Dealing with Ends

This post was prompted by several e-mails that I received asking me how to hide the thread ends after the tatting is complete.

Tatters don't like to deal with many thread ends, or at least I have not come across any who look forwards to having loads of ends to hide.  So the best way of addressing this is to reduce the number of ends to hide.  This takes a little bit of planning even before you start tatting. 

Start with CTM where possible
It is always good to start with continuous thread (CTM) whether working with shuttle-and-ball or two-shuttles if you can, (pic 1).  You have already reduced one pair of ends to hide.

If you are working on motifs that are worked in rounds, study the picture or the chart and see if you can utilise split rings or/and split chains to jump to the next round.  You will be spared hiding ends after each round.

But, there will still be that last pair of thread ends when you finish your work.  I am sharing here two methods that are often used to hide ends.  These are not the only methods to use.  There are other ways to hide ends but I have not tried them before, so I cannot say much about it at this time.

One method that I often use is sewing in the ends.
When you have made the last chain (or ring - I am using the chain here as an example) cut a tail of about 6 inches of both thread.  Tie the ends to the beginning of the motif with a square knot.

Thread one of the ends to a blunt needle and sew in the thread in between the double stitches, going in first in one direction and coming back again in the opposite direction, (pic 2).  After each pass, give the thread a slight tug to make sure that the thread is pulled under the caps of the double stitches.  Do this over a number of double stitches.
Sew in the ends by taking the needle in between the double-stitches
Do the same with the other end but to a different part of the tatting.  For example, if the first end is sewn into a ring the second end can be sewn into a chain.  Trim off the excess threads close to the tatting, rub the stitches where the cut is to hide any trace of the cut ends.

Another method is often referred to as the Magic Thread Method.  This method requires pulling the end through the double-stitches with the aid of an another thread.  Again, study the design and pattern to see where is the best place for you to put in the magic thread.  In this example of the same pattern as above, I have started with the CTM. I have decided to add the magic thread in the first chain because that is where I will end the motif.

Before making chain, cut off a piece of thread, preferably in contrasting colour and thinner than the thread you are using for you tatting. Hold your tatting as you usually do  when making a chain.  Fold the magic thread into half and lay it over the core thread of your chain.  Make sure the the curve of the fold is facing the opposite way of your chain progression, as shown below.

The magic thread should be lying along the core thread
Make the first half of the double stitch as normal.  Then, make the second half of the double stitch,  but before tightening it, slide both ends of the magic thread through the half-knot. 
Post the thwo ends of the magic thread through the half-knot before tightening the stitch
Continue to to post the two ends through each half-stitch for the next few double stitches and you should get something like this.  What you are doing is tatting over the core thread and the magic thread together.
Double stitches made over the core thread and magic thread together
 After about five or six double stitches, you can stop and continue with the pattern as usual.  When you have reached the last element of the pattern, in this example a chain, you need to add in another magic thread to it.

But, in my example, I am not using another thread.  Instead I use a floss threader to function as the magic thread. When you are about five or six double stitches from the end, place the magic thread over the core thread of the chain.  Make a first half-stitch and post the ends of the magic thread though the half-knot before tightening it. Continue doing the same for each half-stitch until the double stitch that you need to complete the chain.  For this last double stitch, only post the magic thread ends through the first half-stitch and complete the second half-stitch as normal.
Double stitches made over the magic threa

Two magic threads placed at the beginning and the end of the motif.
Cut off a tail of about six inches of each thread.  Tie the two ends together. To hide the ends, post one of the ends through the fold of the magic thread and pull the ends of the magic thread together.  I find it easier to pull the magic thread if I only  post the thread end about a third of the way through the loop of the magic thread.

One thread end is put through the loop of the magic thread, in this case the floss threader.

Post the other thread end through the other magic thread, and pull it to bring the thread ends into the double stitches, as in the picture below.

Here are the two samples of the motif with the ends hidden, one made by sewing in and the other by the magic thread method. 


