Tatting: The Resurgence of Age Old Techniques

What is tatting? Tatting is a form of needlework in which a person makes lace items out of thread using a needle or a shuttle. It’s one of those needlework traditions which at one time was very popular among the ladies to add lace accents to towels, dresses, linens, hankies, and other items. Like many other forms of needlework (knitting, crochet, embroidery, crewel work, etc.) it fell out of popularity once women went to work and trims were mass-produced. There is nothing wrong with women working or buying commercial products, but handwork is a obsession hobby of mine I enjoy finding “new” things to learn based on long-lost techniques.

Recently tatting has had a resurgence of interest among needle workers and manufacturers. About 4-6 years ago I discovered shuttle tatting and made a few pieces. I didn’t really enjoy it though, finding the shuttle difficult to control and work with. I wanted to try needle tatting, but mostly due to trying other techniques I never pursued it.

This past weekend, though, I bought a set of tatting needles. Of course they were from Hobby Lobby, my go-to place for most everything.
I already had some tatting thread from my previous venture. I sat down and searched for videos and tutorials on the web, finding the included directions a little hard to follow and really only good for one pattern! You can purchase a video or a book, but they run about $24 and I wasn’t prepared to spend that much right away if I didn’t want to pursue this new hobby.

Of course, you can’t look up anything having to do with tatting and not run across some popular names in the field! Tatania Rosa, Totus Mel, and Georgia Seitz are all big names on Etsy, Pinterest, and through Google search. I honestly think that Totus Mel has the BEST tutorials and videos for learning to needle tat. You can find her on Instructables and YouTube or her blog I linked above.

Now, back to my experiences. Having some experience with the shuttle, I already knew how to make a ring, picots, chains and double stitches – just not with the needle! After a few tries I made a flower that turned out pretty good.

Tatted Flower

So then I moved on to making a bookmark, since I felt I had a pretty good idea of rings, chains, and picots now. It turned out pretty good, although I did miss a picot join, which messed up the end of it. But it’s ok. Once I have it between the pages of a book, no one will know. 🙂 


I took on a little more of a challenge and made a Cross bookmark. This was a bit more challenging because it involved directional changes and motifs. Yep, I messed it up here and there, but it is also just a test piece, so I’m not worried about it either. I view it as a great way to try out new techniques and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. 

Cross Bookmark 1

Before I could give up for the day I tatted a second cross bookmark. This one involved split chains, which means using up the tail thread to make one half of the split ring and the ball thread to make the other half. It was fun and challenging. Again, small mistakes from inexperience! 

Cross Bookmark 2 with split rings

So that is a summary of my tatting adventures! I’m always wanting to learn new techniques and improve upon my skills. What is fun is that it seems at some time in the future I end up putting these techniques to use in other things. Tatting is great not just for bookmarks, but for making jewelry and adding lace accents to sewn items. Yes, I can even see them being used in mixed media pieces and art quilts! It’s great to see traditions resurrected and new applications made with them. It’s always better handmade!

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