Tatting shuttles for giants

Boye Shuttle

I’ve only just developed a shuttle obsession. The internet is to blame of course, because I’ve only ever seen about 2 shops with shuttles in the UK, and usually they’re the Clover ones with a pick on the end, or the Pony ones with a hook.

On the internet there are loads. Vintage, modern, plastic, wood, Bakelite, celluloid, silver, brass. With hooks, with picks or with a gentle point.

I’ve always been intrigued by the Boye shuttle, purely because it’s metal. And actually, it looks a bit brutal. It’s not an airy fairy messing about shuttle for frivolous lace. It looks like a shuttle that means business. The only thing I’ve always wondered about was the flat hook. Looks a bit… well, dangerous, obviously, but not that practical. Looks like it would catch a bit.

Anyway. We all know where this is going – I bought one. It was listed as ‘vintage’ and came with a celluloid shuttle too. To be honest, I have no idea if either of them really are vintage, (you can still buy metal Boye shuttles brand new), but the price for two was the same as the prices I’d seen for one, so it seemed like a fair enough deal.

size comparison

And here are all the types of shuttle I own. On the right is the Boye shuttle, and next to it the celluloid. Next there’s the blue Pony (like an Aero, but I have a feeling, not as good) and then there’s the good old Clover. Until now I had no idea how small the Clovers were. LOOK AT THE BOYE SHUTTLE! It’s GIGANTIC.

Usually I use the Clover as my main shuttle, and the Pony as a hook. I did try the Pony as my main shuttle for a while, but the bobbin got a bit loose and it annoyed me. Anyway.

The Boye arrived this week, and I started to use it – it was already loaded with thread, all be it rather brittle. It takes some time to get used to. I found I was holding it with my fingers further to the back, and when you pull it through a loop, you have to sort of hold it more upright than normal, to clear the hook from snagging. There were moments when I thought it was ok – having a hook attached is brilliant – and moments when it was not ok.

Hooks and picks

As expected, I didn’t love the flat hook. The rounded one catches less – and should the thread catch, it slides off. With the flat hook, if you get caught, it’s more effort to un-snag yourself.

I did like the fact it was metal though – feels more like science than craft! There’s also something nice about the bobbin tension – it’s actually pretty tight, so wont let out thread unless you really want it – which is the problem I had with the Pony.

In conclusion – I think it’s just too big for me. I love that it’s metal, and I like that it has *a* hook – I just don’t like *this* hook. Having said that, I hate to be defeated, and so I think I’ll persevere a bit longer. In between speeding along with my Clovers, of course. (Also, now I’m hankering after a small David Reed Smith wooden shuttle with a hook but I’ve notice they have flat hooks too…)

size 40

Talking of persevering and stuff that is bigger than expected – I decided to try again with the size 40 thread. Above you can see the same thing in size 80 (left) and 40 (right). I was using up some of the 40 thread I had left on a shuttle (just didn’t have enough to finish this). I’m not in love it with it. It still feels too big for me. That was a test to see if this motif would be more useful in a bigger size – and I’m not sure it would, especially if I don’t like it!

cluny school

One thing I do like size 40 for, is clunys. I’ve still not really mastered them, and so I’ve given myself cluny homework. I’ve made this pattern before, but I still don’t think I’ve mastered it. The finished one was made in one pass, with a large split ring at the top. Not sure why but it never seems to come out quite the right shape – the clunys might have too few passes? (Should they be bigger?) Also the joining picots in the middle are too big and it looks really messy.

The ones in the middle of the half finished one are a much better shape. The one sticking out is a bit rubbish as I finished it on the train. If you’re a tatting commuter, this is an FYI: if you can get away with the embarrassment of getting your fingers into the right position for a cluny, then that’s awesome – but do remember they’re a lot harder to chuck in your bag unfinished when your train arrives! Packing away a half finished ring – or even a join – is ok, not so sure about a half finished leaf.

If you fancy learning clunys, there’s a bunch of links to videos and tutorials in the tatting pattern section. They’re by no means exhaustive, just ones I’ve found that have helped me.

Hearts and clunys

I’ve got back into the swing of commuter-tatting this week, but the light here’s not been great, so no photos of that as yet.

