Crochet Chain

All About Chains: Base Chains, Starting Chains, Foundation Chains, Turning Chains and More

Crochet Chain Stitches
Crochet Chain Stitches

In times past, crocheters typically used to begin their projects with a series of crochet chain stitches, known as a “base chain,” a “starting chain,” or a “foundation chain” — all of which are synonyms for the same thing — basically a grouping of chain stitches that work together to create a support for the rest of the project. Starting chains can be of any length — short or long. They can be worked straight, or joined to form rings.

Nowadays, the foundation chain remains a popular method for getting crochet projects started, but it isn’t the only way to begin. There are some trendier methods people are now using as well. (Click here to see more ideas for how to start your crochet projects.)

There are still some “old-school” crochet publications, crochet teachers and crocheters who insist that “all crochet projects begin with chain stitches.” While this is technically an incorrect statement, it is correct to say that many crochet projects do start off that way.

Basic Crochet Stitches and Terminology
Basic Crochet Stitches and Terminology

How to Crochet a Starting Chain

Here are instructions for how to begin your crochet project with a starting chain.

Materials and Supplies Needed: First, you’ll need some material or fiber for crocheting with. Usually you would use either yarn or crochet thread for this purpose, although you could also use other things including but not limited to wire, unspun wool, rag balls / fabric strips, plarn, hemp cord, raffia, or twine from the hardware store.

Next, you’ll need a crochet hook in an appropriate size for crocheting the materials you have chosen to use.

Begin by making a slip knot.

Put the slip knot on your crochet hook. Pull it tight, but not so tight that it is “strangling” your crochet hook. It should be loose enough that you can move the crochet hook through it.

Wrap your yarn (or thread) around the head of the crochet hook.

Grab the yarn with the hook, and pull it all the way through the slip knot.

That’s the first chain stitch in the starting chain.

How Do You Know How Many Chain Stitches to Crochet?

Many crocheters work from patterns, and usually, your pattern will tell you exactly how many chains to work in the beginning. Look for instructions that say something like “ch 25.” This translates to “chain 25,” meaning that you should crochet 25 chain stitches.

By the way, the crochet abbreviation for “chain” is “ch,” and the abbreviation “chs” is often used for “chains.”

Turning Chains

A Piece of Bruges Crochet Lace -- Notice the Turning Chains, Which Create the Lacy Effect.
A Piece of Bruges Crochet Lace — Notice the Turning Chains, Which Create the Lacy Effect.

You need chain stitches for much more than just getting your projects started. When you’re working in rows of crochet, you’ll often need to work one or more chain stitches in between your rows of stitches. These chain stitches are called “turning chains.” This is sometimes abbreviated as “t-ch” or “tch” in the singular, for “turning chain,” or “t-chs” / “tchs” in the plural, for “turning chains.”

Turning chains can be both functional and beautiful. They can be made to mimic and blend in with the other stitches in your fabric; they can also be used to create lacy scalloped effects that stand out from the fabric. Pictured here is an example of Bruges crochet lace, a technique where the turning chain is used to create a gorgeous lace effect that resembles traditional Bruges lace.

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This page was last updated on 1-21-2020.

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