How to Filet Crochet
They all say filet crochet is so easy, and it is, but learning it can be quite hard. Check out pretty much EVERYTHING you could ever ask to learn filet crochet, including worksheets to help you figure those confusing graphs out!
Many, many years ago I found a filet stitch pattern that I really dug and I wanted to make it. But the thing is, I totally didn’t understand it. What is this crazy checkerboard-esque set of blocks and how in the world is that supposed to translate to stitches? Through lots of reading I was able to figure out the basics but, alas, I could never figure the darn business out. I’d sit there and create my foundation chain and then work my first row to find that I had too many or too few chain stitches in that foundation for business to work out. I’d count and count and try to work it out but would come up short and toss my yarn and hook down.
It turns out that a lot of my problem with filet crochet is that I didn’t understand the count. I was finally able to teach myself filet crochet and, I’m not going to lie, it was a beast and a half for me to figure out. Maybe there’s just some block in my brain that made things not happen for me and every other hooker out there has no problem with it, but maybe all of the directions are really difficult?
I think that a big part of the issue with me trying to learn is that it seemed everything I read assumed that I already understood certain things. But the fact is, I was coming into this bright, shiny and new with no knowledge to pull from to understand that somethings with filet crochet just are because, well, they just are. I think another one of the issues is that for filet crochet one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. There are lots of factors that determine how your pieces will turn out. Do you hook tightly or loosely? How tall are your double crochet stitches? Do you want to work in the chains or the gaps from the previous row?
So yesterday I totally got a wild hair to make filet stitch more accessible to people who learn like me. Sometimes I do better with lots of pictures. Sometimes I do better with a little video instruction. And always I do better when somebody explains to me what might go wrong and how to fix it if it does. Now I don’t know all things filet crochet, to be quite honest, but I know enough now to work my way around. Today our goal is learning how to read and use filet graphs to hook up filet crochet pieces. Tuck in, guys, ’cause this is a loooooong ride :)
What is filet crochet?
The end goal with filet crochet is to create a whole bunch of little squares (not rectangles), some filled in, some not, to make a pattern visible in your crochet fabric. Filet crochet is typically worked in a single color. Lighter weight (thinner) yarns seem to work best for filet crochet, but you can use any weight you’d like. Fuzzy yarns don’t work as well as smoother yarn to make a striking image pop out because all that fuzz does affect the sharpness of the design. Cotton yarns are most often referenced to be used for filet crochet and, in my experience, cotton is always easier to work with than anything acrylic and it blocks up well so that we can work out any imperfections in our shape once the design has been hooked up.
The basis for all filet crochet pieces is the design, recorded in a graph.
How do you read a filet crochet graph?
Above is a simple heart filet crochet graph. It has 9 columns (horizontally) and 8 rows (vertically). The black squares are filled in sections of the grid, accomplished with double crochet stitches and the white blocks are skipped areas, accomplished with chain stitches.
If the design is symmetrical, like the graph above, you can work left to right or right to left because no matter which way you go, the design is the same.
But if the pattern is asymmetrical, you typically work from right to left and then left to right for the next row, changing directions as you move up the graph. Be sure to read the directions by a pattern creator, if available, to make sure this is the direction they want you to work in.
That’s right, you work a filet graph up from the bottom up to the top. You know how you read a book left to right and top to bottom? You’re supposed to read these graphs in the complete opposite. But if I’m being honest, I often can’t remember that and I still work left to right top to bottom most of the time and I haven’t had any problems. What can I say, I’m a crochet rogue.
Let’s first learn the foundation of the filet crochet stitch, the grid.
I seriously had the hardest time figuring out how those black and white boxes translated to crochet stitches. And here’s how I finally did it… think of all of your filet crochet pieces as a basic grid. See those stitches up there? Those are the stitches you’re going to make in those exact places every single row. These stitches make up the grid and within each square of that grid you will either fill it with a pair of double crochet stitches or skip it with a pair of chain stitches. But no matter what, those stitches above you’re going to hit just like you see every. single. time.
How do I count stitches when working from a filet crochet graph?
