What a Difference a Loop Makes

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on Mar 6, 2006 6:50 AM

crochet stitches

Note: This article uses US terminology. The swatches shown are worked in Phildar Coton no 4, with a 5mm/US H-8 hook.

There are hundreds of intricate stitch patterns in crochet. There are also many simple ones. One of the simplest and most effective variations is to work a crochet stitch as usual, but only in one loop.

Loop? What loop?

If the loop concept is new to you, or if you feel that your loop-oriented knowledge has gone a bit rusty, don’t worry. There is nothing complicated about this. Still, working in different loops can change your crochet dramatically – for the better.

What are these loops we’re talking about?

front loop and back loop 

Loops are found at the top of the stitch. The front loop is always the one closest to you. The back loop is the other one. This has nothing to do with the wrong or the right side of the fabric. ”Front” and ”back” refer to the work as you hold it.

When you learn how to crochet, you generally put your crochet hook under both of these loops, and catch the yarn behind the work. I want to encourage you to try putting hook under one loop only. What difference can this make? A rather big difference, actually. Crochet stitches are asymmetrical, and this quality is enhanced by working in one loop only. Let’s have a look.

Single crochet – a spectacular example

The single crochet is often the first crochet stitch you learn to make after the chain. It’s also a great stitch to show off the loop effect.

single crochet in both loops 

So here we have our good old classical single crochet. A nice stitch, perfect for hot pads, amigurumi and plenty of other items. It creates a sturdy fabric. This is great when sturdy is what you’re after.

But when that’s not what you want, you can change it so easily!

single crochet in front loop only

This is the same yarn, the same hook, the same number of stitches, the same stitch – but worked through the front loop only.

The look is definitely different. It’s smoother, with fine horizontal lines which give the fabric distinction without standing out too much. (OK, I will not pretend I’m impartial here. This is one of my favourite ”basic” stitches.)

The feel is different, too. This fabric is thinner and drapier than the previous one. Even on small swatches like these (10 stitches, 9 rows), it’s easy to see that the ”front loop only” swatch is taller than the ”both loops” swatch.

In my personal opinion, this is a great stitch for garments. If you like it, try the same technique with half double crochet. Chances are that you will like that, too.

But let’s not stop there!

single crochet in back loop only

Here is something completely different – still single crochet, but now worked in the back loop only. The difference is striking, don’t you think?

This is a highly textured fabric, with strong horizontal ridges. You can have a lot of fun playing with colours in this stitch pattern.

This is also one of the stretchiest crochet stitch patterns I have found to date, especially when worked in a yarn with a lot of bounce, like pure wool. The stretch goes vertically. You can often find single crochet in the back loop only used as ribbing at the hem of a sweater or at the neck, worked from side to side. But I can imagine a thousand other uses for this stitch!

Taking the loop concept further

This is where I let you take over. Now you know the basics of the loop effect, and you can experiment on your own.

You can use other stitches: half double crochet, double crochet… You can work in the front loop and in the back loop alternatively on the same row. You can work in a single loop on some rows and not on others. You can incorporate a row worked in one loop only in a more complex stitch pattern, and see how it changes the structure of the fabric. You can throw in some colour changes and see what happens. You can…

As always in crochet, you can do whatever you want and often achieve spectacular results. Make a difference, and loop away!


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helgarsmith wrote
on Jul 4, 2012 6:51 PM

What a pity the images don't show! It seemed to be just the article II was looking for.

BTW. I checked the code for the page and there's no image source listed for any of the images. Not sure what happened, but it would be great if you could add them.

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