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How to Emboss Tunisian Return Stitches (Free Pattern)

Six swatches of embossed Tunisian color work method: stars with longer spokes and in a range of yarn thicknesses and fibers; also examples of embossed horizontal bars left ungrouped into stars.

Today I’ll show you how to “emboss” Tunisian return pass crochet stitches step by step. The complete pattern for the blanket square is also included below. The background stitches are Tunisian extended simple stitches (TES). The starry groups are extended Tunisian Yarn Overs (TYO) in contrasting colors.

My 12-inch square for Knitter Knotter’s 2021 Tunisian Blanket Crochet-Along (CAL) features this novel color work method for Tunisian Crochet. The finished 12″ square is the one on the far left in the image above.

About the 2021 Tunisian Square CAL

I love how the CAL is going! Host Arunima Goel has created a fun way for designers to contribute a square, and for crocheters to experience new Tunisian stitches. My square is #18. By the end of 2021 there’ll be 24 fresh and free intermediate-level 12″ square patterns.

Plush, chunky scarf texture from basic Tunisian Crochet stitch and a high-end yarn.

Are you a Tunisian Crochet beginner? Or just need a quick review?

This Colorwork Method

I seem to have stumbled upon a way to get a fully raised texture horizontally, and in a contrasting color. And, no lacy holes!

I wanted to test the usefulness of extending Tunisian Yarn Over (TYO) groups. Sometimes a group of several TYO can get loose and loopy, just like the yarn overs of really tall stitches tend to do in regular crochet. Extending tall stitches by adding a chain here and there while making them helps use up that slack. (For some alternatives to extending, see How to Fix Loose Loops of Tall Stitches.)

Embossing return stitches has potential.

  • As a return-pass-based color work method it can be combined with existing Tunisian Mosaic, and especially Overlay methods. These are forward-pass-based methods that do fancy things vertically, with tall stitches. The possibilities boggle!
  • Make other embossed shapes. Once you learn how to emboss Tunisian return stitches, you can make other shapes besides the starry groups you see here. Arrange horizontal bars in patterns. Make some longer or shorter. Modify the stars to have spokes in different lengths or amounts.
  • As a fabric, it’s self-reinforcing yet lean and flexible. This is mainly thanks to the Tunisian Extended Simple Stitch (TES). If you’ve followed my newsletters and Tunisian classes over the years, you know I’m a big fan of extending Tunisian stitches. Normally TES fabric would be too thin or lacy for a blanket square. This is where the embossed rows come in.

How to Emboss Tunisian the Easy Way

For your first try, pick two colors and alternate them for each row: a main color (MC) for the background, and a contrast color (CC) for the raised embossed stitches. The colors will help you see where to put each next stitch.

Follow the practice swatch; it’s just twelve rows of ten stitches each. The instructions also explain the why’s, and pattern abbreviations as they come up.

Continue reading How to Emboss Tunisian Return Stitches (Free Pattern)
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V-O-T-E Early and Often with Crochet

Crocheted letters V-O-T-E against sunrise-colored crochet background
View the image above full size.

Last week I used a new Tunisian crochet stitch to swatch up a few letters of the alphabet. You can see four of the letters above. (The background is something I crocheted for the kitchen years ago.) Just look at what I can spell! I also made an ‘L’ to spell LOVE. I’ll explain how to do the cool Tunisian stitch below.

Eight-Color Poster

Tunisian crochet letters spell V-O-T-E against a rainbow aran crochet background.
It came out to approx. 12″ x 14″. View full size in Ravelry.

I’m working on a newsletter issue (#95!) about COLOR. It gave me the idea to crochet a “poster” background for the letters using as many of my Lotus yarn colors as possible.

Does the stitch pattern of the background look familiar? Maybe not—it’s rarely done with color changes. (Not sure I’ve ever seen it in more than one color. I think it’s traditionally thought of as an Aran crochet texture in off-white wool.)

I used this stitch pattern for the Chainmaille scarf, in just one color. The shiny alpaca-tencel yarn gives it a very different look!

Chainmaille: Free for October

Add the Chainmaille pattern to your cart then use the code free-poster-stitch.

For the poster, just use four pattern repeats of the Chainmaille scarf. For the flatter middle section where the letters go, I did the [ch 1, skip next ch-space, sc] part of the stitch pattern across each row for about 18 rows, then resumed the Chainmaille pattern again. Use a shallow single crochet instead of a regular single crochet if you know how. (Keeps the background a bit denser.)

 The Tunisian Stitch I’m Excited About!

