Friday, 5 February 2016

Reverse Stitches?

Following on from the previous post, I'd like to have a discussion on what people call "not-flipped stitches" or unflipped stitches such as the ones you make on the second half of a split ring.  Those stitches are like a lark's head knot or also like macrame knots.  What do you call them?

Is "Reverse Stitch" the most common way of calling those stitches?  Do you like it?  In some ways I think it makes it simple:  double stitches (ds) and reverse stitches (rs) and would work well for pattern writing.  So far when I have needed such stitches in my pattern, I have explained what was needed rather than using a name.

Here are two samples that show the same piece of tatting, the first done with regular reverse work where you work the chain stitches on the back side and the second with using the method mentioned in the previous post where you do not reverse work and tat the chain stitches from the the front but unflipped, the order of these stitches is reversed when they are not flipped and you do the 2nd half of the stitch first, followed by the first half; hence I suppose, they are "reverse stitches".

A few things strike me as I examine the photo above of a very simple row of rings and chains.  First of all, I'm always surprised by how pretty I think even really simple tatting looks!  That may seem like a silly statement but it always reminds me that you do not need to do anything fancy or know complicated techniques to produce some very pretty lace.  Don't you think?

The first three chains are tatted in the traditional way by reversing work and the last three chains are tatted from the front with reverse stitches.  The second thing that strikes me is that the curve of the chain is slightly different.  It's only very subtle but it's there.  And the third thing I noticed is that the picots when done with reverse stitches have a slightly different shape to picots done in with double stitches.  Can you see how picots in the last three chains appear closer together and a bit more elongated whereas the ones done with double stitches (first three chains) are more rounded.  

One disadvantage I can see of this method is that it always requires two shuttles whereas on a simple pattern with just plain rings and chains and the traditional method, you could work with only one shuttle and ball.

On the other hand, one big advantage is that you have automatic front-side/back-side tatting (that's if you like fs/bs tatting of course!).  I tend to find counting my stitches confusing with fs/bs tatting, but not when doing it this way.

In conclusion, I'd like to know if those stitches are to be called "reverse stitches" - is that the most commonly used term?  And what should the method be called (of doing rings with regular stitches and chains with reverse stitches)?

Thanks for any input!

Best wishes,


  1. Just left you a comment on your last post as I am behind with commenting
    I don't reverse my chains unless I have to, my rings and chains would look like the second part of the picture. I expect there's going to be a lot if comments on that, but I think it looks better than reversing all the time from rings to chains. I don't use front and back tatting,
    I totally agree you don't need to use complicated technically stitches simple patterns are just as nice and make beautiful lace.

  2. I made another Winter Frost and took your suggestion, using reverse stitches on the short 2 chain between rings. It worked out well and I was surprised at how much easier and quicker it made the tatting. I still consider myself to be a novice tatter and the slight differences would not make a difference to the quality of my finished pieces. I call them reverse stitches and like the fact of automatic FS/BS tatting. I usually use two shuttles as they travel well.

  3. I've been doing it as well and noticed the difference in the picots too! I vote for the name "reverse stitches"!

  4. This terminology has had me confused for a very long time so I did a little research only to discover that others seem to have been confused and inconsistent as well! The tatting of a chain using unflipped, reverse-order double stitches was referred to by a long time teacher as "direct method" or "directional tatting." I just reviewed several lengthy correspondences from her where she described it as such several times. However, another well-known designer states that "directional tatting" involves reversing work and tatting a "reverse double stitch" which is flipped but done using reverse order (rods)...2nd half, 1st half as in "front side/back side" tatting. Lastly, I checked the publications by Judi Banashek and based upon her writings, the tatting of a ds from the front side in reverse order without flipping the stitches would be a "larks head knot" Hmmm. If this is all true, then "larks head knot" may be the more accurate term. Banashek further referred to a chain made in this manner as a "larks head chain." I think that using "reversed stitches" doesn't quite describe it as there are instances where reversed stitches are flipped! Oh my, I think I've been using incorrect terminology. I have a few other resources and gurus who may have some ideas as well. Interesting topic!

