An Introduction to Tapestry Crochet
Tapestry crochet is the technique of using more than color of yarn to create pictures and patterns in a crocheted piece. It is essentially the crochet equivalent of knitted intarsia. If you know how to single crochet (or half-double crochet in some patterns), you can do tapestry crochet.
Working with Multiple Colors
Patterns in tapestry crochet are created by careful placement of stitches of different colors. Since you are working with more than one color of yarn, you must know how to change colors in the middle of a row. You must also know how to crochet over or “carry” the unused colors throughout the project so that you don’t have to cut the yarn each time you want to change colors.
The old color is carried through the new color until it is time to switch back to the old color, then the old color is restarted as shown in steps 1-3. You can then carry the unused color in the same manner.When the color change occurs at the beginning of a row, perform steps 1-3 on the last stitch of the previous row before working the turning chain. This way the turning chain will be the same color as the first stitch in the next row.
Crocheting from a Graph
While some crochet prodigies may be able to freestyle a pattern in tapestry crochet, the rest of us will need the help of a graph to create a distinct pattern or picture. A graph allows the crocheter to see the colors of each stitch in each row and also shows the crochet what the finished design looks like.
Unless otherwise noted in the pattern, a crochet graph is read from the bottom up. Each row represents a row of crochet, and each square represents a stitch. Depending on the pattern, the stitches may be single crochets or half-double crochets.
Odd-numbered rows are read from right to left, while even-numbered rows are read from left to right. This is because the pattern is turned between rows. To help keep track of your rows, it may be helpful to mark the front of your work with a stitch marker. That way whenever your stitch marker is facing you, you know you’re on an odd-numbered row.
Work your color changes as illustrated in the graph. For example, in Row 2 of the graph on the right, you would work 7 stitches in white, 1 stitch in red, then 7 stitches in white. Count both the stitches in the graph and the stitches in your project to double-check yourself.
Once you become comfortable with the tapestry crochet technique, you may wish to create a project with several different colors. For projects using more than three colors, it may be helpful to use bobbins to manage your unused colors. The techniques of changing colors and carry unused yarn remains the same when using bobbins, except you are working off bobbins instead of skeins or balls of yarn.
Why is it helpful to use bobbins instead of skeins or balls of yarn? The strands of yarn tend to become twisted together as you are changing and carrying colors. Despite your best efforts to keep the strands from tangling, this can become nearly impossibly when working from large skeins or balls. Working from smaller bobbins allows the strands more freedom to be moved and detangled, and additionally make the entire work in progress less heavy.
Use a new bobbin for each color of yarn you will be using. Allow the bobbins to hang off the back of the project as you are working, and detangle as needed.The technique for tapestry crochet in many colors is the same as when working with two colors. Simply crochet over and carry all the unused colors. However, it should be noted that the more colors that are used, the bulkier the project will be. It may help to use a larger hook when many colors are used to reduce the bulkiness.
Keep in mind that there is no reason that you have to keep all the different colors attached to the project while you’re working on it. The reason for keeping them attached is to avoid having a multitude of ends to weave in. If, however, you get to a point where it seems to make more sense to cut the yarn, feel free to do so. You can always rejoin that color in a later spot in the pattern.
Practice: Love Coasters
And now you can practice what you’ve learned by making a sweet little coaster set.
Finished Size: 4×4 inch square
Skill Level: Intermediate
- Color A (White): 4/worsted-weight cotton yarn
- Color B (Red): 4/worsted-weight cotton yarn
- Color C (Tan): 4/worsted-weight cotton yarn
- Size J-10 (6.0mm) crochet hook
- Yarn needle
With Color A, ch 16.
Row 1. Sc in 2nd ch from hook and ea ch across. 15 sc.
Rows 2-16. Ch 1; turn. Sc in ea sc across, changing colors as indicated in the graph.
Edging. With Color A, join yarn with sl st in any corner. Sc evenly around, working 3 sc in ea corner. Join with sl st in first sc. Finish off.
- ch (chain)
- ea (each)
- mm (millimeter)
- sc (single crochet)
- sl st (slip stitch)