About Woolly Wits

I am a hand-knitting designer and teacher. See and purchase my published designs on Ravelry.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Crochet Chain Applique Tutorial

Vogue Knitting's
The Ultimate Hat Book

A quick review of my designs makes it clear that I have a passion for plaid.  I am not sure why since I don't bear a Scottish heritage.  And, the private school uniform typically causes a life-long aversion to plaid.  So, I suppose it is due to my love of color, but the opportunity to use it in a controlled manner.  My interest may also be that I've learned a few tricks to simplify plaid patterning, and I am willing to share my favorite with you.
The key characteristic of plaid is the crossing horizontal and vertical stripes.  In knit fabric, horizontal stripes are a beginner-level pattern - just change colors for one or more rows.  Vertical stripes are a whole different challenge.  Traditionally that problem was resolved by working intarsia.  In my mind that might be fine for a wide stripe, but narrow it down to just a few stitches - or even one stitch - and it becomes a disruptive step that often results in uneven stitches. 

Knitted base fabric, crochet hook and accent yarn

A better approach is to work the verticals after the knitting is complete with an applied crochet chain stitch.  This creates strong, clear vertical lines one stitch wide.  And it is much faster to work a crochet chain stripe than to knit it into the fabric in intarsia. 
You'll need a crochet hook matched to the size of your knitting needle.  Translate each to a mm measurement to find your size, find a reference chart on the internet, or pull out your needle gauge (most have the conversion since they can also be used to size crochet hooks). 

Insert hook thru fabric at base of purl channel

It is easiest to work an appliqued crochet chain into a column of purl stitches for a couple reasons.  First, it is much clearer where to work, and your stitches won't wander across columns.  But also, the depression caused by the purl channel allows the ridge of crochet chain to sit nearly flush with the surface of the stockinette fabric.  You can certainly work a crochet chain on a plain stockinette base, but your chain will sit above the fabric. 
Ready to give it a try?

Putting slip knot on hook on wrong side
Slip knot pulled thru to right side

Begin with the right side facing, and starting at the cast on edge, insert crochet hook through the fabric at the base of the column of ladders of the purl stitch groove.  With your other hand and working yarn on wrong side, place the slip knot on hook and pull through to right side. 
Inserting hook for first chain stitch
Continuing on with chain
*Advance hook over next yarn ladder up in vertical column and insert through fabric.  Wrap yarn around hook and pull new loop through to right side of fabric and through loop on crochet hook.  Repeat from * until you reach the last ladder before the top of the groove at the bound off edge. 
Making progress

Be careful not to work tightly, as that will draw in fabric and shorten the piece.  Every couple inches stop and give your work a tug along the vertical axis to check that it is not too tight and that the fabric remains elastic. 
To finish your chain, remove the last loop from hook and, inserting hook from WS at top of purl column, pull loop to WS.  Cut yarn and pull through.  Repeat for all vertical purl stitch grooves.
If you are working several closely spaced chains, the yarn ends from your completed chains may tangle with your working yarn.  If this happens, stop and weave in your ends. 
Gait's Haire Cowl

Speaking of weaving in ends, there will be quite a few.  To weave them in most invisibly, work the end back into the backside of the crochet chain.  The chain is much tighter than the surrounding knit fabric and will hold it secure.  This method also works well to hide the ends when your knit fabric is sheer, as in my Gait's Haire cowl or wrap design. 
Picture Perfect Plaid
from 60 Quick Baby Blankets
If you'd like to give this technique a try on a smaller project, I suggest my Cuthaig Plaid Mitts.  Another smaller project is the plaid tam pictured at the top of the post.  On a larger scale is my plaid baby blanket.

Cuthaig Plaid Mitts

I also have a couple new plaid garment designs using the applied crochet chain appearing in publications later this year, so keep an eye out. 


  1. Thank you for the tutorial - I want a one st black stripe up my beige stockings and this looks like the way to go. The stockings are in DK - was thinking of the strip being in fingering weight - then, was thinking, do a yarn over at the base and unravel the stitch at the top - that would make a much wider band for more design possibilities. I do more thinking and dreaming than knitting. But thanks again.

  2. This is a great idea! Thank-you for this tutorial.