Basket weaving: a beginner’s tutorial

This simple project is based on a basket weaving technique that I learned several years ago during a school camp, ‘Camp Coorong‘, where two Ngarrindjeri women demonstrated their traditional weaving style. The Ngarrindjeri are the Aboriginal people of the lower Murray River, western Fleurieu Peninsula and the Coorong in South Australia.

Small round basket in bright yellow and whiteTraditionally, the baskets are woven out of lengths of dried freshwater rushes. Here, I’ve borrowed the same technique but used bright nylon cording for the body of the basket and cotton crochet thread to weave. This makes for a malleable, squishy little basket, perfect for keeping earrings and trinkets in check. Experiment with materials — try undyed raffia for a more traditional look, or thin plastic tubing for something modern that holds its shape. Don’t limit yourself to what they have on the shelves of your local craft shop, either — two dollar shops and hardware stores often have a range of strong cords and twine in bright colours. Continue to tutorial

Ball of red yarn with a crochet hook

Tunisian Crochet: An Introduction

When I first began teaching myself to knit and crochet I was delighted to find a box, buried beneath blankets on a neglected shelf of my parents’ linen cupboard, full to the brim with my grandmother’s crafting implements. In amongst the alarming collection of tiny double-pointed needles (she must have been a gun sock-maker) was one rather strange crochet hook. Extra long and lean, it has hung around with my familiar tools, just waiting for me to solve its mystery.

Finally, its day has come. As soon as I stumbled across this wonderful tutorial from the Purl Bee, the answer was clear and enticing — Tunisian crochet.

Tunisian crochet fabric in progress

Image from The Purl Bee

TUNISIAN CROCHET: STITCHES AND STYLE

Tunisian crochet creates a dense, textured and fairly inelastic fabric that you can whip up at about twice the speed of knitted fabrics — perfect for those big winter blankets and throws.

The technique can be thought of as a mix of knitting and crochet; if you’re competent with either you’ll be able to pick it up with ease. In fact, beginners will probably find it the simplest yarn craft to learn. All you’ll need is an ‘Afghan hook’ (the official name of my long oddity) two or three sizes larger than you would normally use for your yarn (to avoid an overly stiff fabric).

Like its conventional cousin, Tunisian crochet starts with a foundation chain. From there, things get interesting. Rather than creating and closing one stitch at a time, you create the fabric in a two-row process. The ‘forward’ row moves from right to left as the stiches are gathered and left on the hook (hence its extra length); the ‘return’ row moves from left to right as the stiches are interconnected and dropped from the hook. The work is never turned, meaning that the front side of your fabric is always facing you — pretty handy if, like me, you’re apt to lose track!

Pattern publishers have only recently begun to embrace Tunisian crochet and standardise its stitch language so you’re unlikely to find a great range of pattern books at your local yarn shop. Thankfully, home crafters and independent professionals are filling the gap. A quick bit of Googling will turn up a host of ideas, including some modern experimentation with light, airy stitches.

Take a look at these free projects from across the web to get started.

Tunisian crochet washcloths in orange and grey yarn by the Purl Bee

Tunisian crochet washcloths (image and pattern from The Purl Bee)

Shawl of multi-coloured Tunisian crochet squares

Shawl or throw in crochet squares (image and pattern from Couturier)
This pattern is in Japanese, but take inspiration from the many textures of Tunisian crochet it demonstrates!

Striped Tunisian crochet cushion

Striped cushion (image and pattern from According to Matt)

Multi-coloured blanket in crochet squares

Patchwork throw (image and pattern from Lion Brand Yarns)