What is Tatting?

By Holly Hanover
Vintage Teacup on Crochet Tablecloth
If you are already a keen needleworker, there’s a good chance that you are constantly on the lookout for new threadwork skills to add to your repertoire.  Although you may have tried lace-making in the past, or even shuttle tatting, one technique that you may not have come across – and which, once mastered, is one of the most portable thread crafts to carry around with you  – is needle tatting. 
What is Tatting?  Even from an experienced craft hobbyist, it’s not unusual to get the response “what is tatting?” when the skill is mentioned.  Highly rewarding to learn, if intricate detail is your thing, this is for you.  Originating in the early twentieth century, but not really gaining in popularity until relatively recently, needle tatting is a form of lace making using specialist thread and needles, readily available online.  In basic terms, if you can knit and crochet, you have a head start on learning this complex and beautiful art.  You need:

  • A tatting needle – these are available in various sizes.  They resemble a large tapestry needle, with an eye to take the thread, and a blunt end
  • Crochet thread, or similar

As with other thread-based activities, the size of the needle and the thickness of the thread will affect the finished result.  Your stitches – double and single – will make up the chain and ring effects that are the basis of all needle tatting.

The basics:

The knots and ties are created by using the needle in one hand, and your fingers on the other hand. These knots wrap around the needle until you push them off, and tie them into ring or loop arrangements.

Next steps:

Many needle tatting sites have video tutorials that you can follow, as well as graded patterns, and inspiration for freestyle designs when you become more proficient.  Offline, you may wish to find a teacher that can set you on the right path – although needle tatting is growing in popularity all the time, these can be few and far between.  However, don’t be discouraged; like all crafts, there’s nothing like trial and error, and learning as you go, to give you real confidence and fluency in your work.

Share your Tatting stories and projects in comments.

Get the tools you need for all of your crafting needs here.

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6 Responses to What is Tatting?

  1. Julie says:

    I learned tatting in October 2012. It is a very portable craft. It is durable- I have a baby bonnet that is around 100 years old that my great grandmother made. Delicate and lacy looking it is more than just edgings and decoration.

  2. Luv2Sew says:

    The bonnet sounds beautiful – what a treasure. Thanks for sharing, Julie.

  3. Rosario says:

    I learn needle tatiing in 2002 and i love it. now i teach some ladies. I never saw any body doing it. I lean from a book,this lace is really gorgeous.I write a book in spanish. Rosario from Puerto Rico

  4. Rosario says:

    I learn from an english needle tatting book

  5. Grace says:

    RaceG ,MOlI just relearned needle tatting. I had done this yrs ago but has no advise, I gave everything away, after my four strokes, I had to get back the use of my hands. I love lizbeth thread as it is colorful and shiny. I am happy that Havelsew carries the larger needles! I just learned how to make a butterfly !easy patterns are hard to find!
    Shalom, Grace

  6. Linda D says:

    I saw a lady needle tatting at a Blues Festival in Ark. She handed me her needle and her try it, but it was the basic stitch. It was a while before I got the needle & thread & book & I have to be honest I can’t understand the directions & my hands don’t work the way the direction say, but I can make a butterfly but I find it hard to connect things to make like a bookmaker. It travels well & it gives me something to do with my hands & relaxing & if I mess up I just clip thread & redo.

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