Crochet Yarn Overs and Yarn Unders: What’s the Difference?

Are you using yarn under graphic

Almost every crochet stitch includes the instruction “yarn over”. But what is a yarn over and how is it different from a yarn under? Does it really make a difference in your crochet?

Yes, it does make a difference. Let me explain. Read all the way to the bottom of the post, then watch the video.

I’m using American crochet terminology.

How to Yarn Over

Start with your hands in the ready position, as shown in the photos. The hook is in front of the working yarn.

Neutral "Ready" position for right hand
Neutral “ready” position for right hand

Your dominant hand holds the hook and your non-dominant hand controls the yarn, with the working yarn coming over your index finger. This means that if you are right-handed, the hook is in your right hand and the yarn in your left. If you are left-handed, the hook is in your left hand and the yarn is in your right.

Neutral "ready" position for left hand
Neutral “ready” position for left hand

Press back with the hook and at the same time bring the yarn over the hook from back to front. The yarn will be crossing the front of the hook from upper right to lower left if you are right-handed, and from upper left to lower right if you are left-handed.

Yarn over for right-handed crocheters
Yarn over for right-handed crocheters
Yarn over for left-handed crocheters
Yarn over for left-handed crocheters

How to Yarn Under

Start in the ready position as described above, but bring the hook over the top of the working yarn, so that the yarn crosses the front of the hook from lower right to upper left for right-handers, or from lower left to upper right for left-handers.

Yarn under for right-handed crocheters
Yarn under for right-handed crocheters
Yarn under for left-handed crocheters
Yarn under for left-handed crocheters

Single Crochet: Yarn Over and Yarn Under

To work a regular single crochet, insert the hook into the stitch, yarn over — notice the position of the yarn — and pull up a loop, then yarn over and pull through two loops on the hook.

Some crocheters work a yarn under instead of a yarn over at a crucial point. Often they don’t even know they are doing a yarn under! Here’s what typically happens:
Insert the hook into the stitch, yarn under — notice the position of the yarn — and pull up a loop, then yarn over and pull through two loops on the hook.

Why Does It Matter?

Take a look at the photo below. In the first few rows, I crocheted a regular single crochet, made with yarn overs. The two legs of these single crochet are parallel to one another.

regular sc compared to crossed sc
The stitch circled in red is crossed, while the stitch circled in green is straight.

Then I switched techniques on the last row. On that row, after I inserted the hook into the stitch, I did a yarn under then finished off the second step with a yarn over. In this example, the two legs of the single crochet are crossed.

The yarn unders create twisted stitches, but they also change the gauge and the drape of the fabric. Chances are, if you’ve been working unintended yarn unders, you’ve been having trouble matching the pattern gauge! Try it yourself and see the difference.

Some people like to use yarn under single crochet stitches for amigurumi projects. That’s fine, as long as it is intentional!

Double Crochet: Yarn Over and Yarn Under

Double crochet has three yarn overs, and thus three opportunities to make yarn unders. However, let’s concentrate on what happens when you do a yarn under right after you insert your hook into the fabric, as above.

Here’s a regular double crochet: Yarn over, insert the hook into the stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, (yarn over, pull through 2 loops) two times.

See how the legs at the base of the double crochet are parallel?

double crochet with parallel legs made with yarn over
The strands on the base of this double crochet are parallel.

Here’s a twisted double crochet: Yarn over, insert the hook into the stitch, yarn under and pull up a loop, (yarn over, pull through 2 loops) two times.

Twisted double crochet stitches made with yarn under
The base of these double crochets are twisted.

This time, the legs at the base of the double crochet are twisted.

Know the Difference

If you are just learning to crochet, pay attention to the way you are wrapping the yarn over the hook. Get into the habit of checking that you are working a yarn over (unless the pattern says otherwise).

If you have been crocheting for a while and have only just discovered that you are doing unintentional yarn unders, it’s not too late to change!

Take time to study what you have been doing, then practice working yarn overs instead of yarn unders. It may feel strange at first, but you will eventually find that it is easier to get the yarn through the fabric with a yarn over.

