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yarn over vs yarn under in crochet

Link easily to this tutorial in your patterns: www.planetjune.com/yarnover

If you crochet, the humble yarn over (YO, or ‘yarn over hook’, YOH, in UK terminology) is a vital part of every single crochet stitch. But are you doing it correctly? There’s actually a right and a wrong way to wrap the yarn over your hook in crochet, and it’s such a basic move that you may have been doing it wrongly for years without realising!

Let’s look at the difference:

  • With a normal crochet YO, you place the hook underneath the yarn strand and then hook the yarn from below.
  • With a yarn under (YU), you put the hook over the yarn strand and then hook the yarn from above.

Here’s how they look, if you’re right-handed:
yarn over vs yarn under for crochet

And if you’re left-handed:
yarn over vs yarn under for crochet

I think the confusion may lie in the name yarn over. In crochet, you don’t really wrap the yarn over your hook at all: you use the hook to catch the yarn, so the phrase “yarn over (hook)” would be more accurately named “hook under (yarn)”…

I’ve put together a video to help clarify this – the first in my new Crochet Quickies series of short (around 1 minute) videos to explain very basic or brief crochet techniques. (I’ll still be making longer videos too, for techniques that would benefit from a little more explanation.)

Crochet Quickie: Yarn Over (right-handed)

Click to watch this video on YouTube.

Crochet Quickie: Yarn Over (left-handed)

Click to watch this video on YouTube.

Note: The videos may look a little small embedded in the blog: if so, you can fullscreen them or click through to YouTube to watch them in full HD resolution 🙂

If you are crocheting – and this applies to all standard and Tunisian crochet stitches – passing the yarn over the hook is always the correct way to do a YO.

If you’re not sure which way you do it, grab some yarn and a hook. Pause when you’ve hooked a loop of yarn, just before you draw it up through the stitch, and see which way the yarn lies across your hook, using the photos or videos above for reference – you may discover you’ve been crocheting incorrectly! To try to tell if you’re doing it right in future, remember it’s called yarn over, so the yarn goes over the hook, i.e. the hook should pass under the yarn before you hook the yarn.

Exception

Now here’s the exception, and one I’ve experienced first-hand: this does not necessarily apply for knooking (knitting with a special crochet hook – see my review of The Knook for more information). With knooking, the way that you position the yarn across your hook varies depending on whether you’re knitting or purling. When I first tried knooking, I used a standard YO for all my stitches and they ended up twisted. Why this difference? Because knooking, despite using a crochet hook, is not crochet, it’s knitting with an unusual technique.

There may be other exceptions that require you to wrap the yarn in a different way, but the stitch instructions should always inform you if that’s the case. If all you see is “yarn over” or “YO”, the standard way is the correct way.

Does it really matter?

Yes and no! The difference is more visible with some crochet stitches than with others. For knooking and Tunisian knit stitch, it’s extremely important to use the intended YO/YU. For other crochet stitches, there is a difference in the finished appearance, but it may be much less obvious.

Simone from my Ravelry group worked up a test swatch in rows of sc, which shows a clear difference between the rows of YO and the rows of YU:

yarn over vs yarn under
Rows of YO and YU (swatch and photo by Simone, used with permission)

You can see that there’s a definite slant/twist to the YU stitches compared with the YO stitches, and each YO stitch is more clearly defined – the YU stitches seem to blend more into a flatter finished surface. They both look attractive, but they are clearly not the same.

YU in amigurumi

I thought it’d be interesting to see what, if any, difference you’d see if you worked amigurumi (single crochet, worked in the round without turning) with YU, so I made two small amigurumi balls, worked identically except for the YOs or YUs throughout.

Almost immediately, I noticed something unexpected: a flat circle is actually flatter when worked in YU! Normally, the backs of all the stitches are larger than the fronts (because we aren’t turning the work between rounds), which makes a flat circle want to curl up slightly into a bowl shape, with the right side on the inside of the bowl. You can see that slight curling at the edge of my YO sample, but it’s missing from the YU sample! Very interesting…

yarn over vs yarn under
Left: YO edges are curved up (the ‘v’s around the edge face upwards)
Right: YU edges are perfectly flat (the ‘v’s around the edge face outwards)

I found YO and YU equally easy to work, although of course I had to concentrate on every stitch with the YU sample to make sure I didn’t slip back into my usual automatic YO method. And now let’s look at the finished samples:

yarn over vs yarn under
From the top (magic ring visible)

yarn over vs yarn under
From the side (there are 2 rounds with no increases/decreases around the middle of each ball)

  • YO has more obvious texture, whereas YU is flatter. The twisting of the YU stitches seems to actually fill the gaps between the stitches better and each stitch is less clearly defined.
  • The twisting of the stitches is very subtle, but I can definitely see a diagonal slant visible within each YU stitch. The slant is more pronounced on the decreases – invisible decreases aren’t so invisible if you YU!
  • My YU sample is noticeably smaller. Although this could be a tension issue because of the unfamiliar YU hand movements, it could also contribute to the smaller gaps between stitches.

If your amigurumi stitches don’t look like other people’s, and you’re definitely not working inside out, this could be the reason!

Conclusion

The difference between YO and YU if you’re making amigurumi is slight, but it is noticeable if you’re looking for it. The difference can be more apparent with crochet stitches other than single crochet.

If you’ve just discovered that you’ve always worked in YU, I don’t think you necessarily need to change if you’re happy with the way you’ve been working. There’s no law that says you have to crochet in the same way as everyone else. You’re free to crochet in a non-standard fashion (unless you’re teaching crochet, or creating patterns, tutorials, or crocheted samples for patterns/books) – if you like the finished result, that’s all that matters.