I don’t know what else to call it but a shallow extended knit stitch.

First you must do a row of Tunisian Extended Stitch (ExtTSS or as I much prefer to call it, TES). It’s how you crochet the next row into them that turns them into shallow extended knit stitches.

For the alphabet letters I did just one row of TES into the foundation chains: skip the chain nearest your hook, insert your hook under the bump loop of the next chain, yarn over and pull up loop; at this point you’d leave it on your hook for a TSS. Chain 1 and it becomes a TES. To continue, [insert hook under the bump loop of the next chain, yarn over and pull up loop, chain 1] in each remaining chain of the row.

Standard return pass: chain 1, then [yarn over and pull through next two loops on hook] until one loop remains on the hook.

Have a look at your TES row. Compare them to TSS. The chain-1 you added to each TSS doubles its height and adds a horizontal loop on the back of the stitch. See it? See how it resembles the horizontal loop on the back of a single crochet stitch? (See this blog post about that “third loop”.)

Close up of how to crochet a shallow Tunisian extended knit stitch.
This is the front of an extended Tunisian stitch. (This one is an extended knit stitch: a TEKS.) If your hook went where the red arrow points—between the front and back vertical bars—you’d make a TEKS. Insert the hook where the yellow arrow points and it becomes a SHALLOW TEKS.

To do a row of shallow extended knit stitch: chain 1 to begin the row (count as first stitch), *insert hook knitwise (between the front and back vertical bars) and under the lower horizontal “bump” loop (as seen on the back) of the next stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, chain 1. Repeat from * in each remaining stitch of the row.

Return pass is the same.

As with all occasions when you’re crocheting shallow stitches, the looser your gauge is, the easier it is to pick up speed crocheting them.

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Rosebud Argyle Color Pooling Stitch

Moss Stitch (linen, granite, seed stitch) modified for longer crochet thread color sequences.
Size 10 variegated Lizbeth cotton thread, color #10-104 Spring Garden. I created a “Color Eater” variation of the moss stitch for it. Row by row pattern below.
View hi-res size.

 

Have you seen the planned color pooling crocheters are doing to get a cool argyle or plaid look with variegated afghan yarns? You can use lots of different stitches for this, but the height of single crochets (sc, or in UK/AUS: dc) is great, especially with moss stitch (a.k.a. linen, granite, seed stitch).

Planned Pooling with Cotton Thread

I pooled the colors of a size 10 crochet thread into an argyle and “Rosebud Argyle” is the result. It’s 3.5″ x 3.5″ and dense because I used a color-gobbling stitch pattern, so I added a border and turned it into a “mug mat” (coaster). I’ll be bringing it to the Creative Planned Color Pooling class.

If I had used the classic moss stitch pattern of [sc in next ch-space, skip next sc, ch 1], my swatch would have come out more than double that size: over 7″ x 7″ (I ripped it out before measuring exactly how much smaller it is with my stitch variation).

Even the 3.5″ size is bigger than I expected! My original goal was only 1″ or 2″. New lesson learned: the color changes in variegated thread look short until you start crocheting with it. The stitches just don’t take up much thread.

Stitches Change the Color Width

I really wanted the experience (and general look) of a moss stitch pooled argyle, so I needed to substitute with stitches that eat up a lot more thread. Why? The length of each color in a variegated thread or yarn is fixed. When the colors repeat, their sequence is also fixed. The total length of one whole sequence is your fixed width. The way you alter this fixed width is with the stitches you use. (There are other options but not for this post.)

Each row of moss stitch is [sc in next chain-space, skip next sc, ch 1]. With each new row, the sc’s are over the ch’s and the ch’s are over the sc’s. It is common to use half double crochets (hdc, or UK/AUS: htr) instead of sc. I haven’t seen much of it lately, though. I hope crocheters are feeling free to alter the moss stitch, especially if you’re doing planned pooling.

Below I’ve written up the stitch pattern instructions for my color-gobbling moss stitch variation. It’s the one I used for the swatch pictured above. I wrote it as if you’re using a solid colored yarn or thread.

Vashti’s “Color Eater Stitch”

Pattern Notes

  1. The “color eater stitch” is [slip stitch, 2-hdc puff] in the next ch-space. The slip stitch is to keep the hdc puff closer to the height of a sc and puffy (rosebud-like). It also helps keep the color changes distinct when you’re pooling.
  2. Like moss stitch, each row is [color-eating sc substitute in next ch-space, skip next color-eating sc substitute, ch 1]. With each new row, the color eaters are over the ch’s and the ch’s are over the color eaters.
  3. It’s easy to fine tune how much you use of a color when you’re pooling with it. For example, sometimes I did a 3-hdc puff instead of 2 to eat up more color. Or, a tighter ch-1 and shorter puff to eat less color. I got better at this with the later rows. Maybe you can tell in the swatch.
  4. When color pooling with it, do whatever you need to at the row ends: just a ss and hdc to use less color, or even a 4-hdc puff to use much more.

