Filet Crochet Patterns & Guides
In this article you will learn all that you need to know in order to read a filet crochet chart pattern. You'll get some tips to make it easier as you go. And you'll see how to adapt one of Red Heart's free crochet patterns as you do your holiday crafting this year.
Filet Crochet is Easy
I have to confess that until I tried filet crochet I was quite intimidated by it. I'm not at all a visual learner. I always skip the symbol charts in crochet patterns and work from the words only. Filet crochet relies on its own unique set of charts so I thought I needed to stay away from it because it would be too hard. I was wrong. Once I knew some basic tips, I was easily able to read a filet crochet chart. And since filet crochet is worked entirely in double crochet and chain stitches, it's actually a perfect crochet technique for beginners in the craft.
Throughout this article we’ll be working with the Bookmark for Mom free crochet pattern, designed by Carlotta L.C. Craig, that is available on Yarnspirations. Note that the full pattern is a bookmark with a tapered top and bottom and a butterfly. In this article, I’ve only worked the rectangle part where the letters for “MOM” are shown. This pattern comes with a crochet chart for all of the letters in the alphabet in both capital and lower case versions. We will be using this chart to work some variations on the bookmark idea.
How to Filet Crochet
The crochet bookmark pattern says the following about how to read a filet crochet pattern:
Each solid square is equal to a "block" of "dc in next dc, dc in next 2 sts or ch-2 space, dc in next dc". Each open square is equal to a "space" of "dc, ch 2, skip next 2 sts, dc." The dc at the end of each square also counts as the first dc of the next block or space. For example, a block followed by a space = dc in next 4 sts, ch 2, skip next 2 sts, dc in next dc.
That's absolutely right. However, if you've never done any filet crochet work, it can be kind of confusing. So let's break it down.
Here's what you need to know about filet crochet:
The entire fabric is worked using only double crochet stitches and chain stitches.
The pattern is a chart. The chart is a set of blocks. Blocks that are filled in will be all double crochet stitches. Blocks that are open will be two chain stitches with a dc on either side.
The filet crochet chart is read from the bottom up. Row 1 is at the bottom of the image.
Odd-numbered rows are worked from right to left but even number rows are worked from left to right. This is important to know when working asymmetrical designs.
The fabric that you're creating is often called "mesh" or "grid". Sometimes patterns will refer to open mesh and closed mesh blocks. Open blocks may also be called blank or empty. Filled-in blocks may also be called solid blocks or simply blocks.
Each row typically starts and ends with a “closed mesh” or solid block square (four double crochets) rather than open spaces although this can vary by design.
Now here's the most important thing where people new to filet crochet can sometimes get lost. Although each crochet block consists of four stitches, some of those stitches are shared between blocks. A filled-in crochet block is four double crochet stitches. If you have two filled-in blocks next to each other in a pattern then it’s actually seven double crochet stitches, not eight. That's because the last double crochet of the first block IS the first double crochet of the second block. Likewise, if you have a filled in block (four double crochet stitches) next to an open block (dc, ch 2 and sk 2, dc) you will have four dc, a ch 2 space and 1 dc. That's because the last dc of the first block IS the first double crochet of the second (open) block.
It's pretty easy to figure out once you get the hang of it, but it can be really confusing at first because you simply don't count your stitches in the normal way. In a filet crochet pattern, a set of 9 filled-in blocks in a row isn’t 36 stitches (9 blocks of 4 dc each) but actually only 28 stitches (because the last dc of each set of four IS the first dc of the next set of 4).
Still confused? Let's take a look at it visually:
In both the sections I've marked out you can see that there are nine boxes. The nine bottom boxes (row 1 in the chart) are all filled in. Each one consists of four dc stitches but the last stitch of one box is the first stitch of the next box. At the top (row 7 in the chart) there are nine boxes again but four are open and the rest are filled in. There are four double crochet stitches for box 1. The last dc of Box 1 is the first dc of the open box's (dc, ch2, dc). Then the last dc of that open box is again the first dc of the next open box. And the last dc of that second open box is the first double crochet of the next closed box. And so on.
Once you get the hang of this part, the rest of filet crochet is easy. It's just figuring out where each block begins and ends that takes a little bit of getting used to.
One More Point of View: Open Mesh Approach
If you're still having trouble visualizing the blocks as you work, you may want to reverse it in your mind and think of yourself as working with a block of open mesh that you will be filling in here and there.
Here's what a block of completely open mesh would look like:
Now remember that we usually start and end with filled blocks so we're going to "fill in" those rows by adding 2 dc in those first and last chain spaces:
Then we'll look at what it looks like if we add in double crochets to "fill in" other boxes:
Additional Tips for Filet Crochet
Here are some other tips and tricks that can help you out as you're learning filet crochet.
Counting Stitches. One thing to remember is that the number of stitches in a row will always be 3x the number of boxes in the chart plus one. So if you see five boxes in a row in the chart, you'll have 16 stitches (3x5 +1) total across the row, including all dc and all ch spaces. This can also be helpful when you have a long row of filled-in boxes in your chart because you can calculate the number of double crochets instead of trying to do it block by block. For example, if you have 9 filled-in boxes in a row then you need to make 28 (3x9 +1) dc crochet stitches. So if the pattern has an open box, 9 filled boxes then an open box, you know that you're going to have a chain-2 space followed by 28 dc and then a chain 2 space.
