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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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Limpet Stitch: Crochet Half Hitches (Issue 3)

Limpet stitch crochet swatches: an airy net, a lotus-shaped 2-color fan of half hitches, lacy wheel with big limpets around the rim
Limpet Stitch crochet issue 3 original front page
How the original looked. Issue #3 September 2010.

Updates October 20, 2020: I expanded the Timeline entries for 1977, 1982, and 1991.


The limpet stitch crochet topic evolved dramatically in the ten years since I wrote my third newsletter about it. As of September 4, 2020, this greatly updated version is now my ultimate resource page for crocheting limpets, limpet variations, and more reasons to crochet with half hitches. It even has a timeline and a table of related terms.

“Limpets, those cheery, little-used sideways shells.”

Sue Perez (a.k.a. Mrs. Micawber)

Issue #003 went out to just over 370 subscribers in 2010. That’s about 70 more than for issue #002. I remember feeling very encouraged by that. One of my early goals was to find likeminded crocheters. Back then, the only folks talking (enthusiastically!) about the limpet stitch, like Mel, Myra, Barbara, Margaret, and Pippin, were members of FFCrochet, the International Freeform Guild (INTFF) yahoo group. Limpet stitches have expanded their reach, as you’ll see below.

From the Archives: A Very Different Kind of Crochet Stitch

Vashti’s Crochet Inspirations Newsletter, Issue #3 (First Published September 30, 2010)

I’ve been looking forward to writing up a little love letter to the Limpet Stitch. It’s not like any other crochet stitch because it is a fundamentally different way to add loops onto the crochet hook. (September 2010)

The first thing a crocheter learns, after making a slip knot and putting the loop on a crochet hook, is to yarn over (wind or wrap the yarn around the crochet hook). We can’t make any basic stitches without it. Strictly speaking there’s only one way to do it. If you wind the yarn around your hook the opposite direction, it’s a yarn under. (Read all about yarn overs, yarn unders, and reasons to use both.)

There are other ways to add new loops to the crochet hook beside yarning over (or under). The one we use for limpet stitch crochet is challenging at first only because changing how you yarn over feels very alien! It’s actually simple, easy, and quick to do. The limpet stitch has an avid fan club.

Beyond the Standard Yarn Over

Half hitch or crossed loop on crochet hook
This is a Tunisian crochet hook but any crochet hook is fine for crocheting limpets.

From a crocheter’s point of view, limpet stitch yarn overs have an added half-twist in them. In the photo at right you can see how the two loose loops on the hook have a little twist at the bottom of them. Adding the half-twist as you yarn over is a neat trick.

This simple little twist is powerful. It is the basis of all needle lace, macramé, and tatting. It’s fundamental to sewing and embroidery. Latch hook rug making requires it, and bobbin lace starts with it. It’s the simplest cast on in knitting.

Making room for it in our crochet toolbox means reclaiming the DNA that crochet shares with these other string arts. You may wish to make room for two more, like I have. The little half-twist can turn in two different directions: to the left (counterclockwise), or to the right (clockwise). The two loops in the photo turn to the left, as if a cursive letter “e” is written backwards: “ɘ”.

Continue reading Limpet Stitch: Crochet Half Hitches (Issue 3)
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Tall Stitch Virtuosity Class Resources

Collage of many examples for Tall Stitch Virtuosity Crochet Class by Vashti Braha

Tall Stitch Virtuosity is a new crochet class for 2020. I’ve discovered more than I imagined is possible about tall stitches! In fact, the official class graphic above is about six months old and already seems out of date.

Originally scheduled for the July 2020 Chain Link conference (an annual national event of the CGOA), Tall Stitch Virtuosity is now virtual. The traditional in-person conference is postponed until next summer. The virtual version is split into one-hour sessions over three consecutive days.

This is the first resource page I’ve created for a virtual class. At first I thought a virtual class wouldn’t need one. I started these pages back in 2012 to make online links easy to visit for an in-person event. I’m finding that I don’t want to load up the class handout (a PDF in this case) with what I think of as miscellany. Also, members might have a chance to visit this page over the three days of the class.

— Vashti Braha

Tall Stitch Virtuosity 2020

Nine tall stitch crochet experiments that I've posted recently in my Instagram feed.
Recent tall stitch swatches I’ve posted to my Instagram feed.