  1. I've heard somebody mention using a sssr at the end to eliminate ends to you know anything about this idea?

  2. Very good explanation and pictures of both methods, Jon. Thanks for the tutorial.

  3. thanks for the instructions. I really need to keep trying the magic thread method. I sew my ends in and to me they (mine) look sloppy.

  4. What a wonderful post on how to hide ends I have bought those floss threaders while I am here in the States,as I cant buy them back home. So I will definately give them a try.

  5. Krystle, I have read about using the sssr (single-shuttle split ring) but I have not tried that myself.

    You are welcome Marty, Ninu.

    Kelly, I find that sewing in the ends is easier for me than the magic thread method. But I will consider the magic thread if I am using multicoloured/variegated thread.

    TypsTatting, I can't find the floss threaders here in Malaysia either. What I have are gifts from a tatter in the States. I don't think there is something like that in the UK either because I asked my daughter to look for it and she didn't find any.

  6. thank you for clarifying the magic thread trick... i was wondering why my stitches came undone...i needed to keep the last half normal. thanks.

  7. Jon, how very clear. This helps reinforce previous learning for me. I rarely get to see others tat and always welcome the pictures.

  8. Shannon,
    Your stitches coming undone could be because you are pulling the core thread that is holding the double stitches in the first place (I hope you understand what I mean). I would suggest making a knot with the two ends before pulling them in by the magic thread.

    John, you are welcome.

  9. The Magic Loop thing makes me crazy! Makes my work look thick... I sew in the ends with the non-threading needle Jane recommended and if I am careful you cannot see the stitches - usually!

    Love the photo!
    Fox : )

  10. Thanx for the tutorial with pictures, it helps a lot. I have been trying the magic loop method to start a new thread instead of finishing a round but am having trouble pulling the threads thru. I am using 1 or 2 lb test fishing line the next time i try it and i can see now that i need to plan my change in a place where i can actually tie a knot. I was hoping the knot would be unnecessary but have fount it comes apart without it.

  11. I was taught to use dental floss folded in half and tied. Making the loop. It is best to use unwaxed as it glides through much easier. Also you should beable to find unwaxed dental floss all over the world. Dental floss is strong but very fine and can be used over and over again.
    Thanks for sharing your talent thru your tutorials. I am learning so much.

  12. Thank you for the suggestion. Using dental floss does make sense.

    p.s. I would really appreciate it if you could also leave a name or user name when leaving comments so that I can refer to it later, if I need to. I just don't feel right getting something from someone with no name. Thank you.

  13. Found this by a round-about route . . . THANK YOU. I learned to tat about 40 years ago, from I think a Coats & Clark booklet. The only finished tatting projects I have ever done were edgings (of course, that means I do have some rather pretty, frivolous slips and knickers!) because I never could figure what to do with the ends, if there was no cloth hem to tuck them into!

  14. I found your blog while browsing for tatting patterns. I'm so glad that I did! I've been tatting for years, but there's still so much to learn. Thank you for the tutorials and patterns, not to mention the tips...

  15. As a new convert to shuttle work (I needle tatted primarily), I was just assuming you'd slip the ends in along the core thread once you were done. To my dismay, apparently shuttle-work tats tighter, and it is nigh impossible to get a needle through. >sigh<. BUT I am happy to have found both of these suggestions (sewing the ends in... rather like in crochet) and the magic thread.

    AS usual, THANK YOU Jon. You are a life saver! :)

  16. Thank you, Jon, for posting this help.
    I have just finished the Clover doily and searched for the best way to sew in the ends. Sooooo helpful!!

  17. I must say thanks for the side on photo. I have countless times on various FB groups about how the waistbands should sit in relation to each other, to help me sort out tensioning. DO they sit side by side/overlap etc. THat photo shows it perfectly and I do wish it was shown in beginner tutorials/videos as it is really useful, especially never having seen tatting in real life.


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