WIPs 'N Chains

Kim Guzman, Crochet and Knit Design

Writing Tunisian Crochet Patterns


Writing Tunisian crochet patterns is very similar to writing knitting patterns. If you’re familiar with knitting patterns, it will come naturally. Due to the evolution of Tunisian crochet, I’ve found that there are some things that I wish I’d never done in my older books. Once you write something down in a certain way and it’s published, it’s very hard to get something written differently in later publications. Things seem to stick, especially when you are the first to come up with different techniques or ideas. I had already had several books written before I discovered that some things are going to have to change.

So, here are some things that come to mind due to the evolution of Tunisian crochet and how I’d like to fix them. In other words, if I had known then what I know now, I would have done things differently.

Typical Closing

When you’re working in Tunisian crochet, you have a typical closing, also called a return pass. Here is the typical return pass:

Yarn over and pull through one loop on hook, [yarn over and pull through two loops on hook] across.

This has got to change. That first instruction of “yarn over and pull through one loop on hook” is the culprit. What happens when you have to do that two or sometimes three times in lace stitch patterns? Here, let me show you.

[Yarn over and pull through one loop on hook] 3 times, yarn over and pull through 4 loops on hook,…

Now when you get to the next row, how do you specify where to stitch the last stitch? Do you say “insert hook in first yarn-over-and-pull-through-one-loop-on-hook?” That’s crazy speak.

Here is how I have resolved it. A yarn-over-and-pull-through-one-loop-on-hook is a CHAIN! Think about it. Yarn over and pull through one loop. Yep, that’s a chain!

Now, if we use this instruction, we can easily designate the next row as stitching into the first, second or third chain.

Chain 3, yarn over and pull through 4 loops on hook,…

Definitely, I’d like to see this idea start to stick in Tunisian crochet patterns. The Tunisian crochet evolution requires it.

Right-Hand Specific

Do you know how many left-handed people think that it’s impossible for someone to do Tunisian crochet because they’re left-handed? And, this is why:

Insert hook from right-to-left under the front vertical bar, yarn over and pull a loop through.

My preferred method is to say:

Insert hook from side-to-side under the front vertical bar, yarn over and pull a loop through.

There, fixed. It can be defined even further by saying:

Right-to-left for right-handers and left-to-right for left-handers.

Make 1

In one of my books, I defined a Make 1 as follows:

Insert hook from front-to-back of your work under the yarn over from the previous row.

I did this for one reason only. It was to distinguish the yarn over from the other stitches. You’re actually making a Tunisian knit stitch, but the stitch below looks a little different and sometimes the bars are hard to see. So, in an effort to distinguish it from other stitches, I called it something different.

This came back to haunt me when I did my Tunisian Stitch Guide because, in the stitch guide, the symbol is a Tunisian knit stitch…. because it IS a Tunisian knit stitch and has been all along. My effort to make things easier may not have been such a swell idea.

Abbreviations in All Caps

Is it necessary? Certainly not. You can capitalize the letters if you want, or not.

Row 3: Skip first vertical bar, TKS across…

is the same thing as

Row 3: Skip first vertical bar, tks across…

Skip First Vertical Bar

The typical Tunisian crochet row starts by skipping the first vertical bar… on every single row. There are exceptions, of course. But, this is typical. If you don’t want to write it every single time, that’s fine. Just put it up in the pattern notes that you will skip the first vertical bar of every row. It saves space and headaches down the road should you forget to write it every. single. time.

Typical Closing

You have a typical closing for most rows of Tunisian crochet. It is described up there in the top of this post. If you don’t want to write it every single time, define it in the pattern notes. Just say that the typical closing is “Chain 1, [yarn over and pull through 2 loops on hook] across, until 1 loop remains on hook”. There, you’ve said it in the pattern notes. When you get to the instructions, you can now say “close normally.”

Again, this is the typical closing. If you’re working with a variety of closings in the same pattern, such as intricate lace, you can’t do this. But, you certainly can do this with most patterns.

Turning Your Work

Stop telling people that, in Tunisian crochet, you never turn your work. I’ve already busted that myth with this project from Crochet World, October 2009.

And, besides, you *do* turn your work with double-ended Tunisian crochet, so it’s best to just stop passing around that rumor, right?


These are just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more, but they’re not coming to me right now. If I think of any more, I’ll be sure to add them for you later. I just really wish that I had known then what I know now. I had no idea when I first started writing these patterns almost 15 years’ ago that we would need changes. It’s going to be really hard for me to convince the new publications that a change is necessary.

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Author: crochetkim

Artist: Crochet and Knit Pattern Designer

17 thoughts on “Writing Tunisian Crochet Patterns

  1. Thank you so much – this is a really important and useful post!

  2. so, would having us write in to the publishers that the changes make more sense help? ;-)

  3. I love that you addressed this topic and I wholeheartedly agree with all your changes, especially the ch 1. Thank you, Kim! Keep up the good work.

  4. Thanks for this post. Being a left handed person who turns their work whenever the urge strikes, it is nice to hear these sentiments echoed in your blog.

