Friday, 4 March 2016

Demystifying Joins

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What started out as a simple project to understand the numerous joins we come across in tatting, has overwhelmed me. New as well as experienced tatters often ask “How do I make this join?”, “Do I know this join?”. Often, it is a join we know but is named differently. We think we’ve solved one question, learned a particular join, & another pops up! This has caused many bumps in my road of discovery, throwing me out of joint. After working on & off for the last several months, I have finally decided to post the work as a series. This will help me refocus my energies on smaller sections, and will keep the reader interested. It will also give me a chance to add or amend, based on feedback.


I would like to thank each person and resource named, including the many unnamed and unaccredited who have helped develop this beautiful craft/artform. 
A very special thanks to Judith Connors. 
Any error or oversight is solely mine .

Fundamental Principle : Nothing is sacrosanct. Choose what works best for you and the pattern. However, be open-minded. There is no harm in learning new options.

This is not to say that the evolution, history and development of tatting does not matter. It does, and we continue to learn from these, build on these, or create independently. They can, and do, cause duplication, multiplicity of terms, redundancy, overlap. However, nothing may be regarded as obsolete. The following is my attempt to make sense of it all: arrange all the joins in a conceptual framework, join the dots

Again, what I write here is not sacrosanct. It is simply my attempt, with the limited resources at my disposal, to clarify my own thoughts. It is not a tutorial, but a collation and annotation of various tutorials and terms (with links/references provided). An image/collage of each join is inserted as a quick visual reference only; for detailed tutorial of each join, refer to footnotes and links provided at the end of each Part. A tabulated chart for a bird’s eye view of the main/common joins is also part of this study. Considering the prolific creativity of our tatting community, I strongly sense that this will remain a work in progress. I invite you to contribute any information to make this more comprehensive & up-to-date.

Limitations :
  • This study is largely based on shared online resources & popular terminology. Of the large number of online tutorials, only a few are provided, due to obvious constraints. Any omission is unintentional and regretted.   
  • Some of the terms I have used for categorization and description may be arbitrary – best suited or limited to this discussion.
  • Some common “threads” have emerged from a study of the various joins. I have tried to encapsulate them into normative rules & general principles. There may be exceptions.
  • The study is limited by my own learning & understanding at this point in time.

Abbreviations & Explanations of Terms used :
DS – double stitch, double knot, double hitch, double, lark’s head
hs – half-stitch in a DS
fhs – 1st half-stitch
shs – 2nd half-stitch
cap – the horizontal bar over a DS
legs – the two vertical bars under the cap of a DS.
core thread – the thread on which DS are made & slide.
RODS – reverse order double stitch used in directional tatting.
FS/BS – frontside/backside tatting or directional tatting.
RS – reverse stitch, unflipped double stitch, lark’s head, 2nd half of split ring stitch
SH1 – shuttle 1 .
SH2 – shuttle 2.
SR – split ring
Joins (in alphabetical order) :
CWJ – Catherine Wheel join
LJ – lock join
JSS – Join to smooth side
OTT – over the top join
PJ – picot join
RJ – Reverse Join
S&RJ – slope & roll join

Notes :
  • The term ‘join(s)’ is used in the noun form throughout the text. To indicate action, ‘link/linking’ has been used, to distinguish it from the Join itself.
  • Almost all joins can be made without a 2nd shuttle (if working with 1 shuttle & ball) ; it is just that getting the ball to pass through a loop, as required in some joins, is not convenient !
  • Throughout the discussion, SH1 is considered to be the core thread over which DS are made. SH2 is the shuttle that forms the stitches in chains hence also called the chain, ball or auxiliary thread. Where the join can be made easily with a ball, it is mentioned. (refer to pic1 below)
  • While a join can be made directly between the legs of a DS (as in onion rings, coils and Catherine wheels), for the present purpose, all joins are made through a picot, unless otherwise stated. And this ‘joining picot’ is on a previously tatted ring or chain.
  • Unless otherwise indicated, all joins have been started by bringing the loop Up through the joining picot, as seen from the front. Make required adjustments in backside tatting.
  • For consistency, I have counted the join as fhs throughout, continuing with shs, wherever applicable.
  • Some alternate names that one may come across are added within brackets or at appropriate place.
About Pictures  :   
Pic 1. Explaining the visuals 
  • All tatting is accomplished with Anchor Mercer size 20 thread.
  • Black thread represents previously worked tatting which has a ‘joining picot’.
  • Yellow thread is the SH1 or core thread.
  • Aqua Blue thread is the SH2 thread which represents the stitches formed. 
  • 3 colours have been used only for visual differentiation & clarity.
It is a method to link, bring together or connect two or more elements/pieces and secure them in place. Over 160 years ago, tatting was done with a single shuttle. Motifs were worked individually and then joined together with tiny knots or with a needle and thread to create a fabric. Directions for joining at a picot (PJ) were published in 1851. This was a revolutionary step in the evolution of tatting as one could “integrate the tatting in progress with a piece of tatting previously accomplished” 1   

Basic Movement :
This requires three simple steps :
  1. Pull a loop through the picot or point where linking is required,
  2. Pass the shuttle through the loop.
  3. Tension and snug.
From this basic movement arise various modifications and adaptations. Hence the plethora of terms and techniques.

