In our local downtown area we have a center that sells all types of items that are made by Senior Citizens looking for a little extra income or just for an outlet for a hobby that they enjoy. It's fun to walk thru there and see a variety of different hand crafted items. I'm sure we have all seen the hand towels with the crochet top that makes it easy to hang the towel on the oven door or maybe a crocheted or knitted baby blanket but it's not very often that in this area we see a lot of items that were created by Tatting. Tatting is an art form that was started in the 1800's and was used primarily for adding a lace edge to collars, doilies or other decorative pieces. I read once that they think the early fishermen and sailors started it by making motifs (which are items with a reoccurring theme or pattern design) for their loved ones at home with fishing line but as of yet I haven't found anywhere that really documents that as being a true fact. Tatting is basically an art to create durable lace by using a series of knots and loops so it's definitely possible that fishermen and sailors could have started the technique.  
Tatting can have a look that is similar to crocheting but there is one way to tell for sure. Take a close look that the doily or lace and if it was created by tatting it will be composed entirely of rings or a series of rings and arched chains. They may be embellished with picots which are tiny loops of thread between the stitches but they are still just rings and rings with chains between them. Tatting was very popular during the first half of the 20th century when lace collars, cuffs and doilies were in fashion but then it seemed to have died down some. Modern technology made it easy and cheaper to create the same look that you could get from all the hours of doing it by hand. I don't think it seems to be as popular as crocheting and knitting but I still believe that it is an art that is surviving in our today's trends.   
Tatting with a shuttle was the early method of creating this durable form of lace. A shuttle is usually less than 3" long and made of medal or ivory and has an oval shape but you can find them in a variety of shapes and materials. If you have a proper shuttle with a point or a hook on the end you will not need any other instruments. Since the inception of tatting we have developed a form of needle tatting and cro-tatting and not just a style that uses a shuttle. When you are tatting with needles they are long and blunt needles that don't change thickness but make sure that your thread thickness matches the needle thickness. This style of tatting looks similar to doing it with a shuttle but it is usually a little thicker and looser. Cro-tatting is a form where a hook has been added to the end of the needle and works similar to crocheting.  
Tatting is primarily done with a very fine thread but some adventurous artist have used anything from finishing line, yarn, ribbon and even wire or clothesline to do this. So with this art form as well as so many others you are only limited by your imagination.