Heritage Crafts


The making of a form of knotted lace using thread and a small shuttle.
Currently viable
Craft category
Area practiced currently
Tatting is practised throughout the British Isles and world-wide.
Origin in the UK
19th Century


Tatting possibly developed from knotting, an activity practised by aristocratic women from the 15th century, though it may have developed from the fisherman’s netting technique. As tatting is a domestic craft details were never written down. The process of tatting produces a particularly stable lace from knots and loops, and because of its delicate look it has been and is used for decorative purposes on clothing and fabrics as well as a jewellery making technique.

Tatting as we know it today emerged in the first half of the 19th century. The new availability of fine mercerised threads from 1835 encouraged a burgeoning of lacecrafts of all sorts. In the 19th century and well into the 20th century, tatting was used like crochet or knitted lace mainly for edgings, collars, doyleys, traycloths and so on.


There are several different tatting techniques. Tatting using a shuttle is assumed to have developed from the large knotting shuttles of the aristocratic ladies, however needle tatting developed at the end of the 19th century using a long needle. A different size needle is required depending on the thickness of the thread or yarn used and this can be anything from a fine 80 cotton to thick Aran type wool. There are other techniques including hooked tatting developed by a Japanese lady and cro-tatting. Compared to lace, tatting is more free form being worked on directly from a hand (rather than using a pillow or a loom) and so, a lot more stable in the process.

Within these types of tatting there are many (150!) techniques deviating from the basic ring and chain. These include Cluny tatting, split-ring, Maltese rings, pearl tatting, Josephine rings extended picots, triple picots, crossed picots, adding beads to the ring thread, adding to the ball thread, adding other hard objects etc.

Issues affecting the viability

  • Availability of materials and equipment: Unfortunately with the demise of local needlecraft shops the shuttle or needles needed for the craft are not easily available. The thread for traditional tatting is unavailable and sadly many manufacturers are no longer making the suitable thread and certainly not in the range of colours. People are not walking into a craft shop, seeing the craft and inspired to ‘have a go’.
  • The rules of tatting have not been formalised and there are no official trainings offering tatting qualifications
  • Some makers and enthusiasts share an opinion that tatting is more difficult than crocheting or lacing

Support organisations

Other information

There is no way the number of ‘amateur’ or ‘leisure’ makers can be assessed. The Ring of Tatters had nearly 2000 members 20 years ago but this number has sadly greatly diminished as people find all they need, numerous patterns and technique help on line with countless videos on the various  techniques giving different appearances to the final piece. So many folk are very computer literate that they do not want to go out to a class.  Hence the classes are sadly decreasing and mainly supported by older, retired folk who want the social company.


  • Palmer, Pam, Tatting (Shire Publications)
  • Palmer, Pam, (2003) Tatting Shuttles: Related tools and Accessories
  • Nakayama, Heidi, Tatting Shuttles
  • Auld, Rhoda, (1974) Tatting
National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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