Has this post been eye-opening to you? Have you discovered that you were yarn undering when you should have been yarn overing? Let me know in the comments.

The following affiliate links might provide a small income to me if you buy something, but don’t cost you anything extra.

The yarn I’m using in the photos and video is Marly Bird’s Chic Sheep from Red Heart. The crochet hook is Clover Amour, size 5.5 mm.

Keep Learning

Want to know more about crochet? I’ve got resources and links to up your skill level.

Free Knitting Pattern: Easy Two-Toned Pillow

This easy two-toned knit pillow uses the simplest of stitches to create a modern geometric design. Gauge isn’t crucial, because you just knit until the size is right.

Easy Two-Toned Pillow for beginners designed by Edie Eckman

Instructions for the pattern are listed for free below, but if you’d like an easy-to-print and easy-to-carry ad-free version, buy the pdf.

CTA Buy the Pattern

This post may contain affiliate links, which help support me but don’t cost you anything extra.

The Yarn

Craft Yarn Council 4-medium weight yarn
Craft Yarn Council 4-medium weight yarn

Medium-weight (worsted-weight) yarn is easy for beginners to use. Lion Brand Feels Like Butta has a dreamy-soft feel that you really want to snuggle up to!


Feels Like Butta yarn

I choose Pale Grey and Charcoal for a modern neutral palette, but the yarn comes in eighteen colors, so you are sure to find a couple of colors that appeal to you. It only takes one ball of each color.


The Pattern

Garter stitch is the first stitch pattern that beginners learn, because there’s no purling involved. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a versatile stitch! You can do all sorts of incredible things with just garter stitch!

Matching the pattern gauge is always important, but sometimes it’s more important than others. In this pattern, you want to at least get close to the pattern gauge so the fabric you are knitting is tight enough and so you don’t run out of yarn. However, don’t fret if it’s not EXACTLY the same; you have a little bit of leeway so you can knit until the size is right.

Easy Two-Toned Pillow

One Size: 12″ [30.5 cm] square

Materials
Lion Brand Feels Like Butta Yarn (100% polyester, 3.5 oz [100 g], 218 yd [199 m]), 1 ball each #150 Charcoal (A) and 149 Pale Grey (B)

US Size 7 [4.5 mm] knitting needles or size to obtain correct gauge

2 stitch markers or bits of waste yarn

Tapestry Needle

12" square. pillow insert

12″ {30.4 cm] square pillow insert


Gauge
21 sts and 42 rows =4″ {10 cm] in garter stitch. Although gauge is not crucial in this pattern, it’s is best to take time to check gauge. Watch How to Measure Gauge in Knitted Garter Stitch.

Abbreviations
garter stitch: knit every row
k2tog: knit two stitches together
kfb: knit in front and back of one stitch
RS: right side
st(s): stitch(es)
WS: wrong side

Instructions
Make 2 pieces alike, as follows:
With A, long-tail cast on 3 sts.
Row 1 (WS): Knit.
Row 2: Knit to last 2 sts, kfb, k1—1 st increased.

Place a marker on the front of the row just knit to indicate the right side of the fabric.

Repeat Row 2 until there are 85 sts on the needle, or until one shorter edge of the piece measures about 11″ [28 cm], ending by working a WS row. Cut A, leaving a 6″ [15 cm] tail.

With B, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1—1 st decreased.
Repeat this row until 3 sts remain.
Bind off.

Finishing
Weave in ends.
Hold pieces with wrong sides together and with colors matching.
With tapestry needle, sew around three edges using mattress stitch andmatching yarn color.

Insert pillow form. Sew final seam. Weave in ends.

