Crochet stitches can be worked in a variety of ways. Corrina Ferguson explores working in back loop only (blo) and front loop only (flo) in this article.
The wonderful thing about crochet is that just by making a few tweaks to your technique you can make beautiful stitch variations with no extra work. This is true when you choose what part of the stitch you want to work into. Yes, you don’t have to work into the entire stitch when working crochet. You can also choose to work into the front or the back of the stitch. What does this mean? Let me show you.
Basically, the top portion of any basic crochet stitch will look like the chain that you started with. And normally we work into both “halves” of the chain. If your instructions don’t tell you otherwise, you can assume that you are working into the whole stitch normally. You can see below what’s considered the whole stitch, what’s considered the front, and what’s considered the back. These labels are based upon how the crochet is facing you. As you see, I have the hook positioned ready to work a new row and the front and back of the stitch refer to how the stitch is facing you, the crocheter.
You probably already know exactly what it looks like when you work into the whole stitch. You insert your hook from front to back under both halves of the stitch, and continue to work your stitch as directed – for this tutorial, I’m doing a bunch of double crochets.
You can see below how it looks on the front and the back of the work – pretty much identical. The base of the stitch is wrapped around the entire stitch from the previous row, so it looks the same on both sides.
To work into the front of the stitch, all you do is catch just the front half of that stitch. Easy peasy!
You will notice after the stitch is completed on the front, it stretches that front half of the loop. Because you are only working into one strand, it’s a lot stretchier. On the back you see the back half of the loop starting to form a line across the back of the work – because we didn’t work it!
Working into the back of the stitch is just as simple, you just ignore that front half of the stitch and only work into the back.
When that stitch is completed, you will see that the front unworked loop is starting to create that line across the work, and the back half of the loop is stretched out a bit, just like the front. On the other side of the work, it just kind of looks like a normal stitch.
The really interesting thing is what the fabric looks like once you have completed a fair number of rows. It might not be exactly what you expect. You might think that working in the front versus working in the back would end up looking the same after a few rows, but nope!
The first swatch is 9 rows of double crochet worked in the normal way. Ok, we know what that looks like. The second swatch is 8 rows of double crochet worked only into the front of the stitch. So first off, working into the front has made the rows a bit taller. But overall the fabric looks a bit denser, a bit less airy. But then you look at the third swatch which is working the stitches through the back loop, that swatch is also 9 rows, so you don’t get the elongated effect like the front does. Also, the back loop fabric almost has a horizontal pleat effect – very textural!
When it comes down to it, it’s best to work from the pattern – a good one will tell you if you are to work the stitches differently. But of course it’s great to know how to do all three, and when you’re just making things up as you go along you can do whatever makes you happy!