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Christmas Angels and Other Tatting Patterns
By Monica Hahn
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1989 Monica Hahn
All rights reserved.
All tatting patterns are made from one basic stitch, the double stitch, enhanced by picots, which are used for decoration or for joining the rings and chains together. Once you have mastered the double stitch, the rest is easy.
Preparing to tat. Thread used for tatting must be uniform, with a very firm twist. Thread made especially for tatting is available, but the fine cotton thread used for crochet also works well. The finer the thread used, the smaller the stitches and the more delicate the tatting. Most of the patterns in this book use size 20, 30 or 50 thread. For practice, use size 10 or 20 thread.
Two different types of tatting shuttles are widely available today. The first type has both ends closed and a removable bobbin. This shuttle is usually made of metal and has a hook or point at one end. The other type consists of an upper and lower piece held together by a post in the center. The center post generally has a hole in it to anchor the thread to. Both ends of this shuttle are open, but the tips should fit together snugly, yet still permit the thread to pass between them easily. Sometimes this type of shuttle has a long point on one end to aid in joining.
While the first type of shuttle is almost always made of metal, the second type can be fashioned from many different materials—wood, silver, ivory, bone, tortoiseshell, abalone, celluloid, horn and plastic, for example. Some antique shuttles are beautifully decorated, monogrammed or engraved.
I prefer to use a metal shuttle with a bobbin because it is easier to fill. However, sometimes the hook catches the ring thread, jerking the shuttle out of my hand. To solve this, I simply file the hook into a point.
To fill the first type of shuttle, remove the bobbin and wind the thread smoothly around it until it is full. For the second type, insert the end of the thread through the hole in the shuttle and tie. Wind the thread smoothly around the center. Do not allow the thread to project beyond the edges of the shuttle.
The double stitch. Wind a few yards of thread on the shuttle. Hold the shuttle with your right thumb and index finger so that the shuttle is flat, with the thread coming from the back. This thread is called the running line or shuttle thread.
About 12 inches from the shuttle, grasp the thread firmly with the left thumb and index finger. Spread the remaining fingers and wrap the thread over them, bringing it back around to the thumb and index finger (Fig. 1). This circle of thread is called the ring thread.
The double stitch is made in two steps. For the first step, lift the running line with the middle finger of the right hand (Fig. 2). Guide the shuttle under the ring thread, allowing the ring thread to pass between the index finger and the top of the shuttle. Back the shuttle out, allowing the ring thread to pass between the lower side of the shuttle and the thumb. Now the loop you have just made must be transferred immediately from the ring thread to the running line. This is done by shifting the tension from the left hand to the right hand. Although this may seem difficult, it is actually quite simple once you catch on. Drop the middle finger of the left hand to release the tension on the ring thread. Catch the running line with the last two fingers of the right hand and pull on the running line to make the loop flip over and make a loop on the running line. Raise the middle finger of the left hand slowly and the loop will slide into position under the left index finger (Fig. 3). Hold the loop firmly with the thumb and index finger.
For the second half of the stitch, guide the shuttle over the top of the ring thread (Fig. 4), and back under the ring thread, being sure that the running line hangs free with the thread leading out of the back of the shuttle. Transfer the loop from the ring thread to the running line just as you did for the first half of the stitch, drawing this half close to the first half so there is no extra thread between (Fig. 5). The stitch should slide freely when the running line is pulled away from you. If it does not, the stitch has been locked by a wrong motion and must be taken out. Practice making the double stitch until you can do it easily.
Picots and rings. A picot is made by leaving a space between the stitches. Make 4 double stitches. Make the first half of the next double; slide it on the thread, stopping about 3/16 inch from the last stitch. Complete the double (Fig. 6), drawing the entire stitch close to the stitches already made (Fig. 7). In counting the stitches, the term "picot" refers only to the space between the stitches, not to the double stitch after it. Work 3 more double stitches, another picot, 4 double stitches, another picot and 4 double stitches. Hold the stitches firmly in the left hand and pull gently, but firmly, on the running line until the first and last stitches meet, forming a ring (Fig. 8).
Chains. All tatting designs containing chains and rings are made with one ball and a shuttle (or 2 shuttles). Tie the end of the ball thread to the end of the shuttle thread (or, do not cut the thread from the ball after winding the shuttle). When you are making a ring, use the shuttle thread. When the ring is completed, turn the ring upside down so that the base is held between the thumb and forefinger; place the ball thread over the back of the fingers, winding it several times around the little finger to control the tension (Fig. 9). Work the chain over the ball thread, using the shuttle thread. When the chain is completed, draw the stitches close together. To make the next ring, drop the ball thread and turn the chain so that the base is at the top. With the shuttle thread, make the ring. Picots in chains are made in the same manner as in rings.
Joining. To join rings and chains that face one another, insert the end of the shuttle through the specified picot of the previous ring or chain and pull the ring (or chain) thread through the picot making a loop large enough to insert the shuttle (Fig. 10). A crochet hook may also be used to draw the thread through the picot. Draw the shuttle through the loop and draw the running line tight. This joins the picots and forms the first half of a double stitch. Complete the double stitch. When joining, be sure that all of the shuttle thread is taken in neatly. To test for this, separate the stitches with the right thumb and, if there is a space, take out the excess so it fits neatly. It helps if the running line is kept short.
