How to Work the Chain Stitch in Crochet

Start With a Slip Knot
Mollie Johanson
Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Chain stitches are an integral part of crocheting. After making a slip knot, the next step in a project is usually to create a series of chain stitches. Chain stitches form the foundation on which you build the rest of the project. They are one of several essential stitches that every beginner should know.

Beyond the foundation chain, crochet projects often contain chain stitches scattered throughout the rest of the design. The chain stitches combine with other stitches to form stitch patterns, create spaces between motifs, and shape fabric. As simple chains on their own, they can become laces for baby booties, decorative string for tying packages, and hangers for ornaments.

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

Notes

These instructions are intended for right-handed crocheters; reverse the hand positions and orientation if you're left-handed. See how to crochet left-handed for helpful tips.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Crochet hook in size appropriate for yarn

Materials

  • Yarn for practicing

Instructions

  1. How to Hold the Yarn and Hook

    First, make a slip knot on your hook. With the slip knot on the crochet hook, grasp the knot between the thumb and middle fingers of your left hand. The slip knot should face you. The working yarn, the strand coming from the ball, should flow over your index finger, between your index and middle finger and across your palm, then to the back again between your ring and little finger. This feels awkward at first, but will help you tension the yarn as you make stitches and need more yarn from the ball.

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

    To start, keep the crochet hook facing upward. You will be rotating it as you make chain stitches, so grip the hook tight enough to maintain control but loose enough to move easily.

    Start With a Slip Knot
    The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson
  2. Yarn Over the Hook

    Loop the working yarn over the hook from back to front. Either use your left hand to wrap the yarn over the crochet hook from behind and then over the top, or use your right hand to manipulate your hook to do the same thing. This maneuver is called "yarn round hook" or "yarn over."

    Yarn Over the Hook
    The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson
  3. Draw Through a Loop

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

    Pull the hook down and through the current loop on the hook.

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

    Pull the Yarn Through the Loop
    The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson
    Yarn Over to Add Another Chain
    The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson
  4. Making a Chain

    You've just "chained one," making one chain stitch.

    To make another chain stitch, yarn over the hook, and draw up a loop. Repeat this as many times as necessary. As you crochet, move your thumb and index fingers up the newly formed chain stitches, staying just a stitch or two away from the loop on the hook. This will help you have more control and better tension as you make your stitches: not too tight, not too loose.

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

    Continue Adding Chain Stitches
    The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson
  5. Chain Stitch Tips

    Counting: Typically the slip knot isn't counted in the number of chain stitches required in a pattern's foundation chain. Neither is the loop on your hook. Begin your count with the first chain stitch you make and end with the chain before the hook.

    Maintain even tension: Practice. Hands need repetition to learn new skills. Eventually your chain stitches will be smooth, even, and not too tight.

    Modify as needed: Everybody crochets a bit differently and there are many possible ways to hold the yarn and position the hook. 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 needs.

    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 necessary with resilient fibers such as wool. Make a little swatch to test what will work for your project.