Georgia Seitz - Ribbonwinners
Tatting Patterns & Shuttles
1227 CR 1760 E
Greenup IL 62428-3016 -

French stitch English stitch...Which goes first?

The First Half Stitch = French Stitch

The Second Half Stitch = English Stitch

Pat Tinney (atted_thread_bear) posted this interesting article on Here-Be-Tatters regarding a Mlle Riego Knot Formation Video - R(O)DS on Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:15 pm ((PST)).

"Well we had a thread on Here-Be-Tatters covering how to count joins and we had a spun off thread on the eTatters forum on reverse (order) double stitches. At the end of the R(O)DS discussion there was a request for pictures.

I tried to find the page that showed me the reverse double stitch over a year ago but could not. But I did end up looking at the wikipedia entry for tatting ( and at the bottom there are several links. One of the lines on the links is to three very similar tatting demos on youtube.

What I find interesting is that this person uses the the method of forming the knot described in the work of Mademoiselle Eleonore Riego de la Branchardiere (Mlle Riego). And unlike Rebecca Jones's instruction under "The Reverse Riego Method" this person is definitely tatting with what many of us "contemporary" tatters would call a reverse double stitch.

Now this is a true reverse double stitch, not encapsulation or putting a larks head over the core as we do for spit rings and chains. Which brings up an interesting technical tatting term.

In at least one article I read describing the R(O)DS it was stated that this was "true" tatting. The stated meaning being that you had to transfer the knot to the other thread, the infamous FLIP, to be doing true tatting. Rebecca Jones actually has a set of instructions called Wrong Way Tatting that uses encapsulation instead of the flip.

I have stared at these videos several times (no time to try it myself, though I did when I read the Jones book), but it appears that the Right Hand Thread (RHT) forms the knot on the Left Hand Thread (LHT: with apologies to all our sinisteral tatters, and please this is not some sort of left-handed remark). There does not appear to be an actual flip but a coaxing of the LHT by the RHT.

Let me know what you see:"

Pat then encouraged tatters to go view the three videos linked from this page: Check out the 3 videos.

Gail watched the videos and comments: My grandma taught me to tat reverse Riego, very much like what is shown in the Rebecca Jones book, except that I hold the thread the same for rings and chains, no wrapping the pinky finger. After closely watching the third video, which shows it better than the first, I am sure she is flipping her stitches, but they are being done in reverse order. Second half the stitch and then the first. I know very little about tatting history so can't make any comment as to why she might be doing it that way.

I had never seen tatting done by anyone else until about 5 years ago, and I have stayed with my reverse reigo method and odd method of chain tatting because it was what I was used to. Oh yes I am a lefty, hahah, so I tat with the shuttle in my left hand and the ring in my right hand. It's all so interesting to watch everyones own personal style while tatting."


The first thing we need to determine is exactly what is meant by the first and second half stitch, known earlier as the French stitch or the English stitch. See artwork above by Mark Myers. In the Mlle Riego patterns, her designations for the stitches were:

single stitch = English stitch = second half stitch
reverse stitch = French stitch = first half stitch

It should be noted that Mlle Reigo began her patterns with what we call the second half stitch today and the antique patterns do show this difference if examined closely. The Riego books are posted online in the public domain archive. And Mlle Riego, her tatting tools and method of working are mentioned in the article Civil War Tatting by Virginia Mescher.

In that article Virgina Mescher writes: "Mlle. Riego’s method for tatting was very similar to our modern tatting, but at first she reversed her “stitches” or knots. Instead of making her double stitch as we do, she made our second stitch, (called the “French stitch”) first and our first stitch (called the English stitch) second, so that her knots, on the front, looked like our knots do on the back. Picots (sometimes called loops or pearl loops) were made between the first and second stitches of a double stitch, instead of between two double stitches, as we do today. Most other period tatting instructions have the reader make the English stitch first and the French stitch second, just as we do today."

Ms. Mescher's research indicates that Mlle Riego began tatting 2hs/1hs and then later changed to 1hs/2hs. See the Riego tatting instructions from "The Tatting Book" 1850 pg 6 and 7.

See rings A and B below. Ring A begins with English stitch. Ring B begins with French stitch. Samples prepared by Dee Dannenberg. (Rings C show rings with only one of the half stitches, i.e. josphine knots.

Jan's Method, by Jan Stawasz, has diagrams which show how the half stitch change affects the look of the work. Examine his examples of flowers carefully. (BTW, Jan has a new book, see Book.

Any questions? You are welcome to email me:
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