Crocheters often wonder how many foundation chains they need to result in their desired number of stitches.
It can be confusing! Sometimes you chain 4 more than the number of stitches you want, but other times you chain just one more. How do you figure out how many foundation chains you need?
I could tell you how many chains you need to get the number of stitches you want on the first row. You could look back to this blog post every time you want to know the answer (see below). That would be awesome for my website traffic, but not so great for helping you learn. I’d rather have you understand how to figure out for yourself how many foundation chains you need.
I’m using American crochet terminology in this article. If you are in the UK, refer to this conversion chart.
What’s on the first row?
The first thing you must know is how many stitches you want on the first row, and what type of stitches they are.
If you are designing your own project, you’ve worked a gauge swatch and done the math to figure out how many stitches you need. If you are following a pattern, you can follow the pattern instructions, or adapt it as needed.
The first stitch of the first row is crucial, because the number of foundation chains depends on the height of the first stitch of the row.
Crochet stitches are created below the level of the hook. When you start a new row or round, you have to bring the hook up to that new level before working the stitches on the next row.
Think of the turning chain as a ladder that carries your hook up to that next level. The taller the first stitch of the row, the more steps you need to take on your ladder to reach that height. In other words, you need more turning chains for taller stitches.
The very first turning chain is part of the foundation chain. That means you have to crochet extra chains to incorporate the turning chain.
This first turning chain is created when you insert your hook into the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th (or more) chain from the hook. The skipped chains count as the turning chain.
You also need to know whether you are counting the turning chain as a stitch. In single crochet, the turning chain is usually not counted as a stitch. In half double, double, or treble crochet, the turning chain is often—but not always—counted as a stitch.
For more information, read Where to Put the First Stitch of a Crochet Row and How to Prevent Gaps at the Beginning of Crochet Rows.
Foundation Chains for Single Crochet
Now that you know you need one turning chain for single crochet (sc), and that turning chain is not going to count as a stitch, you can figure out how many chains you need.
Let’s say you want to end up with 10 single crochet stitches on the first row. You need one for each stitch, plus one turning chain, so you need a total of 11 chains to result in ten stitches. I think it’s easier to understand using stitch symbols.
10 sc on first row + 1 turning chain = 11 foundation chains
Foundation Chains for Half Double Crochet
The calculation for half double crochet (hdc) will depend on whether you are using the turning chain as a stitch. When it gets a bit more complicated like this, I often sketch it out on a piece of paper to remind myself how many foundation chains I need. It makes more sense to me when I see it in a visual format like a stitch diagram.
Assume we are using a chain-2 turning chain for this half double crochet. If I want 10 hdc on the first row, and I am not counting the turning chain as a stitch, I need to add 2 chains.
10 hdc on first row + 2 turning chains = 12 foundation chains
If I want 10 hdc on the first row, and I am counting the turning chain as a stitch, I need to add 1 chain.
10 hdc on first row + 1 turning chain = 11 foundation chains
Foundation Chains for Double Crochet
Double crochet is like half double crochet, in that you have to know how you are treating the turning chain, and how many chains you are using. Assume we are using a 3-chain turning chain for this double crochet.
If I want 10 dc on the first row, and I am not counting a chain-3 turning chain as a stitch, I need to add 3 chains.
10 dc on first row + 3 chains = 13 foundation chains
If I want 10 dc on the first row, and I am counting a chain-3 turning chain as a stitch, I need to add 2 chains.
10 dc on first row + 2 chains = 12 foundation chains
Can you work out for yourself how many foundation chains you would need for treble crochet?
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Now you understand the relationship of the foundation chain to turning chains, to the height of stitches, and to whether the turning chain is used as a stitch. And now you can figure out how many foundation chains you need in every situation!
Have more questions? Refer to The Crochet Answer Book. It has answers to questions like these, and all your crochet questions, in a handy format. It’s a compact reference that you can stick in your project bag and have ready at all times, even when you can’t get online.
You can hire me as a consultant or tech editor to help you with all your crochet needs. And I teach online and all around the country, as well!
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Still wishing you had table for a quick answer? Here it is: