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.