Friday, 4 September 2015

Unlocking the Lock Join

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A Tutorial 

Lock Join in shuttle tatting, is both a boon and a bane .
It is a secure join, made with the core thread shuttle. It stops the previous stitches from sliding over the core thread, thus holding them in check. It is a go-to join when one needs to join to a picot that is below the working segment ; it can be done with 1 shuttle and in one smooth motion .
But …
It is so secure that once made, it becomes difficult to undo. Hence one always sees this statutory warning in Lock Join tutorials : snug the stitches properly ; make sure all are in the right place ; Then tighten the join knot because it is difficult to undo. Yes, that’s exactly what it is : a Knot !
Yet …
We tatters know how often we have to retrace our steps, lock join or no lock join. So I pulled a few strings, literally, to make it easy to unlock ;-P
So …
Follows a pictorial with instructions on which strings to pull when & in which direction … I have broken it down into nano steps ; in practice, it can be quite a smooth movement – try it.

I am posting this because I could not find any tutorial, tip, or instruction on how to undo the LJ. If such exists, please share. I am only sharing what works for me.

In images, the blue-green is the shuttle/core thread, and yellow is ball/working thread, both in size 20. Using 2 colours in a pictorial/tutorial makes it easier to identify steps, sequence, etc.
Henceforth, Lock Join will be referred to as LJ ….
CWJ : Catherine Wheel Join

How to UnLock the Lock Join

 1. In order to make a LJ, one pulls a loop of the core thread Up through picot, then passes the shuttle through this loop, and tightens the knot securely in place.
Keep in mind (for later comparison) the position & directional movement of shuttle & loop , because we will have to come back through this path to undo the LJ.

2.  Two LJs made. As you can see, both are equally tensioned. But we are now going to undo the 2nd LJ.

3. Hold the stitches on the left (yellow) in your pinch & give a slight tug. Immediately, a part of core thread appears on the left side of the picot !

4. Gently, but persistently, keep pulling in same direction, away from the knot. The thread seems to unwrap itself gradually. The bare thread space starts to increase, and as seen in this extreme close-up, the knot has already loosened up a bit.
But, if you look carefully, the loop that emerges is on the ‘wrong’ side from where we made it initially ! It is pulled back behind the picot, rather than in front of it. Compare with 1st pic. 

5. Now simply give a quick sharp tug with the shuttle thread in opposite direction. This will pull the loop through the picot, bringing it in the front. And with a slight ‘pop’ for pleasurable satisfaction (remember the ‘pop’ in the CWJ!)
Voila! The loop has emerged through the picot ! You can see the loop in front of picot, with the shuttle thread neatly within. Compare with previous pic.

Pull this loop (shown in inset, with crochet hook within) open further either with your fingers or with a shuttle hook/tip.

 6. Now that the loop is large enough, pass the core thread shuttle through it (front to back) to reverse/retrace the very first step.

7. See, the shuttle is now free from the LJ loop. There is only a bare loop left. Pull shuttle further till even this loop is pulled away from the picot.

8. The Lock join has been unlocked !!!
Yes, it is That simple :-)

Quick Recap 
Pull chain segment towards left of LJ to open up a long bare thread space (of core thread).
Pull shuttle thread towards right of LJ till it 'pops' to the front.
Pull this loop out & pass shuttle through it to unravel the LJ.
That’s it – just 2 strings to pull ;-)

This works superbly for both size 20 & size 40 threads. As you know, I can’t count beyond that 😭 
But I’d love to know whether it works for the finer threads too. 

A few factoids :
Lock join aka Shuttle Join
LJs can be made either by pulling shuttle thread up through picot or by pulling shuttle thread down through the picot. (Note : If doing the latter, the final steps of unlocking the LJ will become the opposite of those shown in images)
Quick to make and in a contiguous motion.
When making a LJ, avoid pulling on the ball/working shuttle thread.  Once the LJ is made, continue with the next stitch. The reason becomes self-evident from the above pictorial!
It causes a slight dip in the chain and this arc can be used beautifully.

Limitations of LJ & Comparison with CWJ
In 2-colour tatting, LJ leaves a tiny blip of colour. This can be avoided by a CWJ where core thread is enclosed/encapsulated within the join.
LJ locks in the core thread. In CWJ, the core thread is free to slip along.
LJ gives a slight dip in a chain edge. CWJ keeps the outer edge of chain contiguous, since a full ds is made.
But CWJ needs 2 shuttles to work it, and it can also hamper the tatting rhythm,  since it has to be made with Shuttle 2.

Miranda has an Excellent comparative account of 3 joins (LJ, CWJ, Slope & Roll Join) along with actual tatting samplers. A must-read.

There is also a wealth of knowledge in terms of Joins, their characteristics, etc. in a discussion thread started by Judith Connors on Dora Young Knot here

I first learned the S&R & CWJ from the excellent diagrams here  (scroll to the bottom of page) 
There are many many more resources including videos.

happy tatting J


  1. This is exactly how I have been undoing my lock joins for years.

  2. Thanks for the tip muskaan. I'll try it!

  3. I've done the same, that works well for me with size 80 thread, too. Thank you to share!

  4. Thanks for sharing muskaan :). Will come in handy for when I try finer threads :).

  5. Love your pictures and explanations. I usually can get them undone but trouble arises when I've strangled the thread, which makes it harder to undo. I'm probably pulling the wrong thread. If I pay attention and keep in mind your tutelage I think I'll do better in the future. Thanks for sharing! And the links to the other sites.

  6. That is exactly what I do! However, I do not think I could ever have enough patience to put together such an excellent tutorial!

  7. Thank you so much everybody .... I do feel a tad silly, but happy too ;-D As long as there wasn't any tut on this, I guess it will come in handy & well worth the effort.

    If I had waited just a few more minutes before posting this, I would've added something else I discovered/realized about CWJs v/s LJs. I will add it to my Jottings page soon - so check back in a couple of days max ...

    (( Hugs to all ))

  8. Although I hate going backwards with my tatting, when I need to this is what I do. Thank you so much for the tutorial, oh and it works on all sizes of threads. :)

    1. Thanks Bernice :-) Good to know it works on all sizes .
      The fact that most of us use this technique shows how a common thread binds us all ;-P

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  10. Nice tutorial! I've been undoing lock joins in a rather fumbling kind of way. Your method is much more elegant! I will try it the next time I need to undo the LJ, which is certain to be quite soon...

    1. Thanks, Grace :-))
      Glad you liked it & hope it works for you. As you can see, so many tatters have been doing it this exact way; so it should hopefully work for you too :-))

  11. This approach is also how you undo 'split chain' double stitches, in areas where you can't pass the shuttle through to undo a half stitch. Well done tutorial!

    1. Excellent pointer, Karen ! Thank you so much :-))