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  • Place of origin:

    Woodstock (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1770-1790 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pierced steel

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 120, The Wolfson Galleries, case 15, shelf DR2

Object Type
This type of shuttle was used by women to make knotted thread or cord that could be added to an embroidery design. The thread was first wound on a shuttle, which was then used to create the series of knots on the thread which formed a narrow trimming like a string of beads. The size of the knot depended upon the thickness of thread used. The practice was known in Britain from the medieval period, but did not become common until the late 17th century, probably under Dutch influence.

Social Class
Knotting was seen as elegant and genteel, and it was practised by ladies of the higher social classes who had leisure time, including those at Court. William III's wife, Queen Mary, was an ardent knotter, whose preoccupation was noted by Sir Charles Sedley (died 1701):

'For here's a Queen now thanks to God!
Who when she rides in coach abroad
Is always knotting threads.'

The fashion for knotting waned at the end of the 18th century.

Materials & Design
Shuttles were often exquisitely made in costly materials, as befitted objects made for use in high society. This shuttle is made of finely pierced and cut steel, but ivory, crystal, lacquer, amber, porcelain, tortoiseshell, silver and gold were also employed to make items which could cost as much as two guineas. Shuttles could be given as presents. The society hostess Mrs Mary Delany was presented with a gold shuttle by George III in 1783.

Place of Origin

Woodstock (probably, made)


1770-1790 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Pierced steel


Length: 14 cm, Width: 4.25 cm

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Ladies in polite society were expected to be proficient in a wide range of needleworking skills. The graceful rhythm of techniques such as knotting or netting was thought to show off the elegance of a lady's hands. Embroidery, knitting and crochet are still current today. Knotting produced a decorative thread, with rows of little knots, that was sewn onto fabric. Fine net, made with thread from a decorative shuttle, was often further embroidered. [27/03/2003]


Metalwork; Tools & Equipment


Metalwork Collection

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