The Pleasure of Good Tools

As those of you who have been reading this blog for more than a passing moment may recall, a few months ago I shared with you the new-found joy of tatting. The shuttle I had been using was a simple red plastic one, aided and abetted by a sewing machine bobbin where two shuttles were called for.

But if there’s one thing I really enjoy, it’s a well-made tool, and preferably not made of plastic. I have gone to great lengths in the past to avoid lumps of plastic in everyday use, and (with an occasional exception for fountain pens), I see no reason to change that position.


Surprisingly for such a seemingly obscure niche craft, there are plenty of options available to the shuttle tatter. Etsy hosts many makers of tatting shuttles, for a start. But after considering all the options, I decided to get a couple of shuttles from David Reed Smith. One in walnut, one in padouk, with pewter ends to allow adjustments for a) different thicknesses of thread, and b) silent tatting.

The shuttles were produced in a remarkably short space of time, and consigned to the care of the beleaguered United States Postal Service. What with that side of things and New Zealand going into Level 4 Lockdown the day after they were posted, there was a delay of some months before they finally arrived.

But when they did, I was boggled at their beauty. They measure five centimetres each from tip to tip, and yet despite their tininess they are smooth and sturdy. If one was being fanciful, one could compare them to something halfway through a transformation from tree to beetle carapace.

two David Reed Smith tatting shuttles

They arrived carefully packed in an enormous USPS box, but for general use I keep them in a jeweller’s box – the sort you might get with a pendant and chain. The two shuttles fit comfortably inside without being squashed, and the removable velvet base allows for storage of patterns.

I decided that scattering pins hither and thither was not a good long-term plan, so I needed something else for joining the picots. Something small and convenient. The bundle of second-hand threads, shuttle etc that I originally started with included a fine-bore crochet hook – the sort that comes with a metal scabbard – but it was quite long and certainly wouldn’t fit in the box.

But it occurred to me that the handle thereof was plastic. After some experimental wiggling to ascertain that the tang of the hook went a decent length into the plastic handle, I took to the latter with a rock outside the back door. Result: a nifty little hook that tucks neatly into the jeweller’s box between uses.

I’m very pleased with it all. The shuttles are a convenient size for my hands, and if I choose, I can tuck the ‘ball thread’ shuttle into the palm of my left hand while tatting instead of letting it dangle. But either way is a great improvement on a sewing machine bobbin which will race away, unspooling, if you give it the slightest chance!

I’ve been twiddling about with a bit of this pattern and a bit of that, some with one shuttle and some with two, and while the thread I’m using is a bit hairier than the older stuff (though a nicer colour), I’m enjoying myself. It’s a simple pleasure just using such tools.

Since David offers free personalization of shuttles, I had one engraved inside with the word ‘joy’ – to remind me that it’s ok to do things purely for the joy of them – and the other engraved with ’31:13′ – a reference to the multi-talented woman of Proverbs 31 who chooses fibres and works them with delight.

proverbs 31 crossstitch

Unsurprisingly, I’m taking greater care of these shuttles than I did of the plastic one, keeping them in the box rather than loose in my pocket. But even the box, with two shuttles, pattern, and hook, is still small enough to slide conveniently into my pocket and carry about with me.

What tools are a joy to you – and why?

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