Variations in Step 1 :
1a. Pull loop up from back to front (Up join)
1b. Pull loop down from front to back (Down join)
1c. Loop pulled is from SH1 (eg. LJ, S&RJ, RJ)
1d. Loop pulled is from SH2 (eg. CWJ, JSS, LJ, S&RJ, RJ, ball thread joins)
1e. No loop, just threads across an element (eg. Over & Under, Wrap, Alligator, OTT joins)

Principle : Most joins can be made by pulling the loop either up or down. This provides the flexibility needed in directional and 2-colour tatting.
Rule : Thread/shuttle closest to the point of linking is used to make the join.

Variations in Step 2 :
2a. Pass SH1 through loop (eg. PJ, LJ, S&RJ)
2b. Pass SH2 through loop (eg. CWJ, S&RJ variation)
2c. Thread from Other shuttle is encapsulated within (eg. CWJ, RJ,)
2d. Thread from Other shuttle is not encapsulated within (eg. LJ)

Principle : Any, & I stress, entire project can be completed with just TWO joins – the picot join & the lock join, preferably working with two shuttles for a free-sliding core thread throughout. All other joins are a modification of these basic joins for the purpose of beauty and perfection; smoothly curved chains; even-looking and complete stitches; avoiding colour blips in 2-coloured tatting; ease of switching colours; etc.
Rule : Encapsulation of auxiliary thread eliminates the colour ‘blip’.


I have tried to divide joins into three categories for better understanding. However, there is still a lot of overlap and variation within a join. Think of it as a Venn Diagram or Olympic Rings where certain characteristics of individual joins can be common.

I.       Above : when the caps of both the joining elements face each other
II.     Across : when one element needs to cross to opposite side
III.  Below : when the caps of both joining elements face in same direction (parallel).

Each type of join discussed below is accompanied by one or more links in the form of original source, tutorial, or description arranged chronologically at the end, along with additional references. This is not an exhaustive list.

I. ABOVE - when the caps of both the joining elements face each other
All these joins are used when we need to link to an element that is above the line of working. In these cases, the chain/ball/auxiliary/SH2 thread is closer to the joining picot while the core thread (SH1) is further away.

I.1 Picot Join (PJ) aka traditional join, regular join, normal join, basic join, up join.
This is the basic of all tatted joins.
  • It allows the core thread to slide freely.
  • It can be done with single shuttle.
  • A bit of vertical thread/leg is visible within the joining picot, & may be counted as a hs.
  • It makes a colour blip at the back, when using 2 colours.
  • It applies to both rings and chains.
  • It is used in Folded Join, ANKARS tatting, Curled Rings.
  • It is the most commonly used join when adding beads to tatting.
  • When multiple rings/chains are joined to a single long picot, PJ is commonly used.
Rule : Some joins are considered in the stitch count (counted either as one half-stitch or as 1DS). There are tatters who choose not follow this practice.
Pic 2. Picot Join - Up & Down as seen from front & back
I.1.a  Down Join  aka  downward join
This is a PJ performed in the opposite direction, i.e. pulling the loop down, instead of up through the picot.
  • It allows the core thread to slide freely.
  • It can be done with single shuttle.
  • A barely visible horizontal bar is formed in front. In single colour tatting, this can be followed by shs to mimic a complete DS 2.
  • It places the colour blip at the back of work.
  • It is used in directional (FS/BS or RODS) tatting and, sometimes, 2nd half of split-ring joining in order to keep the colour ‘blips’ at the back of the work.
  • It can be used in the Folded Join.

I.1.b  Joining in a Circle aka joining last ring to first, joining first ring to last 
UPDATE May 23, 2017 :
This category can be termed Picot Join to the Right. See explanation here
Inward or outward facing rings can come together to form closed shapes or medallions where the last ring needs to be linked back to the first ring. At times, this can cause the joining picot to twist. Following are the ways to accomplish a twist-free join.
Also note that the same applies to a chain, when it has to be linked to the right.

