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What is Tatting Thread?

By Jillian Peterson
Updated: Feb 13, 2024

Tatting thread is a special type of thread used to make lace. Tatting is the name of several techniques for making lace that involve tying knots and looping thread into an open fabric using a shuttle or needle. Many types of thread can be used for tatting, and the thickness of the thread and the particular tatting technique will affect how the finished lace looks. Thread used for tatting is also called crochet thread, crochet cotton or pearl cotton.

The thickness of tatting thread is usually indicated by a number. For example, #100 size thread is the thinnest, and #1 size thread is the thickest. Thinner threads are recommended for small projects, such as lace edging on doll clothing. Medium thickness thread commonly is used for doilies — most tatters use size #10 or size #20 thread for doilies. Some tatting threads are even used for jewelry. These threads must be sturdier because beads often are incorporated into tatted lace jewelry. Thicker tatting threads are recommended for larger projects, such as table cloths or bedspreads because using a thicker thread means that you make fewer knots to create a lace fabric.

The type of fiber the tatting thread is made from also affects the look of the finished lace. Silk thread typically is preferred for traditional lace because it is smooth, easier to knot and produces a soft lace. Thicker cotton thread can also be used in tatting, and it makes a sturdier lace for projects such as doilies or flowers. Natural tatting thread also can be dyed many colors to make a more colorful lace. Modern synthetic threads can be tatted into lace that is washable and stands up to wear and tear.

Early lace makers used very thin silk tatting thread in white or ivory, but later designs featured thick tatting thread in many colors. For modern tatters, there are many types of lace-making thread available from sewing and craft suppliers, including silk, cotton or synthetic tatting thread. Thread for tatting is also available in a wide variety of solid or variegated colors as well as metallic colors for a sparkling lace.

Crafters who are interested in tatting should look for tatting thread from retailers who also sell tatting supplies or tatting accessories. Since lace making requires a smooth thread that won’t unravel, embroidery thread or thin yarn may not be suitable for tatting. It is important to buy thread from a supplier who knows the requirements for thread to make a beautiful and sturdy lace.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By sunshined — On Dec 13, 2011

I grew up learning how to crochet and knit, and this also included doing some tatting. While it can be tedious work, the end result is always beautiful.

My mom is the one who taught me how to do all of this, and she always used Coats crochet thread. This brand of thread has been around a long time, and I still find myself using it today.

I made some white baby dresses for my girls with tatting around the collars and hems. Even after all these years, the tatting looks the same.

I think there has been a little bit of a come back for tatting, much like there has been for knitting and crocheting in recent years.

There are a few websites where you can find some patterns and videos to watch this being done. I think the best way to learn is have someone sit down next to you and teach you.

Most women who enjoy doing this would love to be able to pass on this unique craft.

By golf07 — On Dec 12, 2011

My grandma loved to crochet and was always making things for family members. She made several doilies that are very beautiful. She also made an elaborate table cloth that I treasure and use for every holiday event.

As she got older, it was harder for her to work with the fine tatting thread. She had to switch to larger crochet thread sizes that didn't cause so much strain on the eyes.

I have several of her doilies, and didn't want to just leave them stuffed in a drawer somewhere. I have some of them displayed in a glass box that is hanging on the wall.

She always found this to be very relaxing, but I have never been able to get in to it. The last thing I want to do is sit down with a needle and some thread, so I just enjoy the items she made and gave me through the years.

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