How to Filet Crochet

Ann Reillet

How to Filet Crochet

by Ann Reillet

Getting Started with Easy Filet
There are a lot of free filet patterns available on the internet. 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 work them from bottom to top or from side to side. Some charts are marked with an “A” or an arrow to indicate the beginning of the pattern.

Free   Did you say free? Here are some websites that offer Free Vintage Filet Charts:

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

Material of Choice
Filet Crochet can be worked in any medium. Typically, linens are worked in thread and blankets in yarn; clothing in either.  Modern patterns usually state the medium and hook size.  If you’re working toward a targeted size, such as a place mat, and the pattern’s medium is not given, a swatch may be necessary to determine the proper yarn or thread size as well as hook size. Below, is the same pattern worked in size 10 thread with #7 hook and in worsted weight yarn with #G hook.

How to Read the Chart
To get started, let’s take an example using the peacock photograph herein. This is a vintage filet crochet pattern first published in the 1915’s Priscilla Needlework Book. The pattern is available here:

This pattern 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 crochet 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).

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, in the example of the peacock, the starting chain would be:  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
Turning chains are necessary in filet work and must be taken into consideration with each row as well as the starting chain.

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 preceding rows. 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.

Let’s Practice 
Are you ready to begin? If so, let’s practice by making a square that is 5 meshes across by 5 rows height or 25 total open meshes.  We’ll start with a chain of 20 because 5 – 1 x 3 + 8 = 20.   dc in 8th ch from hook, *ch 2, sk 2, dc, * repeat to end. Ch 5 (counts as dc and ch 2), sk ch 2, dc in next dc, *ch2, dc in dc, *repeat across.  Make 3 more rows just like the 2nd row.  If you feel inspired to continue, turn this practice piece into a Venetian Square:

My Chart Starts With Closed Mesh
If your pattern starts with a solid closed mesh in Row 1, as a few do, simply 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 x 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.

Left to Right and Right to Left
Because the work is turned at the end of each row, rows are read in a boustrophedon style: that is, alternating right to left and left to right.  Example: If you start the first horizontal row viewing the chart from left to right (like reading a book) then at the end of the row, the work is turned and the next horizontal row of the chart is read from right to left. Another way to think of it is working the front side or back side; although either side could be used. Typically, a front side is designated either by the orientation of the image or the decorative edging/border. Some charts, like the headband (shown below) are completely symmetric so they can be read all in one direction.

Size 20 ThreadSometimes Smaller is Bigger
Some filet patterns look better if you use smaller thread (size 20 – 80) and a smaller hook (size 10 – 14).  But the starting chain and width of the mesh must also be reduced to give the pattern a dainty feel. This peacock, I worked in #20 thread with a #10 hook; it’s crib size or could be used as an insertion for curtain or tablecloth. The larger tablecloth size was worked in #10 thread with a #7 hook.

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  (Smaller option, hdc & ch1). In the photo of the peacock (left) the smaller starting chain was 258 for 127 om. A huge difference from the 386 starting ch of the standard net. After working the first row of mesh, 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 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. 😉

le filet auSo Small it Can Only be Done with a Needle
In some vintage filet that is very small, it is made with a sewing needle rather than a hook. If you look closely at the bars, you’ll see it’s not a crochet chain, but two strands of thin 110+ tatting thread looped together. This is called Le Filet, au Point de Toile technique. By using a needle, you can employ thinner thread and achieve results containing greater detail than a crochet counter-piece in the targeted size. Vintage patterns separate the two methods by calling the needle technique “Filet” and the hook technique “Filet Crochet.”

Here is a website that teaches how to make the filet net:

Would You Like to Supersize that Order?
While the standard mesh is dc & ch2 and we’ve just learned the smaller dc (even hdc) and ch1, sometimes a larger mesh is desired:  dc & ch3 or triple crochet (yo 2x) & ch3 or 4 or double triple (yo 3x) & ch 5.

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 or the area marked “A” on the chart. 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.

See chart below for increasing and decreasing at beginning or end of row.

* 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 worry.
* Use sticky notes to conceal the meshes above the row you’re working.
* Count in groups of 3 and stop every 10 rows to check your tension and pattern accuracy.

If you have questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Comment below or contact me with specific questions. Good luck with your project and have a wonderful day. – Ann

32 thoughts on “How to Filet Crochet

  1. I am glad I stumbled upon your lovely blog. Filet crochet is something on my “to do ” list and I can see I will get a lot of inspiration and advice right here! 🙂

  2. Your directions above are the best I have seen and have helped me very much. Do you have any directions on how to hem or sew filet crochet lace to linen? Something along the lines of lace on the edges of a tablecloth or altar cloth. Thanks

  3. Hi Linda, Thank you. Insertion lace or as edging, hems vary by the material being joined. For instance, I did a curtain insertion using a filet piece, in that instance I ironed the curtain, measured top right and lower left than drew across with a non permanent pencil and sewed into the edge of the filet along the outline, then cut the backing cloth (curtain) leaving a 1/4 or 1/2″ for hem, which I folded over the back and stitched on the sewing machine. To do insertion lace, it’s a little like quilting, in that strips are aligned and stitch together a back hem is optional, but fray block is a must. This is a little trickier, more free form. I have some instructions that I saved and will email to you. Good luck. Ann

  4. Thank you for sharing your expertise! This is a great article and now I feel like I’m ready to tackle some filet crochet.

    • Thank you. It depends on the thread and hook size, but the tablecloth I made in size 10 thread with a #7 hook took approximately 3,200 yds or two spools of the “Big Ball” / “Jumbo Ball” and those run about 2,700 yds per ball. In the size 20 thread, as a crib cover, I used at least 8 of the standard spools because that was a 10 pack and I have 1 and some leftover. Those spools are about 400 yds each, so again about 3,200 yds.

