“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.” – Stephen King
I never thought I would disagree with Stephen King, but I have to say, the foundation chain is the concept I’ve struggled with the most in crochet, and it is the start! Technically, you could define starting as getting your yarn and hook, or finding a pattern that looks simple enough, or looking up all the abbreviations and basic stitches.
However, when you really begin crocheting a project that is worked in rows, you start with foundation chain. Either for your project or to test your gauge (a concept I ignored for years because I hated struggling through the foundation chain so much). If you’re anything like me, you underestimate it – “I just make some loops. This will be a piece of cake. I’m really just worried about those single crochets that are coming up.” A few minutes later, you’ve got a Maniac Magee knot, and are wondering where it all went wrong.
Sure, there are plenty of tutorials, but they all seem to go at lightning speed and imply it’s really quite simple. Coming from Amigurumi, I expected the very first row to be quick and simple like the Magic Ring. Little did I know that I would struggle with the foundation chain for years. So after years of frustration, here’s the trick that helped me conquer it.
This is in US crochet terms. At its most basic, a foundation chain is 3 steps.
- Make a loop
- Put your hook through the loop, yarn over
- Pull the yarn through the loop, creating a new loop
Then you do that a bunch of times and you have a chain. Here it is from the top:
Here it is from the side.
You can immediately see the problem – it twists. I made these big and loose so that it’s easier to see, and my tension isn’t perfect. However, I don’t think I’ve made a foundation chain that doesn’t twist at least a little bit.
Each foundation chain has 3 …loops? lumps? humps? bits of yarn? Let me know if you know the technical term. (If there is terminology or a rule that I clearly am unaware of, I would LOVE to know about it. Comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit me up on Instagram @abbeynormalstitches.)
I’m going with loop because Front Loop Only (FLO) and Back Loop Only (BLO) are often in patterns. I consider it problematic terminology, especially in a foundation chain because you’re using the loop on your hook to make more loops that magically become three loops… but it sounds better than humps, I guess.
In Amigurumi, Front Loops are on the Right Side and Back Loops are on the Wrong Side. The Right Side is the one facing you as you work. In patterns worked as rows, the pattern should tell you whether Right Side is a specific side. If it doesn’t, I’ve always assumed that it’s the side facing you at the time.
I have marked the Front Loop in yellow, Back Loop in orange, and Bottom Loop in blue. Here it is from the top:
and again from the side:
So when you insert your hook into the stitch to yarn over, you will have the Bottom Loop (blue) underneath it, and the Front Loop (yellow) and Back Loop (orange) on top of it. Once I could reliably find these three loops, the foundation chain was much less frustrating.
So, to make the next stitch on the next row, you’d start with a Turn. Turning just means flipping the project over or rotating it 180 degrees. The Front Loop and Back Loop are still on the top, but the Back Loops (orange) are now your Front Loops.
For a single crochet, you’d yarn over, and insert your hook in the stitch. Here it is from the top:
and the bottom:
and the side:
Usually, the turning instructions will look something like “turn, sc in second chain from hook” if the next row is Single Crochet or “turn, sc in third chain from the hook” if the next row is a Double Crochet. If you’re putting a Single Crochet in the second Chain from the hook, you’d aim for the second Bottom Loop, or the Bottom Loop after the one directly below the hook. If you’re putting it in the second chain from the hook, you’d aim for the third Bottom Loop, and so on.
The stitch directly below your hook, with the loop coming out of it, will be referred to as the stitch you’re working in most cases. The next stitch after the stitch you’re working is usually called …the next stitch. If you’re supposed to put a stitch in the third stitch from the hook would normally be phrased like “skip a stitch, Single Crochet or sk st, sc” for any other stitch. Why change the terminology, even though a Chain is also considered a stitch, you ask? I don’t know.
In this case, I started my Single Crochet in the second chain from the hook. You can see the Front Loop, Back Loop, and Bottom loop are now on the side. The Front Loop and Back Loop of the first Single Crochet are on top, facing the camera. You can see a hint of the Back Loop of the second Single Crochet, and then only the Front Loop of the subsequent Single Crochets, because of the twist.
Here I also marked several of the Bottom Loops (until I ran out of blue stitch markers). You can see the twist, and where you’d be working if a pattern asked you to work the other side of the foundation chain (common with borders and edging).
In this next picture, the Front Loop and Back Loop of the first Single Crochet are marked in pink. The Bottom Loop of the second Chain from the hook that the first Single Crochet went into is marked in blue. You can see the Post of the Single Crochet directly above the stitch marker.
All three loops from the skipped chain on the side are marked. Remember that what was the Back Loop of the Foundation Chain, is now a Front Loop after you turn. It’s marked in orange.
I also marked the Post of the third Single Crochet in red, and the Front Loop and Back Loop of the same stitch in green. Essentially, what was the Bottom Loop in the Foundation Chain now forms a post in a Single Crochet. For a normal stitch worked into the previous row of stitches, you want to stick your hook into the space behind/to the right of the Post, under the Front and Back Loops of the current row, and above the Front and Back Loops of the previous row.
Here, the Front Loop and Back Loop of the first and last Single Crochet are marked in orange. The Front, Back, and Bottom Loops of the chain I skipped are marked in yellow. Note the twist.
Here it is laid as flat as possible (and with a Bottom Loop marked for good measure):
To recap, Foundation Chains are HARD. Which sucks, because they’re at the beginning, and you don’t get to practice them as much as say, a single crochet. They even use different terminology than a row of any other type of stitches (e.g. second chain from hook vs next stitch).
Once you can pick out the Front, Back, and Bottom Loops of your chains, it doesn’t matter if your Foundation Chain twists or you need to walk away mid-row, you’ll be able to work your next row. To that point, I made this big square with a foundation chain that had a twist in it:
It didn’t stop me, and it’ll only be one out of 109 rows by the end! I made many projects where I was crocheting in the wrong loops in large swaths of the foundation chain, and they turned out fine. Don’t let a wonky foundation chain discourage you.
Let me know if you have any questions, or if parts of this don’t make sense. I might do another post just on Turning.