Tips and Techniques


Those of us who have been on the internet for some years will have picked up so many helpful hints and ideas from so many people. Sometimes the source can be acknowledged, but usually it is lost in the mists of time!

A big thank you to everyone who has sent their tips to tatting lists and helped us all - keep them coming! Here's a list of tips we've accumulated so far (click on the + to expand):


How thick is my mystery thread?

Wrap some of the thread around a pencil in a single layer, about an inch and a half. Count the wraps, then wrap different thicknesses in the same way. The one with the same number of wraps per inch will be the size of your mystery thread.

Sewing in ends

How to hide ends by sewing them in between the stitches:

sewing in ends pic
© Jennifer Williams 2008
Ran out of thread in the middle of a round?!

If working with a ball and shuttle, you really want to avoid cutting ball thread to wind on to shuttle – because then you would have 4 ends to finish off! No problem if you have a 2nd ball of thread to use, but if not, you can:

  • Cut ball thread leaving a yard or more so that there is enough to finish making chains on that round. Then re-wind shuttle and carry on, using hanging ball thread for chains. Even if you find you haven't left enough to finish the round, this does space out the joins.

  • Sometimes you can see the shuttle is going to run out, you only need a small amount of ball thread for chains, but you need more thread for rings: in that case you can do a swap stitch (or shoelace trick) – simply do first half of granny knot to swap the threads so that you can use the shuttle for ball thread and wind a length of thread from the ball on to a 2nd shuttle to use for rings. (Doing the Swap Stitch is the natural thing to do when using 2 shuttles and 1 is nearly empty).
  • If you only need a little extra shuttle thread and it goes right back to the bobbin or central post, you can cut it at source and tie on 12" or so of a different thread at the centre before re-tying the original thread. That way you can use the shuttle thread down to the last bit.
  • It is possible to crush the cardboard centre of the ball, if it has one, and get at the thread end to rewind shuttle without disturbing the other end you are using for chains.


Starting a chain

When a new piece starts with a chain, work first ds over a paper-clip or safety pin to give a firm anchor – remove it a bit later.

Chain after a 3-ring clover

When doing a chain after a 3-ring clover, it will snug up better if you begin with a 2nd half ds (not counted).

S-shaped chains

To make a chain S-shaped, perhaps for a flower stem, do RW where you want to change the direction and continue with ds.

Chains with texture

For a change of texture, use:
Spiral Tatting – use 1st half ds or 2nd half ds all the time, and gently coax the stitches into a spiral.
Ric-Rac Tatting – do 4 x 1st half ds, 4 x 2nd half ds. (If you put your work down, finish with 2nd half ds like finishing an ordinary ds, then you know to begin with 1st half again when you re-start.) Also known as Node Stitch or Zigzag Tatting.
These work well for flower stems or a loop for a scissor-finder etc.


Count before you close!

Count before you close! As beginners soon learn, that is because it is very difficult to open a closed ring once you have spotted a mistake. But we all need reminding even after years of tatting.

Avoiding a second shuttle for a ring coming off a chain

If you need to make, say, just one ring coming off a chain, you don't have to have a 2nd shuttle but can use the ball as a shuttle. A rubber band or scrunchy wrapped round the ball will stop it unwinding while you work.


Picot Gauges

Make your own picot gauges by measuring and cutting up old credit cards or other plastic to exactly the size of picot you want. Particularly useful when you want a very long picot.

The gauge should be the width of the picot before closing it, that is twice the size of the finished picot. You work the picot over the gauge, and remove it to close up the picot.

Floral Picots

So-called because they add a ruffled effect like flower petals. This is because the picots lean alternately forward and back and overlap.

Do ordinary ds to the point where you want the floral picots. Then (2 x 1st half ds, picot space, 2 x 2nd half ds). You need to do several of them to get the effect. Then finish with ordinary ds.

Downward Picots

Similarly to floral picots, where you want the picot, you do: (2 x 1st half ds, picot space, 2 x 2nd half ds), but only once to give you one dropped, or inward-pointing picot. As well as being decorative, it can be useful for adding a bead to the centre of a ring.

double picot flower illustration

Downward Picot Flower
Use 1 shuttle
Pinch the dropped picot downward to encourage it.
R: 6-6 dropped picot 6-6
R: 6+6, dropped picot, 6-6
Make 5 rings.
Finish with a foldover join.

Double and Triple Picots

Basically you make a long picot, 1ds or more, then bend over the picot and join it in to the next ds to make a decorative double picot. (You can use the width of a ruler as a picot gauge) If you make a small picot between the start and finish of the long picot, you have a triple picot.

