Crafts From the Past | Episode
Jun 28, 2022 | 8 min

Tatting is a specific form of lacemaking that requires knotting thread into patterns. Long-time tatter Heather Boustead shows us the basic techniques needed to get started with this type of lacework.

Tatting Basics

Tatting is an artistic style of creating a durable lace by tying a series of knots. It has traditionally been used to create doilies or lace edging on garments or other domestic items. It is an old artform dating back to ancient Egypt and China. Tatting requires patience and practice in order to create solid pieces, which can last for over 100 years when done correctly.

Tools and Supplies

  • Tatting shuttle
  • Scissors
  • Pattern
  • Two colors of size 10 cotton thread
  • Crochet hook

Step-By-Step Instructions

For these instructions, the visual aid of the video is helpful.

Winding your Shuttle

  • Insert your thread through the hole in the center of your shuttle until 1 inch of thread extends out of the other side.
  • Wrap the thread tightly and evenly around the middle of the shuttle, passing through each end, until you have around one foot of thread remaining.
  • Tie a knot connecting the end of one color thread to the other.
  • Refer to video for a visual demonstration of Heather’s “walking” technique.

Wrapping your Thread

  • Hold the end of the thread with your non-dominant hand.
  • Wind the thread clockwise around your hand to create a loop.
  • Catch the loop with your pinky finger to avoid it sliding out of place when using the shuttle.
  • Make your first stitch by moving the shuttle in one hand through the loop in your other hand, bringing it over and back through the loop, then pulling the shuttle to tighten the knot.
  • You have officially tatted your first knot! From here, you can create more stitches, loops and patterns to achieve your desired design.

Tips and Tricks

  • Wash your hands before working to eliminate excess oils and gain better control of your shuttle.
  • Get to know another tatter who can give you in-person instruction and tips.
  • Practice your “walk through” technique with your shuttle.
  • Use the proper kind of thread for your project.
  • Focus on getting comfortable with the tatting motions, not on finishing.
  • Tatting chains is the easiest way to practice tatting techniques. 

Artist Spotlight

Heather Boustead first learned about tatting at the age of 12 when her mother had her sit down with a local tatter to learn the craft. Although her attempt to learn it at that age was unsuccessful, she re-discovered a passion for it at the 1998 Iowa State Fair where she was taught by artist Esther Miller. Now, more than 20 years later her story as an artist has come full circle with her returning to the Fair as a tatting instructor herself.