Tatting, one of the easisest ways to create handmade lace, is an easy art form to pick up– and quite addictive. Thought to have originated in Italy in the 16th century, it gradually made its way across Europe until, in the late 18th century, it could be found decorating all types of items from reticules to bonnets, caps and handkerchiefs. Imitation tatting can be purchased, but nothing beats the real item.
Costume designer Andrea Galer supports this dying craft as she uses handmade lace in her items. All the lace as seen in Miss Austen Regrets, Mansfield Park and Persuasion is made by hand by craftswoman in Sri Lanka. The women had lost everything in the Tsunami and the lace making project allows them to rebuild their lives as well as the incredible craft. You can view and purchase your own Austen garments, made by Andrea Galer, at our online shop. Click here.
Handwork allowed a woman to sit still and be useful at the same time. It enabled her to show off her industriousness, good taste and delicate hands. Small piece of work such as lace making, were acceptable items to occupy one’s time with, while visiting, and could be brought to a friend’s house for a cosy bit of work over tea and conversation. At the time when tatting was introduced in England, Netting was already a popular past time and many ladies, including Queen Anne, Queen Charlotte and Madame Pompadour chose to be painted with or holding their netting shuttles. These shuttles were larger than those used for tatting, but used in a similar manner. Although the world “tatting” is not found in printed text until the 1840’s, in 1781, Parson Woodforde mentions buying a pair of small ivory shuttles for his niece for one shilling. Netting shuttles were quite a bit more expensive than this, due to their size, so it is safe to assume that the parson’s neice was tatting.
On account of a similarity in their construction, a chapter
on tatting seems to form a natural sequence to the one on
crochet and is in some ways a preparation for that on macramé
which succeeds it.
The English name of tatting is said to be derived from
“tatters” and to denote the frail disconnected character of the
fabric. By the Italians it was formerly called “occhi”, whilst
in the East it still bears the name of “makouk”, from the
shuttle used in making it.
In the eighteenth century, when tatting was in great vogue,
much larger shuttles than our present ones were used, because of
the voluminous materials they had to carry, silk cord being one.
Shuttles.—The tatting shuttle consists of two oval blades
of either bone, ivory, mother of pearl or tortoise-shell, pointed
at both ends, and joined together in the middle. A good shuttle
contributes materially to the rapid and perfect execution of the
work and attention should be paid in its selection to the following
particulars: that it be not more than 7 c/m. long and
2 or 3 c/m. wide: that the two ends be close enough to
prevent the thread from protruding; this is more especially
important in tatting with two shuttles and lastly, that the centre
piece that joins the two oval blades together should have a
hole bored in it, large enough for the thread to pass through.
In filling the shuttle, be careful not to wind on too much
thread at once, or the blades will gape open at the ends and the
thread get soiled by constant contact with the worker’s hands.
Materials.—A strongly twisted thread such as Fil d’Alsace
D.M.C, Fil à dentelle D.M.C, or Cordonnet 6 fils D.M.C,
is best for tatting. We particularly recommend Fil d’Alsace,
as forming the best shaped knots and picots. A soft material
such as Coton à tricoter D.M.C, can also be used where it
suits the purpose better.
First position of the hands (fig. 486.)—The construction
of the knots or stitches, appears at first sight to present great
difficulties but will be easily mastered by attention to the
indications here given. One thing, to be constantly borne in
mind is, that when the right hand has passed the shuttle
through the loop, it must stop with a sudden jerk and hold
the thread tightly extended until the left hand has drawn up
the knot. After filling the shuttle, take the end of the thread
between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, and the
shuttle in the right, pass the thread over the third and fourth
fingers of the left hand, bring it back towards the thumb and
cross the two threads under the fingers, as indicated in fig. 486. Pass the thread that comes from the shuttle round the
little finger of the right hand, and give the shuttle the direction
shown in the engraving.
Fig. 486. First position of the hands.
Second and third position of the hands (figs. 487 and 488).—Make the shuttle pass between the first and third fingers,
in the direction indicated by the arrow in fig. 487, and bring
it out behind the loop.
Fig. 487. Second position of the hands.
Here the first difficulties for beginners arise and until they
have sufficiently mastered the movements of both hands not
to confuse them, we advise them to pay careful attention to
the following instructions. As soon as you have put the shuttle
through the loop, place
the right hand on the
table with the thread
tightly extended, leaving
the left hand perfectly
Fig. 488. Third position of the hands.
Then, raising the
third and fourth fingers
of the left hand with
the loop upon them,
pull up the loop,
stretching the thread
tightly in so doing by
extending the fingers.
By this movement
a knot is
first part of the
which is the
one in tatting.
that the right
hand must be
still as long as
the left is in motion and that the knot must be formed of the
loop thread that is in the left hand.
The right hand, or shuttle thread, must always be free to
run through the knots; if it were itself formed into knots it
would not have the free play, needed for loosening and tightening
the loop on the left hand, as required.
Fourth position of the hands (fig. 489).—The second
part of a knot is formed by the following movements: pass the
shuttle, as indicated in fig. 489, from left to right, between the
first and third fingers through the extended loop; the right
hand seizes the shuttle in front of the empty loop and extends
the thread; the left hand pulls up this second part of the knot
as it did the first.
Fig. 489. Fourth position of the hands.
Single or half knots. Josephine picots (figs. 490 and 491).—The
Josephine picot or purl, as it is also called in tatting,
consists of a series of single or half knots formed of the first
knot only. These picots may be made of 4 or 5 knots, as in
fig. 490, or of 10 or 12 knots, as in fig. 491.
Fig. 490. Single or half knots.
Small josephine picot.