Newsletter Issues & Blog Posts

These are issues of my Crochet Inspirations Newsletter, and blog posts, spanning 2010 to today. Keep in mind that many links in pre-2018 newsletter issues are broken.

Tall Stitch Patterns

Some of my published tall stitch patterns over the years. Half of them are Tunisian crochet. Click an image for more info. Missing: Cats Eye Lariat (in Ravelry) and Twinkle Links.

Tall Stitch Projects & Swatches

Tall Stitches Around the World Web

  • Tall Crochet Stitch Artistry pinboard (Pinterest)
  • Bloggers on the lack of tall stitches:
    • Jenny Guldin: “Most lists of the basic crochet stitches end with the triple crochet. Call it a new technique, or call it breaking the rules: I’m tired of being limited to the height of a triple crochet, and I’m not going to take it anymore! Why isn’t there a taller stitch? I’ve received varying answers from many crocheters, but I’ve never heard the suggestion “try it”. There are two basic points of view I’ve heard about the subject: It doesn’t exist, or, there’s no purpose for it. With all due respect, I have two responses: I’ve made it exist, and there is a purpose.”
    • CrochetSpot’s Amy Yarbrough: “These stitches are not very well known today because most modern crochet patterns do not use them. This begs the question, when are they used then? Perhaps the most I have seen these taller stitches used would be in patterns with crochet thread. Such as Irish Crochet Lace, crocheted Antebellum Dolls, and crocheted Doilies.”

Issue 102: Wild Whys of Y-Stitches

Crochet Inspirations Newsletter sent to 8,600 subscribers on June 13, 2020.

Very tall stitches shown as 5 kinds of Y stitches for improving semicircle shapes
(Original header)

These semi-circles are crocheted of Y-shaped stitches. In each case I started with a quadruple-treble stitch (quad; in the UK and AUS I do believe it’s a quint). Yarn over 5x to begin one. After each completed quad I chained 2, then crocheted a shorter stitch into the side of the quad to turn it into a Y-stitch (Y-st).

I’m going to call the shorter stitch a branch that is crocheted into the taller one, or host stitch

The Y-sts in these semi-circles vary from very deep (farthest left one) to very shallow (upper right). The longest branch, a triple treble (I yarned over 4x to begin it), is crocheted close to the base of its host quad. The shortest branch is a half double (hdc in the US, htr in UK/AUS). I crocheted it up close to the top of the quad.

Don’t you love how the lacy look changes just from this simple difference?

I also really love how Y-sts look when they radiate from a center. It’s what lured me down a rabbit hole of new delights.

Every stitch you see in this newsletter is my own new stuff.

Four tall stitch circles with new looks thanks to the branches you can add to the sides of them

Branched? “Rune” Stitches?

I searched 34 crochet books for these stitches (16 are stitch dictionaries and the rest are guides to crocheting). Of the 34, 14 at least mention X-stitches. Very few include Y’s and inverted Y’s, or really run with with any of them. 

When I think of “Y-stitches” I picture a category of stitches that remind me of runes and ancient symbols! 

Bend a tall stitch or two to form letter shapes

The list above is about half of some old letters I’d like to try crocheting with branchy tall stitches. See my swatch of a few modern letters in Instagram. (These crazy B’s are for Braha and for Black, as in Black lives matter, and for Because of course they do.)

The first blue wheel above was inspired by ancient wedge-shaped cuneiform strokes. I see the green motifs as being Druidic wheels of seven “trees”. In fact, lately I see Y-stitches all over the place in nature!

Key Y-Thinkers

My three favorite sources on these stitches: James Walters, Duplet magazines (Irene Duplet), and Sheruknitting videos (Elena Rugal). It’s not a stitch shape. It’s a way of thinkingThank you so much James, Irene, and Elena!

Examples of tall stitch artistry by James Walters, Irene Duplet, Elena Rugal

How To?

I need to blog that. I have ideas for how to sort out the yarn overs, and make the most of them for motifs. Until then, I mention Y-stitches with a how-to link in my tall-stitch circles blog post. Also try some Sheruknitting videos. 

