June 25, 2013

Fast and easy Tunisian base row - Long-tail crochet cast-on

For me, the most annoying part of Tunisian crochet is making the base row. Making sure to have the correct number of stitches in the chain, and then the fiddling with picking up the stitches (bobbles). Only recently did I find out that with the help of an extra crochet hook (about the same size as the Afghan hook) this can all be done in one pass, plus much easier to keep track of the stitch count.

It is possible to cast on stitches for Tunisian crochet using knitting techniques. For example using the long-tail cast-on method. I liked the speed of it, but I did not like the look of the edge. I prefer the crocheted look, which also makes it easier to add crochet edging afterwards. Then I found that knitters also sometimes use a "crochet cast-on", which gives the crocheted edge look (small V's). Some more research online and I found many different incarnations of this technique applied to Tunisian crochet, using the ball yarn, the tail yarn, or both (see for example this video). I personally don't like how the the left edge stitch looks when working from the ball, so I work with the tail yarn. Here I just show how I do it, as clear as I possible could.

There is a small difference between chaining and picking up stitches and how I do the crochet cast-on, if you want to know what that difference is before you start, jump to the bottom.

Here follows a step-by-step picture tutorial.

What you'll need

  • Yarn and corresponding afghan hook
  • A crochet hook that is about the same size as the afghan hook


We are going to work with the tail of the yarn (hence the name, long-tail cast on). You therefore need to first unwind enough yarn for all your cast on stitches from the ball. You can estimate the amount needed by first casting on 10 stitches and unraveling, measure how much you used. If you need 100 stitches, multiply this length of yarn by 10.

If you're don't care if you wast a little yarn, just unwind plenty of yarn. 

Using the crochet hook, add a loop with a slip knot (as if you were starting a chain). In this picture you see the long tail of yarn:

You'll be holding your afghan hook vertically with the end upwards. If you have a convertible hook, remove the cable. 

If you have a convertible hook and need to add a lot of stitches (that don't fit on the hook itself) you may want to attach your cable to the hook end. I used some painters tape in this picture, since it is easily removable:

you can then slide the stitches onto the cable as you keep adding more.

First stitch

Now put the tail behind the afghan hook and your crochet hook on the right. A picture makes this more clear:

We'll ignore the yarn that goes to the ball and only work with the tail. Make a yarn over:

You should now have the tail yarn wrapped around the back of the afghan hook. Now pull the yarn through the loop on your crochet hook:

You should have made one stitch on the afghan hook. To finish this stitch and prepare for the next one, move the yarn over the hook to the back:

This first stitch made is going to be your left edge stitch of the base row:

Second stitch

Simply repeat the steps above. Yarn over:

Pull through loop on crochet hook:

Move tail yarn from the front to the back:

Second stitch made.


Keep going in this way adding stitches. You don't want to make them too tight or too loose. Getting the tension right takes some practice. But in my experience so far, If you use the same size hooks, you should be alright:

Final stitch

Once you have all the stitches you need on your hook, including both edge stitches, you are ready to end the base row. Simply chain one and bind off on the crochet hook:

The final stitch made is the right edge stitch of your base row. 

Return pass

Your base row is finished. We now quit using the tail yarn, so if you still have a long tail, you can cut it shorter (remember you'll still need to weave it in when you finish your project). Move your stitches to the hook end of your afghan hook and do a return pass as usual using the yarn from the ball:

The difference

You may wonder if there is a difference in the final base row when using this quick method compared to chaining and picking up stitches. There is a difference but it is only small. If you compare the two methods (quick on the left, normal on the right):

you see that the long-tail crochet cast-on method has a small knot near the right edge stitch, while the chain method does not. This is the only difference. It is up to you if you find this to be an issue or not.

Note that the direction of the V's is the same with both methods.

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