Beginner’s Guide to Crochet Straight Edges

B.HOOKED GUIDES

Beginner’s Guide to Crochet Straight Edges

If the excitement of a new project was crushed by uneven edges, grab your favorite warm beverage and settle in. It’s not easy to crochet straight edges as a beginner, but it should be comforting to know that everyone has been in your shoes, and you will get better at it. The key to crocheting straight edges boils down to stitch count and turning chains, and by the time you finish reading this guide, you’ll fully understand both.

Hey there!

It’s incredibly frustrating to spread your project out after a long crochet session to find out the edges aren’t straight. This guide to crochet straight edges was designed to help you understand, and master the edges of your projects to you can go on to crochet scarves, blankets…whatever you want…without worrying about the edges. We’ll look at things like how to tell which stitch is the first and last in the row, and how to know if the turning chain counts as a stitch or not. We’ll help you figure out what’s going wrong with your uneven edges, and share some tips to make crooked edges a thing of the past.

You’ll get the most out of this guide if you struggle to crochet straight edges in projects like scarves, blankets or any other project crocheted in rows. If you’re willing to invest a little time learning the skills within, and if you combine this information with a little practice, I’m confident your edges will improve.

Contents

  • There are two reasons your edges are uneven
  • Count the stitches. Always.
  • Understanding which stitch is the first and last is the key to crochet straight edges.
  • How do you know if the turning chain counts as a stitch?
  • The turning chain, whether a stitch or not, can make or break the edges.
  • Customize the turning chain to match your crochet style.
  • The single crochet is a little different.
  • The half double crochet trick
  • How do you tell what’s going wrong with the edges of your project?
  • Is there anything you can do to correct these mistakes (without ripping it all out)?

There are two reasons your edges are uneven

As difficult as crocheting straight edges seems right now, the unevenness can be distilled down to two main issues: turning chains (causing unsightly holes along the edges), and stitch count (leading to angled edges instead of straight edges). I have quite a bit more to say about turning chains than stitch count, so we’ll get to that one in just a bit. First, stitch count.

If you crochet even one less or one more stitch from one row to the next you’ll notice it in the edges of your work, and if you do that in multiple rows you’ll see a real problem. If you’re looking at your uneven edge right now and see just one little blip where it protrudes outward or dips in, you probably have a stitch count issue on that row. But if you’re supposed-to-be straight edge is angled, you likely have a stitch count issue in most of your rows.

Count the Stitches. Always.

That is until you really understand everything else you’re about to read in this guide. I know that’s not what you want to hear (especially if you’re working on a big blanket with hundreds of stitches), but it’s what you need to hear right now. It’s tedious and boring, but it’s really the best way to crochet straight edges as a beginner. You won’t have to count them forever though…

Understanding which stitch is the first and last is the key to crochet straight edges

There it is, plain as day. That’s the sweet spot. The secret. The ah-ha moment when you no longer have to count stitches every row or even worry about uneven edges. So how do you know (without a doubt) which stitch is the first and the last? It all comes down to the turning chain.

Memorize this…

If the turning chain counts as a stitch, the turning chain is the first stitch of the row, and the last stitch of the row will be worked in the top turning chain from the row below.

If the turning chain doesn’t count as a stitch, the first stitch is crocheted in the same placement as the turning chain, and the last stitch of the row is worked in the first (actual crocheted) stitch of the previous row.

That begs the question…

How do you know if the turning chain counts as a stitch?

Of the two options, not counting the turning chain as a stitch is less common, and more situational. That being said, it’s always best to check your pattern. It’ll usually share this information in one of two places:

  • In the pattern notes section. (Look for something like, “ch 3 at beginning of row counts as dc”)
  • Directly after the turning chain instruction. (It might look like this: “Ch 3 (counts as dc))

In a perfect world, you’ll have that crucial piece of information spelled out for you somewhere. However, you may come across a pattern or two where it doesn’t directly specify, and you have to figure it out on your own. But alas, we’ll help you with that. Keep reading.

The turning chain, whether a stitch or not, can make or break the edge.

First a little turning chain review. Without them the beginning of every row would look a little squished because the row needs to start at the same height as the stitches used in the row. When you finish a row, the hook is still at the height of the previous row, right? The turning chain is the step to get you to the height of the row you need to make. In general…

  • Half double crochets = 2 turning chains
  • Double crochets = 3 turning chains
  • Treble crochets = 4 turning chains
  • Double Treble crochets = 5 turning chains

This is with one big caveat – the way you make each of these stitches is actually the same height as that number of chains. If it’s not, the edges could appear bumpy or have holes (or both). So we’re moving away from stitch count and addressing the impact turning chains can have of the edge of your projects.

