Knotting Shuttle Review

knotting shuttle

One of my new knotting shuttles from Smiling Fox Forge.

It seems so funny — I really never thought I would get into embroidery, yet I’m constantly considering even the simplest designs I can do quickly when I start working on a new project.

I’ve been purchasing embroidery supplies, and now I’ve added another.

What is knotting?

Knotting came before tatting, and is actually different.  They both use similar shuttles, but the shuttles for knotting tend to be bigger (about 4-6 inches).

You take your thread or cord, wrap it around the shuttle, and then you knot the thread to create texture.  You then take the knotted thread and attach it — called couching — onto embroidery.  It’s great for outlining or filling in spaces.

Smiling Fox Forge

I was looking around to see who had a larger shuttle, but most seemed to be too small.  My husband, Christopher, did a search and found Smiling Fox Forge.  They list their shuttles as being about 4 inches.  I had never used them before, but I figured why not?

Their ordering process was different.  They do offer PayPal, but I don’t use that service.  They also take credit cards and money orders, but you have to wait until they contact you with the shipping added to the total.

There were a few emails that let me know my order had been placed, and this is what was going to happen next, so you’re not left out of the loop.

I had ordered Sunday, and early Monday morning I received the email for the shipping total as well as the PayPal email if I wanted to use that service. I gave them a call to let them know I wanted to use an alternate payment, and I got a very nice lady on the phone.

I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about this system — I am usually nervous when I first try out a new company, much less a different type of ordering process — but the lady on the phone was so nice and thorough that I got over my nerves.  In fact, she sounded so nice I was disappointed that I live in entirely the wrong area for 18th century, and will never get to attend events and meet some of these suppliers in person.  Oooh, what fun that must be to be able to shop and see some of these items in person. Talk about a shopping spree!

Anyway, she told me that I would receive my shuttles in two to three days.  They were shipped on Monday, and I received them Wednesday.  Since the shuttles are so small, they were carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and shipped in one of the smaller, sturdy Priority Mail boxes.

The shuttles

I ordered two shuttles, just in case I needed a second.  A friend might want to try it with me, or I might need to change projects without unwinding and putting new thread on.  Plus, who knows if one might break or get lost.

The shuttles are bone, and each one is different.  One has a few darker markings in the coloring, as well as a little bit of a notch in the edge that might catch the thread if I’m not careful.  The other is slightly longer (both are around four inches long), but one end seems a little more pinched together (see photo below).

They feel very nice in my hand, and although they’re still a little smaller than I would have liked to try, I think they’ll work nicely.

Knotting practice

I’ve already started trying to get used to knotting and figuring out a project to use knotted thread on.  I think the obvious choice would be to do an embroidered work bag.  The shuttle is held in the right hand, and a bag would be tied around the left wrist to put the knotted thread into.  It would also be nice to keep everything together when I’m not knotting.

I am practicing with some DMC cotton floss that I had sitting around.  I don’t think that is what I would normally use, so I will be getting something a little nicer.  I read on one website that crochet thread was recommended.  I’ll look around and see what stands out.  I’ve actually never tried couching before, so I’m not sure what will be best on the embroidery itself.  More research!

Something to do at events

Women in the 18th century would work on knotting often.  It showed off the wrists and hands in an attractive way.  It was almost used as an accessory, like a fan.

I also considered it because there will be times at events where I would love to work on something, but it might be too dark for me to work on embroidery or hand sewing.  Knotting might be just the thing for me, and there is less to haul around.  Plus, as I mentioned, it is an accessory and accessories really add to the costume 😀

Another good purchase for me!

I’m glad I decided to buy another embroidery tool.  I’m sure I’ll still need some practice, which seems funny when you consider it’s just knotting thread, but I want to make sure my spacing is nice and even.

I would also order again from Smiling Fox Forge.  I’m very pleased with the service and my shuttles.

Knotting shuttles

It might be hard to see the color differences in these bone knotting shuttles. They're right around 4 inches long.

knotting shuttles

You might be able to just make out the slight difference on the bottom end of the shuttle on the right. I haven't used this shuttle yet, but I doubt it will be too much trouble. I had wanted to use the largest shuttle I could find, but these do feel very nice in my hand so far.

knotting shuttle

Practicing with cotton embroidery floss. I will probably try to find something a little nicer to use for knotting and couching onto embroidery. It's fun to practice and think of what to use it on, though!

About Cynthia Griffith

I have way too many interests and hobbies, and continually cycle through them -- paying attention to some, while others wait for when I can get around to them again. My main interests are sewing and costuming (I enjoy historical clothing, such as 18th and 19th century, as well as fantasy costumes like elves and hopefully someday even dwarves), as well as getting back to art by drawing fan art of Thorin Oakenshield and Company. My husband Christopher and I spend a lot of time together, enjoying the outdoors and shared hobbies such as juggling. This blog and website is my way to share what I'm up to with friends and family.
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7 Responses to Knotting Shuttle Review

  1. Madame Berg says:

    How amazing! Do share your learnings and projects with us.

