Instructions to Overlay Crochet

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Overlay crochet is a technique designed by fiber artist/crochet instructor Melody Macduffie. Since introducing it in 2003, she has taught the technique directly to hundreds of students "at various conferences and guild retreats around the country." This relatively new technique has its roots in Aran crochet, but it involves changing colors on nearly every row or round.

Skills You Need to Know

  • To successfully do overlay crochet, you should first master basic crochet techniques, including starting a chain, tying off the yarn, completing a single crochet, double crochet and triple crochet. You will be adding in colors on a row-by-row basis, so it is very important to be able to add new strands of yarn using a slip stitch, so that you do not wind up with lots of unstable knots. To do this, use the new yarn to make a slip knot on the hook. Push the hook through the first stitch at the beginning of the previous row, pull up a loop of yarn (yarn over) and pull through both the loop created by the old yarn and the one created by the new yarn.

Designing the Pattern

  • Overlay crochet works well on a number of scales, from all-purpose thread combined with beads to make intricate jewelry designs, to worsted-weight yarns overlaid together to make a highly textured afghan. When designing a pattern, consider looking to history, as the technique allows for elaborate mosaic effects, or find bursting kaleidoscopes of colors in your imagination. The key is to make a symmetrical pattern, if working in a round, or a repeating one if working in rows. Choose a base color and a pallet consisting of at least three coordinating colors.

From Aran Crochet to Crochet Overlay

  • Aran crochet starts with a basic chain, usually followed up with at least one row or round of single crochet stitches. You continue making single crochets in the succeeding rows, while substituting longer stitches for some of the individual single crochet stitches, which creates bumps and cables. Crochet overlay takes this a step farther, adding even longer stitches and changing the color of the yarn. Always hold the "right" side of the piece toward you, and make sure that you are anchoring the long stitches into the back loops of the previous row or round, so that the front loop is left open if you need to anchor an even longer stitch on top of it.

Creating Textures

  • Crochet overlay creates a textured piece, which, according to Macduffie, makes it one of the most forgiving of the fiber arts. She says, "You can get away with all kinds of mistakes without backing up and ripping out stitches or even whole rounds of stitches," because the texture hides any unevenness. She recommends just adding a stitch to make up for one that was dropped, or vice versa. To create these textures, feel free to use your entire repertoire of popcorn and cluster stitches, as well as extra-long stitches.

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