    I usually do use two shuttles, but have occasionally just used the shoe lace trick if I'm using ball and shuttle and there aren't lots of chains to contend with.

  5. Hmmm. I think I've heard the term directional tatting. Personally I'd say 'unflipped tatting'! I don't think that 'reverse stitches' really makes clear what you're doing because as Sandy says, they could be flipped. I absolutely agree that simple tatting can be very effective!

  6. There are some ladies on Craftree who have done a lot of work on terminology, you might find the answer there.

  7. En français ces double nœuds non transférés s'appellent des double festons. Je ne connais pas l'origine de ce terme mais il est ancien.

    1. C'est bien, pour une fois c'est nous qui avons un terme en français alors que les anglais ne semblent pas encore en avoir un qui soit accepté universellement! :-)

  8. What an interesting conversation! Whatever terminology is used, I'm willing to try a technique at least one time to see if it's something I can use. I probably would not have noticed the difference in the picots if you hadn't pointed it out. Although I've been tatting for well over 20 years, my stitches are still not even nor are my picots consistent, even when using a picot gauge. I'm amazed by the tatted pieces that are picture perfect!

  9. I like the term reverse stitches because to me one is making stitches from the opposite/reverse side (even thought one is working on the front side). I agree that tatting is pretty and doesn't need to be fancy to be pretty!

    1. Thanks Ruby, but as Sandy says about, I see now that it could be confusing as "reverse stitches" can also be flipped. So these are reverse unflipped stitches... rus? rsu? rsnf (reverse stitch not flipped) ??

  10. Excellent observations & comparison ! All in once glance :-)
    If I remember correctly, the 1st time this term was used by Ann Orr in a 1902 publication & she used it for the 2nd half of split ring (the latter term was coined in late 20th Century).
    RODS denotes only reversing order of half stitches but they are flipped (Mme Riego used reverse stitch to denote this).

    I like the term reverse stitch as it is a reverse of the double stitch in many senses : the ds cap lies above the core thread, while the rs cap lies below it (although one can wrap the stitch in such a way that the cap lies above – I did a pictorial on Twist in RS – very similar or perhaps the same as in pearl tatting); the order of half stitches is reversed as well.

    When writing for pattern or blog post, I use "reverse stitch/unflipped" just so it is clear. For split tings, it is not necessary to mention separately, unless one is planning to write a tutorial/demo. For block tatting, unless it makes a difference, I usually leave it to the tatter to choose their preferred method.

    So far, in pattern-writing (or when using it to tat & explain others' patterns on my blog), I indicate that the rs is a viable option or that I have used it. As is the fs/bs or RODS. I indicate this in the diagram using different colours (as in Eleonore's Angel patterns) but point out that it is optional. Every tatter has their preferred method & comfort zone. Hence, unless the pattern Specifically calls for ds rings & rs chains, I don't see the need to have a different term. There are already plenty to choose from: "encapsulation" or “wrapping”, etc. which generally refers to rs in whatever form or format, usually in chains & ‘2nd half of SR stitch’ in rings. Or whatever term one uses - new or old - it is always a good idea to explain it in the legend or link to a tutorial.
    The other limitation when using ds rings & rs chains for ease (not as specific pattern requirement) in pattern-writing, is the use of colours. Whatever the designer presents, a tatter may want to change the colour(s) - use single colour, use 2 colours, change sequence of colours. Ditto for Turn Work (with 2 colours) unlike RW. So, rs limits that & the tatter will need to work it out.
    I am still a relative newbie when it comes to creating & writing patterns, but I prefer to use a format, terms, & legend/explanation that has the broadest (& easiest) application. All else, including use of climbing out, intermediate/advanced techniques, etc. are mentioned in Notes or as Options, thus giving the tatter a wide canvas to choose as per her skill level.

