I started off by breaking apart a Starlit to see if there was any way of putting some sort of bobbin in there.
No, the shape of the centre and its length means that a bobbin would have to have a very large centre to fit over this post and would leave less space for thread on the bobbin. Bin that idea.
Martha talked about her friend who would bend a Boye metal shuttle to accommodate a larger sewing machine bobbin… It so happened I had a pair of those old Boyes… I chopped two tatting bobbins and glued them together to make a thicker bobbin… and I also cut myself a couple of times in the process! Those craft knives are awfully sharp!!
Not bad. That kinda works. You can see in the image below how much thicker my newly made bobbin is.
Then I thought, perhaps I could stretch an Aero to do the same thing! I managed to get my thick bobbin in there but it's too tight and the bobbin doesn't unwind easily enough.
Then this morning I received some of the larger bobbins I had ordered (thanks Maureen for the suggestion) - they are for industrial sewing machines. They don't look that much bigger in the photo below but they are really.
Ninetta showed me the double bobbin shuttle she made from a plastic bottle so I tried making one and held the bobbin in place with the help of a screw from another shuttle I have.
Some of the plastic is clear so it look like the end is chopped off, but it isn't!
That didn't work very well as I forgot that the screw needs to be flush with the surface of the shuttle or the thread catches all the time. No good.
So I went back to the Boye and massacred it a bit… poor thing! I gave it a shape so the bobbin would fit and that's not bad. You can see in the image below how much bigger the Boye on top is compared to the standard one below.
Still not satisfactory though… and I don't really enjoy tatting with metal shuttles… I find them heavy and slippery.
I therefore went back to my favoured Aero to see if I could get that large bobbin to fit in there somehow. The bobbin is definitely too big and too wide and will not fit inside the shuttle as is… so I decided to open one end altogether. I made a hole and a peg to hold the bobbin. I also had to cut out the dimple as this was getting in the way of the bobbin and that's the hole you can see.
Ha! Maybe I'm getting somewhere.
Start to tat… but no it doesn't work with the open end at the back because it keeps catching as you reverse with your shuttle when making the knots, using the slip and slide method.
No, actually, the bobbin needs to be in front! I need to lead with the bobbin. Seems strange at first but I can get the hang of this. I moved the hook to what had now become the front of my shuttle… another problem: it's not easy to make the join using that side as the thread gets caught around the bobbin and the hook. No, that's no good either. I still need to have the bobbin in front but perhaps I can move the hook to the back.
Try again. Yes, that works surprisingly well! I have to get used to a new way of handling the shuttle but having an open end around the bobbin means that it's easy to hold it tighter or looser between your fingers so that you can very niftily unwind thread as you need it, without having to stop tatting. It doesn't take me long either to get used to using the hook from the back of the shuttle. It's practically as quick as if it was in the front. I'll have to make a video to demonstrate.
I've now modified this prototype again so that the bobbin is held in place with something similar to the dimples as they are in an Aero and removed the peg. A peg can be problematic as it stays in place by friction only and because the plastic of the aero is quite thin, there is not much for the peg to hang on to. So a "dimple" works much better. It's also much quicker to change/refill the bobbin without a peg… and there's no peg to lose!
There is something else genius about this design… (are you still with me? I don't know if you've made it to here in this long blogpost!)… I have always found that the only thing I'd like to improve with Aeros is that it takes a bit too long to wind the thread back onto the bobbin when moving from a ring to a chain. Unwinding is instant and it's so easy to unwind thread from an Aero as you tat, without stopping. But winding back takes a bit longer. I've always wanted to come up with a solution to this and have had an idea under my hat for some time. This idea has yet to materialise but I have inadvertently found another solution with this design. You can just roll the bobbin along on a surface to wind the thread back - SUPER SPEEDY! I'll have to make a video demonstration of this as well because it probably doesn't sound very clear the way I've described it. I LIKE IT!
Right I'm off to tat some more and will make the next row of my Jan Stawasz piece with my new shuttles to see how I get on. As with anything new, it takes a bit of practice but so far so good!
If this works out, I could even decorate these!
… to be continued.