    I have never used a shuttle and I don’t quite understand them… 😛 HOW and why are they necessary?* Why can’t you just have your thread on a spool or something? I obviously miss something but I just don’t get it, feel free to call me stupid 😀

    *I do understand how they’re great accessories of course! That’s why I want one…

  2. I would never call you stupid! These are all very good questions 😀

    I think, part of it is how easy it is to use the shuttle itself with the pointy-nose ends, to weave it through the loops to create the knots. When I was practicing yesterday, and I had the feel for everything, it was very quick and smooth. If I hadn’t had the shuttle to help tie the knots, I would have been fumbling a lot more. Any fumbling I had yesterday was mainly trying to get an even distance between each knot (the ones in the photo are double knots, I believe — there are three total overhand knots tied to create one… two close together, and one to tie them together). I also was trying to focus on making sure all three of those knots ended up in the right spot. If I missed, it would look like a little knot with a medium-sized knot right beside it, instead of the correct size I was going for. The final placement and actual tightening of the knots, I did with my left hand thumb and fingers. Sometimes I would even use my right hand to help guide the knot placement, and the shuttle fit so perfectly and comfortably in my hand.

    I guess you could say that not only does it keep the to-be-knotted length in one place and easy to unwind to be knotted, it helps you to start the knot quickly and smoothly.

    They are the spool for the starting point (you wind your thread around it and unravel as you work — the worked ends I just left on the sofa beside me, and in the future, I will probably try the little purse hanging from my wrist and see if that works well for keeping the knotted length from getting tangled up and all over the place), and they help weave the start of the knot.

    I probably repeated myself too many times there, but it can be difficult to describe something and I wanted to make sure I put my thoughts down well enough. Who knows, maybe someday I will either take photos or even a video. I just shudder at the thought, because I’m so new I’m sure someone would come along and say “oh no no no, you’re wasting energy by doing that extra movement, you should do it this way.” Admittedly, there isn’t a lot of information out there on knotting, but I haven’t had a chance to really look too hard yet. I did find one site: and I hope to look at some of the tatting sites to see what they do and see if any of the things they do might even help me learn knotting.

  3. Oops, my mistake. The knots I was mainly working on yesterday were double-sided knots. I wasn’t too happy with the way they were turning out, and I think a lot of that was the thread I was using. I’m looking forward to finding something nicer to try, and getting better spacing as well as trying a few other types of knots.

  4. I’m glad I stumbled upon their site and that the woman you spoke with at Smiling Fox Forge was so friendly.

    It’s so neat that people are able to keep old traditions alive and have a shop to spread what they love.

    I look forward to you getting more comfortable with the knotting shuttle, and definitely look forward to seeing you work things in to your embroidery!

  5. Madame Berg says:

    Thank you for your enlightening reply, Cynthia. I think I DO understand a little better now (although I guess I should try it myself for a real understanding).

    I think the site you mention is the only one about knotting in existence. I see a lot of tatting sites though! But tatting shuttles, even though they’re large, look different than knotting shuttles. I guess you shouldn’t use a large tatting shuttle for knotting, am I right?

  6. Mary says:

    Besides that you’re doing this, and doing it so well, I love this ~ Women in the 18th century would work on knotting often. It showed off the wrists and hands in an attractive way. It was almost used as an accessory, like a fan.

    You do such amazing work. 🙂

  7. @Madame Berg: I don’t know enough about tatting yet and how it’s done to know much about all the different kinds of tatting equipment out there. The tatting shuttles I’ve seen have the ends pinched together, so that would be my main concern about how it would work for knotting. Plus, they’re much smaller than I would like to work with (under 3 inches).

    My main concern for my knotting shuttle being a bit smaller than I had wanted (mine is 4 inches, I had originally wanted a 5-6 inch shuttle) is what if I want to use a very very long piece of thicker cord? That’s where I would want a larger knotting shuttle, with more space around the spool to hold it. When I took the DMC cotton floss and wound it on, I used most of the length that came in the bunch — the wound section of the shuttle was really bulging. I would probably want to stick with longer threads and cords like that since I have to admit even with embroidery I work with longer threads than I probably should (I’ve tried working with shorter lengths and don’t care for it most of the time). I do admit that the 4 inch, slender knotting shuttle I have does feel nice in the hand, but if I really get into knotting I think I will also want a longer and thicker shuttle (to allow for long lengths of thicker cords/threads).

    @Mary: Thanks! I hope I can figure it out enough to have some fun with it. I have two projects in mind to use knotted threads on. It should be fun!

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