Though everybody will tell you how easy filet crochet is (and it is once you learn it!) I had such difficulty with counting stitches as I worked and until I understood how filet crochet is a grid with spaces that are either filled or left blank, I totally didn’t get it. Let’s look at that basic grid again…
Each stitch is both the first stitch for the section to come after it and the last stitch in the section before which is confusing as all hell if you ask me. In your first row, your chain 3 acts as your first double crochet. It’s stitch #1. Next, to it, we create the stitches to fill the first square of the grid. 1, 2, 3, 4. But that fourth stitch is also the first stitch in our next square of the grid. To acknowledge this you can say something like “four is one” to begin the count of the next square. So you’d go: “one, two, three, four is one, two, three, four is one, two, three, four is one… Me, after the first square of the row, I just omit saying one. My count works like this “one, two, three four, two, three, four, two, three, four”. Something about this pattern of counting out each section reminds me of the counting we did in dance class, so maybe that’s why I’m more keen to count this way. Do whatever works for you and feel free to experiment.
Let’s see how that count actually looks on paper…
To help keep your rows and stitches right, each row should have 3 stitches for each column of your pattern + 1 (for that first chain 3 that acts as your first double crochet). Above our graph is for 7 columns. After completing the row you should be able to count out #columns x 3 + 1, or 22 stitches across in our example above: (7 x 3) + 1 =22
How many do I chain to start my filet crochet piece?
You’re not going to get anywhere in crochet without a foundation, so let’s learn how many to chain up to get started with your filet crochet graph. Sometimes your grid will start with an open square and sometimes it will start with a closed square. This will affect how many chain stitches are needed for your base but no matter which you start with, the beginning of the math is that you will always multiply the number of blocks in the graph by 3.
This checkerboard pattern has 7 columns or squares across the bottom of the pattern. For each column across you’ll need 3 chain stitches to accommodate it. So our math looks like this –> (#columns x 3). But you also need to add 3 chain stitches to act as the side for that first box, to act as your first double crochet, so we need to add 3 to that number. The pattern above does start with a closed square and has 7 columns so our math looks like this: (7 x 3) = 21 + 3 = 24 chains to start.
Math to create your base chain with the first stitch being closed is: (#columns x 3) + 3.
In the photo above you see those 21 stitches in our foundation chain along the bottom and the 3 stitches along the side that act as our first double crochet adding up to our 24 total stitches needed. Since this is a closed square to begin, the square is filled with double crochet stitches. You’ll start your DC stitches in the fourth chain from the hook once it’s time to get going.
Now let’s take a look at this heart… The first square on our graph for this heart design is open. That means that since we aren’t filling the box with double crochet stitches, we need to skip it with 2 chain stitches. You’ll always need 3 chain stitches for each column across, so we start with 9 x 3 = 27. You’ll need to add +3 to act as the first side, or double crochet in the piece and then another +2 chain stitches to acts as the top of the box and make that skip. That’s a total of 5 more chain stitches that need to be added to our foundation chain. Our math for a graph with a first, open square looks like this –> (#columns x 3) + 5. The pattern above does start with a closed square and has 9 columns so our math looks like this: (9 x 3) = 27 + 5= 32 chains to start.
Math to create your base chain with the first stitch being open is: (#columns x 3) + 5.
Take a quick peek at the pic above. See how those chain stitches actually form that first open square? Cool, right? :)
So how does a filet crochet graph translate into actual stitches?
Let’s take this checkerboard graph with the first square filled in… To start we need a foundation chain of 24 because the first square at the bottom right is closed making our math is: (7 columns x 3 = 21 + 3 = 24 chain stitches in the foundation). But what stitches do you make now to accomplish the actual piece?
Remember that counting technique I shared above? Check out the pic above, the chain three acts as our first double crochet (count = 1). In the fourth chain stitch from the hook, double crochet once (count = 2). Double crochet a second time in the next chain in the foundation to “fill in” the square (count = 3). Double crochet in the next chain of the foundation chain to finish this square and create the first side for the square next to it (count = 4 is 1).
Looking at a chart of symbols was much easier for me when I was learning how that graph translated into actual crochet stitches. But it’s easy to miss that grid that’s inside of the design. I mean, the double crochet sections look way bigger than the areas with 2 chains, right? I mean, it is totally confusing!
See the pink stitches? Those are from your grid. Those are the stitches that always stay the same. No matter what, you will always have a chain 3 or double crochet stitch in that exact spot every single row without fail. All of the black stitches are where we filled in each section to reflect the black areas of our chart with a pair of double crochet stitches or skipped a white square to leave it “empty” with 2 chain stitches.
