Introduction to Shuttle and Needle Tatting

[Qui trovate la versione italiana di questo articolo]

Tatting? What the hell is this?!

Tatting – chiacchierino in Italian, Occhinädel in German – is a lace technique. It’s pretty vintage but in the latest years it has become popular again, maybe because the good old 90’s chokers are becoming trendy again.

With this technique you can produce earrings, bracelets, and of course chokers.

For a goth-head like me, this means free every day jewellery!

To get an idea, take a look at my Pinterest Tatting pinboard to see what is this about and the tatted pieces that I saw around the internet!

Here’s a short introductory video on what tools you will need to produce these wonderful lace decorations.

So, tatting was originally used to create lace decorations on clothes (like, decorating the wrists or the neck parts) and for some useless decorations for the table cloths. Nowadays it is practiced also to produce jewellery like earrings and chokers.

Tatting techniques

There are two separate styles or techniques for tatting:

  • Shuttle tatting
  • Needle tatting

For shuttle tatting, you will need a shuttle. Shuttles are these little oval objects and they come in different materials, sizes and “loading” mechanism, which means, the way you load the thread. Some have a hook at the tip, which is at the same time very useful and very annoying while you work.

Here are my two shuttles:

The brown one on the right is my favorite to work with, although it doesn’t have a pointy tip nor a hook, therefore it doesn’t help you much fixing eventual mistakes. The loading is also slower.

The yellow one on the left is very ugly, but also very practical to load (you can remove the little black wheel and load it with thread in a minute). It is also very handy if you are not at home and maybe you want to work a bit on the train, because you don’t need a separate hook and you don’t risk to lose it.

For needle tatting, you will need… yeah, needles.

The tatting needles are much longer than sewing needles and they come in different sizes.

These are my needles. From left to right, the sizes are 3, 5, 7 and 8, that means, 3 is the biggest and 8 is the thinnest. As you can see the two thinner ones are reeeeeally thin and they become weird after a few uses.

For both shuttle and needle tatting, you will need to get a few more things before you can start.

You will need a hook and it must be one of the thinnest you can find.

You will need scissors. Little tip: if you plan to go on a flight and bring your tatting stuff with you, take a nail clipper instead of scissors, they work perfectly.

And of course you will need yarn. The most famous tatting thread is the Lizbeth one. They come in different sizes described by numbers. Like with the needles, a lower number means a thicker thread. For example, the Lizbeth 10 is a thick thread that you can work with needles 3 or 5, while the Lizbeth 80 is very thin and you can work it with needles 7 or 8. With shuttles, you don’t have this problem because they work with all thread sizes.

In the pic above, you see an example of 20 thread.

Another popular thread brand is DMC.

If you plan to create jewellery, you might want to get some pearls and decorations for that. You will also need specific pliers for jewellery, that you can find in all online shops where you can find pearls.

Finally, to give your jewellery a final touch and make it rigid, you will need white glue.

Shuttle vs. Needle tatting

When I started learning tatting and I had to buy either the shuttle or the needles, I tried to understand which one was the best technique.

I will give you a list of pros and cons of the two techniques based on my experience, but long story short: shuttle tatting is the best technique (gives the best results), but needle tatting could be a good choice to start with because it’s simpler, quicker, and gives you an idea of how tatting works. This doesn’t mean you cannot start with shuttle tatting.

You can find plenty of tutorial videos for beginners in both techniques. I will eventually make some, too, but most probably about shuttle tatting.

Shuttle tatting: pros and cons

ProsCons
The final work is cleaner and tidy. The knots are tighter and the final work barely needs the glue treatment to stay firm and rigid. It’s more complicated than needle tatting.
You can load a lot of thread in the shuttle, which means you can finish a choker without need to add thread and make ugly nots.It’s also slower
There are some patterns that I can’t imagine making with the needles, like the onion rings and the split rings.Fixing mistakes is always difficult, if not impossible, in tatting. But with shuttle tatting: just forget it.
One shuttle to rule them all: shuttles are compatible with all sizes of threads. You might still want to buy more than one shuttle for several reasons, but you don’t need to become crazy choosing the right needle for your thread.Although you can load more thread, you might have underestimated the amount you need, and you might have to add some: that might be more complicated than with the needle (but you will learn how to do it).
Shuttles are cheaper than needles.
It’s super fancy to see one using the shuttle technique.

Needle tatting: pros and cons

ProsCons
Super quick to learnYou cannot “load” much thread. To make a choker, you will need to add some more thread on the way.
Quicker than shuttle tattingUnless you plan to work with only one thread size, you need a set of needle of 3-4 different sizes.
Fixing mistakes (before you close the work) is easier. Still a pain, but easier.Working with thin threads (with n.7 and n.8 needles) is a pain
It’s easy to add more thread if you need it, although you will have to make some ugly knots.The final work is less firm, the knots are more loose.
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