See this Snowflake Pattern for an example.


Making a tatting file

Even as a beginner, start a tatting file and make your own personal album. Buy a ring binder and some plastic wallets. Then you can collect patterns, pictures, photocopies, cards and have them all in one place for happy browsing.

Care for work in progress

Wash tatting even when work is in progress if it is a lengthy project. Even a tiny amount of perspiration if left can have a chemical reaction with the thread - it's then impossible to remove the grubby appearance.

Long lengths of edging

If making a long length of edging, you can keep it under control by rolling it up into a skein and holding it with a piece of Velcro, or an elastic band or a scrunchy.


Curled Ring
A curled ring is an ordinary ring, large enough to be folded over a chain (e.g. a chain from the previous round of tatting) and secured at its base. The technique was introduced by Ninetta Caruso and there are detailed instructions on her blog for how to make them.
Double Picot
A double picot arises by making a long picot, using a ruler or picot gauge to get the length right. Then, after 1 or more ds, you join the long picot back into the same ring or chain. The result is a long double arch.
Josephine Knot
Sally Magill explains:

A Josephine knot (or ring) is like a tiny ring or rosette made of about 7 or more half stitches. You work all 1st half or all 2nd half of a ds, not too tightly, and close carefully. If JKs are a problem make sure to hold all the half ds's pinched under your thumb as you do them. Close to the last half inch of thread and then pull the thread round and towards your body to encourage a rosette shape rather than a sausage.

Large Josephine Knots

This variation consists of 1 × 2nd half ds as usual, then the rest of the 2nd half ds are worked over the lower part of the thread, the section going from little finger to thumb.

You can see the difference in the picture – ordinary Josephine Knots on the left and bigger ones on the right.

For more details, please see the instructions for Josephine Rings on Jane Eborall's tips page.

Self-Closing Mock Ring (SCMR)
Sally Magill explains:

The SCMR is actually a modified chain, but the important thing is that it can be used to make rings that come off rings, not split-ring style, but in the way that we make rings coming off a chain.

Using ball and shuttle:

For practice begin by making an ordinary chain, just a few ds to get started. Then pull down a loop of shuttle thread (large enough for the shuttle to get through), pinching it between left thumb and finger next to last stitch made. Next make the chain that will be the SCMR, making sure you keep the loop. When you've done the ds for the mock ring, pop your shuttle through the loop and pull to close ring. Then carry on with chain.

Using 2 shuttles

Just as we make rings coming off chains by switching shuttles to use the 'ball' shuttle as a 'ring' shuttle, we can make rings coming off the SCMR.

Split Ring
From Rosemarie Peel's "20 Tatted Motifs":

A split ring is very useful for getting along the work without having extra ends. For example, it can take work on from a central ring of a motif to the first row, or from one row to the next, or along a line of rings without having to leave a length of thread each time.

The ball thread needs to be on a second shuttle. Take the thread of Sh.1 round your hand to make a ring in the normal way. Make the ds as stated for the first shuttle to complete the first half of the ring. Put Sh.1 down and pick up Sh.2 keeping the ring on your hand. The second shuttle will work up the other side of the ring, in the space between your first and little finger, in a slightly different manner. The right hand movements for making the ds are the same as usual but the thread in the ring is not allowed to reverse. It must be kept tight and the ds are pulled up on it as if you were sewing blanket stitches (Quote: "It feels odd").

After completing the ds as stated for Sh.2, put it down and take up Sh.1 to close the ring. Two threads are now in position to go on and make another split ring or to continue the pattern with ordinary chain and rings.

Stiffening Tatted Items

When making a mobile, or hanging snowflakes or other tatted ornaments, you want them to be nice and stiff. Here are several possible methods:

  • Use spray starch - quick and easy, but result is not all that stiff.
  • Make up a small amount of double strength Robin starch in a pudding bowl. You can cover it and keep in the fridge for a week or 2 to use for all your snowflakes as you make them. It is also possible to use ordinary cornflour (cornstarch). This works well with beaded tatting as it does not stick to the beads.
  • Paint snowflakes with PVA glue. Dilute the glue half and half with water. If it is too thick it will fill up picots. Maybe sprinkle on some glitter before it dries.
  • Paint with clear nail varnish, or use some with girly glitter in it.
  • Use hairspray.
  • Use sugar solution. Dissolve 2 cups sugar in 1 cup boiling water and leave to cool.
Triple Picot
A triple picot is formed from a long picot, using either a ruler or a picot gauge to get the length right, followed shortly by a short picot, followed by a join into the long loop from the first picot. The result is a long double arch over a small picot.