Tunisian Crochet Explained: An Introduction to this Unique Technique

coffee drink beside a knitted material on wooden table

Tunisian Crochet Explained: An Introduction to this Unique Technique

Tunisian crochet entails working rows differently than traditional crochet, producing a unique look and fabric. The special technique requires learning to manage loops on the hook in a new way. This guide covers the origins of Tunisian crochet, how it differs from regular crochet, instructions for basic stitches, tips for success, and project ideas to try this fascinating style.

What Is Tunisian Crochet?

Tunisian crochet, also called Afghan stitch, is a special crochet technique worked in rows vertically across a piece. It uses elongated Tunisian crochet hooks to manage picking up and holding multiple live loops on the hook at once.

The resulting fabric differs from normal crochet in having more prominent vertical bars between stitches. The front and back sides appear the same. Tunisian crochet also allows very open lacy patterns.

While slower than regular crochet, Tunisian technique enables great design capabilities from colorwork to intricate textures. The method takes practice but opens up creative possibilities.

A Brief History of Tunisian Crochet

Like all crochet, Tunisian technique traces its origins to Northern Africa and the Middle East. The method was likely introduced to colonial America by Middle Eastern immigrants.

By the mid 19th century, American crochet publications contained patterns for “drawn thread work and Tunisian stitch.” The intricate openwork patterns produced by Tunisian crochet made it popular for shawls, afghans and other lacy accessories.

Tunisian crochet gained the nickname “Afghan stitch” since crocheters traditionally worked the technique in vibrant colors to produce uniquely patterned warm afghans.

While the basics of Tunisian crochet were established over a century ago, today’s patterns continue to push its boundaries. Tunisian crochet is now valued for the texture and drape it achieves in apparel like cowls and sweaters too.

How Tunisian Crochet Differs from Regular Crochet

There are several key differences that characterize the Tunisian crochet technique:

  • Worked in vertical rows, not rounds
  • Uses a long Tunisian crochet hook to hold the active loops
  • All loops remain live on hook at the same time
  • Return pass locks off stitches at the end of rows
  • Produces a thicker, boxier fabric texture
  • Makes highly structured motifs and openwork possible
  • Front and back of stitching looks the same

Mastering this unique style requires relearning how to manage stitches on the hook. But the payoff is fabulous new design potential!

Getting Started with Tunisian Crochet

Learning Tunisian crochet expands your skills repertoire. To get started:

Choose a Tunisian Crochet Hook

Tunisian hooks have a stop at the end of the long shaft to keep loops from sliding off. The extra length holds multiple active loops. Pick a size appropriate for your yarn weight.

Determine Foundation Row Method

You can work a starting chain, foundation row, or crochet cast on to establish the base. Different methods may affect edge neatness.

Learn the Forward Pass

To work across rows, insert hook as usual to pick up a loop in each stitch across, keeping all loops on the hook.

Work the Return Pass

At the end of the row, reverse direction and work loops off hook to anchor the row below. Take care not to twist stitches.

With practice, the unusual rhythm of passing back and forth becomes intuitive. Then you can explore more advanced stitches!

Basic Tunisian Crochet Stitches

Like all crochet, Tunisian technique builds on the same basic stitches adapted to the unique method. Here are a few to begin with:

Simple Stitch (Tss)

This is the standard Tunisian stitch. To work:

Forward Pass: Insert hook under vertical bars into space between stitches across.

Return Pass: Yarn over and pull through one loop at a time across to anchor row.

Tunisian Knit Stitch (Tks)

This mimics the look of knit fabric. To work:

Forward Pass: Insert hook behind vertical bars from right to left across.

Return Pass: Same as simple stitch.

Tunisian Purl Stitch (Tps)

This forms the reverse of knit fabric. To work:

Forward Pass: Insert hook from front to back under vertical bars across.

Return Pass: Same as simple stitch.

Tips for Managing Tunisian Crochet

When first learning this new technique, these tips will help you wrangle those long rows of loops:

  • Work over a smooth yarn that slides easily on the hook
  • Keep even tension to maintain uniform loops
  • Check loops aren’t twisting around shaft
  • Stop periodically to adjust loop height
  • Use markers between pattern repeats
  • Count stitches frequently to avoid increase/decrease mistakes
  • End with correct number of loops before return pass
  • Practice return pass rhythm to keep tension smooth

Take it slowly and be patient as you develop muscle memory for this unique crochet method!

The Design Potential of Tunisian Crochet

What makes the practice worthwhile is the amazing effects Tunisian crochet can achieve:

Openwork Lace

Fancy lacier motifs are possible since stitches stay secured on the hook even when widely spaced.

Elongated Stitches

By working stitches taller, textures like ribs and cables take on new dimensions.

Reversible Fabric

With no wrong side, both sides of Tunisian fabric can feature patterned texture.

Rigid Fabric Structure

Dense, stiff fabric shape makes Tunisian ideal for bags and baskets that need form.

Distinct Vertical Bars

These bars become design elements for textural effects in colorwork or slip stitch patterns.

Unique Shaping

Partial return passes shape short rows for unusual asymmetrical construction.

Endless creativity awaits with this fascinating technique!

Tunisian Crochet Project Inspiration

Here are some ideas to get your Tunisian creativity flowing:

Tunisian Crochet Entrelac

Create colorful patchwork using vertical strips in different hues.

Cabled Tunisian Projects

Tall Tunisian stitches allow for deep dimensional cables with high definition.

Beaded Tunisian Jewelry

Adorn necklaces, bracelets and earrings with intricate Tunisian motifs punctuated with beads.

Openwork Tunisian Shawls

Airy, lacy Tunisian shawls and wraps make elegant accessories. Vary patterns and shapes.

Tunisian Crochet Bags

Durable, structured bags benefit from the rigid rectangular fabric possible with Tunisian technique.

Tunisian Crochet Garments

Sweaters, vests, cowls and other wearables take on new texture worked in Tunisian stitches.

Tunisian Crochet Home Goods

Blankets, placemats, pillows and more gain visual interest worked in this unique style.

Embrace the adventure of trying this crochet innovation!

The Textural Possibilities of Tunisian Crochet

While requiring patience to learn, Tunisian crochet opens up amazing avenues for pushing crochet possibilities. The resulting fabric boasts intricate texture simply not achievable with regular hooks and stitches. If you feel you’ve mastered all basic crochet has to offer, try Tunisian technique for stimulating inspiration through new challenges. Allow your creativity to stretch in all directions like the long Tunisian loops spanning your hook!

%d bloggers like this: