Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Almost Lost Art of Tatting by Vickie McDonough


I’ve always been interested in handcrafts, even when I was young. The first time I’d ever heard of tatting was when my sister brought home a note card with a multicolored tatted flower glued onto one corner. I fell in love with the tiny blossoms, so much so, that I ordered several dozen of the cards to use as thank-you notes for my wedding gifts. 

So what exactly is tatting? It’s a form of lace making, which involves wrapping thread around one or two shuttles and using the shuttles to guide the thread into patterns of knots to create rings and chains in delicate designs. To make the lace, the tatter wraps the thread around one hand and manipulates the shuttle with the other hand. No tools other than the thread, the hands, and the shuttle are used, though a crochet hook may be necessary if the shuttle does not have a point or hook.

Tatting consists entirely of small rings, or rings and arched chains. These rings and chains are usually embellished with picots (tiny loops of thread between stitches.) Some picots are purely decorative, but others are used for the important function of joining elements together. Surprisingly, only one simple knot is used throughout, the Lark's Head, which consists of 2 half hitches. 

Lace has always been popular, but back when it was all handmade, it was very expensive to buy. Tatting was a fairly quick way to create pretty lace, although the learning process can be difficult. Historically, tatting was used to create doilies, reticules, bonnets, lacy collars and cuffs, bookmarks, and designs to be framed and hung on the wall.

Tatted Bracelet

Needle tatting is another form of tatting. Instead of using a shuttle, you use a needle, which you wrap loops around. 

Needle tatting video:
(There is no audio.)

Tatting Shuttles

Tatting is a fairly new craft, emerging in the first half of the 19th century. It gradually evolved from knotting, which was popular in the 18th century. The end product of knotting is embroidery, but the finished product of tatting is lace. However, they both involve making knots with a shuttle and thread. Knotting produced a thread with a raised texture, which could later be used for couched embroidery.

Tatted Doily

Tatting is a popular craft in Europe, although no one is certain of it origins. The German word for tatting is schiffchenarbeitm, which means 'the work of the little boat,' which refers to the boat-shaped shuttle. The Italians call it occhi, meaning 'eyes,’ which refers to the rings, which make up the lace. In France, it is called frivolite. In Finland, tatting is called sukkulapitsi, which combines two words: sukkula, which means shuttle, and pitsi meaning lace.

Doing handwork allowed the historical woman to sit and rest while being useful at the same time. It enabled her to show off her industriousness and creativity. Small pieces of work such as lace making, were acceptable items to occupy one’s time while visiting and could be brought to a friend’s house for a bit of work over tea and pleasant conversation.

Good video that shows you how to wind the shuttle and how to create a tatted circle:

If you want to learn via pictures, here's a good link:

Pinterest site with lots of completed tatting projects, tutorials, and pictures illustrating how to tat:

As a teen, I learned to do embroidery and quilting, but I failed at crocheting. I'm left-handed, and at the time, I only knew a right-handed person who crocheted. Trying to use a different hand proved too difficult. In my twenties, I learned counted cross-stitch, and that was my favorite craft for several decades. Today, I'm into card making. All of these crafts allowed me to be creative and to make something beautiful. How about you? Do you make anything by hand?


Vickie McDonough

In hopes of making his twin sisters more genteel, Marshal Justin Yates asks his neighbor, Marta, for help. At first, Marta is stunned, but then she realizes the motherless teens could benefit from learning to cook and sew better. 

Justin’s deputy claims he’s seen Justin’s twin sisters snooping around businesses where there have been recent thefts. Justin can’t believe his sisters might be involved, but when evidence is found in his house, will he have to arrest the twins at Christmastime?

To make matters worse, he is starting to fall for his deputy's sister. He can only imagine what the cranky man will say about that.

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of over 50 books and novellas. Vickie’s books have won the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, Texas Gold, and the ACFW Noble Theme contest, and she has been a multi-year finalist in ACFW’s BOTY/Carol Award contest, and she was voted Third Favorite Author in the Heartsong Presents Annual Readers Contest in 2009. She is the author of the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series.

Vickie and her husband live in Oklahoma. She is a wife of forty-seven years, mother of four grown sons and grandma to a smart and pretty high school senior. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, gardening, watching movies, traveling, and card making. To learn more about Vickie’s books, visit her website:



  1. Thank you for posting about this lovely craft! I have embroidered, crocheted, knitted and made a handsewn quilt, and I did do counted cross stitch until it got too challenging with my eyesight. I enjoyed all of them as I did them.

    1. You sound like me, Connie. I did most of those crafts too.

  2. Thank you for this post, Vickie. My grandmother and my mom both tatted. I have some of my mom's tatting framed. It is just beautiful.

  3. That's so cool, Nancy. I have an old tatting shuttle I found while cleaning out my mil's house.

  4. Both of my grandmothers tatted. I still have pillowcases where they tatted around the edges. susanlulu(at)yahoo(dot)com