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Learn how to Tunisian crochet with this comprehensive beginner’s guide. Whether you’re trying Tunisian crochet for the first time or just need a little refresher, this article will cover everything you need to know to get started.
Tunisian crochet, sometimes called Afghan crochet, is a unique fiber craft that shares similarities with both knitting and crochet. Like crochet, it uses a long crochet hook. And, like knitting, it involves working with multiple stitches at a time.
When to Use Tunisian Crochet
Tunisian crochet creates a textured fabric that’s quite dense, making it an ideal choice for projects like warm blankets, winter garments, and home projects. The fabric is thicker and less stretchy than traditional crochet or knitting. Here are some other qualities of Tunisian crochet:
- Speed. Tunisian crochet tends to be a little faster than traditional crochet, and quite a bit faster than knitting.
- Yarn Use. Tunisian crochet uses slightly more yarn than standard crochet and considerably more than knitting.
- Bias. Don’t be surprised if your Tunisian crochet fabric starts to curl. It’s a natural result of always working from the right side of the fabric. Later in this article, we’ll cover some easy ways to reduce this curling.
Getting Started with Tunisian Crochet
Let’s talk about the characteristics of Tunisian crochet.
Tools of the Trade
Tunisian crochet uses a longer version of a regular crochet hook, with a stopper at the end. A typical hook is 10-14 inches long and is designed to accommodate a whole row of stitches at once, much like a knitting needle.
One Row = Two Passes
Each row of Tunisian crochet is worked in two passes.
- Forward pass (FwP). First, you’ll work from right to left across the row, adding loops to your hook. This is sometimes called “picking up stitches.”
- Return pass (RetP). Then, without turning your work, you’ll work from back down the row, from left to right, removing the loops on the hook.
The forward pass and return pass together are counted as one row.
Right Side Faces You
Interestingly, in Tunisian crochet, you’ll always work with the “right side” (RS) of your project facing you. This differs from regular crochet and knitting, where you usually turn your work at the end of a row.
Can beginners learn Tunisian crochet?
Tunisian crochet may seem intimidating at first. But don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think.
If you already know how to crochet, you’ll find Tunisian crochet comes naturally. You already know how to hold the hook and make chain stitches; now, it’s about learning where to insert your hook and familiarizing yourself with the stitches.
Supplies for Tunisian Crochet
Let’s go over the basic supplies you’ll need.
Tunisian crochet uses a longer version of a regular crochet hook, typically 10-14 inches long. You might see them labeled as Afghan hooks – but you can use them for much more than just blankets!
Some hooks are long and straight with a fixed stopper at the end (similar to a straight knitting needle). And some hooks have a flexible cable attached to the end to accommodate a greater number of stitches. You can even find sets of interchangeable hooks, too.
Tunisian crochet hooks come in a variety of materials, from aluminum to plastic, wood, or bamboo. And just like regular hooks and needles, Tunisian crochet hooks come in a range of sizes from E/4 (3.5mm) to N/15 (10mm) and beyond.
Choosing the right Tunisian hook for your project
In most cases, you’ll want to choose a hook size two sizes larger than the hook size recommended on the yarn label. This is because Tunisian crochet fabric tends to be quite dense, and the larger hook helps improve the drape and flexibility of the fabric (and reduces curling too!).
Use a straight hook for narrower projects like scarves, and cabled hooks for wider projects like blankets.
Next, let’s talk about yarn. There’s a whole universe of yarn out there – and most of it will work just fine for Tunisian crochet. But as a beginner, you want to start with something user-friendly. We recommend a medium-weight yarn with a smooth texture. Try to avoid anything too slippery or fuzzy, as it makes the learning process more challenging.
How to Tunisian Crochet
In this section, we’ll walk you through making your very first swatch of Tunisian crochet. First, we’ll crochet a starting chain, then the foundation row. Then, we’ll discuss where to insert your hook and how to work the last row to finish your work.
Like regular crochet, Tunisian crochet begins with a simple slip knot and a row of chain stitches. Try to crochet the starting chain loosely so that it matches the width of the following rows. If you have trouble crocheting a loose starting chain, you can use a slightly larger hook.
- Crochet a starting chain, one chain for each stitch in your swatch.
Now that we have the starting chain, we’ll crochet the foundation row. This is sometimes called the “cast on row.” The foundation row is unique to Tunisian crochet and forms the base of your project.
And like all other rows in Tunisian crochet, the foundation row is composed of a forward and return pass. First, we’ll work into the starting chain to add loops to the hook. Then, we’ll work back down the row, removing loops from the hook.
- Insert your hook into the second chain from the hook. (You can insert the hook under the back loop of the chain or the “bump” on the back of the chain – your preference.)
