3 Ways to Crochet into the Beginning Chain + 5 Tips
Most crochet projects start with a beginning chain, also known as the starting chain. If you ask 3 avid crocheters how to crochet into the beginning chain, you’re sure to get 3 different answers—literally. That’s what happened when I asked my coworkers Susanna Tobias, project editor for crochet, and Sara Dudek, associate editor of Interweave Crochet, how they work the first row of a crochet project.
There are 3 ways to work into a beginning chain, and, ironically enough, each of us uses a different one! Though the methods are similar, there are slight differences to how the bottom edge will look depending on which loop you crochet through. Two of the methods leave a slight gap between the chain and the crocheted fabric; one technique leaves spacing similar to crocheted fabric.
Anatomy of a Beginning Chain in Crochet
The beginning chain has three loops: top loop, bottom loop, and back ridge loop. The top loop and bottom loop form a “V” shape on the front side of the chain. The back ridge loop is the loop in the middle of the stitch on the back side of the chain.
The chain is generally the first stitch a new crocheter learns. It’s easy to make, but it does take practice in order to work consistently. Chains that are the same size will give your fabric a nice even edge.
How to Make a Slip Knot
How to Make a Crochet Chain
How to make a Chain
Make a slipknot on hook, yarn over and draw through loop of slipknot, *yarn over and draw through loop on hook; repeat from * drawing yarn through last loop formed.
Crocheting Through the Top Loop
When teaching new people to crochet, I instruct them to insert their hook through the top loop because it’s the easiest loop to see and pick up. Susanna also prefers to work in this loop unless the pattern specifies otherwise. When asked why, she said it was the method that her great-aunt taught her and that, to her, it’s the easiest loop in which to work the stitches.
Crocheting Through the Bottom Loop (aka Top Loop and Back Ridge Loop)
By inserting the hook in the bottom loop, you are picking up the top loop and back ridge loop. This leaves a single loop at the bottom edge of the fabric. Sara learned this technique when she took a class at a local yarn shop when she was 8 years old. This is her go-to method unless a pattern calls for something different.
Crocheting Through the Back Ridge Loop
The back ridge loop is on the back side of the chain. By inserting the hook into this loop, the top and bottom loops become the bottom edge of the fabric. With these two loops sitting on the bottom edge, you’ll get a piece with a beginning edge that looks very similar to the top edge. This is my preferred technique for working in the starting chain and has been since I read about it on the Internet a few years ago.
How the Beginning Chain Edge Looks
In my opinion, working through the back ridge loop only provides the cleanest-looking edge. It leaves spacing between the starting chain and the first row of the fabric that’s similar to the spacing between the second and third rows.
Working through the top loop only or working through the bottom loop (which is working through both the top and back ridge loop) will leave holes between the starting chain and the first row of the fabric. I don’t like this extra space.
As I mentioned previously, working in the top loop only is the method I use when teaching others. It’s easier, faster, and more relaxing to work into the top loop only. So for those reasons, I love it. The bottom loop is a little slower to work in, but still easier than working in the back ridge loop.
Having said that, I don’t want to make it sound like the back ridge loop is difficult. The loop is smaller, so it can be a bit trickier to work into, but it’s not as challenging as it might seem at first. As with any skill, it takes practice to identify the loop and work in it consistently.
5 Tips for Crocheting the Perfect Starting Chain
The starting chain is one of the easiest parts of the crochet process, which is probably why it’s the first thing most people learn. I have friends who only know how to make a chain. One even quit smoking by crocheting long chains. Since the beginning chain often ends up being one edge of your fabric, it’s good practice to start out with a good foundation.
If you’ve found yourself struggling, here are some tips for making the perfect crochet chain.
1. Try to make each chain the same size—this will give you a nice, even-looking edge.
2. The chain is the smallest stitch in crochet. As such, it will be tighter than the rest of the crocheted fabric. If you start a hat at the brim, for example, the chain will be tight without much give while the remainder of the hat will be stretchy. To make the chain a similar size as the other stitches, try crocheting it with a hook one size larger than what you’ll use for the rest of the project.
3. For a smooth edge, don’t twist the starting chain when working the first row. Not only will a twisted chain give you a lumpy-looking edge, it also makes it difficult to find the next loops.
4. Working into a chain will cause the loops to stretch a bit and the loops of the next chain to shrink a little. This can make it difficult to find the next loop to work into. Since the loop that was just worked into is enlarged, people often want to work another stitch into that same chain. To find the next chain, look at the stitch you just made, follow its post to the starting chain and identify which loop it’s being worked into, and then work into the next chain.
5. Sometimes you’ll make a mistake on the first row and need to pull out your work. When you rip out your work, the loops of the chain will be lumpy and misshapen. The best practice is to work the first row as carefully as possible so you don’t have to rip out your work. But, if you do have to rip out, consider re-crocheting the starting chain as well as the first row.
Making a Case for Beautiful Chains
Chains are used at the beginning of a project, but they can also be used in the middle of a fabric to make lace or buttonholes. Chains are also used in stitch combinations such as shells, filet, and pineapple. Not all the tips above apply to chains that are worked in the middle of a fabric, but most of them do.
Once you’ve mastered creating a beautiful starting chain, you’ll not only have a fabulous looking edge, but you’ll also have a skill you’ll be able to use in more advanced crochet stitches.
Practice the chain to make a beautiful edge and get ready to rock other crochet techniques, too.