You may or may not’ve noticed that there’s a link at the top of the page now to tatting patterns and tutorials. I usually use the bookmarking site delicious to save my bookmarks, but there’s been chatter recently about it closing down, so I thought I’d post them here too. They’re in no way comprehensive, just things that I’ve found as I’ve needed them really. Hopefully I’ll add to them over the coming months, maybe they’ll be handy for someone else too.

While I gathered the links together, I decided it was time to tackle clunys again… I did have a bit of a go last year, in size 20 Lizbeth thread. Just as I thought I’d got the hang of it, I switched back to my normal size 80 only to find they were a bit of a disaster. (Thread kept twisting in on itself making it impossible to close them).

This time I tried size 16 finca, which I’ve had knocking about for some time..
cluny heart gre

Now, it’s in no way perfect, but I’m still rather pleased with it. The joins are wrong in the middle (temporary mind-wandering), and the leaves are in no way tidy, but hey! I’m gettin’ there. (I think?)

I still quite like the softness of the finca thread incidentally. I know it can get a bit fluffy, but it’s actually lovely to tat with.

The pattern is here, if you’d like a go. You might need a translator, but its relatively straightforward. Only thing i couldn’t seem to spot is how many cluny passes. For the record, 20 is too few, 30 seemed about right.

Tatted Cluny links

This is a little bit for me, and a little bit for you. Some links on cluny’s that might be handy (in no particular order)
• a good photo tutorial
• a nice post on using a stitch marker to help close the cluny
• the video that helped me finally ‘get it’
• a cluny pattern that I *will* one day start with (when I stop practising)

I just posted this as I spotted the link to use a stitch marker this morning, and didn’t want to forget where I’d seen it. As i often see people searching for cluny info, thought it could be handy.

Let me know if you’ve found any other links that could be good, and I’ll add them to the list.

Clunys! (Tatted, not George’s)

It’s a busy (and rather long) week. I flew to the USA from the UK last weekend for a conference, and it was a long flight. Eight hours or so to Chicago, with no in-flight entertainment. Luckily, I’d already thought to take my own:

This is actually my second go at this pattern, by Mary Konior. It’s oddly hard to get into the rhythm of it, but it’s really pretty. I only made one visible mistake this time around, but I’m letting myself off the hook, as it’s not that noticeable, really – and the reason I made the mistake was because a very sweet lady started talking to me.

She spotted me tatting in the departure lounge as we were waiting for a connecting flight. I could see her looking out of the corner of my eye, and I knew she wanted to talk. Eventually she came over and said ‘Is that tatting?! My husband’s grandmother used to do it and I haven’t seen anyone do it since.’ She was so thrilled, it was really cute.

She also congratulated me for keeping a dying art alive. I pointed out that it was far from dying, she just needs to spend some time on google! As she was a knitter, I suggested tatting might be good to try for in-flight craft, as I know knitters are number 1 terrorists these days, with their oh-so-pointy, devilish needles. Tatting shuttles are less fiendish, at least according to airport security.

Poor little Ele, I’ve been using her to hang my smaller bits of tatting on. She had this on her nose for a while, but recently she’s been wearing three different coloured ones on her head. I’m trying not to lose them (my desk is a real mess). She’s doing a very good job of looking after everything.  These were also experiments in tatting with two colours – and joining the thread into a different coloured ring. I’ve kind of got it – it sort of depends on the day, how I’m feeling and whether or not the tatting gods are smiling on me 🙂


I’m back in the UK now, and jet-laggy. I’ve been thinking about tacking clunys since I spotted them again recently on Fox’s site. She’s been making a few different things with clunys and linked to a video by the Mistress of them all, Elisadusud. So last night, at around 12.45am I thought it might be a good time to start learning. Believe it or not, it wasn’t bad.

Tatting videos are so good, mainly because you can watch them frame… by…. frame… until…. you get what on earth is going on. I’ve got some size 20 Lizbeth thread, which is what I’m learning on – and at the moment, I cannot imagine how you’d do it on anything thinner – but I guess I’ll get there eventually? It’s the thread that makes the above photo look so nice – I can’t take credit for the colours. Also, it’s photographed surprisingly well – not sure it looks quite that good in real life!

So I’ll keep on practising for a bit, and if I ever manage to make a cluny in size 80 – which is my favourite thread – I’ll let you know!