22 Feb 2010

One Shuttle, Two Shuttles, Reverse Work

I have read questions in forums and groups about finding out if a pattern requires one shuttle or two shuttles to tat. This has prompted me to write this post.  This is my understanding of the issue. Others may view it differently, but not at all the wrong view.

Written instructions would usually mention right up if a pattern requires one-shuttle, one-shuttle-and-ball or two-shuttles.  This may not be so obvious if looking at a chart of the design.  So, my focus here will be on charts, specifically the style that I use for my patterns.

This chart is for a flower motif and is made entirely out if rings using one shuttle only.

The second chart is a shuttle-and-ball pattern. Notice that the rings are on the inside and all the chains are curved on the outside.  However, the rings on their own are all facing the same way towards the centre, and each of the chains are curved in the same direction.

This third chart is also made with shuttle-and-ball, even though it looks different.  Here, the rings are on the outside and the chains are in the centre.  But, the point to note is that the rings are all facing to the outside and the curves in the chain are the same.

The same cannot be said for this chart.  This is an example of a pattern that requires two shuttles.
I will go into a bit more detail using the chart below.

Here there are two sets of rings, A and B, with A pointing in one direction and B in the opposite direction. This is an indication that two shuttles are required.  In this example above, rings A are made with one of the shuttles, and rings B made with the other shuttle. Depending on the design, the positions of the rings may not be in direct opposite as shown here, it can be at any point along the chain

Another clue to look out for to know if you need one shuttle or two shuttle is to look at the curve in the chains.  Using the chart above as an example, notice that the chain between the ring (A-A) or (B-B) is curved in one direction while the chain after the rings curves it the opposite direction, both within the same row or round.  They are telling you that the part if the chain between the rings is made with shuttle 1, and you have to switch to shuttle 2 to make the chain after it.

While I am it, lets is look at another step in tatting that is not obvious in charts, Reverse Work.  Written instructions usually have the notation RW or rw shown at the end of each step to indicate that you need to reverse your work before starting the next part.

Reverse Work (RW or rw) is to flip over your work in hand verically.  Looking at the earlier chart, rings A are on top while rings B are at the bottom.  Reversing your work is to switch their position.

Using this example, after making ring A, you need to reverse work to make ring B, followed by the chain.  The change in the curve of the chain will also indicate that you need to reverse work.


  1. Thanks for the information..very interesting.....the Dragonflies and the Swans are gorgeous.....have you a pattern for these???
    Joy in OZ

  2. That makes it very clear to me. Thanks

  3. Thank you for the excellent description, Jon! I think I need to take the time to look at the design more carefully before beginning. There have been many times when I've started and then realized I needed two shuttles to complete the job. Now I know what to look for!

  4. thank you for the post, very helpful! I also recognised that I need 2 sh. when there were rings on the chain

  5. Another great tute Jon! You can get by without 2 shuttles by doing the shoelace trick to bring the single shuttle into the proper position but it does make the ring lay slightly different, (IMO) more at an angle than straight. I prefer using 2 shuttles as it saves on that back and forth action and makes a cleaner line of tatting.

  6. Thanks for this explanation. I'm fairly new to tatting and often find myself reversing my work back and forth and turning my work around trying to figure out which way and which shuttle I need to use. This gives me an idea without all the turning and playing as to which way I need to be going.

  7. I love the swans! I have never seen tatted ones before.

  8. Joy, I'll draw up a chart for them and post later.

    You are welcome Tudy, Beelizabeth and Linda.

    Diane, I always study the diagram/photo not just to see if they require two shuttles or one, but where to start so that I can climb out to the next round with split ring/chain and avoid cutting the thread.

    Poranna, you are right. I forgot to mention that part. Thank you for pointing it out.

    Gina, I wrote something about using the SLT in an earlier post Two Shuttles vs SLT
    I would first consider the effect that I want in the tatting and then decide which one to use.

  9. Dear Jon,

    Thank you so much for this very precious tutoral. Sometime very simple thing can cause big trouble. This tutoral help to clear up the fog.


    Andrea Kaszas


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