Here are the crochet symbols laid over the chart. The pink stitches are the grid that is always there. The white or black stitches are the “filling” for each square of the grid. The white blocks are “skips” made with 2 chain stitches. The black blocks are “filled” with 2 double crochet stitches.
When I started drawing my crochet symbols on TOP of my charts in the beginning, it really started to make better sense to me and I started to “see” that grid in each of the graphs a little more easily. And then that whole counting business: one, two, three, four is one, started to visibly make sense.
Getting the hang of filet crochet by doing.
In the end, I finally learned how to filet crochet by DOING. I made myself a crazy pattern that was totally asymmetrical so that I’d really need to pay attention to and read from as I worked. Here she is:
It may seem a bit intimidating, but learning by doing is something that works best for so many of us, so let’s give it a go.
The chart above has 5 rows and 5 columns and, like I said before, the pattern is totally random and completely asymmetrical so we will read it from the bottom right corner to the left, switching from left to right for all even rows and right to left for all odd rows. First, start we need a foundation chain.
Our pattern starts with a closed square. The math for a closed first square is (#columns x5) + 3 = chain stitches in the foundation. That means our foundation chain will be (5 x 3)=15 + 3 = 18.
In order to be able to see the graph like a chart, in the beginning, I had to superimpose the symbols on top of it with markers. But let’s do this digitally to make it easier to read and throw those symbols on top of the chart and hook this gal up, shall we?
This is exactly how our graph translates into crochet symbols. The blue double crochet stitches and chain 3 (that acts as a first double crochet stitch) are the stitches that are consistent and ALWAYS THERE. Yup, that grid I’m always harping about. Each black square is filled in with double crochet stitches. Each white square is a gap in the design created with 2 chain stitches.
And here is a clean version of the symbols you can work from if you prefer. While starting out, when working with a new graph you can draw out the symbols on top of the chart, and then move them to a clean sheet of paper to be able to read them more easily if that works better for you. It might take longer to see “the grid” and all of that business, but if you don’t mind charting this stuff out then I don’t see the problem with doing what works best for you.
So, ready to hook it up?
Here is your text version to help you work with your sample graph and chart:
Row 1: In the fourth chain from the hook double crochet once. Double crochet in the next 6 stitches. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet in the next stitch. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet in the next stitch and in the next 3 stitches to the end.
Row 2: Chain 3 (acts as first double crochet). Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double once in each of the next four stitches. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet once in the next stitch. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet in the next stitch and in the next 3 stitches to the end.
Row 3: Chain 5 (acts as first double crochet and forms the first empty square). Skip the first 2 stitches from the previous row to form the skip and double once crochet in the next stitch and the 3 stitches just after. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet once in the next stitch. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet once in the next stitch. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet once in the next stitch. Double crochet in the last stitch of the row.
Row 4: Chain 3 (acts as first double crochet). Double crochet in the first 3 stitches from the previous row. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet once in the next four chains. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Chain once in the next stitch. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet in the last stitch.
Row 5: Chain 5 (acts as first double crochet and forms the first empty square). Skip the first 2 stitches from the previous row to form the skip and double once crochet in the next stitch and the 3 stitches just after. Double crochet once in the next four stitches. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet once in the next stitch. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet once in the next stitch. Chain twice, skipping the 2 stitches in the previous row. Double crochet once in the next stitch. Double crochet in the last stitch of the row.
But what happens when you want to work from a chart I haven’t conveniently turned into a typical crochet chart with the symbols you’re used to?
Let’s really learn out how graphs translate to stitches by converting a few patterns.
Okay, okay, I’m a dork. I get that. When I was trying to learn how to work from these charts as I stitched I decided that the key was in being able to convert them from that black and white set of boxes into a chart like I use for other crochet projects all the time in my head, on the fly as I worked. I figured if I knew how to read them better, I’d be ripping out far less in mistakes. Now for me, I just looked for examples online and in books, but I decided to make y’all some filet crochet worksheets. Yep, just like when you were in school. (Is your nerd alarm blaring, because mine is :) You can download the PDF file worksheets to print off here.
