The Method of Working Victorian Tatting from Weldon’s

Weldon’s Practical Needlework houses a wealth of information on Victorian tatting. The following “Method of Working” for Victorian tatting is reproduced here as it appeared in Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 4, published in England in 1889. No alterations or corrections were made.

METHOD OF WORKING.

The stitch of tatting is formed by two movements. The first movement produces a “single” stitch (see Fig. 6), which nearly resembles the stitch made in working buttonholes; the other, or reverse movement, twists the thread in the contrary direction and, together with the first is termed a “double” stitch (see Fig. 7). This double stitch is employed almost entirely in modern tatting.

The chief difficulty experienced by a beginner is the proper drawing up of the shuttle thread. To one not accustomed to the work it would naturally appear that the stitches should be formed by the thread that proceeds directly from the shuttle, but this is not so; the stitches are actually made by the thread that is looped round the fingers of the left hand. The right hand holds the shuttle, and makes with it the movement necessary to twist the cotton for the formation of the stitch, then the shuttle thread must be extended and drawn up straight with a jerk, and this jerk twists upon the shuttle thread the cotton that is looped round the fingers, and so produces a stitch. The shuttle thread thus runs through the row of stitches worked by the loop thread, and is competent to draw the loop larger or to tighten it as occasion requires.

Victorian tatting

Illustrations from Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 4.

The first operation in commencing tatting is to fill the shuttle. To do this you pass the end of the cotton from the reel or skein through the round hole that is bored in the middle of the shuttle, and secure it there by tying a knot; then wind the cotton round and round upon the block in the centre of the shuttle by passing a supply between the blades until the shuttle is full, but do not wind too great a quantity or the pressure may bend the blades, and cause them to gape open; cut off the cotton from the reel, leaving about three–quarters of a yard hanging from the shuttle.

Now hold the shuttle between the thumb and first finger of the right hand (as see Fig. 1), take the cotton between the thumb and finger of the left hand, passing round the back of the hand with about five inches of the end hanging down against the palm of the hand, bring it round from the back of the hand up between the thumb and forefinger again, and letting it hang round the back of the hand by the second knuckle, pass the shuttle from you up through the loop, between the first and second fingers, and in front of the shuttle thread (see Fig. 1), where the arrow denotes the direction the shuttle should take; draw the shuttle up, pull it tight to the right with a jerk, and at the same time raise the second finger of the left hand within the loop to stretch and raise up the loop, and the thread of the loop will form a stitch upon the shuttle thread. This is a “single” stitch. Fig. 3 shows six single stitches worked upon the loop, with the hands in the position of pulling tight the shuttle thread to form the sixth single stitch. Fig. 6 is an example of all single stitches with the loop partly drawn up. Single stitch, however, is but little used nowadays, nearly all patterns being worked in double stitches.

To make a double stitch, commence for the first movement as for a single stitch (Fig, 1). Take the cotton between the thumb and finger of the left hand, passing round the back of the hand with about five inches of the end hanging down against the palm of the hand, bring it round from the back of the hand up between the thumb and forefinger again, and letting it hang round the back of the hand by the second knuckle, pass the shuttle up through the loop, between the first and second fingers, and in front of the shuttle thread, draw up the shuttle, pull it tight to the right with a jerk, and at the same time raise the second finger of the left hand within the loop to stretch and raise up the loop, and the thread of the loop will form a “single” stitch upon the shuttle thread; retain the loop on the fingers, pressing the thumb over the single stitch just made. Now for the second movement, let the shuttle thread hang in front of the loop (as see Fig. 2), pass the shuttle over the knuckle of the second finger of the left hand and bring it towards you through the loop, as indicated by the arrow, draw up the shuttle to the right with a jerk, and at the same time raise the loop with the second finger of the left hand, and the thread of the loop will form a stitch upon the shuttle thread. Every “double” stitch comprises these two movements, first movement (Fig. 1,) second movement (Fig. 2). Fig. 4 shows the position of the fingers shuttle, and cotton, with 4 double stitches worked upon the loop, and the hands in the act of pulling tight the shuttle thread for the completion of the fourth stitch.

Victorian tatting

Illustrations from Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 4.

As the stitches are formed they are each pushed to the left-hand side of the loop and held down between the thumb and the first finger of the left hand, and the shuttle thread must always run smoothly and easily through the stitches to loosen or tighten the loop as required; for instance, as the loop gets used up in the formation of stitches you need to draw the loop thread to the left to bring more cotton into the loop to replenish the supply, and when you have completed the number of stitches necessary in that particular loop you slip the shuttle into the palm of the right hand, as in Fig. 5, release the loop from off the fingers of the left hand, and “draw up” the shuttle thread to the right till the loop is quite closed, and the last stitch is brought close to meet the first stitch; the loop is now converted into an “oval;” press the oval quite flat and nicely shaped, and go on to work another, beginning always with a loop in the same manner. Fig. 7 is an example of double stitches pushed to the left of the loop, and the loop partly drawn up.

If you missed any part of this series on Victorian tatting from Weldon’s, you can catch up on all of the blog posts here.” Stay tuned for more Victorian tatting from Weldon’s in future posts! Until then, find out more about tatting in our video download Shuttle Tatting with master tatter Georgia Seitz.

Featured Image: Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 4 offers up a wealth of information on Victorian tatting.


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