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.

5 Ways to Prevent Gaps at Beginning of Crochet Rows

There’s more than one way to prevent those ugly gaps at the beginning of crochet rows. I’ll explain what causes those annoying holes, and how to fix them.

Learn these methods, then choose the one that works best for you in each situation. Different yarns and stitch patterns will create different results, so the solution in one project might be different from the solution in a different project.

I’m using American crochet terminology.

Blame the Turning Chain

A turning chain usually starts a new row or round. Its purpose is to bring the hook up to the level of the new row. When the turning chain is used as a double crochet or a treble crochet, it sits in the location of that stitch, but it’s a lot skinnier than the stitch it’s standing in for.

A regular chain-3 turning chain leaves a gap in double crochet.

Also, the turning chain usually sits a bit to the side, rather than squarely on top of the stitch below it, causing a gap.

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#1: Use a Shorter Turning Chain

Instructions typically tell you to chain 3 for a double crochet or chain 4 for a treble crochet. Instead, chain one less. In other words, chain 2 for a double-crochet turn or chain 3 for a treble-crochet turn. You still count that turning chain as a stitch, so work the next “real” stitch into the next stitch of the row, and work the last stitch of the next row into the top of that shorter turning chain.

#2: Don’t Use the Turning Chain as a Stitch

Use a turning chain, but don’t count it as a stitch.

Use a regular turning chain (chain-2 or chain-3 for double crochet, chain-3 or chain-4 for treble crochet),  but put the first stitch of the row into the stitch at the base of the turning chain. Put the last stitch of the next row into the top of the last “real” stitch, ignoring the turning chain.

#3: Use a False Turning Chain

Pull the first loop of the row up to the level of the new row, then chain 1. Put the first stitch into the very first stitch of the row, and ignore the turning chain as you did with the method above.

#4: Use An Alternative Turning Chain

Alternate turning chain example
An alternate turning chain prevents a gap.

Without chaining, work a single crochet into the first stitch. Insert the hook into the left-most leg of the stitch you just made (or the right-most leg for left-handed crocheters), yarn over and pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through 2 loops. You’ve just put another single crochet into the left-most leg of the previous stitch.

For a double crochet row, you should now be up to the level of the double crochet stitch. Count this alternative turning chain as a stitch, and continue working across the row. When you come back to this stitch at the end of the next row, be sure to work into the top of it.

For a treble crochet row, put one more single crochet into the left-most (right-most) leg of the single crochet, for a total of 3 single crochets, before continuing with your treble crochets.

#5 Use Linked Stitches

This method links the turning chain directly to the first stitch. Count this linked stitch as a stitch, and be sure to work into the top of it when you get to it on the next row.

For double crochet, ch 2, insert the hook into the back bump of the 2nd chain from the hook, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into stitch at base of chain, yarn over and pull up a loop. You now have 3 loops on your hook. (Yarn over, pull through 2 loops) 2 times to complete the double crochet.

For treble crochet, ch 3, insert the hook into the back bump of the 2nd chain from the hook, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert the hook into the back bump of the next chain, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into stitch at base of chain, yarn over and pull up a loop. You now have 4 loops on your hook. (Yarn over, pull through 2 loops) 3 times to complete the treble crochet.

Other Solutions

If you are starting a new yarn, you can use a standing stitch in place of a turning chain. These 5 ways to prevent gaps at the beginning of crochet rows are by no means the only ones you have available to you, but they are the ones I use most often.

If you know a different method that works well for you, please share it in the comments below.

Crochet Pattern: Tower Stitch Granny Square

Tower Stitch Granny SquareHere’s a new take on the classic granny square. Use it wherever you would use a regular granny square.

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The pattern is written for four colors (A, B, C & D), but use as many colors as you like. I used Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice for this square. It’s a great way to use up small amounts of yarn!

If you’ve never crocheted a Tower Stitch before, check out this blog post or watch the video.

Tower Stitch Granny Square

Tower Stitch Granny Square chart

Abbreviations & Special Stitches

Ch: chain

Dc: double crochet

Edc (extended double crochet): Yarn over, insert hook into next stitch, yarn over hook and pull up a loop, yarn over, pull through 1 loop on hook, (yarn over, pull through 2 loops) 2 times.

Partial Tower St: Complete 1 edc, dc into base of edc as follows:  yarn over, insert hook under both strands at base of edc, yarn over and pull up a loop, (yarn over and pull through 2 loops) 2 times.

Rep: repeat

Rnd(s): round(s)

St(s): stitch(es)

Tower St: Complete 1 edc,  2 dcs in base of previous edc as follows:  *yarn over, insert hook under both strands at base of edc, yarn over hook and pull up a loop, (yarn over and pull through 2 loops) 2 times; rep from * once more.

 Instructions

With A, ch 4, join with slip st to form a ring OR begin with an adjustable ring/Magic Ring..

Rnd 1: Ch 3 (counts as dc), 11 dc in ring, join with sl st to top of ch-3—12 dc. Fasten off.

Rnd 2: Join B in any space between 2 dcs, ch 3, Tower st in same space, *sk 2 dc, 2 Tower sts in space between next 2 dc; rep from * 2 more times, sk 3 dc, partial Tower st in beginning space, join with sl st to top of ch-3. Fasten off.

Rnd 3: Join C in corner space between 2 Tower sts, ch 3, Tower st in same space, *Tower st in space between next 2 Tower sts, 2 Tower sts in space between next 2 Tower sts; rep from * 2 more times, Tower st in space between next 2 Tower sts, partial Tower st in beginning space, join with slip st to top of ch-3. Fasten off.

Rnd 4: Join A in corner space between 2 Tower sts, ch 3, Tower st in same space, *(Tower st in space between next 2 Tower sts) 2 times, 2 Tower sts in space between next 2 Tower sts; rep from * around, ending last rep partial Tower st in beginning space, join with slip st to top of ch-3. Fasten off.

Rnd 5: Join B in corner space between 2 Tower sts, ch 3, Tower st in same sp, *(Tower st in space between next 2 Tower sts) 3 times, 2 Tower sts in space between next 2 Tower sts; rep from * around, ending last rep partial Tower st in beginning space, join with slip st to top of ch-3. Fasten off.

Weave in ends.

What Will You Do Next?

To learn some almost-painless ways to join these squares to make a blanket or other item,  read Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs.

Or work along with me in the Baby Blanket Crochet Along.

There are SO many things you can do with a granny square, and SO many ways to put them together!

Crochet Answer Book 2nd edition
The Crochet Answer Book

For answers to all your crochet questions, read The Crochet Answer Book. For more online resources, check out Crochet: Basics & Beyond.