Customize the turning chain to match your crochet style

People who naturally crochet with a tighter tension have shorter stitches compared to people who naturally crochet with a more loose tension. This means the “one size fits all” turning chain approach in the list above is flawed, and can lead to uneven edges.

The next time you have a little swatch of work in front of you, test it out to customize the turning chain to match how tall your stitches are. Make 2 chains and a half double crochet right next to it. Is the chain taller than the stitch? If so, rip it out and try one turning chain and a half double crochet. If the heights match up better, using one turning chain in half double crochet rows will look neater for you.

While you’re at it, do the same little exercise for double crochets, treble crochets, double trebles…whichever turning chain number matches the height of your actual stitch is what you should use to crochet straight edges. If subtracting a chain from the standard list above is best for you, take note of that and apply it to any pattern where the stitch is used. You’ll crochet straighter edges as a result.

The single crochet is a little different.

You probably noticed I left the single crochet out of the standard turning chain list, and that’s because it’s treated the same for basically everyone. It’s not easy to locate and crochet a stitch into a single chain so the single crochet will follow this rule…

Make one turning chain for a row of single crochets, and the turning chain will never count as a stitch.

Therefore the first and last stitch in a single crochet row will always be the same. See the blue dots? They mark the first and last stitch of the row.

If you flip the work and look at it from the top, you’ll see a “v” in each place.

When you make a row of single crochet stitches, this will always be your first and last stitch.

The Half Double Crochet Trick

Although many people will make two turning chains for a half double crochet and not count them as a stitch, there’s a better way that’ll lead to cleaner edges. When working a row of half double crochet stitches, make a single turning chain and half double crochet in the same placement as the turning chain. This is essentially following the same rule as single crochets; you don’t count the one turning chain as a stitch, and it’ll lead to the cleanest edge for half double crochet rows.

How do you tell what’s going wrong with the edges of your project?

You know there’s a problem, but what? We know it’s either because the stitch count is wonky or your turning chains aren’t the right height for your stitching style, but how can you troubleshoot your project right now and fix it? Look closely at the wonky edge.

Is it angled instead of straight? If so, you’ve probably been adding or leaving out a stitch in every row in the angle. Count the stitches to verify that there are too many or too few stitches. To avoid this in the future, really study what the first and last stitch should be, and count as you go until you get the hang of where to work the first and last stitch.

Is there a little protrusion or indent? If so, the stitch count is probably off in that row. Count the stitches and remind yourself what the first and last stitch are supposed to be. Count as you go until you get the hang of it.

Is the edge just bumpy? If the stitch count is right but the edges still look weird, your turning chains are probably too tall for your stitch height. Try reducing the standard turning chain by one and see if that improves the look of the edges.

Is there anything you can do to correct these mistakes (without ripping it all out)?

Unfortunately, I don’t have good news if you find yourself in this situation. There really isn’t a good way to make a dip, bulge, or angle look perfectly straight without ripping back to the point where things went wrong.

However, if the thought of ripping back potentially hundreds of stitches makes you want to toss it out the window or give up crocheting altogether, don’t. Here are a few suggestions to conceal the mishap:

  • If it’s not too obvious (just one or a few rows are uneven), try blocking it. This will “force” the stitches into a straighter position. Check out our guide here if that’s a new topic for you.
  • Crochet a border around it in the same color. For slight dips, use a taller stitch. For slight protrusions, use a shorter stitch.

These aren’t perfect fixes, but they’ll do in a pinch. The only way to make it look perfect, unfortunately, is ripping back. Whether you choose to rip it out or accept it as is, it’ll be a hard lesson learned and you’ll improve for the next project.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or defeated at this point, don’t worry. Not only do you have the task of knowing which first stitch is the first and last, but you also have to focus on tension and turning chains. This process will get easier, and your edges will improve with every single project. The best thing you can do is figure out why it happened, and take that lesson into the next project. But if you’re having self doubt, grab a spare skein of yarn, and make some swatches. Don’t rush and don’t put added pressure on yourself to finish a project until you feel like you’re ready.

additional resources

3 Things You Must Do to Substitute Yarn on B.Hooked TV

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