- Yarn over and pull up a loop. Leave that loop on your hook.
- Repeat in each chain across the row.
- At the end of the row, do not turn the work. Yarn over and pull through one loop on the hook. (This is the end chain, and you can think of it like the turning chain from regular crochet.)
- Yarn over again and draw through two loops on the hook.
- Repeat Step 2 across the row until only one loop is left on the hook.
The loop left on your hook at the end of the return pass becomes the first stitch of the next row.
Now we’re ready to start our next row of stitches. Let’s look at the different parts of a stitch and the many places you can pick up stitches.
When you look closely at a row of Tunisian crochet, you’ll see strands of yarn running in both the vertical and horizontal directions. The two vertical bars – front and back – are created when you pick up stitches on the forward pass. The two horizontal bars – top and bottom – are created when you work the return pass.
- The Front Bar is a vertical strand that lies to the left of the stitch, toward the front of the work.
- The Back Bar is a vertical strand that lies to the right of the Front Bar, toward the back of the work.
- The Top Bar is a horizontal strand at the top of the stitch.
- The Bottom Bar is a horizontal strand just under the Top Bar.
Where to Insert Your Hook
Here are some of the places you can insert your hook to pick up stitches.
- under the front or back vertical bars
- between the front and back bars
- in the space between two adjacent pairs of vertical bars
- under one or two of the horizontal bars
Each way of picking up stitches creates a different fabric with a different texture and name.
Working the First Stitch of the Row
The loop remaining on the hook at the end of the previous return pass counts as the first stitch of the following forward pass.
So, to make the next stitch, you’ll skip the vertical strands at the edge of the work, and insert your hook into the second set of vertical strands from the row below.
Working the Last Stitch of the Row
To make the last stitch of the forward pass, insert the hook through both the front and back vertical strands on the outside edge of the work.
The last step is to finish the last row of your work. This is sometimes called “binding off.” In most cases, you’ll work a row of Tunisian Slip Stitch as the finishing row.
Working Tunisian Slip Stitch (Tslst) is similar to working slip stitches in regular crochet.
- To work the forward pass in Tslst, insert the hook as your pattern indicates. Yarn over and pull through both loops on the hook. Continue across the row.
- There is no return pass in Tslst, since you’ll work all the stitches during the forward pass.
Tip: Work the finishing row a bit loosely so that it matches the width of the fabric below.
Basic Tunisian Crochet Stitches
Once you’re comfortable with the basic techniques, you’re ready to learn some stitches. Each stitch has a different texture, created by inserting your hook in a different place.
Tunisian Simple Stitch (Tss): This basic stitch has a pretty woven texture and a nice drape, especially when worked with a larger crochet hook.
- To work the forward pass in Tss, insert the hook from right to left under the front vertical bar.
- To work the return pass in Tss, work the basic return pass.
Tunisian Knit Stitch (Tks): This unique stitch gives your fabric a knit-like appearance. It creates a thicker fabric.
- To work the forward pass in Tks, insert the hook from front to back between the front and back vertical bars.
- To work the return pass in Tks, work the basic return pass.
Tunisian Purl Stitch (Tps): The Tunisian purl stitch has a bumpy texture, similar to purl stitches in knitting. It’s often used to add a contrasting border in Tunisian crochet projects.
- Hold the yarn to the front of the work.
- To work the forward pass in Tps, insert the hook from right to left under the front vertical bar.
- To work the return pass in Tks, work the basic return pass.
Tunisian Full Stitch (Tfs): This stitch creates a beautiful woven texture, perfect for cozy blankets and cushion covers.
- To work the forward pass in Tfs, insert the hook under the horizontal bar between the two adjacent pairs of vertical bars.
- To work the return pass in Tfs, work the basic return pass.
For Tunisian Full Stitch, it’s important to stagger the placement of the stitches to maintain straight sides and an even stitch count. Look for an upcoming tutorial that explains this stitch in more detail.
More Tunisian Crochet Stitches
When you’re ready to learn more, Tunisian crochet has a ton of advanced stitches for you to explore. These include:
These stitches are similar to those in regular crochet, except that you keep the last loop of the stitch on the hook. When making these stitches, you can insert the hook as if you were making Tss, Tks, Tps, or whatever stitch your pattern indicates.
Tunisian Double Crochet (Tdc): Yarn over, insert the hook and draw up a loop, yarn over and pull through two loops, leave the remaining loop on the hook.
Tunisian Treble Crochet (Tdc): Yarn over twice, insert the hook and draw up a loop, yarn over and pull through two loops, yarn over and pull through two loops again, leave the remaining loop on the hook.