To join the last ring to the first ring when finishing a motif, work the ring to the join. Hold the ring loosely between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand; fold the lower part under and away from the body, keeping the work between the thumb and forefinger. When the motif is large, sometimes it is easier to pass it under the forefinger, actually wrapping it completely around the forefinger and bringing it back down over the top. Fold the part to be joined toward the knuckle of the finger, being sure that the first ring lines up to meet the last ring so they can be joined easily. Complete the ring and close.
To join chains and rings that do not face one another, you must form the loop with the nearer thread or running line. Work the chain to the joining; draw up the stitches to the required tension (they cannot be adjusted later). Insert the end of the shuttle through the specified picot and draw the running line through. Hold the work tightly so that it does not slip and pass the shuttle through the loop. Pull the running line to tighten. Complete the double stitch.
Beginning tatters are often unsure of which thread to join with, the ring or the ball thread. The rule is to always join with the nearer thread.
If you must join additional thread while working a piece, join it at the base of a ring or chain. For a neat join, do not tie a knot; instead, start the ring and weave the short end in and out as you make the d and s for 3 or 4 stitches. If a chain follows the ring, weave the other end into the chain. Clip the ends. This method is very neat and strong. Threads may also be joined with a square knot. Do not cut the ends until the work is finished, since the strain of working may loosen the knot. Never attach a new thread in the ring, as the knots will not pass through the double stitch.
Undoing tatting. Unraveling is possible, but limited. When a mistake is discovered, remove or unwind the thread from the shuttle. This is no problem when making a small motif, but becomes very unwieldy with a large one. Back the thread through the chains and opened rings, using a blunt needle to pull up the thread.
Finishing. Finishing is very important in tatting. Not only does proper finishing make your work more beautiful, it also makes it more durable.
When you reach the end of the pattern, cut the threads, leaving about 2 inches. Tatting stitches are the same on both sides, so decide which side is to be the front of the work and mark it. Using a crochet hook, draw one of the thread ends through the picot, chain or other place where it should be joined; tie the thread ends together in a square knot (Fig. 11). When the entire piece is complete, whip the thread ends to the wrong side of the piece with a fine needle and thread. Sew the ends down for about ¼ inch to 3/8 inch and clip the thread close to the stitching.
If the knot is too big and might show from the right side, simply remove half of the square knot. Spread the knot open and lay one strand on one side of the ring or chain. Sew through the knot and whip down the thread for about ¼ inch; then go back to where you started and lay the other strand in the opposite direction and sew it down. Finish by making a square knot with the sewing thread. Clip all ends.
Sewing the ends to the beginning ring or chain will tend to enlarge it a bit. To compensate for this, omit a double stitch at the beginning and end of the first ring or chain.
Block the piece by placing it, right side down, on a padded surface such as an ironing board. Using rustproof pins, pin the piece to the desired shape, measuring carefully to get all of the points even. Place a damp cloth (preferably a linen one) over the tatting and iron the cloth dry. Remove the pins and examine the piece, adjusting the rings and picots if necessary.
If desired, small tatted items such as Christmas tree ornaments can be stiffened with white glue. It is not necessary to sew down the ends if the piece is to be stiffened. Mix 2 teaspoons of glue with 1 teaspoon of water. Place the tatted piece on a white paper towel. Using a small paintbrush, spread the glue solution on both sides of the piece. Dab off the excess glue with a white paper towel. Place a towel on the ironing board, cover it with wax paper. Place the glue-coated piece on the wax paper and pin it to the desired shape. Allow it to dry. Clip the ends.
CLUNY OR PETAL STITCH
The thread on the left hand normally forms the stitches in tatting, but for the Cluny stitch, the shuttle thread is woven back and forth to form the stitches, making a leaf or petal. Begin as you would for a chain. Hold the ball thread firmly between the left thumb and forefinger; pass the thread (1) over the middle and ring fingers, (2) down to the thumb and forefinger; leave a generous loop hanging below the thumb; return the thread (3) over the ring finger and wrap it around the little finger as you would for a chain (Fig. 12). Holding firmly with the thumb and forefinger, pull the loop (be sure it is not twisted) and place it over the little finger. With the shuttle thread, make the first half of the double stitch over thread 1 (the top one) to position the base of the leaf (Fig. 13). Weave the shuttle under thread 3 away from the thumb (Fig. 14), then under 2 and 1 in the opposite direction (Fig. 15). The two movements are considered one stitch. In Figs. 14 and 15, the hand has been distorted slightly to show the threads clearly. When actually working the stitch, the thumb will be held over the forefinger, covering the thread. The weaving works better when the shuttle thread is kept short. Be sure the first 2 or 3 stitches are loose, or the thread will not pull freely when the leaf is completed. You may have to push the stitches together with the point of the shuttle as you weave. To form a tip, make the last 2 stitches a little tighter.
To finish the leaf, drop the shuttle and remove the loop from the little finger (be sure that it does not twist). Holding the leaf firmly between the thumb and forefinger, remove the ball thread from the little finger and pull it gently until all the excess thread is gone.
Excerpted from Christmas Angels and Other Tatting Patterns by Monica Hahn. Copyright © 1989 Monica Hahn. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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