A recent Facebook poll concluded that many of you need help with crochet rows, specifically which stitch to work into first, which stitch to end with and how to crochet straight edges in general. Well folks, that’s what I’m here for, to serve you!
I’m very excited to cover this topic. It’s such a great learning opportunity and your crochet projects will directly benefit from it!
Let’s just dive right in, shall we?
First things first, when working in crochet rows, you have two options
That’s right, there are two ways to begin and end a crochet row. Perhaps this is why there is so much confusion surrounding the topic! Some say there is a “right way” and a “wrong way”. I just say there are two ways and you can decide which one is right for you. First let’s look at each option.
Option #1: When Turning Chains Count as Stitches
What does that mean?
Crochet stitches have some height to them and we need to make “turning chains” at the beginning of each row to keep our row nice and flat. If we skipped this step, our first stitch would look a little squished. Try it once to see what I mean!
Generally speaking, turning chains follow this pattern:
- Single Crochet = one turning chain
- Half Double Crochet = two turning chains
- Double Crochet = three turning chains
- Treble Crochet = four turning chains
How do you know when to count the turning chain as a stitch?
If you’re working from a pattern, you will find the answer to this question either in the pattern notes or directly in the pattern text. If this is the case, it will say something like, “Ch 3 (counts as stitch)”.
If you are not working from a pattern and making it up as you go, the choice is yours!
What does it look like when you use the turning chains as stitches?
Have a look at this example where I’ve prepared a swatch of half double crochet stitches (top image) and double crochet stitches (bottom image). In each of these photos, the turning chain counts as a stitch.
A couple of things you’ll notice right off the bat: first of all, there’s a little hole on the edges and second, the double crochet swatch doesn’t have straight edges like the half double crochet swatch.
Let me address the “hole” issue first.
Any time you count the turning chain as a stitch, you’ll see little holes like this. The taller the stitch, the more noticeable the hole will be. The difference in thickness of the turning chain versus the actual stitch is the reason for the hole. For many (myself included) this is a big con for this approach.
You might also notice that the double crochet swatch edges aren’t nearly as straight as the half double crochet (top) swatch. Generally speaking, the taller the stitch you’re using, the less even or straight the edges will be. I’ll discuss a solution to this in just a bit.
Where do I work my first and last stitch when my turning chain counts as a stitch?
When your turning chain counts as a stitch, you need to work your first and last stitch in a specific spot to make it all work out.
When your turning chain counts as a stitch, your first stitch will be the stitch next to your turning chain and your last stitch will be the turning chain from the previous row. You can see them pointed out in the image above.
It’s important to note that this is applicable for half double crochet, double crochet, treble crochet and so on but single crochet is the exception to all rules. We’ll look at that exception in option #2.
Option #2: When Turning Chains Do NOT Count as Stitches
What does that mean?
Just because crochet stitches have height to them and we need a turning chain to keep our rows even and flat doesn’t mean we have to count that turning chain as a stitch within our row.
Let’s get one thing out of the way – this is often referred to as the “wrong way” to do things. I say there aren’t really right and wrong ways in crochet, just personal preferences. As long as your stitch count stays consistent in each row, does it really matter how you started and ended that row?
When a turning chain does not count as a stitch, you are essentially ignoring it altogether. It exists but it doesn’t add to or contribute to your stitch count for that row.
How do you know when the turning chain doesn’t count as a stitch?
If you’re working with a pattern, (unless it states specifically) it’s usually safe to assume that the turning chain does count as a stitch. I mentioned that this is deemed the “wrong way” and industry standards usually reflect that. In other words, patterns follow a certain format where turning chains do count as a stitch unless it specifically states not to. You’ll usually see this in the pattern notes section.
What does it look like when you do not count the turning chain as a stitch?
Have a look at this example where I’ve prepared a swatch of half double crochet stitches (top image) and double crochet stitches (bottom image). In each of these photos, the turning chain does not count as a stitch.
In both of these swatches we don’t really have a noticeable hole on each side. Win! You will, however, notice that it’s a little bumpy on the sides in both swatches of half double crochet and double crochet stitches.
This is due to the turning chain bulging out – a con to this particular option.
Where do I work my first and last stitch when my turning chain doesn’t count as a stitch?
When your turning chain doesn’t count as a stitch, you need to work your first and last stitch in a specific spot to make it all work out.
When your turning chain does not count as a stitch, your first stitch will be the same stitch your turning chain is coming from and your last stitch will be the last stitch from the previous row (next to that turning chain from previous row). You can see them pointed out in the image above.
You may have noticed we haven’t talked about swatches or projects with single crochet stitches yet. That’s because they are incredibly simple and always follow option number 2.
What do I do when my project is using single crochet stitches?
When you’re working a project that uses single crochet stitches, your one turning chain will never count as a stitch.
Therefore your first stitch will be the same stitch your turning chain is coming from and your last stitch will be the last stitch from the previous row (next to that turning chain from the previous row).
Now this is a teaching website, so I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t present you with the facts. I also wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t share my experiences with you. It’s pretty obvious that both of these options are good but not great. This led me to use a hybrid option.
For straight crochet edges, you need to use a hybrid of the two options
I’m hesitant to say you should throw everything you just learned out the window. They are after all, important lessons that are incredibly useful as you advance your skills, follow patterns and create your own patterns.
But from this moment on, we’re interested in the best way to make our edges as straight as possible (not necessarily what is “standard”). Always remember one important principle:
The sides of your work will never be straight if you stitch count is wrong.
It doesn’t matter what you do if you have more or less stitches from row to row, it will always be noticeable. So as we move into the “hybrid system” I like to use to keep my crochet edges as straight as possible, keep in mind that counting your stitches at the end of every row is always a great practice.
Projects with Single Crochet Stitches
Just to recap here, you’ll always use option #2 when working in single crochet rows.
Projects with Half Double Crochet Stitches
Despite the “industry standard” to use two turning chains for half double crochet stitches, I find it best to use one turning chain and do not count that as a stitch.
This approach results in straight edges when working with this stitch.
Projects with Double Crochet Stitches
Once again, I don’t follow the industry standard when it comes to turning chains for double crochet stitches. Rather than use three turning chains, I use only two. Then I follow option #2 and do not use that turning chain as a stitch.
It’s not perfectly straight, but it’s quite a bit better than option #1 and #2!
With experience, practice and counting come straight edges – this I can promise you. However, no matter which method you use from this post, always be sure to count your stitches at the end of the row.
Here are the answers to two questions I hear all the time.
My edges are slanting. What’s going on?
If your edges are slanting in one direction or another, you are increasing or decreasing at the beginning or end of the row. Unfortunately, there isn’t a great way to “fix” this issue without frogging your work and starting over where the slant did not occur. Learn from this experience, count your stitches every row and this problem will resolve!
My edges are still a little bumpy even after using these methods. What can I do to make them straight?
This is completely normal. Even with implementing the hybrids you see in this post, the edges aren’t going to be completely straight. One thing I do after completing a project is block it. This will make the edges perfectly straight! If you haven’t heard of blocking before, you can read all about it (and watch a video) here.
Do you do something different to crochet straight edges?
I’d love to hear about it in the comment section!