Pattern: Tatted bubbles

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Four repeats of the motif, starting and ending at the center of the left-hand side.

I am terrible at naming things. It may show in this post. However, I am at least a little better at coming up with tatting patterns. Today I want to share another tiling, lies-flat design that is entirely my own invention. The repeat unit is a square that the thread enters and exits on opposite corners (more discussion of why this is cool, and fractal tatting, here). It’s a little more complicated than my other square tatted tile, and involves a (perfectly simple) technique that I haven’t seen anywhere else in tatting, which I will walk you through after giving the bulk of the pattern.


  1. Chain 4ds, shoelace trick sometimes (discussion below)
  2. Ring: 6ds, picot or join to a neighboring motif, 6ds, picot A, 6ds, picot B, 6ds
  3. Chain 4ds, picot or join to neighbor, 4ds, shoelace trick always
  4. Ring 6ds, picot or join to neighbor, 6ds, picot or join to neighbor, 5ds, picot C, 7ds
  5. Chain 4ds, join B, 3ds, 4 single stitches on the same side (discussion below), 3ds, picot D, 4ds
  6. Ring 7ds, join A, 5ds, picot or join to neighbor, 6ds, picot or join to neighbor, 6ds, shoelace trick always
  7. Chain 4ds, picot or join to neighbor, 4ds
  8. Ring 6ds, join D, 6ds, join C, 6ds, picot or join to neighbor, 6ds, shoelace trick sometimes
  9. Chain 4ds, picot or join, and continue straight into the chain beginning the next motif

Shoelace trick: the shoelace trick is a single overhand knot, used to switch the positions of the ball thread and needle thread. This is used to make chains curve “backwards” from how they would otherwise. If you want, you can achieve this with two needles/shuttles instead, which if you work with different colors on the different shuttles could give some neat effects with patterns like this.

Where I say to shoelace trick “sometimes”, that depends on how you want the motifs to join together. If you are just plain-old rastering—making one row of motifs, then coming back and making another row of motifs—the shoelace trick is only used at the ends of the rows, on both sides of the chain from the last motif of one row to the first motif of the next. You can make more elaborate patterns, fractal or otherwise, by choosing when to make a shoelace; a shoelace at the start of this connecting chain changes the location of the next motif (by deciding which way the chain faces) and a shoelace at the end of this connecting chain changes the orientation of the next motif (whether the wavy chain down the middle is vertical or horizontal). The swatch shown below was made by simply rastering the motifs, but alternating their orientation from one motif to the next.

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Piece with motifs alternating orientation. Note that the bottom-right motif is not flipped; the decision to alternate was made after the second motif was started.

4 single stitches on the same side: If you’re familiar with making friendship bracelets out of embroidery floss, you probably know this as a Chinese staircase, or two repeats of the basic knot. It also bears some resemblance to the Josephine knot in tatting, although I am using it for an entirely different purpose. The goal of these four stitches is, like with the shoelace trick, to switch the direction that the chain curls. Unlike with the shoelace trick, this does it mid-chain. Unlike the Josephine knot, you should not be trying to persuade the stitches to lie flat; you actually want them to process around the needle (or the thread, in shuttle tatting). It doesn’t matter which single stitch they are—the first half of a ds or the second half—so long as they are all the same; the stitches will have a natural direction that they progress around the needle which depends on which stitch you are using. One caveat is that I have only tried this with one thread (#10 cotton), one needle size, and my own crafting idiosyncrasies—so if you are finding that four stitches takes you too far around the needle or not far enough, please feel free to change the number of stitches, adjusting the number of ds on either side so the total chain length stays the same.

Joining motifs together: Each motif has two picots along each side, plus the one made in the joining chain; these line up (pretty well, at least!) no matter how you orient the motifs, but depending on your particular arrangement of motifs may join chains to chains, chains to rings, or rings to rings. For that reason it’s a little hard to write up a pattern, but just join to the closest picot, keeping the piece flat, and it should all work out.

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