LEARN TUNISIAN CROCHET STITCHES & TECHNIQUES
Go a step beyond the basics with Tunisian crochet stitches.
Learn Tunisian lace with this easy-to-follow tutorial.
Tunisian crochet can add so much to our crochet vocabulary, allowing us to explore many different stitches and create a variety of fabrics suitable for home items as well as garments of all kinds. Today I want to introduce three of my favorite Tunisian stitches.
To review the basics of Tunisian crochet: There are two “passes” required for each row of Tunisian—the forward pass and the return pass. On the forward pass, we “pick up” loops in the row, leaving one loop on the hook for each stitch made. On the return pass, we “work off the loops” (see illustration) that are on the hook. In fact, the return pass is actually a series of chains running through the loops on the hook. The forward pass creates vertical bars on the work’s surface, one in front and one just behind it. The return pass creates a long horizontal bar that runs all along the row.
The curious thing about Tunisian crochet is that we can get different looks on the fabric surface by inserting the hook in various ways on the forward pass. That’s why it’s important to understand what’s meant by front and back vertical bar. In Tunisian simple stitch the hook is inserted in the front vertical bar, and in Tunisian Knit Stitch the hook is inserted between the front and back vertical bar.
In most cases the very first row in Tunisian is a set- up row where you pull up a loop in each chain of the foundation chain. I prefer to pull up the back bar in each chain (see illustration) just as I do in regular crochet. Some people like to pull up that loop in the back bump instead; neither way is better than the other, it’s just a preference. Try them both and see which you like better! Unlike regular crochet, there is no turning chain in Tunisian, so you always make the number of chains equal to the number of stitches needed in your first row.
The Tunisian baby blanket I designed for this issue uses the basket- weave stitch, which some people know from regular crochet. Basket weave, whatever technique one is using, depends upon contrast on the surface. If we arrange these contrasting surfaces one above the other, it results in the “woven” look. On this swatch, the contrast is achieved by using Tunisian Knit Stitch and Tunisian Purl Stitch, alternating them in small squares. As you can see, it appears that the knit squares are woven under and over the purl squares. On the blanket the squares are larger, but the principle is the same. Before making this swatch (or the blanket), some practice with these two stitches is in order— each has their little quirks.
A crucial factor in any Tunisian work is to choose the right size hook— a large one! Tunisian crochet has a tendency to create dense fabric, and the best way to counter that tendency is to use a larger hook than you use in regular crochet. So, for example, if you are working with a worsted- weight yarn and usually use an I/9/5.5mm hook, go up two hook sizes when doing Tunisian crochet to a K/101/2/6.5mm hook. If you normally choose an F/5/ 3.75mm hook for sock yarn, use an H/8/5mm when working it in Tunisian. This will greatly improve your fabric, lending it the desirable quality we call drape.
The three swatches shown on page 16 are all made with Berroco Weekend, which is a worsted- weight yarn. On the basket- weave swatch I used a size I hook, and for the other two a size J. Consequently, the first swatch has denser fabric, just right for a blanket, while the other two are more fluid and would work beautifully for a garment.
Tunisian Knit Stitch ( TKS) is one of the most popular because of its
resemblance to knitting, but the Tunisian stitch creates fabric that is substantially thicker than actual knit fabric. It’s the return row in Tunisian crochet that adds the extra layer absent in knitting. When we make Tunisian Knit Stitches, inserting the hook between the front and back vertical bar of the stitch, we push that whole return row to the back of the work. This not only makes the fabric thicker, but as there is more fabric on the back than on the front, the fabric tends to curl. But don’t worry, there is a cure!
To make the Tunisian Knit Stitch, insert your hook between the front and back vertical bar of the next stitch, yarn over and pull yarn through (see illustration). That loop you just made will tend to fall in front of the work, but I recommend you pull it up, nice and loose, so that it sits atop the row before, not in front of it.
Do this for each Tunisian Knit Stitch you make. When working the return pass, it’s equally important to work loosely. As mentioned earlier, these are chains that create a horizontal bar through the loops on your hook. Rather than making each chain tight around the hook, pull each one out a bit. Working loosely on both passes is the best way to ensure you end up with relaxed, fluid fabric.
For Tunisian Purl Stitch ( TPS), the yarn is brought to the front of the work instead of behind, unlike the usual position in crochet. Bring your hook behind the yarn and insert it in the front vertical bar of the next stitch (see illustration). For the yarn over, the yarn should come from behind and over the top of the hook, toward you. After making the yarn over, pull the yarn through the front vertical bar. If that pull- through is difficult, it’s helpful to hold the yarn in place with the thumb of the yarn- holding hand.
While Tunisian Knit Stitch tends to be tight, the purl wants to be loose— a dilemma! But remember, you are in control of the tension on all your stitches and can tighten or loosen up accordingly as you work. As you make your purl stitches, give a little tug on the yarn after working each stitch— but not too much! Tug just enough to make the stitch look neat. If you tighten up these purl stitches too much, they will not match the size of the Tunisian Knit Stitches.
Remember that in Tunisian crochet, the loop on your hook at the end of the return pass is the first stitch of the next forward pass. That means you never actually make the first stitch, it already exists. This loop that starts each row has a tendency to enlarge, which in turn can make the whole right edge of your work a bit too big. To avoid that, give a little tug on the yarn before moving on to the next stitch on the forward pass. At the end of the forward pass, always insert your hook under two loops at the edge of the work (see illustration). You can see them best by turning the left edge toward you and finding two loops that cross each other. Insert your hook just to the right of these two loops. Lefties will, of course, look at the right edge and insert the hook to the left of the two loops. The purpose of doing the last stitch this way is to create a firm and stable edge. If, however, you find this confusing or difficult, it’s not crucial, so please don’t fret. Once you become more adept with Tunisian crochet, you can always add this element of finesse.
Here are instructions for a Tunisian basket- weave swatch. Please don’t worry too much about even stitches when you begin, but as you continue, you will see how much tension is required for the two stitches and how best to make them match in size. Another point to consider: You may find that it’s hard to keep track of how many rows you’ve made, especially because the way you insert on the working row is creating the knit or purl on the row below. In this swatch we start with a set- up row, then work 5 rows beginning with Tunisian Knit Stitches, then the next 5 rows beginning with Tunisian purls. Mark the start of the new sequence with a stitch marker or short length of yarn at the starting edge to help you stay on track.
On all the swatches here, for the very last row of work we make Tunisian slip stitches to create a nice finish at the top edge. To remain in pattern, we insert the hook in the same way we did in the previous row, but as we pull up a loop for each stitch, instead of leaving it on the hook, we pull the loop through the next stitch and the loop on the hook. In this way we work off all the loops on the hook on the forward pass and don’t need a return pass.