How to Work the Chain Stitch in Crochet

Hands crocheting the chain stitch
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

What Is a Chain Stitch?

A chain stitch
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

Chain stitches are an integral part of crocheting. Other than a slip knot, the first step in a project is usually to create a series of chain stitches. They are one of several essential stitches that every beginner should know.

Most crochet projects begin with chain stitches forming the foundation on which you build the rest of the project.

Beyond the foundation chain, crochet projects often contain chain stitches scattered throughout the rest of the pattern too. The chain stitches combine with other stitches to create the design and construction. 

Keeping your tension correct for chain stitches can take some practice, but it's an easy stitch to learn and start your crochet.

Note: These instructions are intended for right-handed crocheters, but you can flip the process if you're left-handed.

Updated by Mollie Johanson

Holding the Yarn and Crochet Hook

Start With a Slip Knot
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

First, form a slip knot.

With the slip knot on the crochet hook, grasp the knot with your left hand. The slip knot should face you.

The yarn coming from the ball should flow over your index finger. Use your other fingers and thumb to hold the working chain and keep the correct tension on the yarn as you crochet.

How to Hold the Crochet Hook

Grasp your crochet hook in your right hand using a pencil grip, knife grip, or whatever feels most comfortable to you.

To start, hold the crochet hook facing upwards. With each chain stitch that you crochet, rotate the hook by approximately one-quarter turn counterclockwise. It’s okay to turn it more if you need to, but the goal is to make each move as precise and fluid as possible.

Yarning Over the First Chain Stitch

Yarn Over the Hook
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

While your crochet hook is still inside the slip knot, loop the working yarn over the hook from back to front. Sometimes it helps to hold the slip knot in place on the hook with your right index finger.

Rotate your crochet hook by about one quarter turn counterclockwise as you loop the yarn to hook it. 

Forming the First Chain Stitch

Pull the Yarn Through the Loop
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

After you’ve hooked the yarn, draw it through the slip knot.

As you draw the yarn through, you will likely find it easier to complete the stitch if you return the hook to its original position facing upwards.

Crocheting More Chain Stitches

Yarn Over to Add Another Chain
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

This is the first completed chain stitch. 

To make another chain stitch, hook another loop and draw it through. Repeat this as many times as necessary. As you crochet, use your thumb and index finger to guide your newly formed chain stitches downward.

As you work, you'll find a rhythm in rotating the crochet hook as you hook the yarn and then rotating it back as you draw it through. This rhythm makes the process easier and faster.

Tips for Making a Foundation Chain

Continue Adding Chain Stitches
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson
  • Count accurately: Typically the slip knot doesn't count in the number of chain stitches required in a pattern's foundation chain. Begin your count with the first chain stitch you make. 
  • Modify as needed: Everybody crochets a bit differently and there are many possible ways to hold the yarn and position the hook when crocheting a chain stitch. These instructions demonstrate one way of doing it. If this way is not comfortable for you, feel free to modify your way of working to suit your preferences.
  • Maintain even tension: Practice until your chain stitches are smooth, even, and not too tight.
  • Don’t be afraid to change hooks: If you are crocheting with cotton or other non-stretchy yarn, it may be necessary to make your foundation chain using a crochet hook that is one size larger than the hook you plan to use for crocheting the rest of the project. If you find that your foundation chain is too tight in proportion to the first several rows of stitches that follow it, consider starting over using a larger hook for the chain. This is not always a necessity with resilient fibers such as wool, but it might be helpful, depending on the pattern you are using.