    I Totally agree that advanced techniques are not required for a beautiful pattern/lace. There are so many gorgeous designs with simple rings & chains & these are also the most sought after.
    On a personal note, though, I enjoy learning new techniques & effects & while I am learning/practicing, my mind is trying to find other ways to use or apply it. I like the challenge of both a learning a new technique, as well as applying it to something of my own. These (my) patterns may look complicated, but once you understand the technique, they are basic to it.

    Did you get a chance to read the thread ?

    1. Thank you Muskaan. You are versed in tatting history too (which I'm ashamed to say I am not... I should read up more about it!) as confirmed by Judith Connor's message below. I'm all clear now and will use RODS and reverse stitch where applicable.

      Like you I enjoy exploring new techniques and their effect on tatting. Whether simple or more complicated, tatting remains a lovely lace for all to enjoy.

      And apologies but no, I'd not had a chance to read the thread yet but I will make a note to do so soon. :-)

  11. Thinking toward the least confusing terminology, I would vote for "direct tatting" (not directional, just direct) or "unflipped stitches/tatting". I think the unflipped option is the least mistakable.

  12. 'Reverse stitch' is the early term (circa 1920) for the unflipped stitches of the second part of a split ring. Tatters have been using it for about 90 years. In several of Anne Orr's books (Dover) there is a set of four small photographs illustrating 'Ring with Reverse Stitch'. When Mary Sue Kuhn coined 'split ring' in the 1980s she retained the term 'reverse stitch' for the stitches formed directly onto the core thread, i.e. the lark's heads.

    In the late 19th C tatters were encouraged to adopt directional tatting so that the larks' heads either side of picots would all appear on the front side. So reverse stitch and RODS (reverse order double stitch) were practised. See the glossary of 'The Bath Tatting Book' (1865).

    Over time, other names have been introduced - unflipped stitch, wrong way tatting, lark's head, direct tatting - but 'reverse stitch' lives on because it succinctly describes the appearance and opposing position to the traditional double stitch.

    Judith Connors

    1. Thank you Judith, it's nice to know the history behind the term and I'm happy to call it "reverse stitch" as it appears I should! I now understand from your explanation that when they are flipped, they are RODS and when they are unflipped, they are reverse stitches.

  13. No matter what you call them, you will have to define what you mean my 'reverse stitch,' because there are so *many* different names for the same thing 'out there.' I think 'wrapped' stitches are normally a bit tighter than flipped stitches, so this may be why the picots on the 'reverse stitch' look closer together, and it may also be why the curve is slightly different on the wrapped section. The term 'reverse' stitches *may* refer more to the fact that they are 'unflipped,' which is the 'reverse' of the 'normal' (at that time in history?) way of making the stitch. I don't know much history, but I've never seen the word 'flipped' in any of my 'vintage' books that tell 'how to' make the double stitch. They generally 'transfer' the knot to the other thread. I think I'd 'vote' for 'direct tatting' or 'unflipped' double stitches or something similar rather than 'reverse' DS, but there are so MANY terms out there that no matter WHAT you use you'll have to explain it. Unfortunately we don't have many 'universal' terms in tatting....yet. Even if we developed a list today and stuck to it, there are so many patterns that *don't* use the 'standard' terminology, we'd STILL not have *one* term for each technique. :-) And you're right - tatting, no matter how simple, is beautiful.

  14. You're right, SWtrompeter, that 'transferred', or even 'turned' and 'capsized', referred to normal double stitches. 'Flipped' is a contemporary American colloquialism.

    RODS is not actually the opposite of reverse stitch: it is just using the half-stitches of the traditional ds in the reverse order. That is, 2nd half-stitch, 1st half-stitch, etc. Tatters can still reverse their work (RW) normally between rings and chains.

  15. I love this method of not flipping the work! I think it will revolutionize my tatting. Thank you for sharing!


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