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Finishing Tails in Tatting

Finishing Techniques in Tatting Georgia Seitz

There are basically six ways to reduce or eliminate ends. 

The best way to hide your thread ends is to avoid them whenever possible. This means that you should begin to "think" the pattern through before you tat it. Thinking ahead allows you to employ two shuttles, wind your shuttles in the continuous thread method (CMT), and to utilize the split ring, split chain, and mock picot to climb out of rounds. Eventually, no matter how you try to avoid it, you tat to the end of the thread, literally.

To Hide the ends:

1. Don't hide them at all if you are going to glue the tatting down or appique it to fabric. If gluing, then simply bring them to the back and glue. Later glue the entire piece down to the styrofoam or other shape in use. If appliqueing the lace to fabric, use a very fine crochet hook to pull the tail ends to the back side of the fabric and stitch down as you sew the lace on.

2. If the item will be seen on one side only and it is not planned to be worn, then the ends may be whipstitched to the back side of any ring or chain. Separate the threads in opposite directions and use a very fine sewing needle with either a sewing thread in a compatible color or use invisible thread.

3. If the item will be seen from both sides, but it is not planned to be worn, the thread ends may be "woven" back into the tatting: a. thread tails on fine blunt tapestry needle and weave under the "bars" of the double stitches around the ring or chain. Trim close and allow end to recede back into the tatting. Again, take each tail in opposite directions. This method is noticeable to the practiced eye.

b. thread tail on fine blunt tapestry needle and insert into the bottom or end of closest ring or chain. Wiggle the needle so that it enters the "tunnel" in which lays the foundation cord. If you have very tight tatting tension, this may not be possible for you, unless you plan ahead and tat the particular ring/chain to be used a little looser. Come up thru the tatting about mid/ring/chain but not in the middle of a picot and trim close allowing the end to recede back into the tatting. This method may show a little if the ends of the tail are fuzzy.

c. If your thread is a soft multistrand twisted fiber, you can separate each tail into 2 or 3 strands, thread each end onto a sharp embroidery needle and "sew" into the ring /chain. Be aware that separating the fibers destroys the tensile strength of the thread and it will disintegrate when stressed. This method seldom shows.

If the item is to be worn, seen from both sides, to be exhibited, or gifted at important occasions, one of the following methods would be preferable to those already listed.

4. Tat over the tails. Plan ahead so that the next segment to be tatted will be a chain. Leave the tails long and overtat as you work:

a. leave tails about 4" long, run a drop of blue down them and twist together. Let the ends stiffen into a point, or thread ends on blunt tapestry needle. Tat first half stitch and after the loop has been transferred, stop, insert the stiffened tip of the tails or the needle into the loop thus formed following the shuttle thread. Hold both tail and shuttle thread together taut and tighten half stitch. Bring tail/needle to front. Tat the second half stitch and after the loop has been transferred, insert the stiffened tip of the tails or the needle into the lop thus formed, again, following the shuttle thread. Hold both tail and shuttle thread together taut and tighten the half stitch. Note that the tails enter the loop following the shuttle thread alternating from one side to the other. Also remember to tighten the stitches extra tight as you are covering more than one thread. Do this for the complete length of the chain. This method is almost invisible if you keep good tension when tightening the stitches.

b. Apply the split ring tatting technique to overtat the tails by laying the talis along the shuttle thread and holding together. You may either use a third hand, clamp or alter the position of your left hand (for right-handed tatters) so that the forefinger and middle finger are together and extended full length while the thumb, ring finger and pinky hold tight to the last stitch previously made. Tat the stitches in reverse order, i.e., second half stitch tatted first, and pull exra tight since again you are covering more than one thread.


5. If you are tatting a pattern where the last ring joins back to the first ring made, then plan ahead by preparing the initial ring to hide the ends by means of helping loops. These loops may be thread that is smaller than that being tatted or, use a monofilament thread, such as invisible sewing thread or fishing line. Use two pieces each about 6" in length. Fold in half and tape ends together. The loops will be inserted into the tatting so that one loop hangs down on each side of the ring with the loop at the bottom and the ends toward the center of the ring. Overtat the helping loops as explained in method 4a. At about the midpoint of the ring switch to the second helping loop.


Close ring very carefully and secure the hanging loops with tape or clamps so that they will not come out of place while you tat the length required. When finished attach last chain to base of initial ring. Cut leaving 6" tails. Insert one tail into each hanging loop and gently pull the loop and tail into the ring. Completely pull thru and trim closely allowing the end to recede into the tatting. Be very careful when cutting.

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