Can you spot the Y-sts? And X-sts in the upper-right blue circle? Y’s are fabulous for reducing the number of tall stitches in round one AND for suavely doubling every stitch as required in round two.

Using tall stitches for circles is how I got here. I had no idea how practical and problem-solving Y-sts could be for crocheting circles—the taller, the better. They offer creative solutions and pretty options for tall-stitch circle crocheting!

OK One More Y-Why for Today:

Convert Two Rows into One

[This section got its own blog post a few weeks later; the light green swatch referred to is also pictured there.]

Sometimes, two or even three rows of a stitch pattern can be turned into one row, using using taller into-the-side stitches. Here’s a two-row shell-and-cluster stitch pattern (upper swatch) turned into one-row one lower swatch). 

You can get more stitches to face the front this way. It also removes a “grid” effect caused by the connections between every stitch across a row. It fits in the “clever substitutions” category which is the topic of newsletter #92.

That grid effect adds structure to the fabric. Removing them adds more drape. So it depends on the yarn and project.


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Crochet Bunnies Flat or Puffy

2 flat crocheted bunnies (sihouette), 2 stuffed ones, in different slip stitch crochet textures.

This past month I used Tunisian and slip stitches to crochet bunnies flat, rather than in the round. Make two, seam together, and stuff for 3D bunnies. Leave flat for appliqué!

Compare all the shapes in the photo above and below: there are some side-view silhouettes (the yellow wool bunnies) plus several marshmallow candy style bunnies in light blue Lotus yarn.

Two are stuffed, but all started out flat. The stuffed white wool bunny (above far right) uses the square method: I crocheted a flat square of inverse slip stitches, and then seamed and stuffed it. (I followed this tutorial for a knitted square bunny.)

Five marshmallow-candy-shape bunnies lined up from shortest (3 slip stitch) to tallest (2 Tunisian crochet)
From left to right: Three slip stitch bunnies (front-loop slip; inverted back loop; inverted front loop). Two Tunisian crochet bunnies, flat: TSS (simple stitch), TKS (knit stitch). I also added a simple slip stitch outline to all bunnies except the TSS one.

My informal and rather obsessive online research tells me that 95% of all the crochet amigurumi (stuffed toys) are single crochet stitches in the round. The other 5% are single crochet flat, in rows. It’s easy to know which were crocheted in rows because the texture is very different from rounds with no turning. Crochet designers Donna & Michaelene rock the flat method with single crochet.

Internal or External Shaping?

5 slip stitch roses of different colors and petal shapes
Slip Stitches are fabulous
for shaping flower petals

When you crochet bunnies flat, all the shaping happens at the beginning and/or end of a row; never in the middle of a row. This is external shaping. I’ve liked this kind of crochet ever since I swatched lots of shaping techniques for my Slip Stitch Shapes and Special FX class.

External shaping should be an elementary challenge, but it depends on the stitch and the shape. Each row might be different from the rest. I bet crocheters rarely do it constantly for a whole project, though. See my free heart pattern. It’s an easier shape than a bunny because you’re adding or subtracting no more than two stitches at a time.

New to external shaping in every row? Use the short stitch you’re most familiar with: single crochet (sc), slip stitch (sl st), or Tunisian simple stitch (TSS). You need to be able to easily count your rows and stitches. For most people it’s single crochet.

Crocheting any shape in the round (other than a straight tube) requires internal shaping. It kind of depends on the crocheter how basic that is. It’s probably easier for those who started early on with granny squares, flowers, and other motifs in the round.

Slip Stitches, or Tunisian Crochet?

I found no examples of TSS or sl st crochet bunnies, flat or otherwise, except this sweet one in Tunisian knit stitch (TKS). (You’ll need a Ravelry account to view it). I decided to do side by side bunny comparisons. Yes, I went down a rabbit hole.

Surprising Differences

I used the same chart size for each blue bunny. The Tunisian bunnies are much bigger! After making several sl st bunnies, the forward and return passes of Tunisian felt like double the work for the same bunny. Compared to sl st fabric, the return pass seemed to add padding and height to the stitches. The TKS one also feels heavy. It has so much more yarn in it than the others.

Two flat crochet bunnies and a stuffed one, all "marshmallow peeps style" in light blue Lotus yarn
Three slip stitch amigos. See more in progress
on their project page.

