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I got into tatting because I had noticed a class on Craftsy (my favorite learning site!) for shuttle tatting. My mother had learned to needle tat last year. Pretty pretty stuff and I was just really wanting to learn something totally new! Plus maybe I could finally make beautiful jewelry!
Not knowing if I wanted to learn needle tatting or shuttle tatting I continued my research. During that research I came across a website comparing needle tatting, shuttle tatting and… cro-tatting??? Ok since crochet is my thang I had to look more into it! what I came up with… sadly, not a whole lot on how to cro-tat!
Not A New Art
Seems it is indeed almost a lost art. Shuttle tatting is the oldest form of tatting with its first record of mention in the early 17th century. Not a super popular needle art like knitting or crochet but there is a lot out there about it. Done with a shuttle and thread, the stitches are tiny, its very time consuming and its not an easy thing to ‘get’. It tends to be smaller and stiffer because the knots are tied directly on a single thread instead of a hook or needle. I feel because you have to wind your thread on the shuttle that limits me were the hook is work directly from the ball. Saves me time and headache!
Needle tatting was first mentioned in the early 20th century but didn’t become popular until much later. Where today I think needle tatting may be just as popular as shuttle. My mother says its faster and easier than shuttle tatting. Many shuttle patterns can be used for needle tatting.
Then we have cro-tat. Not a new thing either. First mentioned in the 19th century as crochet tatting. A Harpers Bazar 1868 article states “it is more quickly and easily learned. Its less trouble than tying knots with a shuttle, and requires less time and labor; work is firmer and more even, and more easily washed. The principle superiority, however, consists in the fact that it can be used in a greater manner of designs and arrangements.”
As someone who both shuttle tats and cro-tats now I can state that for the most part, for me this is true… IF, that’s a big IF here! I have the proper hook. Yes, there are actually special hooks for tatting. Some good… some not so much. For me anyways. The thing is, if your hook isn’t perfect for the thread (or yarn) you’re working with you will be at high risk to drop all your stitches when you pull your knots though.
So… since there is not a lot out there I’ve put together what I did to have success with cro-tatting.
First up, the all-important tatting hook.
I’ve only tried 6 hooks so far and these are the only two I can get to work effortlessly. The top hook in the picture is an old cro-tat Annie’s hook. I can get it to do ok.. rate of fail is higher than I’d like. It does best with thicker threads. I’m not wild about it but until I can find a better hook for thicker threads I’ll have to use it.
The bottom hook is amazing!!!! It’s a Lacis 1.4 mm … do yourself a huge favor! If you plan to learn this needle art get this hook now! (be cautious though, Lacis does not have the best customer service if you have an issue. I do not like to recommend a shop I’ve not had good experience with but this tatting hook is great ) Once I got my tension right it pulls knots off flawless with hardly ever a drop. Does amazing with size 10 to size 8 threads. The jewelry above was done with this hook in size 10 threads. I LOVE it! You can actually get this hook on ebay, amazon, and Etsy. Some are double ended, some have a handle. Either work as both have the recessed head and little catch hook to pull the thread through.
For tatted chains, a great technique to add, you will need the double-ended hook. Takashima bari tatting hooks are specifically made for this. They are more expensive so maybe not the investment you want to make first trying things out. The $10, 1.4 mm lacis tatting hook I mention is a great inexpensive way to learn this art. More on them and other hooking sets later.
Of course you need threads. I do love crochet and tatting threads! Just like a yarn stash , now you must have a thread stash! Most craft stores and Annie’s will have Aunt Lydia’s which is great thread. Once you get the hang of it treat yourself to some Lizbeth which can also be bought here at Annie’s ! Once you are tatting away if you want to add beads to your work you’ll need size 6 beads for size 3 thread and size 8 seed beads work beautifully with size 10. Adding beads on a hook tatted project is much easier than adding with shuttle imo.
Making it pretty, finishing touches
Next you will need some embroidery needles to sew in your ends. And a beading needle is a nice thing to have too! I especially love the collapsible ones. Also available at more craft stores. To stiffen and block I use Stiffen Quick. Dries fast, no odor. Just block and spray!