Abbreviations

  • ch – chain stitch
  • hdc – half double crochet (hdc, or UK/AUS: htr)
  • 2-hdc puff – [yarn over, pull up a loop] twice in the same designated stitch, yarn over and pull loop through all 5 loops on hook.
  • ss – slip stitch

How to Crochet It

Foundation chain: With a solid colored thread or yarn for your first swatch, chain an even number.

Row 1: Skip 3 chs, *[ss, 2-hdc puff] in next ch, ch 1, skip next ch, repeat from * until one ch remains, [ss, 2-hdc puff] in last ch, ch 2, turn.

Row 2: Skip first puff and ss, *[ss, 2-hdc puff] in next ch-space, ch 1, skip next puff and ss, repeat from * for rest of row, [ss, 2-hdc puff] in space of turning-ch 2, turn.

Repeat Row 2 for pattern.

For more on planned pooling, you might like this recent blog post: Color Pooling Developments.
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Creative Planned Pooling: Class Resources

Creative Planned Color Pooling Crochet Class 2018 Vashti Braha
Updated on 7/18/18. View the high-res image. This is a conveniently clickable group of things I mention and display in Creative Planned Color Pooling classes. I teach the next one on July 28, 2018 in Portland OR. (An earlier version of this class was called “Crochet Stitch Games” and included game-like serendipity techniques; between then and now, planned pooling has become a popular technique!).     — Vashti Braha

 

Thinking of signing up for this class? I wrote Color Pooling Developments with you in mind.

Crochet Patterns & Crochet Alongs

  • Jempool pattern. It’s the blue scarf on the left in the above photo.
  • Crochet AlongThe Jempool CAL (a source of some great info!)
  • See all of Vashti’s color pooling projects and swatches at this self-updating Ravelry link (log in to Ravelry first to see all of them).
  • Crochet to the Color Playbook pattern set. (This is a freeform “stitch pooling” way to modify accidental pooling, rather than doing planned pooling.)

Recommended Issues of Vashti’s Crochet Inspirations Newsletter

My Color Pooling Blog Posts

Photo Albums & Inspiration Boards

Recommended Color Pooling Sites

  • PlannedPooling.com where you can plot the color sequences of your yarn and see how it pools based on your plan.
  • Pooled Knits Ravelry group.
    • This group is how I first found member sanne7788 who does the most inspiring pooled Tunisian crochet I’ve seen so far! (Scroll down to see them all.)
  • Planned Pooling With Crochet Facebook group for crocheting argyles, founded by Summer Cromartie. Especially see Brenda-Leigh Bennett’s 10/21/16 resource page there!
  • Deborah Bagley wrote a meaty multi-part series on several kinds of planned pooling. Start with the introductory roundup of it: Hook and Learn: A Feast for Your Color Pooling Eyes.
  • Laura Bryant: Ikat knitting effects with her ikat-style hand dyed Prism yarns, featured in Vogue Knitting. I took Laura’s pooling class at my local yarn shop and here’s my ikat attempt with slip stitch crochet.
    • If I had to pick only ONE book to read about planned pooling, it would be her 2013 Artful Color, Mindful Knits: The Definitive Guide to Working with Hand-dyed Yarn.
  • Marly Bird: Fantastic YouTube videos and blog posts for crochet planned pooling that argyles.
  • Glamour4You, Sewrella, Rockin’Lola (her granny stitch argyle guest post), Naztazia: Bloggers with popular tutorials for crocheting pooled argyles. Also see Kathy Lashley‘s post, a rare one on the “lightning bolt” effect when pooling in the round, and Kinga Erdem who explains her bold zigzag argyle using just half double crochets [UK: htr].
  • Karla Stuebing: 2013 article, “Art and Science of Planned Pooling.” It’s about knitting but very inspiring for crochet.
  • Wannietta Prescod: this blog post links to her earliest inspiration and to her influential Sweetspot 2009 article for Knitty.
  • Planned pooling crochet patterns, a self-updating link: Ravelry doesn’t seem to have a category for this technique yet, so I used the keyword “pooling”. Of 23 search results it looks like 20 are true planned pooling. Of these, 17 are argyles, and most appear to be seed stitch (as of 4/16/18).
  • Planned pooling knitting patterns, a self-updating link: as with the crochet search link above, I used a keyword search. Of the 91 results (as of 4/16/18), about 80 are true planned pooling designs.

