The shell crochet stitch in crochet is one of those stitches which can be worked in a number of ways. The most common, and easiest way, is to work multiple stitches into the same stitch of the previous row. This makes the stitches spread out to form a fan or a shell shape. It is also possible to use stitches of different heights to form the shell shape. Another choice to make is to decide whether you want open, lacy shells, or a more solid-looking fabric. Let's look at these variations in more detail.
Shell Crochet Stitch
- Yarn in the thickness and color of your choice.
- Crochet hook in a suitable size for your yarn.
- Yarn needle for weaving in ends after color changes.
All instructions are written in US terminology.
- sc= single crochet
- hdc=half double crochet
- dc= double crochet
- ch= chain stitch
- tr= treble crochet
- st(s) stitch(es)
- sl st= slip stitch
Double Shell Crochet Stitch
These are the easiest and most commonly used types of shell crochet stitch. Each shell is made up of 5 double crochet stitches with skipped stitches in between to keep the stitch count and the width the same. Because you are working 5 double crochet into 1 stitch, you need to balance that out by having 4 stitches between the base of each shell.
Start with a foundation chain, of a multiple of 6+2 stitches.
- Chain 4 (This is a turning chain - 3 chains counts as 1 dboule crochet)
- 2 double crochet in the 4th chain from hook
- *Skip 2, 1 double crochet, skip 2, 5 double crochet into next stitch
- Repeat from * to the last stitch
- Do 3 double crochet into the last stitch
This will make a row of 5 double crochet shells, separated by individual double crochet posts. You start and finish the row with smaller shells of 3 double crochet stitches.
- Turn and chain 3, skip 3
- * 5 double crochet in the next dc, skip 2, double crochet, skip 2
- Repeat from * to the last stitch
- End with 1 double crochet on top of the turning chain
In this row, the shells are framed by just 1 double crochet at each side of the row. This creates a staggered pattern of shells. The shells are worked into the individual double crochet stitches of the row below.
- Turn and chain 3, 2 double crochet into the top of the first double crochet
- *Skip 2, dc, sk2, 5 dc into next stitch
- Repeat from * to end of row.
- 3 double crochet into the last stitch
This row is worked in the same way as row 1, but instead of working into chain stitches, you will be working into shells.
Rows 4 Onwards:
Repeat rows 2 and 3 until your fabric is the required length.
Solid Shell Crochet Stitch
For those crocheters who don’t want all those ‘holes’ in their fabric, and prefer a more solid look to their crochet fabric, this is how to make a solid shell stitch. In this variation, you will skip that single double crochet between shells, and simply anchor each shell with single crochet. It goes like this:
- Foundation chain must be a multiple of 6+2.
- 1 single crochet (sc) in the second chain from the hook
- 1 single crochet into each chain to the end (This is not essential to the pattern but it gives you a nice firm base.)
- Chain 1
- 1 single crochet in the base of that chain.
- * Skip 2 single crochets
- 5 double crochet in the next single crochet
- Skip 2 single crochet
- 1 single crochet in the top of the next single crochet (This last single crochet ‘anchors’ the shell.)
- Repeat from * to end
- Turn, chain 3
- 2 double crochet (dc) in the base of the 3 chains
- * Skip 2 dc, 1 sc in next dc, skip 2 dc, 5 dc in next sc
- Repeat from * to the last 5 stitches
- Sc, sk2 dc, 1 sc in next double crochet
- Sk2 dc, 3 dc in the last stitch
- Chain1, 1 sc in base of the ch1
- *Skip 2 dc, 5 dc in next sc, skip 2 dc, 1 sc in next dc
- Repeat from * to last shell
- Skip 2 dc, work 5 dc into next sc
- Skip 2 dc,1 sc into top of the turning chain
- Repeat rows 3 and 4 until your item is the required length.
I think the shells look more defined with this version!