Basically, I’ve created a few pages you can print and fill in the “grid” with the appropriate skips or fills to turn that grid into a crochet chart of a filet graph. Feel free to totally skip these because we’re all old enough to not do homework. And in all honesty, my O.C.D. is BANGING and I’m a crazy completist right now so it could totally be overkill. But that’s also why I decided to go ahead and write up this filet crochet tutorial for you today instead of the previously scheduled fall release date, because my mind is set on high to think of all of the things you might need to know to really learn this crochet method.
So… worksheets... I put the graphs we worked on this blog post, plus another more difficult graph at the end for 4 sheets total to work out how the stitches translate. The last page is an answer key so you can “check your work” if necessary. I absolutely swear this method, just FYI, which is why I put all of the time I did into these printables :)
So, have you got it? After 3,000 words (not even playing) I totally hope I was able to teach you how filet crochet works or that doesn’t say much about me, I suppose :) Oh, hey, good job, you, for hanging in there with all of my business for so long :)
But seriously, want to try a pattern on your own? Check out this free filet crochet heart graph.
I made this heart filet crochet pattern because it’s symmetrical and it’s big but not too big with 9 columns and 8 rows. And hearts are pretty. Want a little help to get started? Your beginning square on the graph is open so your math is: (#columns x 3) + 5 = foundation or (9 x 3) = 27 + 5 = 32
Wait, is your filet crochet work not square? Is it short and squatty?
This is where things get a little irritating. Apparently, a bazillion crocheters can rock the filet crochet with double crochet stitches like you’re supposed to but, guess what? I can’t. My work always turns out short and squatty. That’s because my double crochet stitches aren’t the right length to make the squares actually square. Look at them. They kind of look like rectangles instead, don’t they? Having the same issue as me? Now that you know HOW to filet crochet let’s tweak it so that we get those lovely grids looking right.
Using a simple pattern for a simple square made of 3 columns and 3 rows, we’re going to try a few different stitches. Then we will measure them out to determining which stitch actually works for us in turning our graphs into proportionately hooked pieces. See that little hand-drawn chart up there on the right? That’s the one we’re going to find our best stitch.
Keeping track of your hook and the brand and type of yarn (all of which make a significant difference) let’s start our first swatch. In my example above the top example is double crochet. Now I prefer to work in the gaps rather than the stitches because it works up much more quickly for me, but this also makes my stitches shorter, another reason I have to compensate with length.
You can work this any way you please. I went ahead and hooked up the test with double crochet stitches just to see how off my work was. It turns out that it measures 1 7/8 inches across but only 1 3/8 inches tall, hence, the short and squatty appearance. I figured this could be fixed by using an extended double crochet and tried that with the test next. But, alas, my next test square measured out at 1 7/8 x 1 5/8, still a bit off. Moving on to the treble crochet, I finally got Goldilocks perfect porridge with a piece that measures 2 1/8 x 2 1/8. And before you ask me how my work got wider, well, I have no clue, I just know at this time on this day, this is going to give me a square result from my efforts.
Now when you change the stitch length you’re also going to have to change the number in your chains at the beginning of each row to match. So since I’m using treble crochet stitches instead of a chain 3 I have to chain 4 to act as the side of my first square, my first “stitch”. This also alters my foundation chain changing the math I use to get that number of stitches needed to get started. Since I chain 4 instead of three, I simply change out that number. With a closed square first, the math changes from (#columns x 3) + 3 to (#columns x 3) + 4 to reflect that extra stitch needed. For an open first square (#columns x 3) + 5 to (#columns x 3) + 6.
Over time your crochet will likely change. I used to hook so tightly that it made it difficult to achieve some designs. But as I get older, my messed up hand with parts that have been broken over 3 different times, now, starts to hurt more quickly and has really loosened up grip which loosens my crochet stitches. So with time and especially with changing yarn, it is a good idea to run a swatch every once in a while to ensure your end results are spot on. And trust me, I freaking hate making swatches but in this case, it’s super helpful :)
And I’m not even playing… when making these test graphs, if you want to get it right, measure that business. Eyeballing it can actually have pretty off results. I thought my second example was square by eye but it wasn’t. Meh.
You can also block your work to help shape it into the correct dimensions but the closer you get to it being right to begin with, the better it’s going to look in general. And it’s a lot easier to stretch these pieces wider than taller.
In conclusion, it looks hard, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to learn, but once you get it, filet crochet is a lot of fun and really not that hard at all to accomplish. Anything I didn’t cover? Ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to get your issue worked out!