by Virgina Mescher.
This article is reprinted from The Citizens' Companion Feb-Mar 2001, Vol. VII - No. 6 with the kind permission of the author.
Tatting, or at least the forerunner of what we know today by that name, was first developed in Europe and in its early stages was called knotting (a series of knots sewn onto a base which created a design). It is only one form of knotting, with macrame, (developed in ancient Egypt), an unnamed Chinese method, and a style called purling, mentioned by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales, being some other types. It is generally thought that, in sixteenth century Italy, knotting progressed from a string of knots to a ring of knots similar to what we now know as tatting. The art traveled to both Germany and France, and then to England, and the Pilgrims brought it to America. In 1707, a poem, The Royal Knotter, written by Sir Charles Sedley about England’s Queen Mary’s love for knotting, was published, and there were a number of paintings done in the eighteenth century picturing women knotting and holding knotting shuttles. Knotting shuttles were somewhat larger than a tatting shuttle, being about six inches long and one to two inches wide, with open ends, which formed a channel in which to wind the thread. A wider opening allowed for the thicker knotting thread.
The origin of the word “tatting” has been debated. Some attribute it