Here are some more stitches with beautiful textures.
Tunisian Reverse Stitch: This stitch has a bumpy texture similar to Tunisian purl stitch, but it’s worked from the back.
Tunisian Honeycomb Stitch: This stitch creates a delightful honeycomb texture. It’s made with the Tunisian Simple Stitch with the Tunisian Purl Stitch.
Tunisian Smock Stitch: This stitch has a really cool texture that’s similar to the Tunisian Honeycomb stitch. But, it’s a two-row variation made with Tunisian Simple Stitch.
Tunisian Crochet Entrelac: This technique involves working in small interconnected squares or rectangles, creating a woven or patchwork-like appearance.
Bobbles and Puffs
You can make bobbles and puff stitches in Tunisian crochet, just like you do in regular crochet. To start, insert your hook as if you were making Tss, Tks, Tps, or whatever stitch your pattern indicates. Then, finish by leaving one loop on the hook.
For even more stitch ideas, check out our article on 30 Tunisian Crochet Stitches and Tutorials.
How to Increase and Decrease in Tunisian Crochet
You can increase stitches in the middle of a row, or add stitches at the beginning or end of a row.
To decrease stitches, you’ll work two stitches together on either the forward or return passes.
Look for an upcoming tutorial about the many ways to increase and decrease in Tunisian crochet.
How to Work Tunisian Crochet in the Round
When working Tunisian crochet in the round, you will need a double-ended crochet hook. You can find straight double-ended needles and circular double-ended needles.
- Straight double-ended crochet hooks look like knitting needles, but with the head of a crochet hook on either end.
- Circular double-ended crochet hooks have a short crochet hook on each end, with a cord connecting them in the middle.
How to Change Color in Tunisian Crochet
Changing yarn in Tunisian crochet is similar to changing yarn in regular crochet. Add the new yarn during the last yarn-over of the stitch, and continue with the new color.
Beginner Tunisian Crochet Projects to Try
Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet with Tunisian stitches, it’s time to bring it all together in your first project. I recommend starting simple with a project that allows you to focus on technique, rather than an intricate design. A warm, cozy scarf or a practical dishcloth are great options. Check out these for your next project:
You can find even more beginner-friendly crochet patterns to inspire your next Tunisian crochet project here: 27 Beginner-Friendly Tunisian Crochet Patterns.
Tunisian Crochet FAQs
Before we wrap up, let’s answer some common questions.
Is Tunisian crochet too difficult for beginners?
Absolutely not! Like any new skill, it takes some getting used to, but it’s not inherently more challenging than regular crochet.
Is Tunisian crochet the same as Afghan crochet?
Yes, they are two names for the same technique. You may also see Tunisian crochet called Shepherd’s Knitting, Railroad Knitting, and Cro-hooking.
Can I use a regular crochet hook for Tunisian crochet?
Yes, you can technically use a regular crochet hook for Tunisian crochet. And in fact, It’s a great way to try this technique without spending money on dedicated tools.
If you want to try a regular crochet hook for Tunisian crochet, pick a hook with a straight shaft (no bulky thumb grips or ergonomic handles). But remember, since regular hooks are much shorter than Tunisian hooks, you’ll be limited by the number of stitches you can fit on the needle.
Can I use any yarn for Tunisian crochet?
Yes, almost yarn can be used for Tunisian crochet, as long as you have the correct size hook. For most Tunisian stitches, you’ll want a hook that’s two sizes larger than you’d typically use.
Try making a test swatch with the yarn and hook you want to use so you can evaluate its finished look, drape, and texture.
Is Tunisian crochet faster than regular crochet?
Depending on your personal skill level, Tunisian crochet can be a little faster to work than regular crochet. It’s also quicker than knitting.
Help! The first stitch is too loose.
It’s easy for the first stitch of the row to look a little loose. If that’s happening to you, try tightening up the first stitch before crocheting the second stitch.
Help! The last stitch is too tight.
If the last stitch of the row looks too tight, work the first stitch of the return pass a little more loosely.
Why is my Tunisian crochet swatch curling?
Most Tunisian crochet stitches are prone to curling. Don’t worry; you’re probably not doing anything wrong. Curling is a natural result of always working from the same side.
If you’d like to reduce the curling, here are some things you can try: using a larger hook size, keeping your tension loose, and blocking your finished project. You can also add a border in a stitch that is not prone to curling, like Tunisian Purl Stitch.
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Sarah Stearns has helped millions of makers find their next craft project with free patterns and step-by-step tutorials on her blog, sarahmaker.com. Read more.
With over a decade of experience in knitting and crochet, she has been featured in prominent publications like The New York Times, Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, and Lifehacker.