and what you have instead of a sliding knot is slip knot that won’t slide.  You have two choices, cut if off and start all over again or unpick all the knots until you release the bad one then start all over from that point.

Step 16:

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“-“ or p = Picot:  A picot is created when you leave a length of thread between two ds.  So to make a picot, you create on ds, then made another ds with about ¼ inch of thread between the double stitches. (I am really tempted to have a line ¼ inch long tattooed on my left index finger.  It would help my picots be more consistent in length.) When you push the 2 ds together the extra thread forms a loop that is the picot.  Picots are important to connecting one round or motif of tatting to the next round or motif.

Step 17:

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ch = chain:  You will need two loaded shuttles or one shuttle and a ball of thread.  Pinch the end of the ball thread with the pinched index finger and thumb. Drape the ball thread over the fingers of the left hand and anchor it by wrapping it around the left pinky finger (this will provide a little tension).  Pinch the end of the shuttle thread and then use it to create double stitches and/or picots.

Step 18:

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Connecting picots = “+”:  Follow the pattern until you reach a point where you need to connect two picots together.  Lay the first picot over the ring (or chain) thread. 

Step 19:

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Use the tip of the shuttle (or small crochet hook) to pull the thread up through the picot. 

Step 20:

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Pull the loop large enough that you can pass the shuttle through the loop going from right to left.

Step 21:

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Pull the loop tight and complete the stitch by adding the second half of the double stitch.

Step 22:

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RW=reverse work:  While working a round, you will be creating ring(s) and then RW, or in other words flip the project from the bottom to the top and create a chain, then RW again and repeat the rings, the RW, etc. until you are done with that round.  RW is why when you look a doily and you think you see 14 rows, when in reality it is 7 or less rounds.

Step 23:

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When you run out of thread on your shuttle, leave a long tail and refill your shuttle.  Tie the new end from the shuttle to the old end from the last shuttle. 

Step 24:

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When you are done with your project, you take care of these ends by tacking them down with a thread and needle, or by putting a dab of fabric glue on the knot. 

Step 25:

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Once the glue is dry the knot will stay tied, so cut the tails off short. 

Step 26:

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Tatting is a slow compared to knitting or crochet, yet oh so worth it!  Enjoy.


lpalta (author)2017-05-03

Just wondering, has anyone tried this bobbin shuttle? I am wondering if the bobbin would work in my Brother's sewing machine.

craftknowitall (author)lpalta2017-05-03

I bought one once and I didn't like using it, because it's metal and it slid right out of my hands too easily. I got rid of it. The bobbins looked like regular old bobbins. There are 3 or 4 different sizes out there and you wouldn't know with out a side by side comparison. Sorry, I couldn't be more help. Thanks for asking.

lpalta made it! (author)2017-05-02

I never tatted but I did crochet an afghan baby blanket from a kit I had laying around for 25 years. I did need the help of my 87 year old neighbor. Her fingers were so quick I couldn't follow what she was doing. She gave me instructions on a simple potholder (I really didn't want to make a potholder) and when I mastered that, I was able to keep up with her motions. I have decided I need to try my hand at tatting, owing to a pair of laced baby booties I saw on Pinterest. I just purchased a set of shuttles at Joann's and the only thread I have on hand today is a ball of DMC size 12 white crochet thread. Will this work for practice purposes? My baby afghan:

craftknowitall (author)lpalta2017-05-02

Your afghan is beautiful. If you can crochet with a size 12 thread then you should have no trouble tatting with the size 12 thread. Size 12 is smaller than size10. Thread is like wire, in that the larger the number the smaller the tread. Size 10 is larger but not that much, so you should be fine. Good luck, and thanks for commenting.

lpalta (author)craftknowitall2017-05-03

When I started my afghan it took me three panels to get the feel of the tension--three panels ranging from large to small. I then started over and ran out of yarn after completing two panels. Although the yarn was white, it was around for 25+ years. I did another three panels and there was a noticeable difference in shades. I started over again--I think I actually made two afghans (lol).

Wow, it is going to take me a bit to get the hang of tatting. I am watching a very good video but I am all thumbs.

