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Netting - How to make the basic knot

The instructions below are for one method of many possible methods for making a netting knot. It is complicated and requires at least two thumbs, three pinkies and seven other fingers per hand (just kidding!!). Seriously, it is tricky to pick up, but worth it for lacemakers because it is the best method for creating fine nets. Once the netter has mastered this knot, she uses only three moves (wrapping the thread, putting the shuttle through, and pulling the knot tight) which flow together. Traditional methods for larger nets may involve up to five moves (set up, pass the shuttle, set up, pass the shuttle, pull tight) but can be done with thick rough rope without abrading the hands.

Do not think that your first attempt at netting will yield a nice-looking net. In an average hands-on class of ten I will usually have one student who can actually make a reasonable net with odd tension, one student who will insist on un-picking each knot that fails and spend more of her time unknotting than knotting, about 6 who fail at their first several attempts but eventually get it, and one or two who give up (many times I can talk them into trying again but being all the way across the internet I might not be able to talk you back into trying again!). So please be patient with yourself; if you fail at your first few knots it does NOT mean that you are inept or all thumbs, it simply means you are a normal person learning a fairly complicated skill.

Tools Needed:

(click here for some suggested sources for netting tools)

Netting Shuttle

The type and size of shuttle depends on the size of your thread/rope and your finished net. You should be able to easily load the shuttle with several yards of thread or rope. It should also be small enough to fit through a loop the size of the diameter of your gauge AFTER it is loaded with thread/rope.

To the right are a few netting shuttles in my collection. All but the off-white plastic one could be considered netting needles. The one on the far right was made for me from silver wire twisted together. The off-white plastic one was sold by Lacis as a "Norwegian" shuttle and works very well for medium-weight yarn.

The pictures below will show a style of larger plastic shuttle available from many sources that works well for larger fishnet-sized netting. Those wanting an "authentic" tool could carve the shape from a flattish piece of wood.

shuttles.JPG (51983 bytes)

Netting Gauge

The gauge can be anything with a constant diameter; some are round and some are flat like popsicle sticks. For hairnets and small work I tend to use doublepointed knitting needles. For large nets a section of dowel will do well, as shown here.

gauge.jpg (66594 bytes)

Anchor Point

For classes I have students hook their starting loop in a notch in the end of a 3 foot long dowel. This allows for a student to anchor the dowel between her legs and pull down and towards her stomach as she works.

The only clear pre-1600's illustration I've seen of a woman netting showed her work tied to a hook on the wall. So if you don't have a dowel, tie your work to a doorknob or something else that will give resistance when you pull down and towards you.

sticknotch.JPG (15594 bytes)

Getting Started

Load the shuttle

Metal netting needle shuttles should have a hole in one end which you will tie your thread to. Once the thread is tied, you simply wrap the thread end-to-end around the shuttle, each time passing through the pincers. There is no need to thread the end of the thread through the pincers; placing the thread across the opening and pulling should make it slip right in.

For a larger shuttle with a prong in the center, start by tying the string to the prong.

tieshuttle.JPG (39959 bytes)
loadshuttle1.JPG (21623 bytes)
Wrap the string around the bottom of the shuttle and up the reverse side. loadshuttle2.JPG (21902 bytes)
Slip the string around the prong on that side and wrap the thread around the bottom of the shuttle again so it is again on the front.


Slip the string around the prong from that side and repeat wrapping the thread around the bottom and around the prong.


When the shuttle is sufficiently full, cut the string.

loadshuttle3.JPG (27981 bytes)

Tie a starting loop

This loop does not have to be made of the same material as your net; it will be taken out and thrown away when the work is done. Its size is not important; neither is what knot you use to tie the string into a loop.

makestartloop.JPG (65953 bytes)

Anchor your starting loop

If you are not using a dowel with a notch as your anchor, you might tie your starting loop to your anchor point. Having a hook to hang the loop on without tying it allows you the freedom to flip your work if you are making a flat piece or to rotate the starting loop if you are making a circular piece.

looponstick.JPG (26733 bytes)

Tie the working string to the starting loop

tietostartloop.JPG (43715 bytes)

Start the first knot

Hold the gauge in your non-dominant hand as pictured above. The directions below will refer to the "gauge hand" and "shuttle hand" rather than left or right to avoid confusion for lefties and those who find they prefer holding the shuttle in their left hand. Reverse the images on your computer or on a photocopier.

