Crochet is a fun, creative and versatile craft skill but did you know there isn’t just one way to do it? There are different techniques for how to do crochet practiced all over the world. Tunisian crochet is one of them.
It’s almost a hybrid technique – like a mixture of crochet and knitting – and creates a thick, firm fabric with less stretch than a conventional crocheted or knitted fabric. To learn this craft, you need some yarn plus one special tool: a Tunisian crochet hook, sometimes called an Afghan crochet hook. More about that later…
Tunisian crochet differs from regular crochet, in that you work a row at a time, rather than a stitch at a time. One row is completed in two ‘passes’: a forward and a return pass. The other big difference is that you do not turn the work at the end of a row: you always work with the right side of the fabric facing you.
Tunisian crochet typically uses slightly more yarn than crochet or knitting. The resulting fabric does have a tendency to curl – but this can easily be rectified by blocking.
There are hundreds of different stitches – but to start with, you need to learn the basic stitch, known as the Tunisian simple stitch.
Work starts, as with conventional crochet, with a foundation or working chain. The number of foundation chains corresponds exactly with the number of stitches in a row: you do not need to add any extra chains for turning.
Let’s get started – what do you need for Tunisian crochet?
To try Tunisian crochet for yourself, you will need a hook. A regular crochet hook is, typically, about 15cm long, with a straight, round shaft and a hook at one end. Most modern crochet hooks have a slightly flattened area in the centre, an indentation of sorts, which most crocheters use as a thumb rest.
A Tunisian crochet hook is longer and straight, with no indentation. It has a hook on one end but on the other end you will find a stopper, to help stop the stitches sliding off.
There are other types of Tunisian hook, some with a hook at each end of the shaft and some, for working in the round, consisting of two hooks joined by a flexible cable, although we won't be using these in this beginners’ guide.
Tunisian hooks are easily available to buy from yarn suppliers, either in person or online. But when trying Tunisian crochet for the first time, the good news is that you don’t have to buy a special hook: you can make a small swatch using a regular crochet hook, to find out if you like the technique before committing yourself to a special purchase.
In the examples shown here, we’ve used a 3.5mm hook and a 4-ply cotton yarn.
How to do Tunisian simple stitch step-by-step in pictures
Getting started with basic Tunisian Crochet stitches
1 Make a slip knot and place it on the hook.
2 Make the desired number of chains: remember that this number is the same as the number of stitches in subsequent rows. In this sample swatch, you will start with 15 chains.
In this photo, you can see that the right side of the chain is at the top, nearest the hook. Where it is twisted, you can see the wrong side, towards the bottom end.
Tunisian crochet: making your first row
1 The first row is a preparation row and will not be repeated. It forms the basis for the following rows. You will be working from right to left along the foundation chain but, unlike regular crochet where you work along the top of the right side of the chain, you will need to flip the chain over so the back is facing you. Insert your hook into the top of the second chain from the hook.
2 Wrap the yarn around the hook.
3 Pull the hook through to the front, the loop forms the second stitch; leave it on the hook.
4 Repeat the process. Insert the hook into the top of the next chain, loop the yarn around the hook and pull through. Leave this loop of yarn on the hook, to form the third stitch.
5 Repeat the process until you reach the end of the row. You will end up with 15 loops on the hook: the same number as the number of chains.
6 You have completed half of the preparation row; the next stage is to return to the beginning of the row. Wrap the yarn around the hook.
7 Now pull through the first two stitches on the hook.
8 You have essentially cast off a stitch, a bit like you would do in knitting. There will be one less stitch on the hook: 14 instead of 15, in this case.
9 Now cast off the next stitch. Wrap the yarn around the hook again, as you did in step 9.
10 Pull through the next two stitches on the hook.
11 Once again, the stitches on the hook will be reduced by one.
12 Continue like this until there is only one loop left on the hook. This is what the work looks like after completing the first row.
Tunisian crochet: how to work the forward pass
1 Now work the first forward pass. It will be done in a similar way to the preparation row, working from right to left but this time, instead of working into the foundation chains, you will be inserting the hook under the vertical bars formed in the previous row. Start by passing the hook from right to left under the second vertical bar, leaving the first unworked.
This photo shows a little more clearly how to locate the first vertical bar.
2 Wrap the yarn around the hook and pull the hook back through; there will then be two loops on the hook.
3 Insert the hook under the next vertical bar.
4 Wrap the yarn around the hook and pull through; there will then be three loops on the hook.
5 Continue in this way along the row, inserting the hook under the vertical bars, in turn, until you reach the second-to-last bar. You will have 14 stitches on the hook. For the last stitch, insert the hook under two loops, locating these loops by turning the work slightly so that you can see the side edge. This creates a nice neat edge to the fabric.
6 Wrap the yarn round the hook and pull through these two loops; in this way you will have completed the last stitch and you will have the correct number of stitches on the hook. You are ready for the return pass.
Tunisian crochet: how to work the return pass
1 Wrap the yarn around the hook and pull through the first two loops on the hook.
2 Just as you casted off earlier on, you will be casting off the first stitch and the stitch count will be reduced by one.
Tunisian crochet: working your rows
1 Continue working in rows, remembering that one row consists of a forward pass, working from right to left, where you are creating stitches and adding them to the hook; and a return pass, where you cast off these stitches. This photo shows the work with four further rows having been completed.
This is what the fabric looks like on the reverse at this stage. You can see that the right and wrong sides look very different from each other.
2 Continue working in rows, until the swatch is the desired length. Here, following the last step, a further seven rows have been worked. You can clearly see how the fabric has a tendency to curl. This is typical of Tunisian crochet.
Tunisian crochet: casting off
1 Once the fabric is the desired length, you will need to cast off, something you usually do with knitting rather than crochet. Start by inserting the hook under the second vertical bar, as you would do at the beginning of a forward pass.
2 Wrap the yarn around the hook and pull through both stitches on the hook.
3 This will leave one stitch on the hook.
4 Continue like this along the row, inserting the hook under the next vertical bar, wrapping the yarn round the hook and pulling it through both loops, leaving a single loop on the hook each time.
5 The casting-off process produces a nice neat edge to the work. Once you have completed the cast-off edge, cut the yarn and thread the tail through the last loop to fasten off.
6 Because of its tendency to curl, you may wish to block the finished piece. This will help it to lie flat. A good way to do this is to wet the fabric, pull it gently into shape, and pin it to a towel placed on a flat surface. Leave it to dry completely and it will dry flat and ready to use.
Now you’ve mastered how to make a square swatch using Tunisian crochet you can work on bigger projects like making a blanket or scarf. Keep an eye out for free crochet patterns.
Want to learn how to crochet? Check out our beginner's guide.
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