Friday, May 10, 2013

 Shuttle v Needle

I recently read a cute article about the difference between knitting and crochet.  My mind did a fast turn and kept seeing shuttle for knit and needle for crochet.  Please don’t ask why as that is just how it is…It started my 5 brain cells running around and here is what they came up with.

First off I would like to give a big thank you to Writer/illustrator/knitter Franklin Habit and to Lion Brand for their neat article that can be found here:

There have been famous feuds in history….Hatfields v McCoys, Capulet v Montague, knit v crochet, and now we add shuttle v needle for tatting.   Why??????????  Don’t ask me…I don’t have the answer.  I just report what I see.

Shuttle tatting has its strengths, needle tatting has its strengths, and both are TATTING!  Yes I know traditionally needle tatters and shuttle tatters have squared off on which is actually tatting…both camps claim the other isn’t tatting.  I will not go into the history of the battle nor who is right and who is wrong.  Both are right and both are wrong.  Remember thread is long, life is short.  Tatting will last a long time. 

Shuttle tatters find an easy rhythm with the shuttle making each half of the double stitch, the flip (some have called it a pop or snap or switch), picots, rings, chains and the stitches come easily  with muscle memory taking over so you don’t have to think about the flip.  Needle tatters, in general,  can tat a bit faster as the stitches are put on the needle with a wrap technique…wait aren’t they different?   Not really…yes in how the stiches are formed but both have a core thread, both have double stitches over the core thread, both do picots, rings, chains, split rings, split chains, and a plethora of additional techniques for making interesting parts of a pattern. Yes they do them differently but that is inherent with the differences in the tools…shuttle as different from needle so different procedures are used to make the same look from the thread. 

Some tatters include making the stitches in reverse order for the second half of split ring/split chains/front side back side tatting as part of the difference.  I disagree because we both do both halves of the stitch.  Essential we are talking about the difference between the English method of tatting and the French method of creating the stitch and not about the stitch itself.  Georgia Seitz has an interesting article at:  about the difference between the English and French stitches.  Typically we use the French stitch aka 1h or first half of the ds first and then the English stitch aka 2h or second half of the ds second.

 If we are doing the second half of a split ring or split chain or the contemporary fs/bs (front side back side) also known as 1 sided tatting (in some circles) we  use the  stitch halves in reverse order...that means instead of tatting the double stitch as 1h/2h we do it 2h/1h.  Before you string me up please do this simple exercise as it shows the difference between the 2 manners of forming the stitches. 
Tat a  *ring of 3 picot 3 picot 3 picot 3 close ring and reverse work, chain 3 picot 3 picot 3 picot 3 reverse work* repeat for 4 rings ending with a ring.    Tie the thread off.  No need to hide ends…just tie them off and cut the threads.  This is just an exercise for your edification and amusement.
Now tat a ring of 3 picot 3 (join to the middle picot of the first ring previously made) 3 picot 3 close ring and reverse work.  For the chain start with the 2h then 1h and continue the chain doing the halves in reverse order commonly abbreviated as RODS. Repeat joining each middle picot to the ring that would be next on the previous row so each ring is joined to the same ring from the first part of the exercise.  Tie and cut off as before.  Now the big reveal look very closely at the rings and chains on the first part…see how the stitches look different between the rings and chains?  Look at the second set …do the stitches look the same on both the rings and chains?  They should.  Now compare the rings from both rows…they should look the same but the chains should look different.  Did you even notice I did not say shuttle tat….or needle tat….I just said TAT.  The first row is traditional tatting and the second row is contemporary tatting also called 1 side tatting or front side back side tatting.  Both are good techniques and have positives and negatives.  The 1 sided tatting takes a bit of time to get ingrained as a habit but it is a good technique.  Neither of the techniques are all good or all bad…just different. 

And now this brings us back to is needle tatting or shuttle tatting …not better/worse, not good/bad, not right/wrong just 2 different techniques for us to all learn and enjoy.

Needle tatters find split rings (if there are a bunch in a pattern) to be irksome with the continual unthread, thread, re-unthread, re-rethread….it continues that way for each split ring.  Shuttle tatters don’t have that issue but split chains are easier with needle.  Both are useful. 

Very few….I repeat…Very few patterns cannot be done with either tool.  Read the pattern and decide which tool will be easier and go with that one.  I found, and deleted so no longer have the pattern, one pattern that was more challenging with shuttle than needle but it specified that it was a NEEDLE tatting pattern.  The pattern had several spots where you put a chain thru the ring several rows below and continuing to make a chain with rings on it.  That meant I did a lot of unwinding shuttles (shuttle and ball were both shuttles fortunately!!) putting the threads thru the ring and rewinding the shuttles as I had to do that several times!  It would have been so much easier with the needle but I did it with the shuttle.  So yes you can do the pattern with either…just 1 is way easier than the other would be.  I then could see the value of needle tatting.  Before that I considered it a lazy way to tat—you don’t have to learn the flip and not really the same skill at all.  I have learned there is value in each tool and each skill.  Yes new tatters learn can learn both.  I recommend beginners get comfortable with 1 tool and then give the other a try.  Some tatters find learning to needle method to be harder than shuttle method  while some find the opposite to be true.  I knit and crochet and shuttle tat right handed but needle tat lefty as when I learned to needle tat I could not use my left hand except to stabilize the needle.  

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