Tunisian Crochet: The Stitch of Many Names
While normal crochet stitches are made using a sequence of looping the yarn over the hook and then almost immediately working the loop or loops off, Tunisian crochet is made by working from side to side, leaving all the loops on the hook across the entire piece, and then, without turning, working the loops off the hook in the opposite direction until you end with only one loop left.
In order to accommodate having such a large number of loops on the hook as you would if using a knitting needle, afghan or Tunisian crochet hooks are longer than standard crochet hooks and usually have a stopper at the end. At first glance, they look like a knitting needle with a hook on the end rather than a point. It is through the process of keeping all the loops on the hook and then working them off that the knit-look stitch patterns can be created.
As with crochet in general, the exact history of Tunisian crochet is sketchy at best. Through the years, the technique has waxed and waned in popularity and was abundantly used in the 1800s. By the end of the 19th century, though, it was almost nonexistent in pattern books. Through the years, it has also been known by many names, probably the most common of which in modern times is "afghan stitch."
In previous years, the name "tricot crochet" was a commonly used name for this technique and is of French origin. And, wWhile some may believe that the "afghan" name refers to Afghanistan, there appears to be no link between the names Tunisian or afghan crochet other than the technique itself. Other lesser-known names for Tunisian crochet are hook-knitting, Scotch knitting, railroad knitting and Cro-knitting®. Regardless of the name, this technique produces the most knit-look fabric of all crochet techniques.
When the basic Tunisian crochet stitch is used, it creates an excellent background for cross-stitch designs. The distinct squares created by the basic stitch leave a clearly visible grid pattern that can easily be matched to the squares on a cross-stitch chart. Any other crochet stitch patterns can then be added to the edges of a Tunisian crochet shape to dress it up and keep the edges flat.
Curling edges are the most common complaint with Tunisian crochet. This phenomenon is due simply to the way in which the stitch pattern is worked, but it can easily be remedied by either blocking the finished piece or by adding an edging. If your project curls too much, you may need to be extra careful not to tighten your tension when working the loops off the hook.
If you have never tried Tunisian or afghan crochet but would like to try something completely new and different, give it a whirl. An online class is available from Annie's Catalog for $24.95. You may be very surprised by what you can create!