Play with filet charts: Knit them or crochet them!

No, we’re not cutting up a fish. We’re looking at and playing with filet crochet charts.

Filet crochet, as you might already know, is a way of making mesh that, with its alternating open squares and filled squares, creates a picture or design. The cool thing about filet crochet patterns is that they’re already charted and you can recycle them for other kinds of projects in both knitting and crochet. Here I’m going to show you how I knit and crochet following these charts and then provide other ideas on how to make interesting items based on them. “Option 1: Filet Crochet” shows you how to filet crochet. “Option 2: Double Knitting” shows you how to use a filet crochet chart to make a reversible knit fabric. “Option 3: Other Ideas” is just a list of embroidery ideas with links to instructions on how to cross stitch and embroider on knitted and crocheted fabrics.

Option 1: Filet Crochet

You can always, of course, use the charts for their originally intended purpose if you know how to crochet. These mesh designs can be used for tablecloths, curtains, bedspreads, hand towels, edgings, and whatever else you can think of. You can use thicker yarns or fine crochet cotton, depending on the effects you wish to achieve and the size of the item you wish to make. The Antique Pattern Library has plenty of free crochet books with filet patterns. It’s fun to browse through the charts, actually.

To filet crochet you just need to know what the boxes in the charts mean. I assume here that you already know how to double crochet and chain. If you don’t know how: learn! It can be fun!

Here’s an example of a chart I found in Eduard Boucharit’s Grand Album de Modeles Pour Filet, no 3. Don’t worry, you don’t have to know French to use the book. It’s just a collection of filet crochet charts. In other words, it’s 100% visual. You can find it at the Antique Pattern Library web site in the catalog under “B” for “Boucharit.” Here’s the chart I found in that book, on page 4:

This chart has a little mistake on it. I’ve indicated the mistake, which is a single missing black square, in this picture:

OK, now, here’s how to use this and any other chart for filet crochet:

1) Count the number of squares wide the chart is. This one is 49 squares wide.
2) Multiply the number of squares wide by 3 and add 1. In this example 49 X 3 = 147. 147 + 1 = 148. This last number is the number you’ll want to chain.
3) Chain the number of chains you got from step 2, turn, and chain 3 if the first square you must crochet is solid (black) or chain 5 if the first square you must crochet is open (white). To make this chart for one pattern repeat chain 148, turn, and chain 3. This chain 3 counts as your first double crochet.
4) We work starting from the bottom of the chart, reading right to left. If the first square in your chart is white you need to make an open mesh square. This means that your turning chain is a chain-5 (counts as one double crochet + chain-2) so to make an open mesh square:  double crochet in the 8th chain from hook. If the first square in your chart is black you need to make a solid square, so your turning chain is a chain-3 and you double crochet in the 4th chain from hook and in next two chains.
In this example, the first square in the chart is a black square, so we double crochet in the fourth chain from hook and in the next two chains.
5) Follow the first row (very bottom row) of the any chart as follows: a) for black squares, 1 double crochet in each of next four chains; b) for white squares chain 2, skip 2 chains, and double crochet in next chain. The bottom row of the example is very basic: after you turn and chain 3, double crochet in the the fourth chain from hook and double crochet all the chains.
6) When you finish your first row: turn, chain 3. To make a beginning filled in square over a chain 2 space: double crochet twice in the chain 2 space and the next double crochet. To make a beginning filled in square over another one that is filled in: double crochet in next 3 double crochet. After your beginning square: make filled squares with three double crochet or mesh squares with chain 2, skip 2 chains, double crochet in next double crochet.
7) Remember your chart differs from reality (although most filet charts are symmetrical): You crochet row 1 starting at the bottom and read from right to left. When you turn, you now read the chart from left to right. It’s a good idea to place a marker on the side that is your corresponding odd-numbered row from the chart. This helps when you set your work aside for a while and can’t remember where you were on your chart. Flat crochet is totally reversible, remember! There is no apparent wrong side.
Here’s a picture to see how it works (sorry! it’s a work in progress so it’s not blocked!:
If my directions and photo are difficult to follow try using crochet.about.com’s instructions. You will discover that there other ways to do this. It also includes directions for different mesh patterns that come up in some charts.