IsraelaM (author)2016-06-26

So, how much do I need to pay for the instructions? I'm not comfortable signing a blank check. There is nowhere on the credit card page any info on the cost. Help! Did I miss something?

craftknowitall (author)IsraelaM2016-06-26

It's free as long as you are willing to go from page to page and ignor (or not) the advertising. I have private messaged you. Thanks for leaving a comment.

TatonkaCreations (author)2016-05-25

OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!!! I am pushing 60 yr old and have wanted to learn to tat since I was a child. My mother learned basics from a woman in her late 80s back in the early 1960s, when I was a small child. You have COMPLETELY 're-inspired me to give it a try. It isn't as scary looking as it looks. I have crocheted for over 45 years, including MANY doilies....So I'm not afraid. THANK YOU FOR YOUR INSTRUCTIONS!!!!!!!

You are welcome and best wishes.

ChidaG (author)2016-05-02

Would it be possible for you to post reverse instructions, that is, instructions for people who are left-handed? I was only able to teach myself to crochet after I found a booklet that contained mirror-image instructions for lefties, and the way I crochet runs the complete opposite direction that a right-handed person would do it. I feel like I would have difficulty tatting for the exact same reason, as I am VERY left-handed.

craftknowitall (author)ChidaG2016-05-04

Here is a you tube video on left handed double stitch:, may be this will help.

craftknowitall (author)ChidaG2016-05-04

Let me think on it. I'm not computer literate enough to know who to reverse the pictures, plus I am in the middle of moving, dejunking 50% of my life, so no promises. Thanks for commenting.

Sewicked (author)2016-04-25

These are good instructions.

One suggestion for new tatters, use multi-color thread with a good contrast between colors. When the ring thread and shuttle thread are two different colors it is so much easier to see what's going on.

greesonl (author)2016-04-13

Perfect instructions - I have tried it with MANY others! You've definitely explained it in the only way so that some of us who may not immediately pick it up finally Get It! Thank you so much, and your work is just beautiful.

craftknowitall (author)greesonl2016-04-13

I tried so many ways and books, and it wasn't unit my great aunt showed me what I was missing that I understood and loved it ever since. I just knew I had to share it with others! Glad to hear it helped. Thanks for commenting.

solanarose (author)2015-12-27

Wow! I'm blown away! This is quite incredible! I've been crafting my entire life and have never come across this! I'm so glad to make its acquaintance. Thanks so much for sharing; it's beautiful!!!

You are welcome!

kkran (author)2015-01-31

Would you be willing to share some of your re-written patterns with us? I have been doing some needle tatting, by I am excited to learn how to use the shuttle like my great grandmother used to do!

craftknowitall (author)kkran2015-02-02

i really don't have very many that I have rewritten. I think the two main ones have been published. I buy books with the patterns I use and I follow Tat-a-Renda found here: She is really good with the patterns. I love it! Thanks for asking.

MicioGatta (author)2014-09-07

I found this guide throught Google while I was making an 'ible guide about tatting (I've learnt to tatting long ago, before Internet was diffused in my Country ;D). I've quoted you:

Thank you, your Instructable looks great!

candi1 (author)2013-07-01


agis68 (author)2013-05-29

Awsome!!!! Always i admire people doing these!!!! Sorry but i have luck of patience

octochan (author)2013-05-27

Sorry, I can't figure out how to make the second half of a ds from the picture and instructions on that part of the instructable.

craftknowitall (author)octochan2013-05-28

Revisit step 13, I have added another picture and more instructions. The second half is the easiest of the two halves. Hope this helps.

octochan (author)craftknowitall2013-05-28

Thanks! I eventually figured it out, but I think the instructions should read that you pass the shuttle from the left to right under the thread.

ChrysN (author)2013-05-22

Thanks for the great instructions, I have one of those shuttles, now I just need to find the time to try it out.

craftknowitall (author)ChrysN2013-05-23

Don't get discouraged, once you start, keep working on it. It takes a while for your hands to get used to the new positions. One reason I love to tat is that you can keep a project in your pocket or a little ziplock bag in your purse. You can pick in up and work on it any time. Hope it works for you! Thanks for looking.

About This Instructable




Bio: In a valiant attempt to keep myself from dying of boredom, I create.
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