Of the three blue sl st bunnies, the inverse front loop one (far right) has the most height. I used it for two bunnies in the first photo above too: the smaller yellow silhouette, and the white bunny from a square.

TSS is similar to using sc. Besides being of similar height, it’s easy to count rows, especially the TSS rows. Both prevent stuffing from showing through (so does sl st). Unlike sc and sl st, Tunisian stitches do lean, but more weakly than it appears. The lean readily blocks out.

Tunisian crochet has a few strong advantages over sc and sl st. There is no turning, so following a charted shape is the easiest. Another big advantage is when edging the shape. I like to edge flat shapes with a round of slip stitches before I seam them together. Crocheting into Tunisian row ends is a joy. “Joy” isn’t the word that comes to mind when crocheting into row ends of sc or sl st.

Happy Easter 2020 everyone!

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Delicate Crochet Book Giveaway

Update: I’m so inspired by your comments! Your comment may take a few hours to show because they go into a moderation queue. 

I’m giving away a copy of the new Delicate Crochet book by Sharon Silverman to a randomly chosen commenter on this post. You’re welcome to enter even if you live outside of the USA. If you win and you have a non-USA shipping address, you’ll receive a free downloadable crochet pattern of your choice instead. Scroll down for the book giveaway details.

 

Pattern Riffing

Over the holidays I “riffed” on the patterns I wrote for Delicate Crochet. I’ll explain how, in case you have (OR WIN!!) this book and want to riff too.

Meet Zegue

Tunisian ripple stitch Ziggy Vest with its variation Zegue
Zegue (left) with Delicate Crochet’s Ziggy Vest on the right.

Zegue is a simple wrap version of the Ziggy Vest. I used up scraps of fancy yarns in my stash. In Ziggy’s case the armholes are cut into the self-healing stitch pattern. I omitted that step for Zegue. (I could still add a hole later, such as for a one-sleeve wrap, or for a keyhole scarf style like I did for the pink Mesmer. Or go with my original idea: add a seam at each end of the long sides to create tubes (sleeves) for a shrug.)

Yarn: I had one small ball each of the four Stacy Charles Fine fashion yarns I used. (See Zegue’s project page in Ravelry for the yarn facts.) One of them has sequins so I had to use it. Using a mix of yarns for the Ziggy stitch pattern was really fun! I’ve always wanted to do a stripy scrappy ripple, especially in Tunisian stitches.

Crochet Hook: I used the 7.0 mm Addi Tunisian crochet hook from my shop; the Ziggy Vest calls for a 6.0 mm size. A 6.5 mm for Zegue would probably be just as lacy though you might need a few more rows and additional stitch repeat or two.

Finished Dimensions: 14″ x 57″ (35.6 x 144.8 cm), measured flat and blocked. I like wearing it as a wrap. For a shrug option I might add buttons. It weighs 71 g. and I had about a quarter of the Luna mohair and Crystal left over.

I chose the length of each row to match the length from my wrist over the shoulders and across the back to the other wrist while my arms hang at my sides—an easy measurement (57″/144.8 cm). This is because I thought I was going to turn it into a shrug. I just kept adding rows until my forearm would fit through the sleeve tube if I seamed part of the first and last row together; I’d need a minimum of about 9″ (22.9 cm). I figured the yarn amount would get me at least this far.

Foundation and Row Repeats: You’ll need the Delicate Crochet book for the actual Ziggy pattern (starts on page 140). Here are my changes for Zegue:

  • I chained 178 with Color A (Stella).
  • Row 1 forward pass (FP) is also Stella, and then I changed to Color B (Luna) for the return pass (RP) and the Row 2 FP. Fasten off every time you change yarns.
  • Row 2 RP and Row 3 FP: Change to Color C (Céline).
  • Row 3 RP and Row 4 FP: Change to Color B (Luna).
  • Row 4 RP and Row 5 FP: Change to Colors C+D (Céline & Crystal held together).
  • Repeat the color sequence of B, C, B, C+D for a total of 16 rows; for Row 16 RP change to Stella. Complete Row 17 FP and RP with Stella and then fasten off.
  • Edge Row 17 with a strand of Luna and Crystal held together: Single crochet (sc) in first FP stitch, chain 1, slip stitch (ss) in same sc, sc in same stitch, *chain (ch) 1, sc in next FP stitch, ch 1, sc in next stitch group, ch 1, sc in next FP stitch, [sc, ch 1, ss in same sc, sc] in next FP stitch, repeat from * in each remaining FP stitch of row. Fasten off.
  • Attach Stella to first foundation ch. Working along the other side of the foundation, sc in first ch, ch 1 and skip next ch that was not used by a FP stitch, sc in available loop of next used foundation ch, repeat from * in each remaining stitch of row. Fasten off.
  • Attach Luna and Crystal to first sc of Stella. Edge this row the same way you edged Row 17.

