Friday, April 8

Five Basic Rules in Tunisian Crochet Patterns

2018 Update: I revised this popular post and created a permanent page for it at my new website.

Eilanner is a fancier variation of the Islander Wrap.
Both are exceptions to Rule #2 below!
Test yourself time! Below is my list of the top five rules in Tunisian crochet.

Why? Because:
Standards in Tunisian crochet pattern writing are less developed than non-Tunisian crochet standards. I hadn't noticed this until I began publishing my own Tunisian crochet patterns. For non-Tunisian crochet, I head over to the industry's official and usually find everything I need, from yarn weight descriptions to skill levels and crochet stitch symbols. I feel confident that other professional crochet designers are using the same site as they write their patterns too. This helps all crocheters.

Five Peaks Wrap  ©Interweave Press
When writing a Tunisian crochet pattern, however, there is no widely known and accepted standard list of Tunisian stitch symbols, or skill levels. Sure, a Tunisian pattern that requires no shaping should be rated easier than one requiring shaping; but it's pretty fuzzy which Tunisian stitches worked into which stitch loops are more intermediate or advanced than other stitches. Ask ten Tunisian crocheters and you could get ten different answers.

Example, pictured at right: When the Five Peaks Wrap was published in the Spring 2010 issue of Interweave Crochet magazine, it was rated Easy. It is 90% Tunisian Simple Stitch (the beginner's stitch), and in most of the rows, you do the same thing over and over. However, it is such a different experience of Tunisian crochet that in retrospect I think it should have been rated Intermediate. 

I'm also finding out as I teach classes locally that the best way to arrange the sections of a Tunisian crochet pattern, and how certain things are explained, differ from what works for non-Tunisian crochet patterns.

Unless the only thing going on is Tunisian simple stitch, crocheters struggle more if the list of Tunisian pattern abbreviations is on a separate page. (It requires one to flip back and forth between pattern and abbreviations list.) They are also prone to forgetting at least one of the five rules, below.

The Top Five Rules to Know for Every Tunisian Crochet Pattern
How many of these do you always remember, even if they're not explicitly stated in an Intermediate-level Tunisian crochet pattern? 
Intriguing exception to Rule #2.
1. Each Row consists of a Forward Pass (when loops are put onto the hook) and a Return Pass (when the loops are worked off of the hook).

2. The fronts of your stitches face you at all times; you do not turn your work at the end of a Forward Pass or Return Pass. (Unless specifically instructed to.)

3. The single loop on the hook at the beginning of every Forward Pass counts as the first stitch of the new row. You do not chain to begin a new row. You also do not work into the very first stitch along that beginning edge of the row (Unless specifically instructed to, such as when you wish to increase stitches.)

Burly Bias: fun, easy exception to Rule #3.
4. The last stitch at the other edge of the Forward Pass is worked into two edge loops, not just one, for a nicer finished edge. Also, work this last stitch more loosely to match the beginning edge stitch, which naturally and unavoidably loosens as you complete the row. I blogged more about this here.
5. A Tunisian stitch is composed of a front vertical bar, a back vertical bar, and 3 horizontal bars located at the top of the 2 vertical bars.
Imagine what this means: you can work into not only 1 of 5 different loops of a stitch, but any combination of these 5....or into the space between two stitches....
Do you have one to add to this list?


  1. Have plenty of analgesics on hand. :-)

  2. I have one...

    * Expect your work to curl up if using certain stitches, such as Tunisian knit stitch. When the predominance of the weight of the stitch is carried in the back, the front WILL curl.

  3. Is it possible to convert a Tunisian crochet pattern to a standard crochet pattern? I found a sweater that my brother adores, but I much prefer to work standard crochet over Tunisian.

    1. Hi Eden, speaking generally and theoretically, YES, it's possible to convert a Tunisian crochet pattern to regular crochet. You will probably need a bit more yarn. (Tunisian usually uses less yarn, believe it or not.)
      I have much more experience with crocheting lace than men's sweaters, so I don't have specific tips or advice for you. I wrote a newsletter issue about converting a Tunisian lace pattern to regular crochet. I don't know if it would help you at all, but here's the link: .

  4. There are a couple of things I would like to see standardized in Tunisian patterns.

    1) We're going to have to stop saying "yo and pull through 1, yo and pull through 2] across. I discovered this with my Lace book and haven't used it since. I now use "chain 1, [yo and pull through 2] across. The reason is because there are times when there is one or more chains there. We can't be specific on the next row. We need to be able to say "work into the first or second chain" but how do we say that when it was a "yo and pull through 1"? Do we say work into the first yo-and-pull-through-1. So Tunisian has evolved to the point we can't say that anymore.

    2) I would be immensely happy if pattern instructions stopped saying "insert hook right-to-left." The number of left-handers who believe they can't do Tunisian crochet will be reduced if we simply say side-to-side.

    And, that's my feedback, my dear. :-)

    Kim Guzman

  5. Does Tunisian crochet really use less yarn than regular 'standard' crochet? It seems like it would use more since the stitches are so dense.

    1. The light, lacy Tunisian crochet that I like to make uses less yarn, yes. Regarding other kinds of Tunisian crochet, it depends on the stitch, just like it does in regular crochet. For example, I'd expect Tunisian Knit Stitch to use more yarn than Tunisian Simple Stitch (TSS). In regular crochet, post stitches and popcorns use more yarn than plain double crochet, for example.

      If you're thinking of the familiar kind of Tunisian crochet traditionally used to make afghans, then yes also - according to Eva Owsian, who posted a test of three swatches on her now discontinued blog. She showed a swatch of Single Crochet (SC), of TSS, and of Stockinette (knitted). The TSS swatch used the least yarn of all! The SC used the most of all.

    2. Thank you for replying! That's good to know for future stash-busting, because I love the look of lacy Tunisian crochet. :)

  6. Thank You for pointing these out. They are very helpful to me.

    For larger projects, do you use a longer crochet hook (14") or do you use one of the double ended hooks that has the vinyl cable that runs between the 2 hooks? I haven't crocheted in over 20 Years and am just now getting back into it. I am only starting to learn the abbreviations but do best just looking at the stitches themselves. I love the Tunisian for bags because it is such a tight stitch.

  7. Can I convert regular crochet into tunisian crochet?

    1. Sometimes -- it depends on a lot of things, so I don't have a simple answer, unfortunately. You have to take each project individually, just like when converting a knit project to crochet or vice versa.

  8. Hi Rosemarie, I almost always end up using a longer crochet hook, maybe because with most lacy projects i make, I can fit all of the loops on the long crochet hooks I have. I've only needed to use a flexible/cabled hook a few times. Once for the Five Peaks Shawl, once to edge a Tunisian vest with Tunisian stitches.


On-topic questions are welcome!