Option 2: Double Knitting

Filet crochet charts aren’t usually good for converting to color knitting. It’s just a bad idea to strand alternating colors behind five or more stitches. The example chart above has as many as 15 squares of the same kind in a row. Intarsia would be impractical. However, these charts are perfect for double knitting, which creates a very attractive reversible fabric. Double knitting creates a color pattern on one side and the negative version on the other side.

Double knitting is also great because it’s an easier way to work with cotton in color. Of course, you don’t have to use cotton. It works great with all types of fibers. I’m just pointing out that cotton is stubborn and can be difficult to use for color stranding or Intarsia. Heck, it’s difficult to make flat stockinette with cotton.

By chance I wanted to make a nice cotton cloth to line the bread basket I use to serve bread. So I used cotton.

To double knit using a filet crochet chart choose a dark color and a light color. Here’s what happens when you double knit the same filet crochet pattern I showed you above:
Side A
Side B
Sides A and B

I really love this pattern in double knitting and I like the colors. It reminds me of a Wedgewood design.

A close view of the fabric reveals how well cotton responds to the double knitting method. The tightness of the fabric tames a fiber that is otherwise very difficult to work with in color knitting:
Close up of Side A
Close up of Side B

Here’s how I did it:

1) Multiply 49 X 2 = 98 (49 for side A and 49 for side B).
2) Cast on 98 stitches with the dark color for a single pattern repeat.

Each square in the chart represents two stitches: 1 knit stitch on the side that faces you and 1 purl stitch on the side that faces away from you. Follow the chart in this way, remembering that when you turn your work you have to read the next row in the chart in the opposite direction. Also remember that when you do this you have to put the correct colors on the correct side. For example, if you’re a right-handed knitter you will knit row 1 reading right to left and row 2 as well as all even numbered rows from left to right. Row 1 colors in the chart are the ones on the side facing you. Row 2 colors, reading from left to right, are the colors on the side facing away from you.

Here is how to think and read a chart in double knitting:

1) When you read the chart from right to left each black square means: a) knit one with dark color holding both yarns in back; b) purl one with light color holding both yarns in front.
2) When you read the chart from right to left each white square means: a) knit one with light color holding both yarns in back; b) purl one with dark color holding both yarns in front.
3) When you read the chart from left to right each black square means: a) knit one with light color holding both yarns in back; b) purl one with dark color holding both yarns in front.
4) When you read the chart from left to right each white square means: a) knit one with dark color holding both yarns in back; b) purl one with light color holding both yarns in front.

As you’ll notice there is no need to do any color stranding or intarsia because as you knit you carry both yarns along your rows.  It is important to knit holding both yarns in back and purl holding both yarns in front. You have to do this because the yarn that you’re not using to make a stitch is pushing the stitches you knit and purl to the side they need to be on. Unfortunately you need to complete a few rows to have the satisfaction of seeing how you have a reversible fabric. It’s worth the effort and wait, though!

At first double knitting seems confusing but after some practice it gets easier. If you don’t like my explanation, try this one at knitting.about.com. There are also plenty of videos on the internet that are helpful.

All kinds of items can be made with this method. Think wool scarves, cotton placemats, reversible cotton kitchen and bathroom towels, reversible shawls, reversible knit quilts made of various squares crocheted together…

Option 3: Other ideas (embroidery, etc.)

1) Knit a square with an area of stockinette stitch that is the size of the chart. Every dark square will represent an embroidery stitch, duplicate stitch, or cross stitch.
2) Use Tunisian crochet (the afghan stitch) to make a square with an area the size of the chart. Cross stitch the pattern onto the fabric.
3) You could alter a filet pattern by adding more colors (instead of the plain old light and dark color) if you’d like to try the embroidery method. Just get some graph paper and try out different colored squares.
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