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!





23 Responses to “Why I Love Tunisian Crochet…”

  1. Betty Cassidy Says:

    This stitch sounds awesome! I soo love tunisian stitch! I am deffinently going to try this soon!
    Great work!

  2. Susan Winlaw Says:

    Oh, your sweater design is simply fantastic ! Congratulations. I’ll have to check out Interweave Crochet to find it. Did you graduate the pattern up into the larger sizes ? (hope so)

    Keep on designing because the sample above shows some real skill.


    • Thank you so much Susan! I definitely hope to keep designing!
      The pattern goes from 34″ to 55″ bust (8 gradations in all). I feel pretty strongly about offering a wide range whenever possible. I’m hoping to start a crochet-along in February. Perhaps you’ll join?… : )

  3. Thank you for being such a champion of this wonderful technique! I remember the first time I tried Tunisian…it was an astonishing experience to create a totally different kind of fabric. It led me to write Tunisian Crochet, followed by a book of pillows in which 10 of the 20 designs are Tunisian.

    You have taken the craft to a new level. Keep up the great work!


    • Holly Says:

      Thanks for the great tutorial! I am trying to find a good one on tunisian in the round, I’ve seen the needles and I’ve seen pictures of items made that way, but I can’t find or figure out how to do it myself. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!

      • Tunisian crochet in the round is pretty cool. There are several You Tube videos out there that give a pretty good idea how to do it. Here are two links to YouTube videos, each one showing a slightly different method.
        The first one used a tunisian hook with a long cord and does something similar to the magic loop in knitting. The idea of it is pretty much the same as flat tunisian crochet, except that you make a joining stitch in between the FwdP and the RetP of each row (in place of the first YO of the RetP.) The over and back are essentially the same though.

        The second method is conceptually a little different. It uses a double ended hook. With this, you do the FwdP for a few sts, then do the RetP part with the opposite end of the hook. Although you are technically turning the work to do the RetP (which isn’t really a Return, since you are working the stitches off in the same direction you picked them up), the effect is that you are inching your way around the circle. I have a really funny picture in my head of little inch worm with a hook at each end scootching around the edge of the crochet.


        Conceptually, the main difference between these two methods is the direction of the RetP. With the first one, the last sts you picked up in the FwdP are the first sts you work off in the RetP. With the second method, you pick up a few sts, then work off the first sts you picked up with the other end of the hook. The first, I imagine, will give you a very distinct joining line (like when you are doing circular crochet in rows), while the second one makes more of a spiral. Hmmm…I will have to play with these.

  4. Minda D. Mac Says:

    thanks for sharing how to do the tunisian crochet..i’m a new crocheter and i’ve often wondered what is tunisian crochet…thanks….

  5. Laurie Says:

    I really am addicted to tunisian, I must see if interweave is offered in digital as I cannot get here where I live, I love the combination of stitches that you made, I would love to be able to do a sweater or jacket, and most of all I would like a pattern for slippers in tunisian that is not in japanese

  6. Marion R in Quincy,MA Says:

    Hannah, thank you for the fabulous tutorial on Tunisian crochet! I’ve wanted to try it, and wondered what to make. Your sweater design looks great. If you are going to do a crochet along, please let us know. Suggest a supply list, as I’ll certainly need to buy the required hooks.

  7. sheila marshall Says:


    • Hi Sheila,
      This is unfortunately the nature of the beast. Much like Stockinette stitch in knitting, Tunisian crochet has a flat side and a bumpy side, the latter of which is much more effective at asserting it’s shape. Since this shape happens to be convex, it intrudes on the personal space of the meeker flat side, causing the fabric to curl. This is exacerbated by the rigidity of the flat side (all those vertical strands), which keeps it from fighting back. The most common fix I’ve seen is a combination of a regular crochet (singe, half-double or double) border or tassels and blocking, which I imagine you have tried. Another idea is to do a border of tunisian worked perpendicular to the edge, or a different tunisian stitch that is less likely to curl, like tunisian seed or basket weave.
      One thing that I have tried to keep in mind when designing for tunisian crochet is that, dense as it the fabric is by nature, it does not have to be worked at a terribly dense gauge to keep its structure. Working it at a looser gauge gives the fabric more drape (it retains the structure on its own), which cuts down on the curl factor. If your pattern calls for a specific gauge, try using a slightly lighter weight yarn than you otherwise would.
      I hope that helps. We are fighting against the physics of the stitch itself here, so there is only so much we can do. That is one of the reasons that I frequently seam tunisian crochet garments, rather than working them seamlessly. I feel like the seams add a little extra structure and helps to hold down the edges.
      Good Luck!