Folded Join (FJ)  aka Twisted Picot Join
This is needed when linking the last ring to the first ring of a circle. It is simply a way of folding the tatting to get better access to the picot, and also prevent it from twisting when ring is closed.
  • Basically employs a PJ – either Up or Down join.
  • The joining picot is deliberately turned/twisted before pulling loop through it to compensate for the fold. The deliberate twist eases/untwists when the join is complete & ring is closed.
  • May take some practice to master it.
  • The linking may be made from the back side 3.
  • Most tutorials show outward facing rings, some show inward facing rings 4.
Avoiding the Folded Join 5
The last ring can be linked to the first ring easily without a FJ, in a PJ movement.
  • Basically employs a PJ – either Up or Down join.
  • It entails a simple reorientation of last ring in relation to first ring before linking.
  • Is applicable to both outward & inward facing rings.
Pic 3. Avoiding a Folded Join
Riego Join
A slightly different way of achieving the same objective.
  • Before starting last ring, required length of thread is cut off & pulled through picots on both sides. Thus the core thread is linked before tatting the last ring. 6
  • Can be used to complete a circle of closely tatted rings.
  • Useful when tatting individual or separate motifs or if one is running out of shuttle thread.
  • The last ring is finger-tatted.
I.1.c  Swirl Join 7
The name refers to the visual effect created by joining multiple elements together.
  • It is a normal PJ
  • The join is made at the very end, while tatting the last element.
  • It is useful in linking more than 2 elements (usually rings) at a single point, in one motion.
  • A single loop in pulled through all the picots simultaneously & shuttle passed through.
  • It creates a swirling effect when the picots overlap in the centre. Hence length of picots is important.
    Pic 4. Nina Libin's Swirl Join & Wrap Join
I.2  Lark's Head Picot Join (LHPJ)
It is an “invisible join” since it forms a complete stitch within the joining picot. It can be applied to both rings and chains.
  • It creates a continuous/smooth/unbroken chain or ring by mimicking a DS.
  • The join is counted as 1DS and usually included in the stitch count of segment before the linking occurs.
  • It is an extension of the PJ
  • The formation can be done in one continuous motion by pulling a single loop through picot & arranging it like a lark’s head before passing SH1 through it. Thus the DS is ‘pre-shaped’ & snugged together in correct order. 8
  • Alternatively, the formation can be split into 2 motions : each hs is formed separately by pulling a loop through the picot once for fhs & again for shs. Each loop is twisted in a certain direction before passing SH1 through it. Each hs is snugged before starting the next. 9
  • Useful for smooth visual effect.
  • It creates a blipless join when working with 2 colours.
  • Can also be used in SR (to be discussed in Part II).  

Pic 5. Lark's Head Picot Join 

To be continued …
UPDATE : Part II - Shuttle 2 to the rescue 

Footnotes & Tutorials (Part I) :
2 A Study of Tatted Joins (2004) – up, down, shuttle.
The Basic Picot Join – Jennifer Williams (2011)
3 Folded Join by Lisa C Trumble (1992) 
Folded Join by Jennifer Williams (2010) 
Twisted Picot Join by Ann (2010).  
4 Finishing a motif with a folded join by Heather Tatter (2011) 
5Joining the last ring to the first. Method 2 - Jennifer Williams 2010 (outward facing rings)
Tatting Tip: Avoiding the Folded Join by Heather Tatter 2011 (inward facing rings)
Joining First Ring to Last Ring Jane Eborall 2012  (outward facing rings)
Outward facing rings join Jackie Reynolds
6 Lesson 113 video by Karen Cabrera  
The movement is similar to interlocked rings where instead of posting shuttle through previous ring, we are posting cut thread through joining picots.
7 Swirl Join by Nina Libin (2012)  
8 Lark’s Head Picot Join by Lily Morales (2003) 
9 LHPJ the Krystledawne way by Krystle Pyette (2012)

For a collection of great tutorials on a range of joins, please visit :
Additional reference : Elgiva Nicholl’s Tatting :Technique and History (Dover) 1962   

Motif #25 of III for 25 Motif Challenge


  1. Great post! Thank you very much!

  2. I hope that one day you will consider writing a book- an e-book if nothing else to contain these kinds of posts. They are so comprehensive and would be the most amazing reference book ever! It makes sense that there are multiple names but the way you have organized them is wonderful! Please, consider it!

    1. You are too kind, Michelle :-)
      I'm not sure I am at a level to write a book, and it is too much work ;-p But You are wise, experienced tatters & I will surely keep your advice in mind.

    2. I agree Michelle...put me on the list to get the book as soon as it gets out of the oven .
      Muskaan...all the work you've done so far will compile to form a great reference book :)

    3. Laura dear, why do you lovely ladies want to put me to work, when I am so enjoying myself ;-D
      I'm still learning and doubt I have the expertise for a definitive type of book. But thank you for your constant support & appreciation .

  3. This is a great post on joins! I still haven't got my head around all the possible joins so will be very helpful to me :). Thanks for sharing Muskaan :).

    1. This project started as a way to clear the fogginess in my own head , Jenn :-) You are right, there are still a Lot of joins (& their synonyms) left ... will take a while to get it all written out properly even though I have collected all material.

  4. I love that your posts are so comprehensive! I agree with Michelle... you should publish a book, and I will be the first one to purchase it!

    1. Oh sweet Diane, you really Are the first to purchase any tatting-related stuff :-) I will consider your suggestion, though I still wonder how many will be actually interested in research - we prefer to tat & want to spend our time doing actual tatting than reading ;-P

  5. WOW that is awesome! It will be an awesome reference book!