Place the gauge below the starting loop and bring the working string  in FRONT of the gauge.

knot1.JPG (39731 bytes)

Around the fingers

Wrap the string around the fingers of the gauge hand from front to back. It doesn't matter how many fingers; at minimum wrap it around the gauge and your middle finger or at maximum wrap it around the gauge and your index, middle and ring fingers.

knot2.JPG (32832 bytes)

Catch it with the thumb

The string should be pulled tight and anchored on the top of the gauge with your thumb to make the loop around your fingers stable.

Do not bring the thread down in front of the gauge; you will be taking it back up and away from the gauge hand.

knot3.JPG (32068 bytes)

Watch out stomach, here it comes!*

Bring your working thread up over part of the starting loop (or the loop you will net into next) and allow it to drape down in back of the gauge hand.

At this point unwind enough thread from the shuttle that the shuttle can make it back towards your stomach without disarraying the part that is draped.

* this line courtesy of Baroness Cateline la Broderesse

knot4.JPG (40845 bytes)

Shuttle goes under, under, over, through

Start with the tip of the shuttle in the palm of your gauge hand.

knot5.JPG (27621 bytes)
Push the tip of the shuttle behind the gauge and the front part of the loop that goes around your gauge and fingers (that's the "under, under" part)

Make sure that the shuttle will be going through the loop that's around your gauge and fingers. The tip should be in front of the back half of that loop (that's the "over" part).

knot6.JPG (32020 bytes)
Now push the tip of the the shuttle from back to front through the loop you're netting into; here it's the starting loop. That's the "through" part. knot7.JPG (32195 bytes)
Pull the shuttle through and grab onto the thread. knot8.JPG (60715 bytes)

Catch the pinkie

Stick your little pinkie WAY out and as you pull the thread with your shuttle hand catch the new loop that is forming on your pinkie.

DO NOT let go of that loop until I tell you to; it provides your tension so that the knot forms in the place you want it to.

knot9.JPG (45226 bytes)

...And pull it to*

As you pull the thread with your shuttle hand, also pull down on the loop around your pinkie which should tighten the other loops around your hand.

Let go of the loop caught by your thumb.

* Pennsylvania Dutch saying, usually applied to closing a door

knot10.JPG (35750 bytes)
Next, take your fingers (except the pinkie!) out, leaving a loop that should tighten around the gauge.

Keep pulling down with your pinkie as you pull everything tighter with your shuttle hand. You may find that you almost make a "sawing" motion by pulling alternately with your pinkie and shuttle hand.

knot11.JPG (31705 bytes)
Before the pinkie loop gets too tight, bring the working thread down in FRONT of the gauge. The sawing motion of tightening should now move the new knot forwards and backwards on the top of the gauge. knot12.JPG (54097 bytes)
Center the new knot on top of the gauge as you let your pinkie loop get smaller and finally pull your pinkie out at the last minute.

You may notice in this picture that I tend to put my index finger on the back of the knot to control the tightening of the pinkie loop after the pinkie has been taken out. I find with fine threads this makes my tension more consistent. However, it puts more strain on the thread at that point (and more skin oils, if you are working with white linen or cotton).

knot13.JPG (30379 bytes)

YOU DID IT!!!!!!

knot14.JPG (29072 bytes)
You should actually be able to take your gauge out after each knot and the knot will stay if you did it correctly.


If the knot falls out when you remove the gauge DON'T GIVE UP! Also don't waste your time trying to make your first attempt "neat" by untying knots and half-knots. Just go on to attempt a new knot, this time carefully watching where the tip of your shuttle goes in relation to the loops.

1loop.JPG (39693 bytes)
To start the next knot, always check that your working thread is in front of the gauge and wrap the loop around your fingers from front to back. nextknotstart.JPG (27123 bytes)
Next Steps:


All content copyright the author, Jennifer Munson munson.jennifer@gmail.com The author makes no guarantees for instructions and recipes on this site; neither does she accept responsibility for their outcomes. Verbatim copies may be made for educational purposes only provided they contain original copyright marking.

This page created August 4, 2001

Last updated August 05, 2005