Remember that "four is one". As I emphasized before, the fourth stitch of one box IS the first stitch of the second box. I sometimes say this out loud as I work if I am getting lost in my counting. So for the first box, I would say out loud "1, 2, 3, 4" as I counted the first set of double crochets. Then I would say "4 is 1" before beginning the next count so it would be "1, 2, 3, 4 (4 is 1) 2, 3, 4" and so on. This just reminds me that although a box is four stitches, I can't put four after four after four (because "four is one").
Mirror Rows. Whenever you see that the next row is exactly the same as the one below it, don't bother counting your stitches. Give yourself a break from keeping track of boxes and just copy the stitches from the row below.
Mark the Rows off as You Go. I find that it's really easy to get lost in a filet crochet chart pattern. I constantly have to look at my work and count the rows in the work and the pattern to figure out where I'm supposed to be. If you mark off the rows on the pattern as you go, you'll save yourself this hassle!
Look for Crochet Patterns that Use This Standard 4 DC Model. It's important to be aware that there are some filet crochet patterns that use variations on the traditional model including 3 dc blocks or what are called "lacets". Once you've learned filet crochet, you'll find it easy to adapt but when getting started stick with the traditional. You'll find it by looking in the instructions where you'll see something similar to the section I've excerpted above from the bookmark pattern.
Look for a Rectangular or Square Crochet Pattern. That's why I've just shown the rectangular portion of the crochet bookmark pattern here; as a beginner it's best to work with the same number of blocks across each row of the project.
There is also increasing and decreasing in filet crochet. Decreasing is generally done with slip stitches and so is very easy. Increasing is a bit more complex. Most patterns will provide specific instructions where increasing is required.
Rewrite the Pattern so It Makes Sense to You. When you're first starting out, you may find that it helps to take the time to write out some of the pattern rows in words. Alternatively, you may use standard crochet symbols (shown below) and chart it out that way if that's something that you're more comfortable with. You won't have to do this forever but if you're really stuck when learning filet crochet then it can be a good way to get over the hump.
Practice Thread Crochet. Filet crochet patterns are often (although certainly not always) designed for thread crochet instead of crochet with yarn. If you're not comfortable with thread crochet, take a look at this Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Thread Crochet to get you started. It can be frustrating to try to learn too many new things at once so if you're new to both thread crochet and filet crochet then take it one step at a time. Either learn thread crochet first and come back to thread crochet or learn filet crochet using a yarn you're more familiar with.
Crochet Mom Bookmark in Yarn
If you decide that you would like to learn filet crochet in yarn first, you can simply adapt the Mom Bookmark free crochet pattern by using a yarn you like and an appropriately sized hook for that yarn. The pattern is worked exactly the same with a different gauge. You can also choose to do what I’ve done here which is to work only the rectangular part where the lettering is. This creates a fabric that reads “Mom” that could be used as part of a larger project such as a scarf. You can use the alphabet crochet chart in the pattern to create projects using longer names and words as well, which will lend itself even better to the filet crochet scarf idea. (Note: I worked this using a J sized crochet hook and some of the vintage Red Heart Super Saver yarn from my stash.)
Holiday Thread Crochet Project
Another variation on this project is to adapt this free filet crochet pattern to work for holiday gifting. For my example, I've worked with Aunt Lydia's Metallic Thread Crochet in silver and gold.
I used the alphabet chart provided in the pattern. I created this A to start spelling out the name ADAM. I made each letter as an individual block but it could be worked as a vertical name just like the mom bookmark was. Here are some things I can do with these thread crochet squares for the holidays:
Join them horizontally or vertically or leave them as individual squares.
Use them to write out the names on packaging for Christmas presents. This would stand out beautifully against simple white or brown paper wrapping.
Set them against a background and frame them to give as a holiday gift.
Stitch them to another crochet project to personalize it. For example, I may add this metallic thread crochet name to a white wool crochet blanket as a holiday gift this year. A single block letter would work as a monogram, too.
When working with other letters of the alphabet, you'll notice in the chart that they are all the same height but they vary slightly in width. If you want all of your squares to be the same size then make them the size of the largest letter width in your word and just add filled-in double crochet blocks on either end as needed for the smaller letters. (For example, in ADAM my A and D letters were each 7 blocks across and my M was 9 blocks across so I'd just add one block on either side of the As and D to make them the same width as the M.
Crochet the Whole Alphabet
Once you learn how to do it, filet crochet is easy. It's also really fun because you can use this simple pattern to create all sorts of different projects and to stitch almost any word or image. One great way to get good at filet crochet is to use the chart in the free bookmark pattern to crochet the entire alphabet. You could use it as décor for a children’s room or put each one on a page of felt for a tactile kids book.
5 More Filet Crochet Projects
All of the alphabet practice and holiday crochet ideas using the bookmark pattern should keep you busy for awhile. But there are also many other great filet crochet patterns. Here are five you might like: