Single crochet is a versatile stitch. It can be used in unlimited ways. Let's explore some of the different possibilities for creating fabric using single crochet.
The yarn used in the off-white sample swatches is worsted weight Lily Sugar 'n Cream cotton. The other samples were made using Cascade 220 wool yarn.
You can click any of the images on this page to see a larger version.
Single Crochet Worked Through Both Loops
This is what ordinary single crochet looks like. The single crochet stitches were worked in rows, and the stitches were worked through both loops of the stitches in the previous rows.
Single Crochet Worked Through Front Loops
Here we have another single crochet swatch. This swatch was also worked in rows. Instead of crocheting through both loops, this swatch was made by working only in the front loops of the stitches in previous rows.
If you're confused about what exactly I mean by "front loops" here, take a look at this video.
Then compare this fabric against the one where the single crochet stitches were worked through both loops. If you look carefully, you'll notice a difference in the way the fabric looks. In this swatch, there are decorative horizontal ridges on alternate rows on each side of the fabric.
Single Crochet Worked Through Back Loops
This single crochet swatch was made by working only in the back loops of the stitches.
This fabric looks different than either of the others shown above. The differences are obvious even on the computer screen. If you were able to hold these actual swatches in your hands and compare them, you'd be able to appreciate the differences even more.
This variation has textured horizontal ridges that are much more prominent than the ones created by crocheting through the front loops.
When you turn this particular stitch on its side, the work resembles a rib knit. Due to the stretch inherent in this stitch, you can use it in much the same way that you would use a knitted rib. (Note: there are other possible ways to make crocheted ribbing as well.)
There are many possible ways to use back loop single crochet; you can stripe it, use it to create colorwork patterns, and so much more.
I've created a tutorial with instructions for crocheting several different versions of back loop single crochet:
Single Crochet Worked Through Alternating Front and Back Loops
Here's another swatch comprised totally of single crochet stitches.
This variation was created by crocheting through alternating front loops and back loops. This produces a dense fabric with an interesting textural effect. When using a kitchen cotton such as Lily Sugar N' Cream to crochet this stitch, the surface of the fabric turns out a bit rough and bumpy. This stitch and yarn combination is probably not what you'd want to use to make baby clothes, but it's fantastic for using in projects like scrubbies and dishcloths.
My gauge here is noticeably different; the finished swatch is significantly narrower than the other swatches shown above.
Want to try a couple of free crochet patterns using this single crochet stitch variation?
In the photo at left you can see green stitches and tan stitches. The tan stitches are all ordinary single crochet stitches. The green stitches are a mix of single crochet stitches and long single crochet stitches, which are also sometimes called spike stitches.
The long single crochet stitches are worked just like a single crochet stitch, but the stitches are worked at least a row or round below the spot you'd ordinarily work them. To see how this works in more detail, you may wish to check out the spike stitch tutorial.
To work shallow single crochet, you basically crochet into the center of a single crochet stitch instead of the top. If you work your first sample in rounds, you can finish your piece with a zipper and turn it into a change purse. If you want to give this a try, the pattern and instructions are linked above.
Please be aware that I found this stitch to be more challenging than ordinary single crochet, and I wouldn't recommend it to new, or impatient, crocheters. Blocking is necessary for good results, so I also wouldn't recommend this project to anyone who is unwilling to block the change purse as part of the finishing process.