  5. Such a great, informative post, Kim. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Have you ever considered self publishing? Then you have complete creative control and also all the profits. It can’t be that much harder than the single patterns these days, especially for ebooks. I don’t know where most of your sales are from, but I found you on Ravelry and also follow this blog of course. But then maybe more of your sales are from stores, which is harder for self published books I think. Just a thought.

  7. I love this post and also agree whole-heartedly. I think that knotrune is right-on with the idea about self-publishing. You are such a maverick in the crochet field that I would think that this foray into a more lucrative and efficient way of presenting your patterns would be right up your alley.

  8. Thanks!
    That “chain” substitution makes it so much easier to follow.

    Plus as a picker,
    the constant references to YOs always made me scratch my head.

  9. I love all of these ideas, especially the make-1, because I get confused when instructions seem to be describing something I already know how to do. Then I wonder, is this a tks? If it’s not a tks, what’s different about it? I think you should still keep the detailed instructions, because they do clarify a unique situation. But a little note acknowledging that it is, in fact, a tks, will help a lot of people. (A few months ago, I nearly lost my mind over a knit stitch pattern that seemed insanely complicated… until I realized that the lengthy instructions were only describing yarn-overs and k2togs!)

    Anyway, there are three Tunisian crochet things I’ve encountered recently online (not in your books) that could cause confusion. All three of them could be prevented with good illustrations, but good illustrations aren’t always convenient for someone writing a pattern, and there is value in being able to explain something with words alone. In fact, some of the notes I’ve taken myself over the years are nearly useless because of the way I wrote things down:

    1. “Top horizontal loop” (or strand or thread or yarn) is too vague. So is “front horizontal loop”. (So was the graphic provided in the book, where the arrow pointed in the general direction of the entire horizontal chain.) Depending on how people hold/look at their work and whether they consider “top” to be relative to their work or relative to the ceiling, the top (or front) horizontal loop could be the one on the right side of your work on the underside of the chain, or it could be the back hump of the chain, which I sort of think of as the middle, but nobody seems to call it that.

    It actually doesn’t matter what you call it, though, if you have very clearly identified each one and given it a name, and then use the name consistently. Unfortunately, the (very popular) book I was looking at did not. What would have been helpful would be a diagram at the front of the book identifying each of the three strands of a horizontal chain.

    2. “Space between the vertical bars” – is this the space between TWO stitches, or is it the space between the two vertical bars of the SAME stitch? If I have to guess, odds are I’ll guess wrong.

    3. You should probably ALWAYS be specific about which “side-to-side” you are inserting the hook – even if you only say it once, when you’re describing how to do the stitch. It is not safe to assume that the hook is going right-to-left, away from you, in the direction of your work, or however you want to say it, for every type of stitch. Alternately, you could just establish that MOST stitches are done in the one direction, and then refer to the other way as “in the opposite direction.”

    • I’m going to have to give some serious thought to how to best describe the three bars of the horizontal chain. So far, I’ve been describing it as a chain, which seems to work well. But, that chain sometimes turns in the work. What may be a top horizontal bar in one stitch could be a back horizontal bar in the next just because the chain flipped a bit. I will continue to give it more thought.

      • I’ve been struggling with this over at:

        This is a work in progress and needs another revision, now that I realize the direction of the YO is important in some stitches.

        I gained a lot of clarity here when I started naming the yarn “bars” separately from the “strokes” (which are how the hook pokes through the fabric).

        If you find other names that you’d prefer, I’d be delighted to revise this page yet again.

      • Since I am using the Japanese symbols, I’m going to have to describe the horizontal bar loops in the same method of a chain. The horizontal bar is actually a chain, sitting sideways. It will be noted as an oval, with a vertical line to distinguish between the bars.

        This symbol designates the horizontal bar which you have as “top knot”.

        Tunisian Crochet Symbol

        This symbol designates the chain, as flattened and what you have as front horizontal bar.

        Tunisian Crochet Symbol

        I have no idea how these bars will be named through the evolution process. But, at least I have the symbols now. I just really wish I could come to a decision about how to draw the symbol for the Modified Tunisian Simple Stitch which we both love; the one that inserts as for simple stitch but also inserts for that second symbol.

        (So far, I’ve not had a need for the other horizontal bar and haven’t used it in my symbol charts.)

  10. Kim,
    All wonderful information. It just makes since! Thank you for sharing.

  11. Kim, those symbols are way cool!

    Will they be appearing in your Stitches book?

    • Yes, these are part of the symbol directory which I used to make the charts. I drew hundreds of these little guys when I wrote the book. :-)

  12. Would like directions for the afghan above. Thanks

    • The afghan pattern is available in the Crochet World magazine mentioned from five years’ ago. It’s going to be hard-to-find. You may be able to find it on auction sites like eBay. Alternatively, you can get 10 years of back issues of this magazine on DVD here:


      Obviously, that’s quite a commitment if you want only one pattern. But, it is the only readily-available way I know to get the pattern.

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