Yvelino the Paneled Ring Scarf

Icelandic wool ring scarf vs DesigningVashti Lotus wrap of Bias-crocheted Tunisian net, surface-crocheted with love knots.
Yvelino Ring (left) with Delicate Crochet‘s Yveline Wrap on the right.

 

For this version of the Yveline Wrap I used four colors of lace weight Icelandic wool, one ball per color. See its project page for the yarn deets. I loved this yarn; it’s very “sticky” and almost bristly or wiry in a way that works great with this airy bias-worked net.

Crochet Hooks: 5.0 mm (H) Tunisian hook; for the surface-crochet I used a regular 3.5 mm (E) crochet hook.

Finished Dimensions: 13″ wide with a 58″ circumference (33 x 147.3 cm). It weighs 100 g. so I used only half of each ball. (I thought I might want to add a lot of surface crochet, so I reserved yarn for that.) Instead, I like the texture contrast zones.

Foundation and Row Repeats: You’ll need the Delicate Crochet book (starting on page 133) for the actual Yveline pattern. Here are my changes for Yvelino:

  • Chain 58 in Color A. Complete 33 rows. Edge the last row with sc.
  • Slip stitch Color B to the bottom right corner foundation chain of the previous panel. Chain 58. At the end of the Row 1 FP, slip stitch in the first FP stitch of Row 1 of the previous panel and then complete the RP as usual.
  • Repeat this join-as-you-go process at the end of every FP until you’ve completed 33 rows. Edge it with sc like the previous panel.
  • Repeat the above with two more panels. For the last panel, also join-as-you-go the first FP stitch of each row to the last FP stitch of the first panel you completed to create a ring. (Or you could seam the first and last panel sides together to for the ring as a separate step.)

Adding the Frills: The only thing different from the book is that I used a 3.5 mm (E) crochet hook, and surface crocheted a column on each side of the joins.

Oh the Resources Buried in Crochet Patterns

I hold onto lots of crochet pattern books and “mine” them for interesting stitch patterns (love those stitch symbols!), shapes (love those schematics!), and construction methods (love the rare assembly diagram!).

The stitch texture combinationscolor contrasts, or styling ideas in pattern books are also inspiring.

Ravelry takes this into account so I know I’m not the only one who uses books this way. (When creating a new project page, there used to be a box you checked if you improvised from an existing pattern. Now you can choose additional patterns if you’ve incorporated elements from them.)

Delicate Crochet offers hours and hours of riffing on its interesting stitch patterns, shapes, and styles, thanks to the range of designers represented—and thanks to all the stitch diagrams and schematics.

Book Giveaway Details!

You could win this! Delicate Crochet by Sharon Silverman with 23 patterns by 10 designers.
  • I’ll use a random number generator no earlier than February 18 (Monday, President’s Day) to choose from among the commenters to this post.
  • There may be two winners: one with a shipping address outside of the USA as well as within it. If the first winner has a non-USA shipping address, the prize will be a free downloadable crochet pattern (winner’s choice). I will then draw a new number randomly until the new winner has a USA address to which I can ship the book.
  • To contact the winner(s) I will do these three things: comment on your comment with the news, and announce the winner’s name (as it appears on your comment) in my Ravelry group, and at my Facebook page. I suggest you opt-in to receive alerts of responses to your comment in case you’re a winner.
  • Your comment may respond to my question, “What crochet book would you like me to write?” (as explained in my newsletter #97), or at least be crochet-related. I reserve the right to remove spammy comments as always.
  • Commenting more than once does not improve your chance of winning.