Whether you knit or crochet, embroider or sew, needlework in of itself covers a broad spectrum of skills. Once you master the basics—working stitches, tools of the trade—there are specialty techniques for you to try. One of our favorites? Tunisian crochet. To the untrained eye, Tunisian crochet (also called afghan crochet) can be easily confused with knitting. At first glance, it looks like knitting. But in practice, it works like crochet. "Tunisian crochet is this really satisfying mix of crochet and knitting," explains ChiWei Ranck, who creates Tunisian crochet patterns under her blog One Dog Woof, including the blanket pictured here. "You are using a single hook, but you're also keeping all the stitches on that hook, similar to knitting. It's a great way to branch out or take a break from your usual projects, and maybe use some different muscles than you're used to."
What Is It?
Tunisian crochet is a needlework technique that many consider to be a blend between knitting and crochet, offering the best of both techniques. Tunisian crochet produces a dense waffle-like fabric, which is ideal in afghans and other cold-weather projects. It's also sturdy for durable projects (think blankets, dish towels, and washcloths). "I think Tunisian crochet works best for projects where you want a close stitch to create a consistent, subtly textured fabric," Ranck adds. "The Tunisian simple stitch reminds me of woven fabric, so it's great for blankets, shawls, and other instances where you might want a clean, woven look."
Tunisian crochet naturally produces a trim border on the edge of the fabric—in a series of "V" formations akin to traditional crochet stitches—giving it a polished finish with ease, as well as being helpful in joining fabric strips together and adding borders. Tunisian crochet offers lots of variety—there are 400-plus stitches and pattern combinations to be made, depending on your planned project.
Tools and Yarn
This specialty technique only requires one tool: a tunisian crochet hook, which is designed between a classic crochet hook and a straight knitting needle. It's longer in length (measuring between 10 to 14 inches long) than a classic hook and is smooth from the shaft down to its knob on the end to prevent stitches from falling off. Tunisian crochet hooks can be single-ended (for beginner projects), double-ended (for working in the round), or come equipped with a cable (for projects larger in size). In traditional needlework, its recommended to use a hook size that corresponds to the weight of your yarn. That said, particularly in Tunisian crochet, many crocheters find it easier to use a hook that's one or two sizes above the standard given for a yarn, as bulkier yarn can be a challenge to work with. When learning, try different sizes and styles of hooks to see what works best for you. We like Boye's Aluminum Afghan Crochet Hook at 14 inches.
How to Start Tunisian Crochet
In traditional crochet, a stitch is worked one at a time. At the end of a row, you turn your work, make a series of chains, and continue the pattern down the next row. In Tunisian crochet, this workflow is different: Instead, stitches are worked onto the hook in a forward pass, then worked off the hook in a return pass. If you're right-handed, this is done in a counterclockwise motion, followed by a clockwise motion. In this way, Tunisian crochet feels like knitting as the stitches accumulate onto your hook, but ultimately, the stitches are not supported, which has an added benefit—if you drop a stitch, you can easily recover it without undoing all of your work.
Practice makes perfect with basic Tunisian crochet stitches (like the Tunisian simple stitch) before going on to stitches that are harder to manipulate (such as the Tunisian purl stitch). In Tunisian crochet, you will always work with the right side facing you. This means that, unlike in knitting or crochet, you will never turn your work. "As with learning any new skill, take your time, and be easy on yourself," Ranck gently. "Start simple by learning the Tunisian simple stitch with a single color and a larger hook so you can see your progress faster." Her last suggestion? Start with one stitch at a time. "Watching a video might help you understand the concept a little quicker. You can check out this beginner Tunisian crochet video here, which teaches you the Tunisian simple stitch."