Life with Fiber and Fiber Arts

Why I Love Tunisian Crochet… January 2, 2011

Filed under: designs,how to — Hannah Cuviello @ 3:12 pm

“Why, I love Tunisian Crochet!”

Those of you who receive my newsletters may recall a promise I made several weeks back regarding blog posts about Tunisian Crochet, to the effect that there would be some very soon. Clearly, I lied. But better late than never, right? We can call this the first installment in my “actually write all the blog posts I’ve promised to various people” resolution.

Today’s thesis: Tunisian Crochet is awesome! Really.

Now some of you may have pretty fixed ideas about the uses of Tunisian (or Afghan) crochet. True, Tunisian crochet is frequently associated with stiff, itchy, acrylic afghans your Grandma made in the 60’s and 70’s.

(Note: this lovely afghan was actually crocheted in solid white. All the colorwork is embroidered!) I will never make this afghan because I don’t hate myself am not very skilled at embroidery. That said, some of my favorite afghans are actually Tunisian crochet.

But it can really be so much more! Tunisian crochet is a fast, simple way to play with mixing colors and textures. It creates a fabric with structure, perfect for outer wear with a tailored look. With the right gauge, though, it can still have a graceful drape.

For example, I have recently designed the Aspenglow Jacket for Interweave Crochet (“Toot, toot” goes my own horn).

I only mention it because today I am going to go over the basics of the Tunisian crochet stitch as well as the color changing and cabling techniques that are used in this cardigan. There will be a little review for those who subscribe to our newsletter.

Let’s start with the basics. You will need a crochet hook and some yarn. Today’s featured yarn is Imperial Stock Ranch Lopi. You can use an afghan hook if you want, but if you are just following along at home to get a feel for it, you can use a regular hook with a smooth, consistent body shape. Once you have decided that you absolutely love Tunisian Crochet, you can invest in some special hooks:

I particularly like these hooks with long cables; I find them easier to manipulate and, were I to make an afghan, I could more easily fit all the stitches.

I imagine that most of you (even you knitters!) have made a crocheted chain at least once. If not, there are numerous resources out there. Your chain has a distinct front and back to it. On the front, you see a row of interlocking V’s with top leg and a bottom leg. On the back, you see rows of bumps. Now, this is largely a matter of personal preference, but when I insert my hook into the chain, I usually go into the back bump. It is pretty easy to see and I end up with a nice, neat row of V’s along the bottom of my work.

If you are following along, insert the hook into the bump of the first chain stitch, yarn over and pull the hook back through. See below.

Leaving the new loop on the hook, repeat for each chain bump across. You should end up with a hook full of loops. This is the first half of your foundation row (vocab word).

To begin the second half of the foundation row, chain one (YO, pull through one loop), then yarn over and pull through the next two loops on the hook (step 2 above). Repeat Step 2 only until there is only one loop on the hook. Your foundation row is now complete. Good job!

From now on, each row will consist of two parts, an over and a back. This first part of each row (the over) is called the Forward Pass (FwdP).

You may notice that one of the most visually prominent parts of each stitch is a vertical strand of yarn. Begin the FwdP by inserting the hook behind the vertical strand (shown above). Yarn over and pull back through. This is your first Tunisian Simple Stitch (Tss). Repeat this process for every vertical strand across.

The second part of the row is the Return Pass (RetP). This is exactly the same as the second part of the foundation row; Chain one then yarn over, pull through two the rest of the way across.

If you keep at it long enough, you will have something like this:

Three rows of Tunisian Simple Stitch

So there we have the basics. You can now make a giant Tunisian Crochet afghan.

And if you would like to stripe your afghan?

On the row before you start you new color, work your RetP until you have two loops left on the hook.

Execute your last “Yarn Over, pull through two” using the new color.

I imagine that you can take it from here, but just for good measure, complete the FwdP with the new color.

If you would like single row stripes, RetP until there are two loops left on the hook, change back to your first color as before.

This approach gives you nice, neat stripes. Myself, I prefer to mix it up a little.

One of my favorite things about Tunisian Crochet is the woven-looking texture you get from the opposing vertical and horizontal lines. By adjusting where we do our color changes, we can get rows where the horizontal and vertical lines are in opposite colors. To begin, work the FwdP with one color (Color A). When you get to the end, make your chain one with your other color (Color B).

Work your RetP and the FwdP of the next row with Color B.

After a few rows, you’ll start to get the feel of how the colors blend and merge.

I think it’s pretty nifty. The Aspenglow Jacket (above) uses a variegated color of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted against semi-solid for a sort of random, speckled effect.

At this point, to be honest, you have almost all the skills you need to make this jacket. The missing piece is creating the surface texture. For this, we combine our fancy new Tunisian Crochet technique with some tried and true crochet stitches. Specifically, we will be using a Double Crochet (dc), which you may have met before, or rather a Front Post Double Crochet (fpdc), which is really very similar.

Begin with an initial Yarn Over, as you would for a dc (note: I am using primarily American terminology; Canadian and European crocheters may call it something different).

Once you have complete steps 1 through 3, you will have the beginning a faux cable. At this point, however, it won’t really look like much. Complete the row as instructed and perform the RetP (changing colors, if you want). On the next row, work until you come to the dc from the row below.

Yarn over as before, but instead of inserting your hook into the vertical strand, insert it behind the body of the dc. Yarn over and draw up a loop.

Complete the stitch as before. This is a front post double crochet.

What we have done here is stack two double crochets right on top of each other. If you were to repeat this every third stitch or so, you would get an interesting ribbed effect. This is not what we want here, though. We want something that looks like cables. To get this, we have to create movement in our textured stitches. If you have been following along, go ahead and finish off the FwdP and RetP. On the next row, work the FwdP up to the Fpdc from the row below.  Next, Tss (that’s just the regular old stitch you’ve been doing) in the vertical strand above the fpdc from the previous row. Skip the next stitch (vertical strand) and then Fpdc around fpdc from the previous row (which is now behind you). This requires a bit of a backward reach. The effect is that the new fpdc is at a slant.

Continuing in this manner will yield a line of fpdc’s that cross your Tunisian crochet fabric on a diagonal (or in whatever direction you choose to send them).

To slant your stitches the other way, work Tss up to one stitch before the Fpdc from the previous row, skip the next Tss and Fpdc around the Fpdc from the previous row, then Tss in the top of the Fpdc from the previous row. Sorry, no picture here.

Well, is that enough for now? Have I given you something to think about? Come February (because I have a few projects in the works at the moment), I will be doing a knitalong for the Aspenglow Jacket. I will spend the month in between now and then trying to decide if I want to use Lorna’s Shepherd worsted (like I did before) or Cascade 220 Paints. It’s going to be a tough call. It may in fact take the whole month to decide. Hopefully you will hear something from me in the interim. Until then, Happy New Year! May your resolution lists be short and easily fulfilled!