Any Books on Planned Pooling with Crochet?

  • Found one! Yarn Pooling Made Easy by Marly Bird. Published by Leisure Arts, 2017.
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Color Pooling Developments

Some works in progress for the 2017 color pooling class.

The class material for Creative Planned Color Pooling changed me. In fact, it’s still changing me. I’ve adjusted its title to take new developments into account (more on that below).

I’d love to have taken a color pooling class like this years ago! In fact I’d rather learn it in a class than from a pattern or blog. The next time I teach this class: July 28, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. 

Crochet Rules, Questioned

Developing this topic changed me as a crocheter. It showed me what I take for granted about crochet how crochet works. I think it’s because for the first time, something else (the yarn’s color sequence) replaces crochet standards that have always worked for other kinds of crochet.

One ball of hand painted yarn, its colors intentionally "pooled" into two stitch patterns (popcorns and seed/moss/linen st) to create this "Florida Peaches Handbag"
These popcorn stitches vary but it doesn’t matter.

Here’s one: uniformly even stitches are beautiful. We aim to make uniform stitches to get a lovely, polished result, right? Beginners practice until they can be proud of how even their stitches are. Why would one question this?

When you’re intentionally pooling (I think of it as color directing), it’s the yarn’s colors that you aim to make uniform. The evenness of your stitches is second to that. A pretty distant second, which was shocking to me. Why? That brings me to a second way this class material changed me.

Primal Effect

On a bigger and more personal scale, my relationship to color changed! It was like watching my brain re-prioritize what it was seeing. My eyes rejoiced when the yarn’s next color stacked up the way I wanted it to. The stitches for making this happen became almost interchangeable. Even the stitch gauge could vary.

In other words, detecting a color pattern is riveting to the brain. (At least my brain. It feels primal.)

Especially when the pretty color pattern emerges from seemingly random chaos.

Especially when it’s like there’s a secret code in a multicolored ball of yarn and you’ve just cracked it.

The crochet stitch and gauge becomes a strategy: change the crocheting a bit to get a color to stick with the pattern and it works! The eye doesn’t see certain stitch irregularities. It’s too captivated by the color patterning. Also, the nearby stitches will adjust.

Recent Developments

Since my 2016 class, more crocheters have mostly been finding out from blogs about doing planned color pooling (a.k.a. intentional yarn pooling) with variegated craft store yarns. I’m seeing people make a cool argyle effect using the linen stitch (a.k.a. seed stitch, moss stitch, granite stitch): each row is [sc, ch 1, skip next st], and you crochet the sc of the next row into the ch-1 space of the completed row.

See this stitch in the colorful Aquarienne edging, Peaches handbag opening & handle, and Quailfeather. Accidental argyling happened with Barista. From a distance you can see a soft (but intentional!) argyle in this tweedy swatch and an argyle effect getting going in this swatch.

Colorful sock yarns custom dyed for my local yarn shop in coral reef colors.I came to this topic a completely different way, via hand dyed yarns. It’s easy to identify the dye techniques, such as hand painting and dip dyeing, because these yarns tend to be sold in the hank the dyer used, not wound into balls.

In these dyed hanks I saw “stitch games” because I’d already done other color-based and geeky experiments. For example,

  • When I learned from Marty Miller how hyperbolic crochet works (2006 or so), I crocheted her a hyperbolic coffee cozy secretly based on her birthdate.
  • A hand dyed yarn with a vivid yellow in it made me want to set it off with love knots. “Love Games” was the result.
  • I even sold a coffee cozy to a yarn company back in 2006 because I referred to it as a game.

Why “Creative Planned Color Pooling”?

Earlier versions of this class were “Stitch Games for Yarns With Short Color or Texture Changes” (2016 in Charleston SC) and “Stacked Color Pooling” (2017 in Mt. Pleasant IL). Planned pooling is becoming a recognizable term for more crocheters. I suspect that only seed stitch argyles come to mind for some. Also, some folks seem to think this is math based, but it doesn’t have to be. At all.

Creative is the important part of the new title because we’re still at the early stages of what is possible. There is way more to planned pooling than seed stitch argyles. What about lace and tall stitches? Shaping? Tunisian? I want crocheters to experience the possible! And of course to be changed by it.

The class resources page for this topic is updated as of 4/16/18.