Crochet is most often started with a foundation chain, rather than ‘casting on’ as you would do when knitting. This crochet foundation chain is also known as a base chain or a starting chain.
Crochet Foundation Chain
The crochet foundation chain is made up of a row of interlinked loops, which looks a bit like an actual metal chain. Each individual loop is one chain stitch. The chain can be arranged in a long row or in a crochet circle. The circle is for when you plan to crochet circles or squares, the long line of chain stitches is for when you plan to crochet back and forth. If you are new to learning crochet, read my article on how to crochet for beginners.
Yarn and a crochet hook suitable for that thickness of the yarn. Check the ball band of the yarn for recommended size of crochet hook.
How to do A Crochet Foundation Chain - Basic
Step 1 - Slip Knot
To make a foundation chain, you need to start with a slip knot. The part of the yarn closest to the ball is called the working yarn, the loose end is called the tail end.
- Cross the yarn over itself to make a loop, with the tail end resting on top. Leave a long tail end.
- Now move the long part of the tail end behind the loop.
- Pick up your crochet hook and place it under the center strand of yarn.
- Hold both ends of the yarn so that it doesn’t fall apart! Pull the tail end tighter to close it neatly around the hook. Be careful not to pull it too tight, you must be able to move the hook easily.
This is your slip knot. It should be able to ‘slip’ looser and tighter as required! This knot can be used when starting knitting, too.
Step 2 - The Crochet Foundation Chain
- Now wrap the working yarn around the hook. It must go around the back of the hook, then down over the front and up around the back again. This wrap should be to the left of the slip knot. (If you are right-handed.) Hold the tail end of the yarn between the thumb and a finger of the non-dominant hand.
- Now pull that loop of yarn through the slip knot.
- Tighten this stitch by pulling gently on the working yarn. This is your first chain stitch. Do not make each stitch too tight, because you will need to work future stitches into these chain stitches. Leave them slightly loose.
- Repeat the motion, wrapping the yarn around the hook, to the back and then over the front, then pull the loop through every time.
This repetition will form a long strand of chain stitches. Your string of chain stitches must be the length you require for the base of your crochet fabric. If you are following a pattern, and it says chain 30, you must have 30 loops in your strand.
As you continue making the crochet foundation chain, keep pulling (gently!) the string of stitches you have formed, using your non-dominant hand. Keep that ‘pulling’ hand close to the crochet hook. This will help regulate the tension of the foundation chain.
Step 3 - Working into the Chain
When your crochet foundation chain is complete, you will turn your work and work into these chain loops. Your pattern may require that you use single crochet, double crochet or half double crochet into the chain loops. (Or any combination of these!)
When you start that first row of actual crochet stitches, you can choose to work into just one strand or two strands of the chain loops. Whichever you choose, they will form an even bottom edge for your fabric.
Crochet Foundation Chain - Troubleshooting
Sometimes, when working the foundation chain, crocheters seem to work this tighter than the rest of their crochet stitches. This results in a narrower or curved bottom of the fabric, which is not ideal. To counteract this problem, try using a hook one size larger for the foundation chain.
If you do this, it will also be easier to insert your hook into the foundation chain for the next row of stitches. It may be a good idea to make a tension swatch before you start the actual project, to see if you need to do this.
Try to keep all the chain stitches the same size and tension. This takes a bit of practice at first, but the more you crochet and get your hands into a comfortable rhythm, the easier it gets.
Counting Stitches for Crochet Foundation Chain
Your pattern will tell you to start with ch (X no.) of stitches. Invariably someone will call you, ask you a question, or the cat will start playing with your yarn while you are doing this, and you will lose count!
If you need to check how many chain stitches you have done, do not count the original slip stitch as a stitch, nor the loop on the hook. So start with the first chain stitch you made after the slip stitch, and end with the last chain stitch before the hook.
Crochet Foundation Chain - Alternative (FSC)
This is a nice shortcut to starting your crochet with a row of single crochet instead of a row of chain stitch. You will be working the chain and the first row all in one step. It also has the advantage of being nice and stretchy, with no problems with tighter chain stitches.
If you like this method, you can substitute it for the foundation chain in any pattern. Just swap foundation single crochet for the same amount of chain stitches. If the pattern calls for 30 chains, just do 30 foundation single crochet instead.
The abbreviation for this is FSC.
How to FSC
- Step 1 - Start with a slip knot, then chain 2. (ch2)
- Step 2 - Insert the hook into the first chain.
- Step 3 - Wrap your yarn around the hook as explained above. (YO- yarn over)Pull up one loop. (2 loops on hook)
- Step 4 - YO and pull yarn through the first loop on the hook. This is a chain stitch.
- Step 5 - YO again and pull it through both loops on your hook. This is a single crochet stitch(sc). You will now have 1 loop on the hook. This is your first foundation single crochet.
- Step 6 - Now insert your hook into the space between the chain and the single crochet stitch.
- Step 7 - YO, pull up one loop. (2 loops on hook)
- Step 8 - YO again and pull up through both loops on the hook (second foundation single crochet).
- Step 9 - Insert the hook into the top loop of the single crochet.
- Step 10 - Repeat steps 7 - 9 until your foundation single crochet is the required no. of stitches. You will be working vertically for this. You can see that the foundation here is more sturdy and less twisty than the conventional foundation chain.
- Step 11 -Once you have completed the FSC, turn your work and work horizontally, following the pattern for whatever stitches the first row requires.
Crochet Foundation Chain - In Conclusion
Now that you know how to create your foundation, what are you going to make? Do you plan to use the foundation chain stitch or the foundation single crochet? There are numerous patterns for beginners available to practice with! It is so rewarding having a small item you have made, rather than always just practicing squares or swatches!