Other Projects

Check out these other easy knitting patterns:

Quick & Easy Summer Placemats

Blue Springs Double Cowl

Easy Quick-Knit One-Skein Tea Cozy

Molly Hat

Stoneybrook Shawlette

Zig Zag Eyelet Scarf

Free Knitting Pattern: Quick & Easy Summer Placemats

Easy Summer Placemats Free Knitting Pattern by Edie Eckman
Easy Summer Placemats Free Knitting Pattern designed by Edie Eckman

Brighten up your summer with these quick and easy summer placemats. They are a perfect first project for beginning knitters, and they make a great house-warming gift for new neighbors.

This post may contain affiliate links, which help support me but don’t cost you anything extra.

The Yarn

Craft Yarn Council Size 5 yarn icon

Bulky-weight yarn makes the knitting go fast! Lion Brand Rewind Tape Yarn is fun to work with. Because of its construction, it’s less bulky than you would think, and it imparts a great texture to the fabric.

 

Lion Brand Rewind Tape Yarn

I love the exuberant colors that I used, but you can also choose from more muted shades to suit your taste. The instructions below are for two placemats in different main colors. If you want to make four placemats, two of each color shown, with a yellow stripe on each, you’ll need two balls each of the blue and pink, and one ball of the yellow.

 

The Pattern

Garter stitch is about as basic as a knitting stitch can be, and that’s all you need to know to knit these placemats! Minimal pattern-reading is required, and gauge doesn’t even matter all that much.

Easy Summer Placemats Free Knitting Pattern designed by Edie Eckman

Quick & Easy Summer Placemats

One size: 16″ x 13″/40.6 x 33 cm

Materials
Lion Brand Rewind Tape Yarn (70% polyester/30% viscose, 3.5 oz / 100 g, 242 yd / 221 m), 1 ball each color 148 Fish Bowl (A), color 195 Think Pink (B), and color 157 Make Lemonade (C) [See note above about yarn amounts for multiple placemats.]

US Size 10.5 / 6.5 mm knitting needles

Stitch marker or piece of waste yarn

Gauge
13 sts and 22 rows = 4″ / 10 cm in garter stitch (knit every row)
Gauge is not crucial in this project.
Watch How to Measure Gauge in Knitted Garter Stitch for more information.

Pattern Notes
Leave a 6″ / 15 cm tail for weaving in each time you begin and end a yarn.

Beginning knitters will want to knit the pattern exactly as written. More experienced knitters may create a slip-stitch selvedge by slipping the last stitch of each row knitwise with yarn in front.

Abbreviations
k: knit
RS: right side
st(s): stitch(es)
WS: wrong side

Instructions
With A, long-tail cast-on 42 sts. Knit 1 WS row. Turn work, and place a marker or piece of waste yarn on this side to indicate that the side is the right side.

Knit every row until piece measures 13″ / 33 cm from cast-on edge, ending with a WS row. Cut A, leaving a 6″ / 15 cm tail for weaving in.

With C, knit 10 rows (5 garter stitch ridges). Cut C.

With B, knit 2 rows (1 garter stitch ridge). Cut B.

With A, knit 6 rows (3 garter stitch ridges). Bind off.

Weave in ends.

Make a second placemat, substituting B for A and A for B in the instructions above.

Other Projects

Check out these other easy knitting patterns:

Blue Springs Double Cowl

Easy Quick-Knit One-Skein Tea Cozy

Molly Hat

Stoneybrook Shawlette

Zig Zag Eyelet Scarf

 

How to Measure Gauge in Knitted Garter Stitch

knitted garter stitch closeupThe first knitting stitch you learned was the “knit” stitch, and the first stitch pattern you learned was probably Garter Stitch. Measuring gauge in knitted garter stitch is pretty straightforward, but if you are unfamiliar with the concept of measuring gauge or counting stitches and rows, a few tips are in order.

To create garter stitch, you knit every row (or purl every row) when knitting back and forth. When you work in the round, of course, you have to knit one round, then purl one round to make the same stitch pattern.

Watch this video that covers the basics of measuring gauge in garter stitch.  In future posts, I’ll talk you through what to do when you run into problems like uneven stitches or varying stitch counts.

Do you have questions about measuring gauge in knitted garter stitch? Or questions about gauge in general? Let me know in the comments.