How to Filet Crochet

Getting Started with Easy Filet
There are a lot of filet patterns available on the internet and in various vintage publications. The best part about them is the picture is the pattern. When you first try a filet pattern, it’s best to start with one that is square or rectangular in shape. You can start on any side you like, but it will look best if you start at the bottom and work your way up.

Get Creative:
You can make your own designs by charting them out by hand on graph paper or digitally rendering them on Microsoft Excel.

How to Read the Chart:
To get started, let’s take an example using the peacock photograph herein. This is a vintage pattern first published in the 1915′s Priscilla Needlework Book. The pattern is available through Dover Publications’ 1979 Filet Crochet ISBN 0-486-23745-1 and shown on page 6 & 7.  This large rectangle insert for tablecloth has a grid of 127 horizontal by  178 vertical meshes. The word “mesh” simply refers to the number of squares shown on the row across.

Meshes are either “open” or “closed.”  Filet charts depict meshes as “blank” or “filled-in.” Written Filet Patterns give the meshes as “om” for open and “cm” for closed. Blank or Open means it’s just a hole (square shaped of course) and closed means it’s filled with stitches (dc). Most charts begin with open mesh (om).

Turning chains are necessary in filet work and must be taken into consideration with each row as well as the starting chain.

Starting Chain Calculation for Open Mesh
If Row 1 is open mesh, calculate the starting chain by taking the number of horizontal meshes and subtract 1, multiply by 3, and add 8. So 127 – 1 = 126 x 3 + 8 = 386 ch

You would make the required 386 ch, then dc in the 8th ch from the hook, ch 2, sk 2, dc in next and continue with same to arrive at 127 open meshes in the first row. Each square consists of 2 dc for vertical posts and ch-2s for horizontal bars. Note that the vertical dcs serve as posts for this square and the neighboring square.

Turning Chain Calculation
If the next row is open mesh, the turning chain at the end of the row would be 5 (counts as dc and ch 2), then turn and dc in next dc.

If the next row is closed mesh, the turning chain at the end of the preceding row would be 3 (counts as dc), then turn and dc in ch 2 sp, dc again in ch 2 sp, dc in next dc.

OM / CM Instruction (Open Mesh / Closed Mesh)
To make an open space over an open space:       dc, ch 2, sk 2, dc
To make an open space over a filled-in-space:   dc, ch 2, sk 2, dc
To make a filled-in space over an open space:   dc, dc 2 times over ch-2, dc
To make a filled-in space over a filled-in space:  dc, dc, dc, dc

Tip:  Consistency is key. If your tension varies, it will affect the result. You want all of the squares to be as square shaped as possible and you want to make sure that your boxes are the same size as the rows preceding. If there’s unevenness, it could be in the horizontal chains or in the vertical dc. It’s also a good idea to stop every ten rows and lay the piece out on a blocking board or grid to make sure the edges are straight.

My Chart Starts With Closed Mesh:
If the pattern starts with a solid closed mesh in Row 1, as a few do, you would take the number of horizontal meshes x 3 + 3. For example: If the grid is 37 meshes across. The starting chain would be 114. That’s 37×3+3=114. So you would make the 114 chain, dc in the 4th ch from hook and in each ch across, then chain 3 and turn. The turning chain would NOT be part of the next mesh. So if the next mesh is closed you would make 3 dc in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th dc for a total of 4 dc. Let’s say that’s followed by an open mesh, then you would chain 2, skip 2 dcs and dc in the next dc. Then the next mesh is closed, so you would dc in each of the next three dcs. The result would look like 4 dcs together with an open space in the middle. The reason there’s 4 is because the 1st dc is the post belonging to the previous mesh. That’s why the turning chain doesn’t count.

Size 20 ThreadSometimes Smaller is Bigger
Some filet patterns look better if you use smaller thread (size 20 or 30) and a smaller hook (size 10 or 12).  But the starting chain and width of the mesh must also be reduced to give the pattern a dainty feel.

Let’s take an example where the horizontal grid is 32 open mesh (om.)  To calculate the starting chain, subtract one (-1), multiply by two (x2) and add six (+6). So, 32 – 1 x 2 + 6 = 68 starting chain. Ch 68, dc in the 6th ch from hook, *ch 1, sk 1, dc  *repeat across = 32 om

If the next row is om, the turning ch would be ch 4 (counts as dc and ch 1) then turn and dc in the next dc.
If the next row is cm, ch 3 (counts as dc) then turn and dc in ch sp, dc in the next dc.

To give a better idea of how small is small: The original pattern for this peacock was made into a sofa pillow measuring approximately 12″ x 16″. The thread and hook size to achieve that is 60+ thread weight and the smallest size 14 steel hook…or enough to make you go blind. ;-)

What is that Y Shape?
The “Y” or “V” shape that is shown in some filet charts is called a festoon or lacet stitch. It acts as an intermediate to the open and closed mesh by creating a sort of not quite closed and not quite open look that can provide shading or gradation to soften the transition between lighter and darker areas.  To make this stitch:  ch 3, sc in center sp, ch 3, dc in next dc. Another option is to ch 1, hdc in center sp, ch 1, dc in next dc.

Intermediate Filet
Circular filet charts can look a bit daunting at first, but don’t let them fool you. They’re never really circular, but rather staircase out and and in to give it a circular feel. Simply start at the bottom. Count the number of spaces and make a chain that is equal to the number of horizontal meshes, minus one, times three, plus eight, then dc in the 8th ch from the hook, ch 2, sk 2, dc to end at the end determine how many additional meshes are required and use the same calculation. For instance 4 add’l meshes needed 4 – 1 x 3 + 8 = 17, then dc in the 8th ch from the hook, ch 2, sk 2, dc and continue to the opposite end, determining there how many additional meshes are needed. The front of the next row is easier than the end of present row, which require a ch 2, followed by a treble or triple, in which you have to sl st to get back on top of. If two additional meshes are called, you simply repeat the process and it puts you back on top. Once you get past the expanding part, the rest is easy. To decrease or lose meshes, simply work up to ending mesh and slip stitch your way back to the mesh you want to start with and ch 3 (counts as your dc) then either close or open accordingly.

A much easier method is to start at the middle and work each half because reducing meshes is a lot easier than adding meshes. The drawback is that your stitches will point in opposite directions depending which side is top or bottom.

* Mark the front side as odd (right handed) or even (left handed).
* Make a copy of the pattern so you can mark it up without worrying.
* Use sticky notes to conceal the meshes above the row you’re working.
* Count in groups of 3.

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