My first crochet project was a scarf for my local 4-H fair. When I finished, I felt pretty proud until I noticed that its edges were crooked and uneven, creating an accidental wavy effect. (I didn’t enter it in the fair after all. Sigh.)
Now that I’m a more experienced crocheter, I know that I was adding and subtracting stitches without realizing. It takes practice to achieve even rows. Here, we’ll take a close look at the anatomy of a crochet row and round to see how it works — and what might be going wrong with your stitch count.
My poor 4-H scarf was a victim of adding and subtracting stitches when stitching flat. For this demo, I used a single crochet stitch, but the same problems can arise with other stitches, too.
Your flat crochet is getting bigger or smaller because:
- You’re not starting the row in the right place.
- You’re not ending the row in the right place.
- You’re skipping stitches along the row somewhere.
- You’re crocheting two stitches into one space, therefore adding stitches along the row somewhere.
The easiest method for even rows is a tedious one: count your stitches. If you started out with 20 stitches on Row 1, but now you have 22 stitches, you’ve added two stitches somewhere. Counting the stitches as you work each row prevents growth or shrinkage. But sometimes there’s more to it than simply counting.
Look at the top of the crochet row in the image above. Each little V is a stitch. So when we’re working flat and not shaping the project, each of these Vs must have a stitch.
The turning chain
The turning chain helps us get from one row to the next, and can be problematic when adding and subtracting stitches. When we chain before turning, we’re creating a stitch that’s the same height as our stitches. That way we won’t have a weird pull on the end when we start the next row.
Sometimes new crocheters might be unsure about whether they need to stitch into the turning chain. The rules are different depending on the stitch — one of the reasons why it’s confusing!
Take a look at the top of the single crochet row again (above). The first V on the row is actually the top of the turning chain. The second V is the very first stitch of the row, and where we want to start. The turning chain sits alongside the row to give it some height.
Let’s view it from another angle:
The rules for the turning chain are different depending on the stitch. I’ve compared single crochet vs. double crochet below:
Do not stitch into the turning chain, or into the space between the turning chain and the first stitch. The first stitch of the row is worked into the last stitch of the previous row. The last stitch of the row is worked into the first stitch of the previous row.
The turning chain often counts as one double crochet stitch. The first stitch of the row is worked in the second stitch of the previous row (Remember: the turning chain counts as the first stitch). The last stitch of the row is worked in the turning chain.
Sometimes your pattern will tell you when the turning chain counts as a stitch, which is helpful for knowing where to begin and end your stitching.
Crocheting in the round
There are several different ways to crochet in the round, and achieving even rounds depends on which method you’re using.
Working in spiral rounds is actually easier than working flat or in rounds that join, since there are no turning chains to worry about. Similar to crocheting flat, each V gets one stitch. You’ll work in a continuous spiral, and as long as each V gets one stitch, your project will never grow or shrink.
Joining with a slip stitch
Some crochet rounds require you to join the end of the round to the beginning of the round with a slip stitch. Remember the same principle we covered with crocheting flat. The slip stitch does not count as a stitch in the row, so when you come back to the slip stitch again on the following row, do not add a stitch there. If you do, your crochet round will increase by one stitch per round and slowly grow.
Trust your pattern
When all else fails, trust your pattern. Your pattern will tell you when a turning chain counts as a double crochet stitch, and sometimes even how many chains from the hook to start your row.
And hey, if your rows start looking wonky, just rip back and check your work for the four possible mistakes listed above. They’ll help you figure out the problem without pulling out too many stitches — or your hair!