A new tatter may experience pain in the arms akin to tennis elbow. Periodically the tatter should relax the muscles, rest the forearm, and lower the hands to improve circulation. Please do not get a death grip on the thread nor the shuttle. Needle tatters need to hold the needle firmly but beware of a grip so tight that the needle warps in the center. Occasionally take a break and move about. There are also soft gloves, like mittens available for needle workers.
Both needle and shuttle tatters should use a work cloth. Use a light colored cloth when using dark threads and a dark color cloth behind light threads. Also look way from the work and focus your eyes across the room to prevent eye strain.
The new tatters will soon discover that there are many types of tatting shuttles. How thread is wound onto a shuttle depends on what type of shuttle you have, i.e., plastic with post, plastic with removable bobbin, wooden with center post, metal with center post or removable bobbin, two bladed shuttle or flat shuttle. Basic two bladed tatting shuttles with center post are easy to wind. Make a slip knot in the tail of the thread. Slide the slip knot between the opposite points of the shuttle and then tighten. Hold the short tail under the thumb against the blade of the shuttle while winding the thread from the ball counterclockwise around the shuttle. Continue to wind the thread stopping when the thickness around the post nears the edge of the blade. The thread should never extend beyond the edges of the blade. Winding too much thread onto the shuttles causes the shuttle to "spring." A sprung shuttle is one where the points of the blades no longer touch. Unroll the thread from the ball instead of letting it lift upwards and unwind, wind shuttle counterclockwise, and end the thread on the side farthest away from you.
Shuttles with removable bobbins allow the bobbin to be wound by hand or by sewing machine/bobbin winder.
Flat shuttles will wind the thread from side to side or end to end in the slots/holes provided.
Please be aware that delicate shuttles cut from wood, shell, abalone etc. should be wound by walking the thread onto the shuttle. Here the thread is held taut and steady while the points of the shuttle are gently pressed down on the thread and then rotated end to end.
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Many vintage patterns instruct the tatters to wind the shuttle and cut the thread. Then the tatters are told to tie the two tails together! Modern tatters learn to avoid having these two extra tails to hide in the work. Wind the shuttle, pick a point on the thread near the ball and begin to tat. For patterns requiring two or more shuttles wind them continuous thread method (CTM.) This means to wind one shuttle and then unroll enough thread from the ball to wind the second shuttle from the other end thus eliminating one set of ends. If the pattern is large and you have one ball of thread, wind several shuttles in advance but do not cut the thread on the last shuttle. Begin from there.
Needle tatting has a fairly standard method, either hand may hold the shuttle and the thumb or forefinger can be used to aid wrapping the thread onto the needle. However, there are many methods of shuttle tatting.