Have you ever come across a crochet pattern that instructs you to work in the back loop only, and wondered why this is necessary? There are a number of reasons why it is useful to know how to work this stitch variation.
Back loop only adds a lovely textural ridge to your crochet surface. It is useful when joining crochet pieces together and if you are working Fair Isle crochet it helps to keep your stitches aligned nicely. It is often used in Amigurumi, to form a crocheted rib, or to form a fold line in the crochet fabric.
Back Loop Only Tutorial
- Type of yarn of your choice.
- Crochet hook to suit the yarn - Use a crochet hook ½ to one size smaller than recommended on the yarn label if working this as a rib.
Abbreviation for Back Loop Only
The abbreviation for Back Loop Only is BLO. It can also be written as TBL (through back loop) or just as BL.
- st(s) = stitch(es)
- ch = chain stitch crochet
- hdc = half double crochet
- sc = single crochet
- sl st = slip stitch crochet
- YO = yarn over
I will be using American crochet terms throughout.
How To Work Back Loop Only Step by Step
Step 1 - Identify the Back Loop
If you work a row of crochet stitches and look at the top of that row, you will see a row of V-shaped stitches at the top.
Usually, you insert your hook through the entire V to work your next row of stitches and have 2 loops over your hook.
If you look carefully at the top of the stitches, the part of the V closest to you is the front loop, and the part farthest away, at the back of the V is the back loop.
Step 2 - Working the Back Loop for Half Double Crochet (hdc)
Now, to work BLO, you will skip over the front loop, yarn over, and insert your hook into the center of the V, so that it only goes through the back loop to start your stitch.
You can work any crochet stitch as a BLO but this is showing a hdc.
You will see that when you work BLO, all those front loops will stand out in front of your fabric and create a ridge.
These ridges work very effectively if you want to create a crochet rib at the bottom of your piece. The rib section has to be worked sideways. Rib worked in this way is very elastic and reverts back to form nicely.
How to Use BLO to Crochet a Rib
When knitting, you usually start with a rib to create a cuff or a hem to pull your fabric in slightly at the bottom of the garment. If you want this effect on a crochet garment, it needs to be worked separately, as it is worked sideways.
Because you want the rib section to be a little tighter than the rest of the fabric, it is best to use a crochet hook ½ to 1 size smaller than that used for the main part of the garment.
My sample below is made in single crochet (sc).
You can also choose to work the rib first, at the beginning of the garment, or last when you have already made the main part of the work.
If You Want To Work The Rib First
This is the easier option, in my opinion! Work out how wide you want the rib to be. Remember you are working this rib sideways.
- Crochet a starting ch of that width. My example is using 8 ch, plus 1 turning ch.
- Sc in 2nd ch from hook.
- Sc in every stitch to the end. Turn.
- * Ch1. (turning ch). Sc in first st.
- Sc in BLO into each st along the row, until last st. Sc into that st. In patterns, this may be written as Blsc. (Back loop single crochet.) Turn.
- Repeat from * as many times as you need, until your rib is long enough.
How to Join BLO Ribbing
To join your ribbing onto the main garment: (I have used contrasting colors for clarity.)
Joining in the Round
If working in the round for a cuff or hem:
- Fold the rib in half and join it into a ring using sl st.
- Using a hook ½ to 1 size larger, ch1, work 1 row sc around the ribbing – 1 sc into each row of rib.
- Sl st to 1st sc to close the round.
- Now work your garment upwards from this rib. Continue with the crochet pattern for the main part of your garment, working into the row of sc.
Joining Flat Ribbing
If working flat, and joining pieces together:
- The rib only needs to be as long as the width of the garment piece, eg the back of the garment.
- Using the larger hook, ch1, work 1 sc into each row of ribbing.
- Turn, ch1.
- Continue with the crochet pattern for the main part of your garment, working into the row of sc.
If You Want To Work The Rib Last:
You can choose to work the ribbing on afterward, once you have completed the main part of the project. You will join it as you go.
- Change to a smaller hook, ½ to 1 size smaller than what you used for the rest of the project.
- Ch 8- starting ch. If you want a wider rib, ch more sts.
- Now, to join the ribbing to the garment: Work 1 sc into each ch.
- Join to the edge of the main project by working a sl st through the bottom st of the main piece.
- Work another ss into the next st along. (2 ss for joining.)
- Ch1, turn.
- *Start from 3rd st from hook, sc into next st.
- BLO sc until 1 st remains, sc in last st. Turn.
- Ch1, sc in 1st st.
- BLO sc until 1 st remains, sc in last st.
- You will now be back against the edge of your main piece.
- Join on again using ss into next st along, then another ss into following st. (As before.)
- Ch 1, turn.
- Repeat from * until ribbing covers the entire edge of the project.
If you are working in the round, join the last row to the first using ss.
If you are working flat, on separate pieces, work to the outer edge of the ribbing, then end off the yarn, leaving a long tail for joining up later.
How To Work Fair Isle Crochet Using BLO
If you use BLO for color work in crochet, your stitches will line up neatly to give clear color changes.
You will need to work in rounds because you need to have all your color strands on the wrong side of the work, so you can’t keep turning to work back and forth.
For illustration, I will work 4 sts in each color.
- Work foundation ch. Join circle with a sl st.
- Work 1 row sc.
- Work 3 BLO sc, in color 1.
- Insert hook in BLO, YO, pull up a loop.
- Drop color1, make a slip knot with color 2, and pull through both loops on the hook.
- Work 3 BLO sc.
- Insert hook in BLO, YO, pull up a loop.
- Drop color 2, pick up color 1 from back of work, YO, pull through both loops.
- Repeat to finish the round. Work all color changes in this way, according to your pattern. Make sure that your loops at the back of the work are loose enough to reach the next block of color, or your crochet will pucker up.
BLO For Amigurumi
If creating amigurumi is your crochet passion, you may want to try using BLO, even if your pattern doesn’t ask for it.
Using BLO will make a difference in the texture and appearance of your project. There will, of course, be little ridges along each round. This makes it easier to count rows, add stitch markers, and join all the pieces of your amigurumi together. (you can join them using the easily available front loops.)
Your fabric will also be softer, as you are not creating such thick, firm stitches as you would when working through both loops. The fabric will seem thinner and more elastic. It will also be slightly taller because working into BLO makes taller stitches than conventional stitches.
You can convert any amigurumi pattern into a BLO pattern, simply by working exactly the same stitches, but only into the back loops.
Back Loop Only - In Conclusion
Although all my pictures have been using single or hdc crochet, you can use the back loop only technique for any stitches. Simply work the required number of yarn wraps, then when inserting your crochet hook, insert it into the back loop only, and continue forming the stitch as normal.
Next time you are working on a crochet pattern and come across the BLO instruction, you will know exactly what to do. You may even find yourself using ‘Back Loop Only’ even when the pattern doesn’t say you should! It is very easy to learn, and does have quite a few advantages!
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