What is Tapestry Crochet? – Overview, Tutorial, and Free Patterns

By Madeline Farquharson

Have you tried tapestry crochet? If not, I’ll warn you: it’s absolutely addicting. There is something so satisfying about a smooth color change, and–my goodness–I can’t keep my hands off of tapestry crochet projects as a result. And now I'm here to answer all of your burning questions about how to do tapestry crochet.

What Is Tapestry Crochet?

Tapestry crochet is a form of colorwork, most popularly used for home decor items. It can be used to create monogram effects, messages, general motifs, and helps to spice up even the most basic of patterns.

Tapestry crochet is accomplished by using a single crochet stitch in a variety of colors to create a specific pattern. This makes it much simpler than you’d think to learn because any pattern is just one stitch at a time! Although there are tapestry crochet patterns where each row is written out, it’s much more common for it to be presented as a graph.

Unlike some other forms of colorwork, tapestry crochet requires you to carry colors with you as you work. If you’re using just two colors, this would mean that at every color change, you’re carrying the color you aren’t using and crocheting over it so that it hides under the stitch.

In tapestry crochet, you should be prepared to crochet with a tight, consistent tension. If it’s too loose, you’ll see your secondary color poking through (not ideal). But no matter what tension suits your work, make sure you’re keeping it consistent! The best work will come from stitches that look nearly identical to each other.

How Do You Read A Tapestry Crochet Graph?

There are graphs you say?! Don’t worry! I swear it’s actually super easy to follow. In fact, I almost prefer it to other patterns because it’s so much harder to get confused when reading a graph than a written pattern.

Whether you’re right or left-handed, you’ll start in the bottom right corner. Sometimes people who are left-handed will start from the bottom left. It’s up to you and depends on the graph. The most important thing to keep track of is which side is your WS (wrong side) and which is your RS (right side).

Each square of the graph counts as one single crochet. As you move along the graph, you’ll count the number of single crochets you need in one color before changing to your next. Make sure that when you’re switching colors, you’re preparing for it by ending the stitch before with your new color.

Pro Tip:

If you don’t have a printer or don’t like to waste paper, try using a note-taking app on your tablet or phone where you can markup a PDF. That way you can use your finger to “highlight” what you’ve already done to keep track of your work.

Does Tapestry Crochet Waste A Lot Of Yarn?

Great question. I suppose it depends on your definition of waste. But I think what most people are thinking of when they ask this question is, “why should I let all of that yarn hidden between the stitches just disappear”?! And it’s a totally valid concern!

The truth of the matter is that you have two choices: you can either cut the yarn and reintroduce it at every stitch, or you can just be okay with the fact that your yarn is going to carry even when you don’t use it. The former often creates a tension issue, while the latter creates anxiety about wasted yarn. And then there’s the fact that if you carry your yarn throughout, it’s just going to have the nicest finish.

My solution is usually a combination of both. When I am working on a tapestry crochet pattern that has a centered image (like my “&” pillow), then I will usually drop the color I’m not using and not carry it to the end of the row. This does save me a lot of yarn. However , I have to be very, very careful with my tension and monitor my progress much more closely than I otherwise would if I carried the yarn throughout. The other thing this affects is the thickness of your finished product. In my pillow, it means the edges are thinner than the center as they are not bolstered by the second strand of yarn.

You also need to be careful to ensure that where you drop the yarn is directly below where you’ll need it for the next row up or you’ll be dragging the yarn across the back of your work. If you’re just carrying it up one row to the stitch directly above, it’s not too messy in the end. For the purpose of a pillow pattern, it’s usually okay to be a little messy anyway as you’ll be sewing it with the back panel and should never actually see your WS after that.

How Is Tapestry Crochet Different For Lefties?

As many of you know, I am a left-handed crocheter. This can sometimes cause issues in my work, especially when creating clothing as directions for assembly or adding on sleeves seamlessly are often written for right-handed people.

In tapestry crochet, the biggest challenge is with figuring out what will be your RS (right side) and your WS (wrong side). This is crucial especially when you’re using tapestry crochet that writes words (it’ll be mirror image from the WS).

As mentioned, I also sometimes choose to not carry my yarn all the way to the end of the row if it’s not necessary. This is usually only possible when the colorwork section is in the very center of the pattern (as is the case with my “&” pillow). But what this means is that the WS can get a bit messy when I carry the color up a row behind my work. This makes discerning between the RS and WS very important.

The best graphs will specify which will be your WS and which will be your RS, but you can also figure it out with logic. Typically, if you’re working from the bottom right corner (which you can also do as a leftie–don’t let them fool you), your WS and RS will be the exact opposite of right-handed crocheters. So when the graph indicates you’re working RS, just make a note that it’s actually your WS. This will carry throughout the pattern.

If you’re an experienced crocheter in any capacity, this won’t be too difficult for you. It’s pretty intuitive which side will be your WS and your RS. If you’re a beginner and you’re looking to practice a new skill, don’t be scared! It might be best to start with a pattern where it’s not a word, but a symbol (like a heart) because it won’t matter which is your WS and your RS. After you get a feel for it, then you can graduate to more complex patterns where the distinction is actually significant.

Tapestry Crochet: A Video Tutorial

Emily from @tlbpatterns has some of the most beautiful tapestry crochet patterns out there. During a Black Friday sale (isn’t that how we all fall prey), I celebrated the addition of four of her pillow patterns to my never-ending collection of to-makes. And I was NOT disappointed. Not only are her patterns intuitive and helpful for righties AND lefties, but she was readily available when my newbie brain couldn’t figure out a couple of problems while working tapestry for the first time.

Fast forward to now, and Emily has created an ENTIRE YouTube tutorial where she not only explains what tapestry crochet is and how it functions for colorwork, but she also walks you through making her adorable “Hi” pillow, which you can also download for FREE. So, now you can download my “&” pillow and you can also bag her “Hi” pillow. Nothing is better than a tapestry freebie.

Check out Emily's tapestry crochet tutorial below:

Is Tapestry Crochet Fun?

In a word: yes! So much fun! Playing with colors is a great way to enhance your crochet experience. If you haven't tried yet, I would really encourage you to do so. My free graph for my "&" pillow is a great pattern to start with as it's simple and fun!

Pro Tip:

To make the back panel for my pillow, just make a panel with the same amount of stitches and rows as the graph. I added some padding to the bottom and the top of my graph when I did it. You just have to make sure that if you're adding any rows or making the pillow bigger on the front that you also do it on the back panel.

If you have any questions, you are more than welcome to reach out to me! I'm always happy to help if I can. If you're not ready for tapestry crochet, don't worry. There are plenty of other free patterns on my blog that are great for beginners like my crochet mittens pattern or my crochet baskets pattern. Enjoy!