Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tunisian Crochet — the Basics

Tunisian Crochet, or Afghan Crochet,  has long been maligned as the needle and hook’s ugly stepchild with a vague history. I feel it's been greatly misunderstood and misused. It's been relegated to the “granny world” — used as a ground for floss embroidery in the Victorian era. Isabella Beeton was a successful author and domestic pioneer who chronicled home management and crafts for the Victorian household. Among her needle crafts she wrote very thorough instructions for Tunisian Crochet.

Tunisian Crochet creates a very firm fabric with an almost woven appearance, like a reed basket. I think the texture is quite handsome. This makes it perfect for structured bags and crisp hats with subtle curves. The example above is worked in the round — a minor modification. I’ve studied and de-constructed its form. But before any deconstruction, one must learn well its construction.


Here’s a basic Tunisian Crochet tutorial for working flat. Usually this technique requires a long Afghan hook, which looks like a crochet hook with a long straight barrel — some with hooks on both ends. Finer sizes are hard to come by, so if you see one in a thrift shop, snag it. For the purpose of this demonstration I use a standard US C (2.5 mm) crochet hook.

For this lesson, we’ll make a ribbon that is 5 stitches wide. Tunisian Crochet is worked on two rows — the working row and the return row. Start by chaining 6. Skip the first chain and pull a loop through the second chain. Lave the loop in the hook. Repeat until you have a total of 5 loops on your hook — the first loop and the four new loops. Chain 1 in the last stitch. The first and last stitches are the selvage.

The Return Row: Pull a loop through the chain 1 and the loop on your hook. Leave the new loop on the hook. Now pull a loop through the next two loops on the hook. Repeat to the end and leave the loop on the hook.

The working Row: First insert the hook through the first vertical strand, then insert the hook through the front part of the chain on top. Pull a loop through the the top chain and the strand. Leave the loop on the needle, and repeat until before the last stitch. You should have four loops on your hook at this point.

For this last stitch you will insert your hook into the chain that on the edge. The photo above with the blue needle shows where you insert the hook — holding two strands. Chain 1 and repeat instructions for the Return Row. Repeat instructions for the Working Row and the Return Row until you have enough length for a ribbon or a strap.

Binding Off: After completing a Return Row, chain 1. Insert hook through the vertical strand and the front of the top chain — slip-stitch these together. Repeat until the end and cut yarn. There you have it the basic Tunisian Crochet stitch. Now go out and make something that isn't a pillow sham.
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