What is Tunisian Crochet?

As an avid knitter and crocheter I use both techniques fairly regularly.  I find crochet as equally satisfying as knitting. I love to switch to a crochet project after a knitting project and vice versa.

About 5 years ago on the Puget Sound Local Yarn Shop Tour (aka my Christmas) I stumbled upon Tunisian crochet.  The shop, for the tour that year, had a Tunisian crochet project as their free pattern give away. It was super cute cowl that had buttons and multiple ways to button and wear the cowl.  My friend, Anne, and I were both instantly drawn to it but hesitant about such an unfamiliar technique. In the shop we saw a short demonstration, bought Tunisian crochet hooks (brilliant way to get us to spend more money), and chose our favorite colorway.

The project was a success for both of us and we have both gone on to complete other Tunisian crochet projects.  You could say we were “hooked” (get it?…).  

So, what is Tunisian crochet? 

Tunisian Crochet is known as many things including, tricot crochet, hook knitting, railroad knitting, shepherds knitting, and afghan crochet.  It is often described as a mix between knitting and crochet. Tunisian crochet uses a long hook, or a shorter hook with a cable, to accommodate extra stitches not typically found in traditional crochet.  

The set-up, just like most of traditional crochet, uses chain stitch for the number of stitches being worked in the piece.  At the heart of this technique is a forward pass and a return pass. The forward pass is worked in the row below, either the beginning chain or the vertical bar from the last row of stitches.  The return pass take the loops off the hook by yarning over and pulling through (typically) two loops, more if you are decreasing. 

When doing Tunisian crochet the fabric is never turned.  The fabric created is less elastic and thicker than regular crochet (but I don’t think drastically so).  The fabric is firm but flexible. Unlike crochet and knitting the stitches in Tunisian crochet are linked horizontally and vertically.  

Is Tunisian crochet really Tunisian and when did it first appear?

From all of the reading I could get my hands on, there is no evidence that Tunisian crochet came from Tunisia.  The origins are murky with some scholars differing in their opinion on what region of the world may have had the most impact on the craft.  

I also could not find an exact date or estimate for when the technique was first created and widely used.  According to my reading, there are no Tunisian crochet samples that have been found that pre-date the 12th century.  It is known that instructions for Tunisian Crochet first appeared in Europe around the same time as standard crochet in the middle of the 19th century.

Like other forms of needle arts Tunisian crochet has ebbed and flowed in popularity.  I have seen a small resurgence in the popularity of Tunisian crochet since I first learned the technique about 5 years ago, but that could be due to my awareness of such a technique.  

Tunisian crochet is very relaxing and simple to work.  Almost every time I come across a pattern that uses the stitch I am immediately inspired to complete it.  If you are looking for something new to try in the world of knitting or crochet I would recommend Tunisian crochet.  Even if you are not a crocheter it is different enough from traditional crochet that you will love it!        

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