• Appearance - like snowflakes or star shapes
  • Design - knotted rings, often with picots - smaller rings connected to form large circles, ovals or other shapes
  • Stitches - one knot, the lark's head or cow hitch
  • Not to be confused with knotting and netting.:
TECHNIQUE Possibly developed from knotted lace which was made over a cord with a netting needle. Tatting stitches are made over a thread. Stitches (more accurately knots) and loops are drawn up into circles or semicircles: different arrangements create different patterns. Each tatting knot stands alone and is difficult to undo, unlike knitting or crochet. Tatting is worked using two threads, a foundation thread over the fingers and, in a shuttle, a running thread which makes the knots creating different size rings which may have linking picots.Basically it uses only one knot, the lark's head, worked in two variations; as a single stitch - a half hitch and a double stitch made up of two half hitches in mirror image, together with loops of thread left between the knots forming picots on the edge of the ring and which vary in length and frequency. The shuttle, made of bone, ivory, tortoiseshell, wood, metal or plastic, has a short central column on which the thread is wound covered by two elliptical shells, pointed and curved towards each other at the ends. This enables the shuttle to pass smoothly through loops of thread without catching.


The French call it ‘ frivolite’, the Italians call it ‘occhi’ which means eyes and in Eastern countries people call it ‘makouk’ which means shuttle. The exact origin is unknown: possibly developed from stringwork, macram√© and/or knotting. In Egypt, the knotted rings on one mummy’s skirt looks like tatting. Chinese used knotting couched onto their embroideries. Tatting or ‘purling’ is mentioned in Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ and tatting was known in the Near East for centuries. In Cambodia it is known as ‘wrap weaving’.

Tatting revived in 1850 when Mlle Riego published several volumes of instructions and designs and won four awards at the International Exhibition. Many innovations of design and technique came from Queen Marie of Rumania. An expert tatter, she worked large ecclesiastical pieces and spangled them with topaz, turquoise, pearl and crystal jewels. Later she donated them to the monastery of Sinaia in the Carpathians in order, it is said, that her precious stones should not fall into the clutches of her husband’s mistress.

In the late 1880s it was used on a vast scale to decorate feminine clothing, usually worked with silk, for doilies and to decorate the edges of table linen and cushion covers.


Jones, R. The Complete Book of Tatting, Kangaroo Press, 1985
Nicholls, E. Tatting,Technique and History, Dover,New York, 1962
The Anchor Manual of Needlework, Batsford,London, 1974
The Basic Book of Macrame and Tatting. Octopus Books, Angus & Robertson, London, 1973
Weiss, R. (Ed) Traditional Tatting Patterns, Dover, NY, 1986

© Valerie Cavill, June 2009