Fan or Shell Stitch—What’s the Difference?

Shell and fan stitches are fairly popular kinds of crochet stitches that are used in many different patterns. Not only are they simple to learn, they offer the possibility of interesting variation to your piece—a shell stitch border can add a beautiful finishing touch to a shawl or blanket. And there are so many different kinds to choose from!

Shell Stitch

Fan or Shell Stitch

The Bright Blooms Afghan uses shell stitch. Image from Harper Point Photography.

However, a shell stitch is not the same thing as a fan stitch. Understanding the distinction between the two can enhance your experience as you use them to crochet various projects. A shell is a group of stitches—the same kind of stitch or graduated stitches—worked in the same stitch or space to create a shell shape. The Bright Blooms Afghan by Lisa Naskrent, for instance, calls for creating a shell by working five double crochets into the same stitch.

Fan Stitch

A fan is similar to a shell stitch, but chains are added between the stitches, between each stitch, or between groups of stitches. The Bristol Lace Cardigan by Robyn Chachula includes a fan stitch. In that particular project, the fan is worked as follows: ([2 dc-cl, ch 2] 2 times, 2 dc-cl) in the indicated space.

Fan or Shell Stitch

The Bristol Lace Cardigan and Arrowhead Cardigan both use a fan or shell stitch. Image from Harper Point Photography.

The Arrowhead Cardigan by Kathryn White, on the other hand, calls for a shell stitch embellished with picots (tr, ch-3 picot in last tr made, 6 tr in same st, ch-3 picot in last tr made). Even with this bit of added fanciness, it is still a shell. All of the patterns included above can be found in Interweave Crochet Spring 2016.

There are many variations of fans and shells to be found in crochet, but essentially a shell is a solid group of stitches worked into the same stitch or space, and a fan is a group of stitches separated by chains worked into the same stitch or space.

As you crochet (affiliate link), take time to enjoy exploring fan and shell stitches. They can add a rewarding surprise to your crochet experience and add interest to your piece.

Happy Crochet!
Susanna Tobias

Featured Image: Image by Ann Swanson. Three different fan and shell stitch interpretations from the patterns shown here.


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