Surface Embellishments

Surface Embellishment: is an important component of freeform, it’s a great way of bringing your personality, your style & your skills to your work & putting your own stamp on your project. There are 1000’s of ways to embellish; the following are but a few basics that I hope you find helpful & encourage you to experiment…

1. Surface Slip stitch: start where required, with right side facing & yarn at back, insert hook into sp between 2 sts & draw up a loop, * insert hook in next sp between 2 sts just made as required (above, or to the left or right) & draw up a loop through base-fabric & loop on hook, repeat from * to end, finish off & weave in tail ends on wrong side

2. Surface Slip Stitch can also be worked as follows: start where required, with right side facing & yarn at front, insert hook under a loop of stitch & draw up a loop, 1 ch to secure, * insert hook under next stitch loop (above, or to the left or right) & draw up a loop through stitch loop & loop on hook, repeat from * to end, finish off & weave in tail ends on wrong side. Use this method to bring in yarn for dc (US sc) & ruffles


Crochet Dots: cut a long length of yarn approx 1metre (40”) or more – start where required, with right side facing & yarn at front, insert hook under a loop of stitch & draw up a loop, *1 ch to secure, * YO, insert hook under same loop & draw up a loop** (repeat from * to ** as many times as desired depending on size dot required), YO & draw through all loops on hook, 1 ch to close, then draw through remaining unused yarn, take this long end to wrong side & bring it back up where the next dot is required **, repeat from * to ** until yarn runs out


Outlining & defining motifs: 

Stem stitch: is a versatile embroidery st that I use a lot… work in contrasting thread or even 2 threads at a time… it’s simple & quick


Couching Stitch is another favourite: one yarn lies free on the surface & another yarn is used to tack it down. Use contrasting yarns, ribbons or cords.


Crab stitch: (reverse dc (US sc)) – Although Crab stitch is most often used as edging, creating a rope-like finished edge to your project, it’s also a versitile stitch that can be used in freefom to tidy an unsightly seam or join or as an embellishment to liven up a dull, uniteresting patch. Crab stitch can be a little tricky at first but is soon mastered with a bit of patience & practice.

Crab st: (reverse dc (US sc)) always worked on right side & in the opposite direction as usual – join yarn as required, 1 ch, * insert hook into the next st on right, YO & draw up a loop, YO & draw through both loops on hook, repeat from * across


Surface Ruffles: are made by working many stitches (5 – 8 – 10 – 15 sts depending on yarn used or desired effect) into a single stitch, these can be crochet or knit, both work well. Knit ruffles tend to lie flat while crochet ruffles will sit more upright.

Crochet ruffle: bring in yarn as for slip stitch (2) instruction & work across your fabric as desired.


Knit ruffle: pick up stitches directly from fabric with your needle, then knit into the front & back of each stitch across, repeat for 2 or 3 rows more


Buttons, Beads & Braids:

Buttons are an old favourite; we all have a stash of interesting buttons that we’ve collected over the years


Beading: is time consuming but can make a real difference to your project. As a general rule I leave all beading work to last so that I can place them exactly where I want them. However, you can also bead as you go by stringing the beads onto your yarn before starting to crochet or knit. The following are just a few ideas for bringing some bling to your work:

How to thread small beads onto your yarn

1. Each bead is sewn on separately

2. String beads then attach every 2nd or 3rd bead to fabric

3. Attaching sequins for a scale effect

4. Attaching sequins with back stitch

5. Attaching sequins with a single back stitch

6. Attaching sequins with a tiny bead


Braids & Cords: can be purchased pre-made from any good drapery but you can make attractive ones yourself by twisting, crocheting or felting interesting yarns together

Twisted cord: you’ll need a friend to help, with as many strands or threads desired & approx 3 times the length needed for your finish cord, knot each end & slip over a pencil or knitting stick, keep yarn taut while each person twists in opposite directions, when your cord is very tight, catch the centre (use a door knob or chair rail), bring pencils together for your friend to hold, then find the centre of your cord & slowly & evenly release it so that it twists onto itself, knot ends together to secure


Crochet Cord: you can find instruction for this crochet cord on the Novel Stitches page


Weaving yarn, ribbons or cords through crochet mesh can create simple but stunning effects

Use multiple threads to weave though crochet mesh – leave long tail ends that can later be fasten as you would for tassels


Weaving ribbon: estimating the length of ribbon required can be difficult so it’s always a good idea to make a trial weave before cutting – leave approx 12 cm (5”) for turn over at end, fasten with safety pin & weave ribbon through to end – fasten with safety pin, leaving enough for turn over – neatly sew turned over ends.


Fancy Rouleau fastening & frogging are coming back into vogue – the following is a basic guide for those who’d like to give it a try – fabric tubing (cords) can be purchased from most good draperies – use single strands or twist, plait multiple strands together

To make the more elaborate Rouleau fastening: draw your loop shapes onto a piece of cardboard – with cord seam facing, follow your drawing to shape your fabric tubing or cord & hold with pins – stitch all the loop crossings securely being mindful that your ends must be neatly hidden & secure, when satisfied that your Rouleau fastening is the way you want, give it a light press – re-used the cardboard master to make more of the same – experiment with different cords, colours , buttons & beads….

35 thoughts on “Surface Embellishments”

  1. Love, love, LOVE this post. It’s EXACTLY the type of information and inspiration I was looking for. Thank you!

  2. Wow. I know this was posted years and years ago, but it is just what I’ve been looking for. I’ve been reading books on crazy quilting, with all of their techniques for embroidery and embellishment, but it’s been hard to figure out which techniques would translate to crocheted fabric, and how. This is perfect. And it’s so inspiring and beautiful! The news out of Washington DC has been so distressing lately, I feel the urgent need to make beautiful stuff– perhaps as an antidote to all the ugliness. I plan to use as many of these techniques as I can. Thank you so much for posting this information.

  3. I know this was published a long while ago, but I hope you still see my comment so that you know that the beautifully inspiring work you share NEVER goes out of style!! Thanks so much for all your hard work and the extraordinary amount of time it takes to help us crocheters with or work!! You’re one of the very BEST!!

  4. Thanks for your clear (and hard to find, otherwise) instructions. I make mandalas, and can’t wait to try some of these surface embellishments on them! Plus, I am teaching my granddaughter to crochet, and your pictures are worth a thousand words!

  5. I’ve been wanting to begin some free form work and coming across your page really helps me to get an idea of how I am going to construct my next project. Thanks for the tips.

  6. I saved this page on my Diigo profil! I was looking for how to do surface embellishment and crab stitch! So thank you for these tutorials!

  7. Thank you so much…this is just what I needed….you are wonderful for posting

  8. Thanks Sifu! You’re the best! 🙂
    ( sifu means master teacher, a title u richly deserve….)

  9. pour enfiler des petites perles, je couvre l’extrémité du cordon avec de a colle, j’éfile et ça passe très bien ainsi.
    for stringing beads, I cover a few inches to the end of the cord with glue, I Efile by tightening the end in tin foil, for example, and it goes very well and

  10. Thanks Dee, crochet domes are made as you would a circle but, instead of working 12 stitches (tr (US dc) as you normally do, just work 8 stitches, when you join your piece will cup/dome, leave a long tail end for sewing in.. hope that helps

  11. OMG!! What a wonderfully inspiring article. Just what I needed to get me going on my current project. Thank you so much.

  12. Thanks for a wealth of infomation, u are indeed a gem!
    Would appreciate if u can add some info on making domes. Thanks a million.

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