Interlocking Crochet – Understanding the Back Side

If you have tried interlocking crochet you may find yourself wondering how in the world you can predict what the back side of your project will look like. In this post, I’m going to break down exactly how the back of the project is determined based on what the front of the project looks like! I’ve got a video tutorial showing off a little spreadsheet template that you can experiment with to understand how it all works (see the spreadsheet link below to save your own copy). I’ve also got a picture guide and description to help demystify the process!

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Learn how to predict what the back of a project will look like in interlocking crochet! With written instructions, photos, video, and an interactive spreadsheet for you to practice with.

When I first started designing with interlocking crochet, the most frustrating thing for me was to predict what the back of a project would look like. I really wanted to be able to provide charts of the back side of patterns to make it easier for people to do interlocking crochet. think the largest barrier for learning interlocking is having to figure out how to make the back side while looking at a chart of the front side, so I wanted to break down that barrier a little bit.

It took me a little thought and some trial and error, but I cracked the “back side” code a couple of years ago. Today, I’m going to share with you these super trade secrets (kidding! – about the trade secrets, I mean, not about the fact that I’m going to share them with you!)

First off I’ll share this video where I talk about how to understand the back side. In the video I mention and show an interactive google doc spreadsheet. You can play around with this spreadsheet yourself, if you’d like! It’s super simple, but it may help make the concepts “click” for you if you play around with it a bit. When you click the button below, it should prompt you to save a copy of the spreadsheet to your own Google Drive:

Just a note – I explain how to use the spreadsheet in the video below, or there are some brief instructions on the third tab of the sheet. Just do not change anything on the second sheet, which shows what the back side of the project will look like if you change the front side!

Video Explanation!

(Sorry about the audio in this video! I think I may have had two mics on at once or something and it came out all tinny, but at least you can hear me okay?!)

Understanding the Back Side of an Interlocking Crochet Project

Before we can really talk about how to predict the back side of an interlocking crochet project, we need to talk about the structure of interlocking crochet. If you’ve ever tried to design your own interlocking crochet project, you have probably discovered that you can’t choose what color every square is going to be. Half of the squares are predetermined! This is super important for understanding future steps.

The Setup

For every interlocking crochet project, you should start with a grid that looks something like this:

In this sample, there are a few key things to point out. First, you will typically have an odd number of rows and columns for an interlocking crochet project. My finished “pattern” here will have two colors – bright pink and black. The border of the project is all bright pink. The gray squares indicate spaces that must be black in the finished pattern. The light pink squares indicate spaces that must be pink in the finished pattern.

Important Principle #1: This setup grid is true for both the front and the back of the pattern. The unchangeable squares are the same for the front and back sides.

These squares are immutable, and make it, frankly, much harder to design in interlocking crochet than with tapestry crochet or other colorwork techniques.

Now, I know there are exceptions – you can fill in shapes with solid color, and you can use diagonal stitches. Those techniques change the algorithm a bit, so to speak. In this post I’m talking about standard traditional interlocking crochet!

Filling in the Blanks

In this tutorial, I will always be choosing colors for the front side, and then figuring out what that does to the back side. Now, let’s say I want to choose a color for the starred square below:

When I do, it will determine the color of this starred square on the back side:

Important principle #2: When you switch from the front chart to the back chart, left and right are reversed – if you edit a square on the top left of the front, it will change the corresponding square on the top right of the back. Top and Bottom are not impacted in this way.

So if, on the front side, I decide to make that square pink:

Then what happens to the square on the back? We already know which square will change – but which color will it be? If I chose pink on the front, the corresponding square on the back will be black!

Important Principle #3: The color of each square will be reversed on the back side (but remember, this is not true for the unchangeable squares from the setup grid! This is why the front and the back are not just reverse images of each other)

Let’s keep going now – I’m going to randomly choose colors for all three of these squares:

Hopefully you can start predicting what will happen. Remember that whatever I do on the left side of the front impacts the squares on the right side of the back. So whatever I do to the starred squares impacts these corresponding squares on the back side. Notice that the middle star stays on the same square on the front and the back – that’s because it’s in the middle column!

Now fill in the colors: I chose to make the front black, pink, black, like this:

So now for the back, the first black square switches to the right side and turns pink, the center square stays where it is and turns black, and the right square switches to the left and turns pink!

Let’s randomly fill in the rest of the white squares on our front side:

Following the principles outlined above, that would make the back look like this:

Now, you may be asking why the squares that I starred below did not change from the front to the back…?

Well, technically they did change – the black square on the left of the front side – when you go to the back, it switches to the right side and changes color to pink! The same thing happens with the other three squares. So it looks like the front and the back are identical – and in fact they almost can be with interlocking crochet. You could, in theory, design a pattern that was mirrored on the left and the right side – then the only column that would appear to change would be the very center column.

Now, the very last step in this process is to change all of the gray squares to black, and all of the light pink squares to dark pink! Front side:

And back side:

That shape is – weird – but I did say I would randomly fill them in!

So if you want to figure out what the back will look like, keep in mind the three important key points:

  1. The setup grid does not change from the front to the back – the unchangeable squares are unchanged for both sides.
  2. When switching from front to back, the squares switch sides (the left side of the front impacts the right side of the back)
  3. Colors are reversed from the front side to the back side. If a square is color A on the front side, the corresponding square on the opposite side of the back will be color B.

I hope this tutorial helped demystify interlocking crochet for you just a little bit and helped you understand what in the world is going on with the dark side -er, I mean, the back side of interlocking crochet!