Foundation chains and foundation rows
I thought I’d share with you answers to some of the questions that students often ask when learning to crochet.
You may have read or been told that it doesn’t matter how you crochet. In some instances this is true. However if you want to follow a pattern and would like your crochet to resemble the sample in the pattern photos, then you need to understand what a designer assumes you will be doing.
I’m going to write a few tutorials about where to insert the hook in different situations. I’m going to start at the beginning by looking at the foundation chain and working the foundation row. The following explanations and images are for those who crochet right-handed, that is, you hold your hook in your right hand. Read this tutorial if you crochet left-handed.
Let’s look at a foundation chain
Usually we start crochet with a foundation chain. Chain stitch itself is easy, but beginners often find it difficult to know where to insert the hook to make the first (foundation) row of stitches.
Let’s take a look at a foundation chain. Each stitch comprises three strands. Two form a “V” on one side and the third forms a bump on the other side.
One side feels smoother; on this side you can see “Vs”; technically speaking this is the right side.
One the other you can see and feel the bumps; technically speaking this is the wrong side.
If you haven’t done much crochet, you may find it easier to to feel the difference between the two sides than to see it.
How to crochet the foundation row
Most beginners find it tricky to insert their hook into their foundation chain. If your chain stitches are tight, either try to make looser stitches or use a bigger hook. Then, when you swap back to the smaller hook for the first row of stitches; it should be easier. If your chain stitches are loose, then don’t worry for now, you could try to tighten them or use a smaller hook. But you do want it to be relatively easy to insert the hook into the chain, so keep the chain stitches loose enough.
There are three ways to insert your hook into the foundation chain. In each case, wriggle the hook to help it through the chain and use your left thumb and forefinger to separate the strands and ease them over the hook. As with all things, it will get easier with practice.
1. Under the Vs in the foundation chain
Hold the chain so that the two V strands are uppermost. Insert your hook into a chain stitch under these two strands and above the bump strand. You might need to ease each strand of the V over the hook separately.
You will see the bump strands under your first row of stitches (the foundation row).
Now, there is some logic in using this method, as you usually insert the hook under the V at the top of other stitches. However, this is much harder to do with a foundation chain. The difficulty is that, when you have inserted your hook under the first strand of the V, the second strand can become quite tight. I usually find that if I remove the hook from under the first strand, then try again, it works second time round.
This method makes a neat edge, but I’m not that keen on it as a visible edge. That’s just my preference. It’s good for those occasions where you will pick up stitches from the lower edge later. For example, if you were crocheting a scarf in using a directional pattern and you wanted both ends of the scarf to look the same, you could start at the centre and crochet to the first lower edge, then return to the centre, crochet through the bump strands, then to the second lower edge.
2. Under the bumps in the foundation chain
Hold your foundation chain so that the bumps are uppermost. Insert your hook into a stitch under a bump strand and above the two V strands.
You will see the Vs at the lower edge of your crochet.
Theoretically, you’re inserting the hook through the same place as in method 1, however, it does feel easier to do.
This is a nice neat edge. It’s also good for when you want both lower and upper edges of your crochet to look the same, for example on a bag strap, which you work along the length of the strap.
3. Under a bump and half a V in the foundation chain
Hold your foundation chain so that the Vs are facing you. Insert your hook into a stitch between the two V strands and under the bump strand.
You will see the Vs at the lower edge of your crochet.
This method is relatively easy to do. It will give your crochet a neat lower edge which looks a bit more delicate than method two.
Advice for beginners!
If you are just starting to learn crochet, then don’t worry! Just insert the hook where you can at the beginning. It’s hard enough getting your fingers to cooperate with holding the hook and yarn and to remember the basic stitches. It won’t be long before you recognise which strand in a chain stitch is which. Then you’re ready to insert the hook in the same way each time, and your crochet will look even better.
And just remember that the foundation row, where you crochet into the foundation chain, is always the trickiest one!
Advice for everyone else!
Don’t be a random crocheter! The worst thing you can do, when working on a project, is to insert the hook into the chain at random. Choose a method and be consistent.
You will be more likely to have a neat lower edge. We’ve seen that inserting your hook into different places in the foundation chain alters the appearance of the edge. If you insert your hook at random, well, your lower edge will look a bit random.
You’ll also be more likely to crochet the correct number of stitches into the foundation chain. If you miss a chain, then your crochet will curve upwards after the foundation row; if you make an extra stitch, your crochet will curve down.
Don’t insert the hook under only one loop. Yes, this is the easiest method! But when you insert the hook under one loop, it distorts the stitch, but it leaves large loose loops at the lower edge of the crochet. You can do better than this!
The best method will depend on what you are crocheting. Don’t you hate that sort of answer! If you are following a pattern where it matters (maybe for construction or appearance) then usually the designer will state which method to use. Other than that, you can choose from the three methods I’ve described.
So, grab a hook and some yarn and try each method. See how they work for yourself.