How to Use Slip Stitches in Surface Crochet

  • 01 of 05

    Surface Crochet Overview

    Surface Crochet Slip Stitches
    The Spruce / Amy Solovay

    Once you know how to do surface crochet, you can use this versatile technique to enhance plain crochet, tapestry crochet, freeform crochet, and unlimited other types of crochet projects. If you knit, you can even use surface crochet as a means to embellish your knitting projects too.

    The term "surface crochet" is almost self-explanatory; it refers to crochet work that is created on the surface of the fabric.

    There are many reasons you might want to add surface crocheted slip stitches to your fabric.

    Make the Project More Colorful

    Surface crochet slip stitches provide an easy way to add color to a project.

    Let's say you've finished working a color chart that has three colors. When you finish, you look at it, and you decide that it's just begging for a fourth color.

    Of course, you could re-chart your design, adding the fourth color. Then you'd have to re-crochet the whole thing (dealing with four different balls of yarn in the process).

    Surface crochet provides you with an alternative. Instead of redoing the whole thing, you could just enhance your completed piece using surface crochet slip stitches in the fourth color.

    Add Outlines, Drop Shadows, and Details

    If you've ever played around with designing anything digital, you're no doubt aware that it's nice to be able to add strokes, outlines and drop shadows at the click of the mouse. It isn't so easy to accomplish the same tasks when you are designing patterns in crochet, but surface crochet slip stitches do allow you to fake these effects somewhat.

    In the pictures above, you can see several different examples of this. The "Before" pictures show how each of these designs looks before outlines have been added. The "After" pictures show the projects with outlines. In some cases, the difference is subtle; in many cases, the difference is significant and dramatic.

    Tapestry Crochet

    Surface crochet is handy for cleaning up messy areas in tapestry crochet. Sometimes, when working tapestry crochet patterns, you end up with jagged lines in places where the colors touch each other. This isn't the crocheter's fault; it's just the reality of the technique. Certain tapestry crochet designs can really benefit from having an outline added in surface crochet slip stitches.

    The red, white and blue potholder pictured above is a fantastic example of this. On the left, you see the red and white potholder before any surface crochet was added. Notice how jagged the lines are. On the right-hand side, you see how the potholder looks after some surface crochet slip stitches have been added. This tutorial takes you through the process of transforming the potholder, using surface crochet to do it.

    Build Additional Layers Onto a Flat Project

    Let's say you want to add flower petals to a flat flower, or animal ears to a crocheted hat. In either case, you could work surface crochet slip stitches in the spot you want the petals or the ears. The surface crochet stitches could be the foundation that you crochet into when you get started on the addition.

    • See an example: In this 3d flower granny square, the granny square itself is crocheted flat. Then surface crochet slip stitches were used to build an additional layer on top of the square, forming the flower petals.
    • Freeform crochet: If you enjoy freeform crochet, you'll find that surface crochet techniques greatly enhance your ability to create interesting work.
    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    How to Put Surface Slip Stitches on Crocheted Potholders

    Surface Crochet Completely Transforms the Look of This Potholder.
    The Spruce / Amy Solovay

    Here are a couple of crocheted potholders made using the same crochet pattern. The potholder on the left does not have any surface crochet details added.

    For this project, we decided we wanted to outline each stripe with two layers of surface crochet slip stitches. The result is shown in the right-hand photo. The lower layer of slip stitches is crocheted with worsted weight kitchen cotton yarn in a light blue color; this layer was crocheted first. The upper layer of surface crochet is crocheted in dark blue embroidery floss afterward.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    How to Start the Slip Stitch

    Surface Crochet Tutorial -- How to Work Slip Stitches on the Surface of a Crocheted Fabric
    The Spruce / Michael Solovay / Amy Solovay

    This technique takes practice to master. When you first try it, it may seem awkward even if you've been crocheting for many years.

    The awkwardness comes in because it's difficult to keep track of what's happening on both the front and back of the fabric at once. Don't let that discourage you; like anything else with crochet, once you get the hang of it, it's a piece of cake. It just takes practice to get there.

    Here's how to work the surface crochet slip stitches as shown.

    1. Top left photo: Find the spot where you'd like to begin outlining, and insert your crochet hook in that spot from front to back.
    2. Top right photo: Hook your yarn and pull up a loop. When we do this, we have the front of the project facing me. So you can see what's going on, this photo is taken from an odd angle that we wouldn't actually use when crocheting. We usually do turn the work over and look at the back every so often to make sure nothing strange is happening back there.
    3. Lower left photo: This picture shows how the work looks after you've pulled up a loop.
    4. Lower right photo: Insert your hook into the fabric again.
    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Continue Working Slip Stitches

    Surface Crochet Tutorial -- How to Work Slip Stitches on the Surface of a Crocheted Fabric
    The Spruce / Michael Solovay / Amy Solovay

    When you pull up the next loop, make sure to pull it through the potholder itself and also through the previous loop on your hook.

    This process is a bit like making a chain stitch, only you're working the stitch onto the potholder instead of working it into thin air.

    That's basically all there is to it; you repeat those steps—insert your hook, pull up a loop—as many times as it takes you to finish your stripe, outline your motif, or otherwise achieve the effect you want.

    These photos show a few more stitches being added. The upper pictures show how the front of the project works; the lower photos show the back of the work. Again, the lower photos were taken at an unnatural angle; we thought it was important to show you how the back of the work looks, but we couldn't get the pictures if we held the work naturally while crocheting.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Adding a Second Layer of Surface Crochet Slip Stitches

    Surface Crochet Tutorial -- How to Work Slip Stitches on the Surface of a Crocheted Fabric
    The Spruce / Michael Solovay / Amy Solovay
    • Left photo: Here is a row of surface crochet slip stitches in progress. Like the potholder itself, these slip stitches are worked in kitchen cotton yarn.
    • Right photo: After finishing the first row of surface crochet slip stitches, we decided to add another layer of the same stitches over the top of it. We used embroidery floss, which is much finer than the kitchen cotton, to do this.

    The second layer of stitches creates an interesting effect; it's like a fine outline on top of the thicker line. The dark color adds a nice bit of contrast and emphasis to the design.

    This is one of many patriotic crochet patterns for Fourth of July. If you don't care for red, white and blue, please feel free to recolor the design any way you like. If you'd like to make this Valentine's Day pattern, switch the blues to pinks. If you'd like to make this a Christmas pattern, switch the blues to greens. You could also just stick with the red and white stripes if you prefer; the red and white stripes resemble a candy cane. There are many interesting possibilities.