Various metals have been used for shuttles, including, silver, gold, brass, aluminium and nickel-plated brass.
The first shuttle is in silver filigree, and the next one in gold plate. They follow in the tradition of those luxurious shuttles of the 18th century, made in gold and inlaid with precious stones.
The two silver shuttles on the right have a modern style with their textured finish.
Workaday nickel-plated metal shuttles arrived on the scene in the USA in 1915. The two most well-known manufacturers were Boye and Justrite, both based in Chicago. More detailed information on these shuttles can be found in "Tatting Shuttles of American Collectors" by Heidi Nakayama.
On these shuttles, you can just make out the word "Chicago" which adds extra appeal for foreign collectors! The rest of the wording goes: Boye Improved Made in USA The Boye Needle Co Chicago
The Boye shuttle is still being sold today, with the same design as in 1922. That must make it a record-breaker.
The same design was used for the very popular Susan Bates shuttles. They were produced by the C. J. Bates Company after 1940 when the Boye patent expired.
This (see right) is an elegant little shuttle with a fine hook.
The whole shuttle is made from one piece of metal bent round with one side extended to form the hook.
The only fastening for the two sides is a tiny rivet near the hook.
The sides are dimpled to hold the bobbin. There is no writing on it,
but it appears from time to time on ebay, so must be quite well-known.
The hook does not look like that of a Boye or the sharp pick of a Justrite.
Does anyone know its history?
“Justrite Pat Applied For” is the writing you see on these shuttles. The Justrite Manufacturing Company of Chicago continued production till the 1940s. After a long gap, the shuttles are now being reproduced by Lacis of California with the words “Justrite by Lacis” on one side.
The shuttle on the right, called "The Royal", has a pretty incised scroll pattern on both sides. It too was produced by Justrite.
Metal shuttles have not had the same popularity in the UK as in the US. But Aero did design an aluminium version prior to their famous grey plastic shuttle. They introduced their brand name “Aero” for the anodized grey-coated aluminium used for knitting needles and then shuttles, because it was supposed to be as light as air. The shuttle was produced from the 1930s to the late 1960s. Some had a pointed pick for joining picots (as shown here), but some did not. In the 1970s the aluminium version was superseded by the familiar plastic version with bobbin and integral hook. It was made in grey plastic for continuity with the grey of the aluminium.
The Pelc Double-Bobbin shuttle was invented by Lauren P. Pelc. The patent was issued in 1998, and can be seen in full on Google. This extract explains its use:
“The present invention provides a tatting shuttle to allow use of more than two threads, a new method for tatting using more than two threads without requiring cutting any of the threads or tying knots to connect different colored threads, and articles made using the novel shuttle and method.”
These aluminium and brass shuttles were made by Tony Mellor of Mellor Aviation. He had a career as an engineer in aviation, but after redundancy transferred his skills to designing and making model glider kits – and then, to please his wife who is a tatter, made shuttles too.
Other accessories Tony produced were crochet hooks with a detachable end
so that the hook could be screwed into the handle, and cylindrical needle cases.
In recent years we have seen the introduction of inexpensive silver-plated and brass shuttles from India.