What is tension?
The Chain Stitch, yarn tension and stitch count all go hand in hand. Think Goldilocks! “My stitches are too tight.” “My stitches are too loose.” “My stitches are just right.” You want to be in the “Just right” category when we are talking about tension. Tension means how tight you pull your yarn, which will affect how tight your stitches are. But why is that important?
If your stitches are too tight:
A: You will struggle to get your hook into your stitches as you work your rows.
B: Your project will be smaller or shorter than your pattern intends.
C: Your project may not have the stretch intended…think of a hat that won’t stretch.
If your stitches are too loose:
A: Your finished project will be bigger than you expected.
B: It will have bigger “holes” or spaces, making it a bit breezier than you want.
C: Surprisingly…it won’t have the stretch you really want.
Many patterns will recommend that you make a swatch…a little practice piece to “gauge” your size. It will explain the size, with measurements, this finished swatch should be…if your piece is a little bigger, you should make your stitches a little smaller by tightening your tension a little. If your piece is a little smaller than the finished swatch measurements, you should make your stitches a little bigger by easing your tension a little bit.
If you need a refresher on how to hold your yarn and hook, or how to make a slip knot, visit my previous post. I’ve included many photos to help you along!
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Working the chain stitch:
We are going to start working some chains and counting our stitches! Don’t have your yarn or hooks yet? Check out KnitPicks...they have a great selection of beautiful yarn and comfortable hooks, some great deals!
First, we are going to make a slip knot. Click here for more detailed instructions on how to make a slip knot.
Here are some pictures to help you make that slip knot. If you need more details, click the link above and I’ll walk you through it.
Let’s start chaining!
VERY IMPORTANT: When you are making your chains and stitches, make sure your yarn slides down to the thick part of your hook…don’t keep it toward the tip. The thickness of the hook helps you to get the tension you want. Don’t pull too tight! For this practice, it doesn’t matter what size yarn or hook you are using. I’m using Worsted (Medium) weight yarn and a J Hook.
We are going to make a chain (ch) of 10. When counting stitches…NEVER count the loop that is on your hook as a stitch.
Holding the “feeding” yarn in your non-dominant hand and your hook in your dominant hand…
Loop your feeding yarn behind your hook, as shown below. Notice I have my index finger holding the loop that is on my hook. This helps to keep the loop in place and also helps me not pull too tight.
Pull that loop through your starting loop that you already have on your hook.
You have just completed one chain! It should look like the picture below!
Let’s do another one! Loop your feeding yarn behind your hook and grab it with the hooked portion on your hook.
Pull that through the loop on your hook. You just completed another one!
Can you see the two chains. Look at the picture below and count those two chains.
Now that you have done 2 chains, let’s do 8 more…for a total of 10 chains! I’m going to change the color yarn I’m working with so you can see my stitches a little easier.
Here is what your 10 chains should look like. Remember, when we count, we don’t count the loop that is on our hook.
Now for the tough part…finding the stitches, the correct stitches, to count. This can be tricky since your chain can twist and turn. We are going to be looking for little “V”s. I have used my trusty Sharpie to color the first 2 Vs so we can see them a little better. Don’t do this when you are making something special…it looks a little wonky. But for you…I’ll do it!
In the two pictures above, you see the little Vs that are left behind when we finish a stitch. These Vs will be present when you complete ANY stitch in crochet. Remember, they may look a little bigger or smaller, depending on the stitch you are using, but they will be there. Each stitch is made up of 3 loops, Front Loop, Back Loop, and Bottom Loop. In the picture above, the front loop is the one closest to you, the back loop is the loop farther from you…see the picture below for bottom loop.
Why count your stitches:
Yes. STITCH COUNT IS IMPORTANT!
I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH!!!
When I first started crocheting, I just wanted to wave the little hook and have magic happen as I drank some hot tea. I wanted it to be relaxing…counting is not relaxing! But it’s so important if you want your project to turn out correctly. If you are making a baby blanket that starts with 100 chains in the first row…you should end with 100 stitches on the last row. This will make sure that you have a square or rectangular blanket, not a trapezoid. I wish I understood the importance of this when I first started! I was always so confused what I do at the end of the row and where to start my next row. Don’t worry…I have your back! I’m going to talk about that next!
Chain stitch expert? Let’s keep going!
In my next post, we will review chaining, and move on to a single crochet (sc) stitch. We are going to make a simple swatch, leading up to a washcloth. Simple and square. So, if you haven’t picked up your yarn or your hooks yet…don’t wait! We are moving on and I’ll have you making some simple projects in no time at all! I love the yarn and comfortable crochet hooks that KnitPicks has to offer. And their prices are amazing! Head on over there and get your supplies for our very first project! We will be working with Worsted Weight (Medium) yarn and an H hook. So, if you don’t want to buy a whole set, at least get those two things so we can keep moving forward.