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Introduction To Shuttle Tatting – Start Here

Although I have attempted below to provide clear, concise, and complete instructions for learning how to shuttle tat, I highly recommend that you watch the above video, as well as the one located further down this page. Although I have done my very best, it truly is very difficult to explain tatting directions in writing, and I think you will find the above video to be much more clear.

Right-Handed Versus Left-Handed

Please note that this video and the written instructions below provide directions for people who are right-handed. As a leftie myself, I had to learn everything I have learned in a “backwards” sort of fashion. If you are left-handed, it’s simply a matter of using your left hand when it says to use your right hand, and using your right hand when it says to use your left hand. You will find it’s not really that difficult to follow along, and if you are like me, in other words a leftie, you probably are accustomed to learning things somewhat backwards, just in life in general!

Supplies Needed

First off, the tatting supplies that you’re going to need include the following:

  • Tatting thread in two different colors (I will explain the reason for needing two different colors below.) (Size 10 works great for a beginner). There are smaller thread sizes available, including Sizes 20 and 30 up to Size 80 and then again up to Size 130. The larger the thread size number, the smaller (thinner) the thread is going to be. So, in other words, Size 10 is a larger (thicker) thread than Size 20 thread. It’s much easier to learn shuttle tatting with a larger size thread, so I highly recommend that you learn the basics of shuttle tatting with Size 10 thread. Aunt Lydia’s brand of thread works great, and you can find it at Michael’s, Joanne, Hobby Lobby, or even Walmart, just to name a few places.
  • Two tatting shuttles: You likely will need more than one shuttle, and this video and article cover tatting with two shuttles, so I would recommend getting your hands on at least a two-pack of shuttles. Although there are fancy ones you can buy at places such as Etsy, your shuttles truly can just be made of plastic. Additionally, once you have learned the basics and beyond of tatting, you probably will want to have on-hand even more than two shuttles.
  • Small Crochet Hook: Many tatting shuttles have a small hook similar to a crochet hook. Aerlit (brand name of a particular shuttle) is one brand that sells shuttles with a hook. If you don’t buy shuttles that have this small hook on them, a small doily-type steel crochet hook will help you with getting into small places and joining threads to other threads.
  • Scissors: Any scissors will work fine for cutting off ends when you have finished a row or round, although I have found that small mini sewing scissors work best.

Start By Using Two Different Colors of Thread

When you are first learning to shuttle tat, I highly recommend that you use two different colors of thread, with a different color on each shuttle, just to make sure that your double stitches look correct. If one of the thread colors shows through within your double stitches, then you have not done a double stitch correctly and having two different colors will allow you to more easily see it.

Wind Thread Onto Your Shuttles

Once you have the above supplies, the first thing you will need to do is load your shuttles with thread by winding one color of your tatting thread around the center of one of the shuttles and winding the second color of thread onto a second shuttle.

Different Types of Shuttles

Winding A Shuttle Without A Bobbin

Some shuttles have a small hole in a core that is located in the middle of the shuttle, between the two pieces of plastic, while other shuttles have a removable bobbin.

If you have a shuttle that has a hole in the middle, insert the end of your tatting thread through that hole in the middle, and then wind the thread around the middle core until you have a shuttle that is filled with wound thread. Over-filling your shuttle is not recommended…instead fill your shuttle with just enough thread so that the wound thread is slightly less than the outside edges of the plastic shuttle itself.

Winding A Shuttle With A Bobbin

If you have a shuttle with a bobbin rather than just a hole, you will need to remove the bobbin from the center of the shuttle. This can be done easily by gently raising one side of the shuttle slightly, and then pushing the bobbin gently to release it out of the shuttle shell. Wind your tatting thread around the middle of the bobbin until it is full (not over-full, just out to the outside edges of the bobbin). When your bobbin is full of thread, gently re-insert the filled bobbin back into the center of the shuttle, making sure the bobbin clicks in place within the shuttle.

Getting Started

To get started, after you have wound different colors onto each of your two shuttles, take the ends of the string on each of your two shuttles and tie the two colors in a knot. Pull both threads to tighten the knot.

With your left hand, hold the knot you just tied with your left hand forefinger and thumb, and wrap one of the shuttle threads over your fingers and then around your pinky finger four or five times to secure it. Release that shuttle after you have your thread secured, and let it hang/dangle.

Next, with your right hand, take your other shuttle and hold it between your right forefinger and thumb. Then wrap the thread around your fingers.

Start To Tat

The shuttle that has the thread secured with your left hand will be referred to in these instructions as the “core thread” shuttle. This means that the thread in your left hand will run through the “core” of all of your stitches.

The other shuttle, the one in your right hand, will be referred to as the “working thread” shuttle. This thread will be worked so that you form double stitches that encircle the core thread.

First Half of the Double Stitch

  1. Using your right hand (working thread) shuttle, take that shuttle and pass it under the thread in your right hand and then under the thread between your left thumb and left index finger.
  2. Then bring the shuttle in your right hand back over the thread on your left hand, then under the thread on your right hand.

At this point, prior to pulling the thread tight, you will need to do what is referred to in tatting as doing “the flip.” This “flip” of the thread is also sometimes referred to as “transferring the knot.” Directly below is a video that goes into more detail in showing how to do the flip. The most important factor that will help you be successful at learning the flip is to make sure the thread in/on your right hand is taught and the thread in/on your left hand is somewhat loose.

Basically, what happens when you do the flip is to switch the half double stitch you are creating so that the other thread becomes your “core” thread. Here is a video that really focuses on doing the flip, as a larger cord and a larger shuttle are used, making it much easier to see.

Once you have done the flip for the first half of your double stitch, tighten the half of the double stitch so it fits somewhat snugly around what is your “core” thread.

Although you will want to make sure that the first half of your double stitch fits “snugly” around the core thread, don’t make it too snug or the core thread won’t be able to move freely within the stitch. You always want to make sure that your double stitches are snug so that your double stitches stay neat and even, but don’t pull them so tight around your core thread that prevents the core thread from moving/sliding within your stitches.

After you have successfully done the flip for the first half of your double stitch, you can then do the second half of your double stitch.

Second Half of the Double Stitch

For the second half of your double stitch, you are going to reverse what you did for the first half.

  1. Using your right hand (working thread) shuttle, take that shuttle and pass it over the thread in your left hand, then loop back and go under the thread of your left hand.
  2. Next, again do the flip for the second part of the double stitch.

That’s it! Once you have learned the two components that make up a double stitch, including doing the flip, you will have mastered the most difficult part of tatting!

If it takes you awhile to learn how to do the flip, don’t feel bad! It literally took me over a week before something finally clicked and I “got it.”