      As a general rule, 6-8 spools is usually enough to complete a project, whether that is a worsted weight afghan using yarn skeins or a thread tablecloth on an average size dining table. If you buy 10, you should have enough left over to make a runner or place mats, coasters, etc… Good luck with your project and wish you the best. – Ann

  5. I’m left handed so when I do filet crochet, if it’s not the same my pictures are backwards. Any suggestions on an easy way to fix my problem?

    • I too am left-handed 🙂 We go clockwise. But with filet it’s turned at the end of each row, so either side is the right side. It’s the orientation of the chart you’re working with that matters. Simply decide in the first row which direction you’ll read the chart from left to right or right to left and then reverse that after you turn. If you started left to right then when you turn read the next row right to left, back and forth. Does that help? Best wishes for your project.

  6. This is the best article on filet I’ve read, and I’ve read quite a few. Im hoping you can give me a tip: I’m trying a vintage peacock pattern I found on Ravelry, and I’m having a terrible time achieving the specified gauge. The pattern specifies size 12 hook, size 20 thread, 5 spaces per inch. If I chain 15 in an inch, the chain is too tight to work into. If I chain looser, my mesh is rectangular rather than square. Do you know where I’ve gone wrong? I appreciate your blog and your help.

    • Hi. I hear you, gauge is tricky enough on modern patterns let alone vintage filet. All I can say is:

      Adjust Hook: Here is a video I did on a collar. If you look at the video at 1:04 there’s a ruler showing 5 mesh or row per inch. I did that with UK #8 which is US #20 and a size 8 hook. So maybe it’s the hook size. My normal go to with #20 thread is a size 10 hook.

      Adjust Mesh: If it’s really too big, you could try to use the 3 mesh instead of 4. It’s listed in the filet crochet tutorial under the heading ‘sometimes smaller is bigger’.

      Adjust Thread: Maybe try a US 30 weight thread or UK #10/perle with the #12 hook.

      I think you just have to explore variations to find the right fit.

      Sorry I couldn’t be more help.


      • Ann,

        Please don’t apologize, because you actually helped me a great deal. After watching your video, I switched to a size 8 hook and was able to achieve the proper gauge without much trouble. How increasing the hook size by 50% made me achieve a smaller gauge seems way counterintuitive to me, but it worked. To get the even square, I worked the chains pretty close, and worked the inner loops of the dcs looser to raise the row height. now to see if I can match this gauge on a 250-chain foundation!

        Thanks again!

  7. could you recommend a concise and thorough book explaining how to do filet crochet. I would like to give it to a friend as a gift. Thank you.

    • Thank you. The best instructions I’ve found on the subject is “Variety Italian Cut Work and Filet Lace” Book No. 1 by Carmela Testa, Boston 1921 36 pgs, beginning on pg. 27. The book is available online free of charge at Antique Pattern Library. There are a few video tutorials on YouTube, however they’re in foreign languages; still interesting to watch. There are a couple items needed to create the beginning filet net: a loom/hoop (square or rectangle), double sided needle with loops or eyes on each end and a stylus also double sided with points (it looks like a double sided knitting needle that is the length of a crochet hook). I’ve not seen these at my local craft shop. I’m not sure where you buy them. Perhaps, to start, you could try using pre-made net fabric on an embroidery loom/hoop and use a long embroidery needle with fine thread to fill the square spaces according to the instruction on filling contained in the Testa book just to see if it’s a craft you’d like to venture further into before buying all the necessary items. Best wishes to you always, Ann

      • Dear Ann,

        Thank you. Sound advice. I have tried all kinds of word combinations to find a video on youtube but without luck. Could you recommend one? Language is not an issue. I just need to see how it is done. Many thanks, Benedict


      • This is one that shows an insertion lace piece consisting of netting only, but it’s not square, however, the technique is similar. They’re using a bobbin lace pillow and the frame is seam binding tape. Work is run with a needle and the thread is cotton, probably 20 wt.

        Here is another one showing different samples, various workers using the traditional loom; work is tied on. The netting is made first, then the filling added. You can tell that the net was handmade because of the thicker stair steps in the net as the worker moved to position.

  8. Ms. Linda I want to make a very cool dragon pattern in Filet crochet that I have on stitch fiddle but I have never done Filet crochet before. Could you help me? I have watched a few of the youtube tutorials on filet and they are just confusing me.

    • Hi Meghann. To get it started, look at the blocks on the bottom. If they are all open or blank, just count the number of blocks for example we’ll say 30. Take “30” subtract 1 multiple by 3 and add 8 so that equals 95. Chain 95, double crochet in 8th chain from hook, * chain 2, skip 2, double crochet, * repeat across to end with 30 open blocks.

      To make the next row, chain 5 (that counts as a dc and ch 2), turn, dc in next dc. Continue to make open blocks with a ch 2, sk 2, dc in dc. And make closed or fill in blocks with two (2) double crochet in ch2sp and dc in dc.

      Follow the pattern you created from bottom to top, back and forth, turning the work at the end of each row. Every ten rows, lay it out and check to see that the shape looks good and the pattern is correct.

  9. Can anyone help me? I created a dragon pattern using stitch fiddle that I want to turn into filet crochet…but the youtube tutroials that are in english on the subject are so confusing. it is my first time doing filet.

  10. Thank you for your help. I have finally figured out filet crochet and am making the dragon afghan that I wanted to. if I knew how I will try to post a picture of it when it is finished.

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