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BellaOnline's Tatting Editor

Shuttle vs Needle Tatting

As the leader of the Online Tatting Class, the editor of the tatting column on BellaOnline.com and a tatting teacher of nearly three decades I have often been asked questions like these:

Which is easiest to learn, shuttle tatting or needle tatting?
If I already crochet and knit, shouldn't I just learn needle tatting and not shuttle tatting?
Is there really any difference in the lace between a needle-tatted and a shuttle-tatted product?
Isn't it really hard to learn shuttle tatting?
What is the point of needle tatting?

Eventually all tatters will learn both shuttle and needle tatting. Needle tatting takes only a few minutes to learn. Shuttle tatting takes a little more concentration but it is well worth the effort.

Admittedly, I am a dedicated shuttle tatter. To me there is nothing as satisfying as the click of the shuttle. Some tatters find the clicking too loud. For them there are noiseless flat tatting shuttles as well as tatting shuttles with removable bobbins which make a different type of noise. The tatting needle is also noiseless (at least after the first few lessons.) I start my students with shuttle tatting the two color chain which is followed by rapid progress.
flat tatting shuttle from the collection of Georgia Seitz

vintage Boye shuttle with removable bobbin on swing arm

needle with closed tatted ring

However, during my earliest years of teaching, I had a lady with a damaged right hand and another with a hand twisted by arthritis. They tried so hard to tat with the shuttle but no go. So I tried them on the needle. They've been tatting ever since.

Beyond on the advantages for the physically challenged, needle tatting is useful to allow tatters to experiment with fat, fluffy, textured, and metallic threads which do not work as easily with the shuttle. Another benefit that I see to needle tatting is when using an expensive thread, you can put a less costly thread in a complimentary color on the needle as the carrying cord (core thread) and use the good stuff only on the outside. And, certainly, the needle does make it easier to add beads almost anywhere in the line of tatting.
bicolor needle tatting

The worst feature of needle tatting is that you must pull through long lengths of thread for larger projects or frequently add on new thread.

Just remember, pick one to start but count on learning both needle tatting and shuttle tatting!

Beaded needle tatting: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art23957.asp
Needle Tatting a Ring: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art70019.asp
Needle Tatting the DS http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art1740.asp
Needle Tatting Practicing the Double Stitch: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art10745.asp

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