technique tuesday: rule breaking chains

The other day I was asked why sometimes a pattern would read ch-3 and sometimes ch-2 for turning when working double crochet. My response was that I’d been taught three, the patterns I’ve edited have all had three, and I hadn’t really thought about doing a ch-2 instead. I wondered if it was due to differences in American and British crochet terminology, in this particular case I was told the patterns were American.

The goal of a turning chain is to get the working yarn up to the right height to work the stitches of the next row.

In addition, while testing the Diagonally Shawl, there was discussion about breaking a rule that makes working the last stitch of a row easier. I’d adopted that technique for part of my shawl but had not yet systematically swatched it to see the difference.

You also need a stitch of that turning chain to work into when you reach row’s end.

This discussion left me wondering what difference a stitch could make.

Today I’ll look at both the number of stitches in a turning chain and a different way to work the last stitch.

There are other ways to turn beyond the traditional method, see discussion in this forum, Mrs Micawber, and Charmed by Ewe for a few examples.

My philosophy is the same for knitting and crochet (and life): you may do it differently than I do, as long as you are comfortable in the method you choose and are happy with the outcome, how you got there doesn’t matter to me.

Combined these thoughts caused me to pull out a hook, some yarn, and swatch.

My current conclusion?

Chain as many as you need for an even edge and be consistent throughout the piece.

Before we review my swatch in detail, please visit this clear tutorial for double crochet that Kim Werker wrote five years ago. This is the traditional way to do it and is how I was taught many years ago.

Now for my swatch:


Section A has the traditional chain 3 for turning.
Section B has a chain 2 for turning.

Can you really tell? At this tension and with this yarn, not really. The swatch is unblocked but has been pulled around a bit to square it, and if I look closely, I can tell that the turn is a bit tidier in section B. Now… please keep in mind that I’ve been crocheting for about 30 years give or take. I know how the turning should feel and instinctually alter my tension to make it work. It’s similar to how a professional musician can sometimes make a less-than-awesome instrument sound good or how some knitters have been known to knit socks with several different sized needles and still have the sock look right.


Section D has a chain 2 at a very tight tension to show why it might not be a good to switch in the middle of a pattern.

While I work hard to write clear instructions, we are creating something handmade and there will be differences between how you and I work each stitch. If working a ch-2 creates a neater edge for you, then please, replace the ch-3 with what works best for you.

On to other rules that are made to be broken: depending on the yarn, hook, tension, and overall stitch pattern, sometimes it’s difficult to work into that final stitch before turning. What came up during the shawl testing was to just work into the gap of the turning chains. I don’t know why I’d never consciously thought about this before.

Section C shows this.

Can you tell? Close up you can see that stitch hangs a bit lower, but when viewed from a bit further away? I don’t really see any difference. When working in a yarn that is a bit splitty for crochet it makes turning much easier!

If you’re consistent with the choice you make for the number of chains between rows and the placement of each row’s final stitch, create what pleases you.

Do you have a technique you’d like me to explore? Please let me know.

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