Tapestry crochet is the general term for colorwork in crochet. It involves working with two or more colors in a single row and changing between colors in a designated color pattern (often displayed in a chart). The non-working color is carried either within the stitch or along the back (or wrong side) of the project.
Colorwork Crochet Terms to Know:
Generally, when talking about colorwork, you will most likely hear a range of terms (as well as a range of explanations on what exactly they mean). The most common terms are: colorwork, tapestry, fair isle, jacquard, and intarsia. Here is a little more explanation on what each of these terms mean.
Colorwork is really the catch-all term for any kind of color changing in crochet. The term encompasses tapestry, fair isle, jacquard, intarsia, and 2-color changing in Tunisian crochet. Even simple striping would be considered colorwork.
Tapestry is the more traditional crochet term for changing colors and creating geometric or artistic patterns in crochet. Traditional tapestry crochet pieces typically use a single crochet stitch, worked very tightly with the non-working color carried inside the stitch. With time, tapestry crochet has grown to include all kinds of projects with a wide variety of crochet stitches.
Fair Isle is a term that has been borrowed from knitting. In crochet, it is often used to refer to colorwork crochet where the non-working color is carried at the back or on the wrong side of the work. This creates floats, or strands of unused yarn that “float” along the back of the project.
In knitting, the term Fair Isle has often been used to describe all kinds of colorwork knitting. However, Fair Isle purists prefer to use the term only in regards to specific colorwork patterns that come only from the Fair Isle region (in Shetland, Scotland). So if we adhere to that description, we really should refer to this type of colorwork crochet as “stranded colorwork” crochet.
Jacquard is a lesser known word for tapestry crochet that usually entails carrying the non-working color along the top of the previous row along the inside of the stitch you are working.
Intarsia is also a term taken from knitting. Intarsia colorwork entails large blocks of color where it might be too difficult (or unnecessary) to carry the non-working color along the back or along the inside of the stitch. Rather, you work with one color, according to the colorwork chart until the next color is needed. Then, you switch to the new color, leaving the old color behind. To achieve this, you might need several small balls of yarn attached to your work for each color block section.
How to Tapestry Crochet
How To Change Colors
To have a clean color change in crochet you need to complete the previous stitch in the new color. This means you read the color chart until it is time to switch colors, in the stitch previous to the new color, complete the final yarn over and draw through with the new color you are switching to. For example:
In single crochet (SC): work the single crochet in the first color, then in the stitch before a color change, in the old color, insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop (2 loops on hook in the old color), with the new color, yarn over and pull through two loops (the loop left on the hook will be in the new color).
Work single crochet in the first color
In the stitch before a color change, with the old color, insert hook in stitch
With the old color, yarn over
Pull up a loop in the old color (2 loops on hook in old color)
Switch to the new color
With the new color, yarn over
Pull the new color through the 2 loops of the old color (the loop left on the hook will be in the new color)
Continue working the next stitch in the new color
In half double crochet (HDC):
Work the half double crochet in the first color, in the stitch before a color change, with the old color yarn over and insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop (3 loops on hook in the old color), with the new color yarn over and pull through 3 loops (the loop left on the hook will be in the new color).
In double crochet (DC):
Work the double crochet in the first color, in the stitch before a color change, in the old color yarn over and insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop (3 loops on hook), yarn over and pull through 2 loops (2 loops left on hook), with the new color yarn over and pull through two loops (the loop left on the hook will be in the new color).
Best Stitches for Tapestry Crochet
Traditionally, tapestry crochet is worked with a standard single crochet stitch. However, single crochet stitches don’t perfectly line up with one another, so patterns that are very geometric or that feature vertical lines, might tend to slant. There are some variations to the single crochet stitch that help the stitches align better for colorwork charts. These variations work best when done in the round or in right-side only rows.
Single Crochet Back Loop Only (SC Blp):
Working a single crochet through the back loop only of the stitch can help the stitches align better.
Center Single Crochet (CSC):
Insert your hook through the center of the stitch (in the middle of the “V” shape), and then work the single crochet as normal. This helps stitches align better and also gives the fabric the appearance of the knit stitch. Be aware that this stitch can greatly shorten your row gauge and creates a very dense fabric.
Extended Single Crochet (ESC):
This is a slightly lengthened version of the single crochet stitch, insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop (2 loops on hook), yarn over and pull through one loop (still 2 loops on hook), yarn over and pull through 2 loops. Be aware that this stitch can greatly lengthen your row gauge.
While single crochet is most-often used for tapestry crochet, you can also work tapestry crochet using half double crochet or double crochet stitches.
What yarn is best for Tapestry crochet?
If you’re just getting started with tapestry crochet, you’ll want a yarn that doesn’t split, and one that is not too thick or dense. We recommend: