Basic Tatting Lessons
The following basic tatting instructions, are based on those I first wrote for the lace group on the CompuServe forum. These were later re-written for an article I penned for Piecework Magazine (Nov./Dec. 1993). They appear here, once again, in a further revised and updated form.
The finished size of your tatting is determined, for the most part, by the size of the thread you use. The higher the number, the smaller the size of the thread - i.e. a size 10 thread is actually larger than a size 80 thread. Beginners should use a fairly large sized thread that has a tight twist to start. It will be easier for you to see the double stitches - usually called a "ds" in tatting patterns. Many standard crochet cottons will work for tatting. A tight twist in the thread will make your tatting appear well defined and will help your stitches slide easily.
Knot the end of your crochet cotton onto the shuttles center post bobbin.Wind a generous amount of thread evenly onto your shuttle.
To begin a double stitch, unwind about 18 inches of thread from your shuttle. With the shuttle in your dominant hand (I'll refer to this as your right hand throughout), hold the thread about 3 inches from the loose end between the forefinger and the thumb of your other (left) hand. Spread out the fingers of that hand in a relaxed, "OK," gesture. Swing the thread around your spread fingers and pinch the thread again between your thumb and forefinger. The thread should form a circle around your left hand*. [See Figure 1]
* Some tatters prefer to have the thread wind completely around their hand while others prefer not to have their little finger involved at all (see photo above). It's really only a matter of personal preference. Try it both ways to see which feels better to you.
You have one thread, but there are two different sections of it. The section looped around your hand is referred to as the "hand thread," and the section stretched between your shuttle and your left hand is called the "shuttle thread."
A ds has two parts to it and it made onto the shuttle thread. The idea that the stitch is made on the shuttle thread is central to the idea of tatting**.
The ds must be able to slide along the shuttle thread so that they can be gathered into rings or arched into chains.
** Getting the stitch onto the shuttle thread involves a type of move often referred to by tatters as the "flip" or the "pop".
First half of double stitch: With the nose of the shuttle pointing toward your left hand, sweep your right hand forward under the shuttle thread and then back to its originial position, catching the shuttle thread over the back of your hand.
With the nose of the shuttle still pointing left, move the shuttle under the hand thread at the largest open section thread (between your forefinger and middle finger). [See Figure 2]
Bring the shuttle back over the hand thread while still keeping the shuttle nose facing left. You can relax your hold on the shuttle so you can pass it around the hand thread, but you won't want to drop the shuttle completely. [See Figure 3]
As you move your right hand back to its original position, let the thread draped over it slide off.
The shuttle thread now forrms a small loop around the tauter, straighter hand thread. You need to reverse this situation so that the hand thread loops around the shuttle thread instead. [See Figure 4]
The "flip" or "pop":
Spread out the fingers of your left hand and raise your middle finger to help tighten the knot a little. The shuttle thread should pull taut as you tighten the knot, but don't tighten the shuttle thread too much or the stitch could flip back and lock your stitch.
If you have difficulties in tatting, this is most likely where you will have trouble. Be patient and don't be afraid to abandon the ring you began at the beginning of the lesson and try again.