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Mastering the Skill of Crochet: Understanding the Turning Chain

How to Crochet a Turning Chain - multiple chain stitches at the end of a crochet row

Crochet is a versatile and creative craft that allows you to create beautiful and intricate designs with just a hook and yarn. As you embark on your crochet journey, understanding the basics is essential. One fundamental concept to grasp is the turning chain. In this article, we’ll explore what a turning chain is, why it is important, and answer some common questions about its usage.

Hi there fellow crocheters!

Today I want to share with you a quick little tutorial on how to crochet a turning chain.

If you are new to crochet then you’ve probably heard of a turning chain, either from a pattern or another crocheter.

The first time you heard about it I am sure your brain went “uh… what the heck is that”?

I am sure because that’s what my brain did.

If your brain didn’t do this and you’ve already figured it out then that’s awesome!

Kudos to you!

My brain, however, as a crochet beginner (about 26 years ago!), just couldn’t grasp it.

The potholder I was making just kept getting smaller and smaller – I could’t figure out why!

Years later, I finally mastered the turning chain and realized that this was why I failed at crochet all those years ago.  

And I do mean failed.  


Now I know now that I wasn’t making a turning chain at the end of each row and if I was, I wasn’t doing it properly.

I didn’t even truly understand what the turning chain was!

If this sounds familiar, then let me help you out. 🙂

What is a Turning Chain in Crochet?

In crochet, a turning chain is a chain of stitches that you make at the end of a row and serves as the foundation for a new row or round.

You do this before you start the next row.

This is super important because the turning chain is necessary in order to bring your yarn to the height needed so you can work the first stitch of your next row.

NOTE:  If you need a refresher on chain stitches see How to Crochet the Foundation Chain.

Importance of the Turning Chain:

  • Establishing Height:

Because some stitches are taller than others, the number of chain stitches you make for the turning chain depends on the type of stitch that you will be making in the new the row.

For instance, a turning chain of three stitches is often used as a substitute for the first double crochet stitch, while a turning chain of two is used for single crochet stitches.

Take a look a this handy chart (see below) for a list of the most common stitches and the number of chains required in the turning chain for each stitch type.

Maintaining Straight Edges:

The turning chain also aids in maintaining straight edges in your crochet project.

It provides extra height that aligns with the height of the stitches in the previous row or round.

This ensures that your project remains even and aesthetically pleasing.

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Common Questions about Turning Chains:

1. How many chains are needed for a turning chain?

The number of chains required for a turning chain depends on the height of the stitch you are working on.

As a general guideline, one chain is sufficient for a turning chain when working single crochet, two for half double crochet, three for double crochet, and so on.

See the free downloadable chart above for a handy reference.

However, patterns may vary, so always refer to the instructions provided.

2. Does the turning chain count as a stitch?

Traditionally in crochet, the turning chain does not count as a stitch.

Instead, it serves as a placeholder, raising the height of the row or round.

However, many patterns may instruct you to count the turning chain as the first stitch.

It’s important to read the pattern carefully and follow the specific instructions provided.

Q3: How tight or loose should the turning chain be?

The turning chain should match the tension and size of the stitches in your project.

If your turning chain is too tight, it may cause the edge to pucker or create an uneven appearance.

On the other hand, a loose turning chain might result in gaps or a wavy edge.

You should practice finding the right tension that complements your stitches and maintains consistency.

Q4: Can I skip the turning chain?

While it is possible to skip the turning chain in certain situations, it is generally not recommended.

The turning chain provides the necessary height for the first stitch of the row or round, ensuring a smooth transition and maintaining the correct stitch alignment.

Skipping the turning chain may lead to an uneven edge and affect the overall structure of your project.

And, if your pattern states that “the turning chain counts as a stitch”, skipping the turning chain can throw off your stitch count making it inaccurate and ultimately leading to a failed project.

Important Tips


Most patterns and perhaps even most crocheters will tell you to turn your work and then make the turning chain.

However, this doesn’t work for me.

It didn’t work for me 26 years ago and it doesn’t work for me now!

That’s because when I turn and chain in this order, my stitches get twisted and tangled.

I don’t know why. It just happens!

I actually make the turning chain first and then turn my work.

Yep, I do it completely the opposite.

Just call me a rebel!

If you are struggling with the turning chain you might be a rebel too.

Try it this way and see if it works. 😉


No matter which order you choose to chain and turn, make sure you are not skipping the turning chain at the end of your rows and that you are adding the correct number of chains.

This was my problem all those years ago.

I either skipped the turning chain altogether or didn’t make the right number of chains for the stitch I was making in the next row.

Please don’t make the same mistake(s)!

For me this issue was so frustrating that I actually quit this wonderful hobby for many years.  🙁

I’d hate for you to do the same.

More Crochet Tips & Tutorials

Ready to learn more?  Check these out!

1.  How to Hold the Yarn When Crocheting

2.  How to Hold a Crochet Hook

3.  How to Yarn Over in Crochet

4.  The 10 Best Crochet Tips for Absolute Beginners

5.  How to Read a Crochet Pattern

My Other Crochet Resources

The turning chain plays a vital role in crochet, providing height, structure, and a seamless transition between rows or rounds.

Understanding how to create an appropriate turning chain and its purpose can enhance the quality and appearance of your crochet projects.

Remember to refer to your pattern instructions for any variations or specific requirements regarding turning chains.

With practice, you’ll master this essential technique and unlock endless possibilities in the world of crochet.

But… these steps are really just the tip of the iceberg –  there’s so much more to learn!

If you want to be able to crochet beautiful blankets and afghans, gorgeous clothing, fun handbags, and even simple squares (and more!) – mastering the beginning steps and stitches are critical!

And there are definitely some ways I can help you!

Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for weekly tutorials, tips, and patterns.

Additionally, you can follow me on Facebook and join my Facebook group for crochet beginners!

I share lots of tips & tutorials to help you along in your crochet journey!

Plus, since it’s open to experienced crocheters too, you can get some really great advice from different perspectives – all the while gaining new friends and crafty inspiration!

Thank you for coming to my blog! By sharing my content and/or making a purchase you are making it possible for me to continue producing and sharing free content for everyone to enjoy. I sincerely appreciate your support!

Until next time…   Happy Crocheting!

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Please Share!

Ruth Lister

Saturday 28th of January 2017

Hi Rae Lynn Thank you so much gor your helpful hints. I am self taught and just getting back into crocheting after 40 years. I am having trouble with turning chain and knowing where to start after doing the 3 chain turn. Do I start the row in the 2nd chain along or in the bottom of the 3 turning chain? Kind regards Ruth


Saturday 28th of January 2017

Hi Ruth,

Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm so glad you are picking up a hook once again and enjoying this delightful hobby. When you are doing double crochet and have made a 3 chain turning chain, you start the next row at the base of the turning chain. So you would count 1, 2, 3, chains from the hook and that's where you start. Make sense? If not, please feel free to email me anytime and I'll help you get it worked out.

Best wishes,


Lorna Martin

Wednesday 31st of August 2016

in crochet SK abbreviated what does that mean


Wednesday 31st of August 2016

Hi Lorna, Thanks for stopping by! In crochet the abbreviation SK means skip. You can learn more about crochet symbols & abbreviations in the post

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