Turning Chains

In most crochet patterns, turning chains follow a simple pattern:

  • 1 chain for single crochet (does not count as a stitch) 
  • 2 chains for half double crochet (counts as a stitch)
  • 3 chains for double crochet (counts as a stitch)
  • 4 chains for treble crochet (counts as a stitch)
That sequence works well for single and half double crochet, but Practical Crocheter taught me many years ago that it doesn't work so well for double and treble.

On the lower half of the swatch pictured above, I used a traditional, chain 3 turning chain for double crochet on the left hand side, but a chain 2 turning chain on the right hand side of the swatch. The chain 3 turning chain leaves a significant gap before the second stitch of the row, and it makes the row gauge visibly larger on the left side edge than in the middle of the swatch. The chain 2 turning chains on the right maintains the row gauge much better than the alternative, and the space between those turning chains and the double crochets next to them is fairly consistent with the overall stitch gauge.

The upper half of the swatch shows treble crochet. As with the lower half of the swatch, I have the traditional, chain 4 turning chain on the left, and a chain 3 turning chain on the right.  With treble crochet, the effects described for double crochet are even more pronounced.

That swatch in the picture was made with DK weight acrylic, using a size G (4.25 mm) hook. When making this kind of fabric, the main drawback to a long turning chain is that it can make your seams look funny when you connect row ends. However, when you want your stitches to look crisp and your gauge to be firm, long turning chains can look sloppy.  Using short turning chains is a long-standing habit for me, especially since I usually work without a pattern. Since I rarely make crocheted lace, I'm usually not looking for a crisp overall effect.  

My recent project involving the Erishkigal Skully Snowflake pattern reminded me that my usual practice isn't standard.  I used longer turning chains for the round beginnings, as instructed in the pattern for my initial run-through of the pattern.  As I described in my post about adapting snowflake patterns for use as doily motifs, I had trouble settling into a good gauge with that pattern, because I was out of practice with lace. However, using long turning chains just made my round beginnings look sloppy in my first snowflake. When I made the motifs for the doily, I used shorter turning chains and was much happier with the outcome.

Using shorter turning for stitches taller than half double crochet than traditionally used in patterns creates a crisper appearance for pattern stitches, a more uniform texture for plain fabrics, and a more consistent gauge overall.