How To Cro-tat?
Then you will need to know how to do it! Its hard to find info… there are a couple of youtube videos in English that are to be used with a free ebook but I could not get it with just those. I had to use multiple sources because that’s how I learn. Many have learned from only that ebook though. So that is a good place to start. Link will be in article below.
I actually learned by first watching how the thread was put on in needle tatting tutorials because that step is the same. There are tons of needle tatting videos with excellent very experienced instructors. Then I learned how to hold my thread for removing the stitches by watching the British ladys tutorials as well as an Italian one! Then it got better when I found a tiny clip of a Japanese lady demonstrating how to remove the stitches.
Just like with crochet you have to find your own sweet spot with how to hold your thread and how much tension you use. Get the mechanics of what has to happen, then Practice different ways until one feels right. That’s how I learned to crochet, knit and how to shuttle tat ( though I got the feel and technique for the latter two I much prefer a hook over anything,,Crocheter DNA here!). Watching as many different people as I could until one felt right and clicked!
Patterns and putting it all together
Now…patterns! First of all, most shuttle and needle tatting patterns will not work for cro-tatting and must be modified. Tatted Chains are not traditionally done with cro- tatting so most of the time a regular mesh chain is used in its place. That alone makes it versatile and easier for a crocheter! Basic knowledge of crochet stitches is highly recommended for this art. With the double ended tatting hook I mentioned above you can do the tatting chain technique, which opens up the possibility of using the needle and shuttle tatting patterns.
Seeking out patterns became part of my morning routine for a while! Many patterns are out of print. A lot of them I admit was disappointing. Only using a few rings here and there, pretty poor use of the ‘tatting’ part. There are a few patterns on Ravelry just be sure its actually for cro-tat. There is a kind of lace crochet that resembles tatting but its not. It’s pretty! But you don’t actually tat rings.
Some nice cro-tatting patterns in the English language I have found so far are from this lady at Rainbow Valley . She is the same lady I mentioned above with a free beginners ebook and does a couple of youtube tutorials to go with it (also mentioned above). Some of her patterns can also be found in this For the Love of Crochet oop magazine which can still be ordered from Interweave.
But if you can read diagrams you will open up a whole world of more patterns! I actually learned to read diagrams and read them well from taking This shuttle tatting class from Craftsy. If I never pick up a shuttle again it was worth it to learn that!
UPDATED: Now…Hook tatting, I’ve had some complaints about being confusing here so I’ll do my best to be crystal clear…
Hook tatting, which is what its called in Japan, is actually a little different than what we call cro-tat here in the USA because of 1 technique. Tatting the chains with a double-ended hook is that technique. It was discovered by Takashima in the 70’s. Its the only added technique I can find that is different from what we call cro-tatting. However, I don’t speak Japanese so I might be wrong.
I don’t mean to be confusing but It has really confused me, especially since in Japanese hook tatting books (there are only 4 and I have them all) there are plenty of patterns that are only ‘cro-tatted‘ and don’t use the tatted chains at all. Tatting the chains with a double-ended hook is more like an advanced technique within cro-tatting to me rather than a different art altogether. You can certainly do both crochet and tat chains in one pattern! I have many times. So what would I call it… since I do both in some of my patterns? I’ll stick with cro-tatting as its less confusing to us in the USA I think. Just know that having tatted chains within your cro-tatting is possible with the double-ended hook.
Cro-tatting with yarn? Yes!
Takashima and Lacis also have some bigger hooks in their sets which make tatting with yarn possible, like the larger needles for needle tatting!! Which opens up a whole other world of possibilities!!!! The versatility is awesome.. the rings made with yarn are very lovely and now can be used to make scarves, handbags and more! In a much more timely manner. The more I can utilize my learned skills into different things the happier I am with it.
I hope if you’ve got the drive to learn this elegant, versatile art this helps you get started. Personally, I have totally fallen in love with it for so many reasons!
And I have several cro- tatting patterns I’ve designed on this website now! So be sure to check them out! Beginner Cro-tatting Earring Pattern
Its a really beautiful (and yes easier than shuttle tatting!) needle art.