Filet crochet is an open, lacy technique that’s often used to show geometric patterns, images and lettering. The techniques involved are very simple – basic filet only uses chains and treble stitches, but with just these basic stitches, you can create an unlimited number of filet crochet patterns, shapes and images. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to filet crochet and then you can use your new skills to make our free filet crochet table runner pattern.
Usually made in rows, filet crochet is made up of a grid or mesh, where squares are either left empty and open or they are filled with stitches – combinations of these squares will form filet crochet patterns.
When you’re first learning how to work filet crochet techniques, it’s best to practise with a smooth cotton yarn, in a DK weight (or heavier), and the appropriate size hook for the yarn.
It’s the ease with which filet crochet can render almost any shape or image into knotted fabric that sets it apart from other crochet techniques, making it a perennial favourite – and hooking us into a long history of lace and crochet making. As far back as the 16th century, in Italy, the word filet was associated with a knotted lace net whose spaces were darned to form patterns. Filet crochet, as we know it today, arrived in the UK in the second half of the 19th century. It imitated bobbin lace-making and was a cheaper alternative.
What yarn should I use for filet crochet
For best results with filet crochet patterns, stick to smooth yarns such as cotton. Beyond that, you can use fine threads and small hooks to create elaborate and detailed patterns that look like lace, or choose chunky yarns and big hooks to show off a pattern on a larger piece of fabric. The samples below show how the same simple filet pattern will look if you use different weights of yarn. Each piece is approximately the same size and each one uses a simple diagonal pattern –
This first swatch uses super chunky yarn.
This second swatch uses chunky yarn.
This third swatch uses DK yarn.
This last swatch uses 4ply yarn.
You can see how the diagonal line becomes less stepped as the yarn gets finer. Now that you know which yarn, let’s learn how to filet crochet!
How to filet crochet
A simple filet crochet fabric is made up of treble stitches separated by chain spaces. To make a basic filet net of 10 squares across by 10 rows, ch20 for the foundation chain, then work ch3 (counts as first treble stitch) and ch1 for the first chain space. Work a treble into the 6th chain from the hook
– this creates the first filet space. To form the next space, work *ch1, skip 1 ch, treble in the next chain. Repeat from * to the end of the foundation chain. Turn.
To work the next row, ch4 (counts as 1 tr, 1 ch), skip 1 ch, tr into the next tr,
*ch1, skip 1 ch, tr into the next tr. Repeat from * to the end of the row, working the last treble into the 3rd chain of the 3-ch t-ch on the previous row.
Work more rows in the same way until you’re happy with the technique. We worked 10 rows to form a square fabric (see Empty Mesh, left). All squares are open in this fabric, but you’ll see how each open square can be filled in by replacing the ‘ch1’ with a treble stitch. It’s by filling in specific squares that you can create patterns.
Each open square is called a space and is made up of 2 trebles separated by one chain, while a filled-in square is called a block and is made up of 3 trebles together. Adjacent squares share their outside trebles, which form the mesh structure.
Next, practise working blocks as well as spaces in your filet fabric. Ch20 for the foundation chain, then work ch3 (counts as first treble). Work a treble into the 4th chain from the hook. Work a treble into the next chain to complete a block at the start of the first row.
Now practise switching between blocks and spaces by working: *ch1, skip 1 ch, tr in next ch (space formed), tr in each of next 2 ch (block formed). Repeat from * to the end of the row.
To start the next row with a block, work ch3 (counts as first tr), skip the stitch at the base of the t-ch (as usual with treble fabric) and work a treble into the next two stitches (whether they’re chains or trebles).
If you wanted to start the next row with a space, you’d work: ch4 (counts as 1 ch and 1 tr), skip the stitch at the base of the t-ch, skip the next stitch (whether it’s a treble or a chain) and work a treble into the next treble.
Continue across the row, alternating spaces and blocks to practise working them. At the end of the row, you can either work a space or a block. To work a space at the end of a row, work the last treble of the penultimate block or space, then ch1, skip the next stitch (whether it’s a treble or a chain), and work the last treble into the 3rd chain of the turning chain on the previous row.
To work a block at the end of a row, work the last treble of the penultimate block or space, then work a treble into the next stitch (whether it’s a treble or a chain), and work the last treble into the 3rd chain of the turning chain on the previous row.
How to filet crochet using a chart
So far, we’ve worked blocks using 3 trebles together and spaces with 2 trebles separated by 1 chain. But some filet crochet patterns use blocks of 4 trebles together and spaces of 2 trebles separated by 2 chains. Both sizes of mesh are common and the pattern you’re using should indicate the size of block and chain space to be worked.
The examples below show the same filet pattern worked with either a 1-ch space or a 2-ch space.
The narrower version (with a 1-ch space) will produce squarer blocks and spaces, and often reflects the proportions of the filet crochet chart more accurately. The wider mesh (with a 2-ch space) is often found in traditional fine filet work, but is also common in modern filet crochet patterns.
There’s a huge range of filet crochet patterns available and they vary in format, with a combination of pattern text, a filet crochet chart or a crochet symbols chart.
A filet crochet chart is the most often used and is usually the easiest to follow, allowing you to easily visualise the final outcome. This chart shows a pattern of a DK yarn creating a diagonal pattern.
This method uses a grid with empty squares representing a space and dotted squares representing a block. Remember that the outside trebles of adjacent spaces or blocks are shared. When following a filet crochet chart, the blocks will usually be 3 trebles or 4 trebles, while the spaces will usually be (tr, ch, tr) or (tr, ch2, tr) – this should be indicated somewhere in the pattern.
A pattern should also tell you the length of foundation chain to work. If it doesn’t, you can calculate the length as follows: count the number of squares across the chart; multiply by two if you’re using the 1-ch space filet, or multiply by three for the wider 2-ch space filet. In our example 03 , there are 8 squares in the chart, multiplied by 2 for the 1-ch space filet, equals 16; or multiplied by 3 for the 2-ch space filet, equals 24. Then add 3 chains for the first treble.
A filet chart always represents the right side of the work and there should be a key to explain the different symbols. The chart can be read from the left or the right, depending on whether you’re right-handed or left-handed – it doesn’t matter because this is a visual representation of the finished piece.
A standard crochet symbol chart will look very different to a filet chart – this time, the spaces and blocks are represented by the crochet symbols for chains and trebles. The two charts below show the same diagonal pattern as the filet chart, using either a 1-ch space…
… or a 2-ch space.
You would read it in the same way as any other crochet symbol chart. This type of chart also gives a good visual idea of the completed project and can be very helpful for beginners, but it includes a level of detail that’s not really necessary with filet crochet. A filet crochet chart is much simpler and just as easy to follow, once you’re familiar with the technique, plus they can be used by both right-handed and left-handed crocheters.