Shell Crochet Stitch Using Different Heights
You can choose to work these all into 1 stitch, as with the previous examples, or you can simply work them along in a row, which will give you a shallower shell. You must work a sequence of stitches, going in ascending order, then in descending order of height. The tallest stitch must be in the center, and the shortest stitches on the outside of the shell. Here is an example of how to work this type of shell stitch.
- Make a foundation chain in a multiple of 6 stiches
- Turn, ch2 (Counts as hdc)
- Work 1st hdc into 3rd ch from hook
- Work 1 row hdc
- Turn, ch1 (Counts as first sc)
- * 1 hdc, 1 dc, 1 tr, 1 dc, 1 hdc, 1 sc
- Repeat from * across the row
- Turn, ch4 (Counts as 1 treble)
- *1 dc, 1 hdc, 1 sc, 1 hdc, 1 dc, 1 tr
- Repeat to end of row, making sure that the sts are staggered, so that a treble fits into a sc, hdc into a dc, and so on
- Continue with rows 2 and 3 until you reach the required length
This version, using only rows 1 and 2, makes a lovely shell border. If you are working it as a solid fabric, it does look more effective if you change colors every row or every alternate row.
Shell Stitches Made With Chain Spaces
This version of shell stitch is also known as fan stitch. It is a kind of double V-stitch. Instead of placing a dc or sc between the shells, you will place a chain stitch. You are not limited to just 1 chain stitch, if you want a light and lacy effect you can use 2 or 3 chain stitches.
Make a foundation chain in a multiple of 3
- Work dc into 3rd chain from hook, then 1 more dc into the same stitch
- * Skip 2 chains
- In next stitch, work (2dc, ch1, 2 dc) This grouping is your ‘shell’.
- Repeat from * to last 3 stitches
- Skip 2 stitches
- Work 3 dc into last stitch
You can see in this picture that my foundation chain was crocheted too tightly. I should have used a larger hook for it!
- Turn work, chain 3
- Work 2 dc into center stitch of of the 3dc in the last row
- Make the 1st shell of this row into the 1st chain space of row 1
- Continue making shells into each chain space across the row
- At the end of the row, work 3 dc into 1st dc of previous row (i.e. The center stitch)
Repeat row 2 until you have reached the required length of your crochet fabric. This pattern will give you vertical rows of shells rather than the staggered effect which the others give.
Shells with Double Crochet
Another very attractive pattern, using a variation on the V-stitch shell, is to alternate a shell and a band of double crochet stitches.
- Make a foundation chain in a multiple of 10 + 3 stitches
- (2 dc, ch1, 2 dc) into 6th chain from the hook (This is your shell)
- *Skip 2 chains, 1 dc in each of next 3 stitches
- Skip 2 chains, shell in the next stitch
- Repeat from * to end
- End off with skip 2 chains and dc in the last chain
- Chain 3, and turn
- * Shell in the chain 1 space of previous shell
- Skip 2, dc into each dc, skip 2
- Repeat from * to end of row, dc in last stitch
- Repeat row 2 until your item is the desired length
Experiment with a different number of dc between each shell. You are not bound to the 3 double crochets mentioned here! Once again you will have vertical rows of shells with this pattern, not staggered shells. Here is an example of a throw made with this stitch, and a close-up of the throw.
Shell Crochet Stitch - In Conclusion
All of these shell stitch ideas are simple stitches that give decorative results. They are all useful as pretty borders for any crochet pattern or make distinctive designs when used for the entire fabric. As usual, your color choices will definitely affect the final look of your item. The shell stitch is most effective (i.e. the shells stand out beautifully) when it is worked in two or three colors, one color for each row.
The shell crochet stitch varieties are all excellent choices for any type or size of blanket or throw. They also make good scarves, shawls, wraps, and cowls.
If you would like to practice each variety to see which one you like best, find some cotton or bamboo yarn, (anything absorbent) make up a 10” (25cm) square of each variation, and use them as facecloths or dishcloths. It is so satisfying making something useful out of your experiments!