Larger crochet projects, like blankets, often start with long starting chains. Large numbers of chains can be hard to keep track of, particularly if you are joining them to work in the round. Learn some simple tricks to make it easier, including a video tutorial below!
Foundation stitches, where you work the chain and the stitch at the same time, are a great alternative to starting with a chain. They are my preferred option when the first row is straight and plain. However, they don’t always work as well when the first row is more complicated, particularly if it includes decreases or skipped chains.
This post is about those times when you cannot (or do not want to) use foundation stitches and instead are working with a long starting chain. If you’d like to learn more about foundation stitches, here’s a great tutorial.
Tip 1: Make extra chains
Very few things are worse than getting to the end of your first row only to find that you don’t have enough chains. Luckily, there’s an easy solution. Make more chains!
Purposely make a handful of extra chains when you start your project. I usually make 5 or 6 extra, but for very long projects I may even make 10 or 15. This is also handy when designing, so I can tweak the pattern without starting over.
At the end of your first row, when you have confirmed you have the right number of stitches, you can undo the extra chains. I usually don’t use a slip knot, but if you do, use your fingernails or a needle to unpick the knot. If you have enough extra chains, you could even cut the knot off. You will still have a tail from undoing the extra chains.
Once your knot is gone, simply pull out each extra chain. Follow the path of the yarn and gently pull them out one by one. Stop when you see that the yarn is now coming out of the bottom of the last stitch. At that point, pull on your tail to tighten it, and you’re done!
Tip 2: Joining long starting chains in the round
It can be frustrating to join a long chain in the round without twisting it. The solution to this problem is to bring the ends together while the chain is still short!
Start by chaining enough stitches to make a comfortable loop – in my case, with worsted weight yarn, this was about 20. Next, without twisting the chain, place the first chain on the hook just behind the current working loop.
If you have a plain, straight hook with no grip, you can bring the first chain up and over the back of the hook, and slide it into place. In my case, the grip would have made this more difficult. I still could have done it, by loosening the chain until it would fit over the hook, and then tightening it again.
The other way is to take the current stitch off the hook, put the hook through the first chain, and then put the current stitch back onto the hook. Now you have the two ends of the loop together. You can continue chaining as much as you want and the loop will not be twisted.
When you are finished chaining, pull the working loop through the first chain, and you’re ready to go!
My only problem with this method is that we are now back to needing the exact right number of chains. We can’t make extra and rip them out at the end like in our first tip. To make it easier, my preferred technique is to actually not join the chains at all!
Tip 3: Joining the first round
I usually work the first round as though it was a row. I make extra chains, and then rip them out when I know I have enough stitches. Then, I join the first round with a slip stitch, just like I normally would join a round.
This leaves a small gap at the bottom of the round, where the chain is not joined. To close the gap, simply sew it closed with the tail.
This method may give you a slightly different look at the edge. If you work in the back bump, or if you were going to turn before working the first round, it will look the same.
Otherwise, the chains may tilt in the opposite direction from what was intended. This is not a big deal at all if you are going to add an edging. If it is important to the design though, you may want to use the method in Tip 2 instead.