  8. Audrey Says:

    I’ve been working this pattern and it’s turning out pretty well (with some thanks to your tutorial). But I’ve started the left front and am having some trouble figuring out the pattern. I’m doing size 40 so at the row after the foundation it says “begin cable set up row at st 16” so does that mean I work 15 tss then 7 tss for a total of 22 tss before I even work a dc? For some reason this just seems weird to me since it looks like on the photos the cable pattern goes all the way to the edge? Any guidance here would be much appreciated! Thanks so much, Hannah.

    • Courtney Says:

      I have a similar question. I doing size 37 so for the set up row (beg cable set-up row at st 5) I tss 3 (4 loops on hook) and then began with the 7 tss of the set up row on the 5th stitch (11 loops on hook). After repeating the set up row pattern throughout the row, I was left at the end with 7 stitches left, which worked out because that was first part of the set up row pattern. For row 1 of the cable pattern I started again with stich 5 and continued the cable pattern through the rest of the row. The problem came at the end when I again had 7 stitches left but the part of the patter I was in (tss in next 5 stitches, sk next stitch) left me with an open stich at the very end of my row. I ended up tss 6 instead. For the next row I started again with stich 5 and then continued with row 2 of the cable patt but this time I had enough stitches left to begin the fpdc. I’m five rows in and at the end of every row I just continued to follow the pattern until I came to the end, but now the left edge looks like it’s curving and is not clean at all. I’ve made sure I haven’t dropped or added any stitches or accidentally skipped sections of the pattern.

      I guess that’s just a long way of asking how the end of the cable pattern should be handled when there is not enough stitches to complete the pattern fully. Any help or advice is greatly appreciated!!! 🙂

      This is by far one of the best crochet tutorial I have seen. The steps are broken down in a way that makes it so easy to understand. Thanks! And I absolutely love this pattern!

      • For the record (in case anyone else is reading the comments), I replied to both of these excellent questions in an email, to which I attached a chart of the cable pattern. Hopefully the explanations helped! I am perfectly happy to answer anyone’s questions about this pattern. I am working on getting a crochet along for this going, too. That would, I imagine, generate some answers.

  9. Pamela Says:

    Hannah: I love your Aspenglow Jacket and I immediately bought the Interweave Crochet Winter 2010 issue. I bought my needles and a book on tunisian crochet. Could you clarify for me that unlike the usual double crochet in which you draw through two loops twice, versus your version, where we only draw through two loops once?

    I also am confused on the repetition. For size 37, it says start cable set up row on stitch 5 (does this count the first selvage stitch)? thanks.

  10. Princess Ayo Says:

    You are awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m in love with Tunisian crochet and have done two summer tops in that stitch and am onto my third. I must hurry, it’s almost fall. Love you, Princess Ayo.

  11. Jenny Says:

    Can you please tell me what afghan pattern that is. I am an embroiderer who is learning to crochet and this is a beautiful blanket. Thank you ! Jenny

  12. After going over a number of the blog posts on your website, I seriously appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I book marked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my website as well and let me know how you feel.

  13. Amber Says:

    I purchased the pattern for the Aspenglow jacket, and I have some questions to make sure I’m understanding the pattern correctly. Would it be possible to get in touch with you so I could solve some of my confusion?

  14. “Why I Love Tunisian Crochet Abundance” actually causes myself
    ponder a small amount further. I really cherished each and every
    particular piece of this blog post. Thank you -Felica

  15. jen Says:

    THANK YOU! i could not find good instructions anywhere for changing colors and i’m making a tunisian afghan that will have stripes. thank you thank you!!!

  16. […] making the scarf I had to learn how to change colours This website again has clear photos and explains how to do in clearly. In Tunisian Crochet you work […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s