I can confirm (from trying it in reverse) that it’s not easy to make the change, and you’ll probably need at least a few hours of heavy concentration before the different hand movements become natural, or maybe longer if you’ve been crocheting for many years. I would advise that you at least try working a small piece in YO, to try it out, and see how it feels and how the finished piece looks – you may find that you prefer it.

Whichever method you choose, the most important thing is to be consistent, and not switch between the two methods. It’ll only look like you’ve made a mistake if you suddenly switch from one to the other within a piece, which will make some of your stitches look different from others. But if you’d like your stitches to look like everyone else’s, YO is the way to go!

21 Comments »

  1. Stocki said

    Well fancy that! Thank goodness I have been doing it right all these but it is something so simple and something I never even thought about.. Thanks Janet…great tutorial:)x

  2. Very interesting, June. Thanks for sharing.

  3. mags said

    Well – I had never even thought about whether I was using the correct technique – thank you. I’ll have a look and make sure my beginners aren’t doing it the wrong way …

    • June said

      It never occurred to me either, until a couple of months ago when one of my customers was doing Tunisian crochet for the first time (for my Tunisian Stripe Purse) and her stitches looked twisted. After some playing about and swatching I managed to replicate the problem (it was, of course, YU instead of YO) and when I posted the solution to my Ravelry group, other people suddenly realised they’d been doing YU for as long as they’d been crocheting! That was quite an eye-opener, but it made me realise there should really be more detailed instructions available for some of these ‘basics’ that we take for granted.

  4. Jeannine said

    I have noticed this, also. Thanks for the thorough discussion!

  5. Barbara Mann said

    YU great for crab stitch!

  6. jamie said

    It’s funny that I came across a related blog entry a few hours after reading your post: http://www.tapestrycrochet.com/blog/?paged=2. How I came to this is still a question to me since I was looking for crochet turtle afghans (??). At any rate, what really struck me about the utility of YU was the picture comparing the color changes with YU vs. YO for the tapestry crochet method (3rd pic down). The distinction between the colors with YU, compared to YO, really is noticeable, and more desirable, imo!

  7. Lisa said

    Thanks for clearing that up! It was one of the first questions I asked when I was learning and my teacher (who has been crocheting many years) said it made no difference!! Thankfully I’ve been doing the YO way, but its good to know there is a right and wrong.

  8. Yarnitect said

    Thanks for the awesome tutorial. It really is fascinating to see how one element changes the look and feel of a project. Loved all the details and photos.

  9. renee said

    Thanx so much for your tutes this makes my learning posible as i am beginer friend of mine helps doing it on my own makes me so pleased love the site a senior will try do not have facebook or ipod or camera who knows maybe someday can send ya a pic of my work by Renee

  10. Meredith said

    Hmm…I think I do YU most of the time, actually! But I am a big believer in consistency…as long as the project is uniform, that’s what counts to me. I might try doing my next project YO, but we’ll see.

  11. Núr said

    0.0 !!! Ok… I’m just one of those who just found out that all their crochet experience has been YU… Will try to change it, though, to YO! Thanks for the advice and the videos!

  12. Thanks for the great tip. I never thought about YO vs. YU before.

  13. Jane Rimmer said

    I’ve seen crocheters who use a “mixed yarnover” combination when doing double crochets. They yarn over (back to front) insert hook through the stitch, then place the hook over the yarn to grab and pull through, then the yarn over (back to front) before pulling through 2 loops.
    Try some swatches of using a yarn over each time for a row of doubles, and then the “mixed yarnover combo”. Now try some of each kind within a row. Compare the thickness of the post of the stitchs, and how the “feet” of the stitch sit on the row below.

    • Haley Miller said

      I just realized I’ve been doing more of the “mixed yarnover” approach that you’re talking about. I’ve been doing it for so many years, I never realized it was wrong until I looked up how to do some more complicating stitches. I noticed they were all putting the yarn over the opposite way to what I learned.

  14. Hi June, Thank you. I was watching You Tube today and saw the mixed yarn-over technique being used (consistently) and thought I was perhaps crocheting incorrectly! Your article cleared that up for me and I have shared with my FB page – I wonder what the difference would be if you YO, insert hook YU to pull up the loop and then YO for the remainder of the stitch…did anyone in your Ravelry group try that? Just me being super curious! Thanks again, Rhondda

  15. Stephanie said

    Oh my GOSH!! Thank you so much for this post!! I’ve always had problems pulling through the second loop in my treble stitches, tried experimenting with different yo techniques, found something that worked better, googled it, and found your post! I’ve been doing it wrong forever!!! Love the way you explained it and gave fabric samples. I wish I had seen something like this when I started crocheting! Also glad I found this now since I’m planning on tackling Tunisian in my next project. Thank you!!!

  16. CP said

    I usually YO, but for splitty S plied yarns, I YU. YU wraps the yarn like western knitting, which is what the S plied yarns are designed for. Also, if you do any inverse crochet stitches (approaching the work like a purl stitch) YU makes the inverse stitches look better. It’s a useful thing to know!

  17. Joy Franklin said

    I discovered that I use a mixed method; YU when I first insert the hook to pull the yarn through, then YO to finish the stitch. My sc look like yours, though, so I guess it works.
    My amigurumi are looking so much better since I’ve been using your methods for invisible decrease, closing the ending circles up, and the invisible join for attaching different parts. Thank you for all your great tutorials with the pictures and videos!

  18. Sheri said

    I never knew there was a wrong way to wrap the yarn! No wonder I have always had problems counting my rows and working some patterns. I bet working a triple will be easier too.

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