Crochet Basics: Understanding Turning Chains

By Caissa "Cami" McClinton – 15 Comments

Have you ever noticed that while double crocheting in rows, you need to “chain 3” before starting the next row? Have you ever wondered what this is called and why you need to do this?

Well, the chains at the end of the rows are called “turning chains,” abbreviated tch. They exist because they allow your crochet room to grow evenly. Later we are going to see what it looks like and feels like if you try to work back and forth without turning chains. As you can imagine, it gets pretty cramped and a little wonky!

Photo below shows a double crochet swatch with no turning chains!

artlikebread crochet tutorial caissa mcclinton_3077-001

How many turning chains are needed for each type of crochet stitch? The number depends upon the height of your stitch. Assuming you are working in simple, flat rows, you should use the following number of turning chains at the end of each row.

single crochet – ch 1
half double crochet – ch 2
double crochet – ch 3
triple crochet – ch 4
double triple crochet – ch 5
triple triple crochet – ch 6

Generally, while crocheting evenly, you are expected to skip the first stitch after the turning chain. If this is the case, the pattern may say “ch 3 (counts as 1 dc now and throughout the pattern), dc into the next stitch.” The turning chain isn’t always counted as a stitch. If you are working with a pattern it should indicate if the turning chain is being used/counted as a stitch.

In order to fully understand the turning chain, we are going to double crochet two swatches evenly in rows, with and without turning chains. Finally, we will use the normal number of turning chains but crochet into the first stitch from the tch. Yarn and hook size don’t matter for these practice swatches.

You may mouse over images for left-handed views.

ch – chain
dc – double crochet
tch – turning chain

Swatch 1 (no turning chains)

Row 1: ch 10, dc into the first stitch from the hook.
The photo below shows the stitch where the first dc will go!

dc into each ch across.

The photo below shows this in progress. The arrow is pointing to the very cramped first dc.

Rows 2-5: turn, dc into the first dc and into each dc across. After completing 5 rows, finish off.

Swatch 2 (standard turning chain)

Row 1: ch 12, dc into the fourth stitch from the hook (first 3 ch from hook count as 1 dc), dc
into each ch across.
The photo below shows the foundation chain with an arrow pointing to the 4th chain from the hook.

ch 3 (counts as 1 dc now and throughout the pattern), turn
The photo below shows this done with an arrow pointing to the turning chain that counts as a dc.

Rows 2-5: dc into the second dc and into each dc across, dc into the tch (you’ll have a total of 10 dc on each row)
The photo below shows this in progress with the arrow pointing to the tch where the dc should be worked.

After completing 5 rows, finish off.
The photo below shows the swatch finished.

Swatch 3 (standard turning chain, but tch does NOT count as dc)

Row 1: ch 13, dc into the fourth stitch from the hook, dc into each ch across.
The photo below shows this done with an arrow pointing to the first 3 ch from the hook. These 3 ch count as a turning chain, not as a dc.

Rows 2-5: ch 3, turn, dc into the first dc and into each dc across.
The photo below shows this in progress with the tch evident next to the double crochet.

After completing 5 rows, finish off.
The photo below shows the swatch done. See how it looks “puffier” than the traditional swatch?

I suppose that each of these methods could be used in different designs for a different effect. I thought it was difficult doing a double crochet with no tch. What did you notice about the tch? Which of these methods do you usually use?

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  1. Noemi Garcia says:

    What an excellent tutorial! When I first started to crochet, I would get stumped on the turning chain and my projects ended up looking lop-sided because of it. It took a while for me to understand the significance of that turning chain but I did eventually get it. Again, what a great tutorial for beginners.

  2. Missy says:

    some patterns call for chain X number of stitches, turn
    while others call for turn ,chain X number of stitches. What difference does it make whether you chain and turn or whether you turn, then chain? I usually follow the method in the pattern but I never knew why the difference.

  3. Ronna says:

    I agree, this is an excellent tutorial. I’m a new crocheter and have had trouble understanding why my edges looked all wonky. Now I get it! Thanks.

  4. Lynne says:

    This was a good tutorial! However, if someone is a rather loose crocheter like me, 3 chains on a double crochet are too many. The ends up looking like button holes, so I only chain 2. I know a lot of others do the same thing. Best advice would be to try a couple of rows with the yarn you’re using for your project and if it looks too loopy, don’t use as many turning chains – cut back by one.

  5. What a super tutorial. Thankyou

  6. Dawn says:

    I wish I had seen this tutorial back when I was learning to crochet! It would have kept me from froging many, many stitches to re-crochet the row until I got it right.

    One thing I’ve read about to keep the “hole” in the end of the row from looking too wide open, is to make a single crochet and 1 chain for a half double tch or a sc and 2 chains for a double crochet tch. This helps fill in the “hole” making it less noticeable if you crochet a little more loosely like I do.

    I wish I had a camera so I could upload a picture, but alas, I don’t. I hope it helps some and doesn’t just confuse the issue. Thanks for all you do; I love this web site.

    ~ Dawn ~

    • Gladys says:

      to avoid the “hole” when you ch 3 and turn, I chain 1, turn and make a double crochet stitch where I chained 1 instead of ch 3, and continue with double crochets as directed.I think it creates a neater edge,

  7. Natalie says:

    Thanks for the photos of each different method. I’ve been crocheting a long time, but often still get confused about what loop counts as the first and last “stitch” in the row. This helps clear things up a bit.

  8. LaceAngel says:

    Since I’ve been crocheting for a “few years” (40+), I’ve found that I prefer using only 2 chains for my turning chain on the double crochet stitch as it doesn’t give you that “gap or loop look” on the edge (reference last photo). I prefer a straighter edge, personally.

  9. Collette Griffith says:

    I agree with “Dawn” and “LaceAngel”. I always make only 2 chains for my turning chain on the double crochet stitch. I’ve been crocheting since 1960 or so, and just recently “figured out” why there were “loops” at each end! A real DUH! moment!!

  10. Sue LaRose says:

    This is great I also had a hard time figuring out the first and last st of word and didn’t like loop on beginning so did do 2 ch in sted of 3 but was afraid to stray from pattern, good to know I can do it the way I like it best

  11. dianne richardson says:

    My friend Gale Harris came over to my home today and taught me how to make a granny square. We got as far as the second square. I changed yarns so I remember that you chain 3 then double crochet 3 rows chain two and crochet 3 etc but I forgot how you start a new color/yarn. She tied her yarn to her hook first but I forgot if she went through one of the “holes” (in the corners or sides) before resuming double crochet or if I double crochet 3 rows and then attach it to the “hole”. I will experiment until I get a reply.

  12. Leilani says:

    When you double crochet into the turning chain, does it have to be under both loops or can I just double crochet in the front loop? I confused on this as a beginner.

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