Tapestry crochet is a technique for creating multicolored fabrics that include mid-row color changes. It is used to crochet colorwork patterns without creating any floats (strands of yarn) across the back of the work.
The term "tapestry crochet" was popularized by Dr. Carol Ventura, who has written several books about the technique. Her tapestry crochet website is also a valuable source of information. Other names you might see include "mosaic crochet," "fair isle crochet," and "cameo crochet."
Tapestry crochet is often used when crocheting in the round because it is nice to be able to work all your color changes from the same side of the work. However, there is no need to limit yourself to only working in the round with this technique. You can also use it when crocheting ordinary flat rows that are turned at the end of each row. See the process of crocheting a checkerboard pattern worked in rows using this technique.
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You will need the following materials:
You use a checkerboard chart to guide your pattern. This chart has a mind-boggling variety of different possible uses. If you've never worked from a chart before, it might seem a little cryptic. It's actually pretty simple once you understand what to look for.
Typically, when you do a tapestry crochet design, you'll be working in single crochet stitch. Each square on your checkerboard chart represents one stitch. You'll notice that there are some blue squares and some white squares on the chart. This demonstration uses blue baby yarn to crochet the stitches represented on the free crochet chart by blue squares, and white baby yarn to crochet the stitches that are shown as white squares.
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Blue yarn is used to crochet the starting chain because the majority of the stitches in the first row are blue. Also, if you look at the first row of your chart, you'll see that the first five stitches are worked in blue yarn.
If you're right-handed, start reading the chart from the bottom up, starting at the right-hand side; this is because you'll crochet across your foundation chain starting on the right-hand side and working your way across to the left-hand side.
If you're left-handed, reverse this; you'll start at the lower left-hand side of the chart and crochet your way across to the right-hand side. Since this chart is symmetrical, the results will be the same for both left-handed and right-handed crocheters.
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Begin Carrying the Second Color of Yarn
When doing tapestry crochet with two colors, you can begin carrying the second color from the very beginning. This can give you the most consistent gauge throughout the design, from start to finish. It also gives a more consistent look throughout the piece.
There are crocheters who approach it differently; they will not begin carrying their second color until they absolutely need to, which is several stitches before the actual color change takes place. That approach is fine too; it saves a little bit of yarn to do it that way. However, depending on your pattern, it might give you an inconsistent look, and you might also end up with differences in gauge between the places where you carried yarns and the places where you didn't.
Hold the white yarn parallel to your starting chain. The goal is to work single crochet stitches in blue yarn while sandwiching the white yarn inside of the blue stitches. This will allow you to keep the white yarn easily accessible when you want to switch colors and begin crocheting with it, and the white yarn will also not be making a mess across the back of the work.
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First Single Crochet Stitch in Progress
To begin the single crochet stitch, insert the crochet hook into the second chain from the hook, and then grab the blue yarn with the hook. As you do this, the white yarn is still going to be parallel to the chain; the goal is for it to be sandwiched inside the stitch when you are finished.Continue to 5 of 18 below.
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Begin the Next Single Crochet Stitch
Next comes another single crochet stitch in blue yarn, just like the first. Continue holding the white yarn parallel to, and slightly above, my foundation chain. Notice that the crochet hook goes underneath the white yarn and when you grab the yarn to pull it through the foundation chain, you will also be pulling it underneath the white yarn at the same time.Continue to 9 of 18 below.
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View Into Stitch
This view looks directly down after you have pulled the yarn through the foundation chain. It gives you a clear idea of what's going on with the yarns; you can see how that white yarn is sandwiched into the first single crochet stitch, and you can see how it's about to get sandwiched into the stitch you are working on.
If you look at that blue yarn which is being manipulated with the left hand, you can imagine what will happen to it when you grab it with the crochet hook, and then pull it through the two active loops on the hook.
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The Second Single Crochet Stitch Is Complete
Now you have pulled the yarn through to complete the single crochet stitch.
If you take another glance at the chart, you'll see that there are five blue single crochet stitches you need to complete before you need to change colors. You have done two of them so far. The next two are going to be exactly like the first two.
When you get to the fifth single crochet stitch, it's going to be almost the same as well, but there will be one significant difference—you will have to stop short of completing the last step, and that's when you are going to change colors to white.
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The Fifth Single Crochet Stitch in Progress
You are still holding the white yarn parallel to the foundation chain. Insert the crochet hook into the next chain stitch. Underneath the white yarn, grab the blue yarn in preparation to pull it through the chain.Continue to 13 of 18 below.
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Preparing to Change Yarn Positions
You have pulled the loop up through the foundation chain. Note the positions of both the blue and white yarns. Up until this point, the white yarn has remained parallel to, and slightly above, the foundation chain; this is the position you have been carefully holding it in all along. The blue yarn is positioned so that you can easily manipulate it with your left hand. However, you are going to change the positions of these two yarns in the next few steps.
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Completed Crochet Stitch With White Yarn
You've now completed the color change to white yarn. From here on, it's pretty much the same; just keep holding your inactive yarn parallel to, but slightly above, your foundation chain; keep following your chart and using it to help you determine which color stitch you need to work next.
When you're doing tapestry crochet, your yarns may get twisted up. That's normal; don't worry if it happens to you. You'll have to stop periodically and un-twist the yarns.