How to Crochet the Chain Stitch

We'll be starting at the very beginning, and in crochet, that is the chain stitch. If you're a knitter, think of the chain stitch as the cast-on. 

It may seem obvious to anyone who has at least one crocheted dishcloth under their belt, but crochet doesn't use what knitters might think of as 'live' stitches, which need a cord or a needle to keep in place so they don't unravel. Progress is made by working stitches into the crochet chain, and then in subsequent rows or rounds, stitches getting worked into the stitches below. 

two hands crocheting

So, say we want to make a flat scarf—in knitting, we might cast-on 70 stitches using flat needles or a long circ, and turn our work ready to work the first row. Crochet is incredibly similar—the only real difference in the foundation is that we're working 70 chain stitches, turning our work ready to work the first row.

Without further ado, here is how you chain stitch.

Materials Needed

  • Size H [5.00 mm] crochet hook
  • nightshades, or any practice yarn from dk weight - worsted weight.

Step 1: Draw a yarn tail

Draw a yarn tail, approx 7" / 17.5 cm long, or long enough to weave in once your project is finished. 


Step 2: make a loop

 Wrap the yarn tail over the tops of your index and middle finger, to form a loop


Step 3: make slipknot

Push the tail of the yarn underneath the loop on your index and middle, and push through to create a slipknot. 


Step 4: insert crochet hook

 Pull slipknot tight, gently, and then insert your crochet hook into the slipknot from right to left.

Almost ready to start chain stitching! But before we do, we first need to dig into two different ways you can hold your crochet hook. Although there are probably many more than two, the pencil hold and the knife hold are the two most common methods. We're demonstrating this tutorial in right-dominant handedness, so if you're a lefty, mirror these instructions.

The Pencil Hold is held similarly to a pencil (thus its namesake), and the index finger and thumb grip the crochet hook, with the middle finger held under for balance.  

The Knife Hold is held similarly to a table knife, and the thumb is held under the crochet hook, with knuckles facing upwards. 

Ultimately which way you decide to hold your crochet hook is entirely dependent upon which feels more comfortable, and you may not know which way that is until practicing the chain stitch. We'll be using the pencil hold for this tutorial, and we recommend trying both to figure out which way works best for you.


Step 5: tension yarn on non-dominant hand

If you're a continental-style knitter, you will recognize this next step. Wrapping your working yarn around your pinky finger first will keep a consistent, even, tension on the working yarn. Once that is complete, you will then take your working yarn over the top of the index finger, ready to chain your first stitch.


Step 6: chain first stitch

 First, you will wrap your working yarn over the top of the crochet hook—this motion is usually called a 'yarn over' in crochet written instructions, which will come into play in subsequent tutorials. 

Then, pull your yarn over through the slipknot on your crochet hook. Angling your crochet hook downwards as you scoop the yarn through the slipknot may help the motion go fluidly. 

As you're practicing, we advise making chains galore, continuing to chain until the motion feels smooth and natural. This is also a great way to practice which way to hold the hook in your dominant hand. Once you feel confident in the motion, we can move onto practicing the basic crochet stitches.