A loop within a loop – this is how knit & crochet stitches are made. The chain stitch is crochet’s simplest form of this concept. The chain stitch can be used as a foundation row or round upon which a piece of flat (row) or tubular (round) crochet is built. This stitch can also be used to create a ring in which a circular piece of crochet is started. Chains are used to create lacy patterns within crochet fabric. And finally, chain stitches can be used to create a chain which can be used for anything that needs a string like hood strings and draw strings.
So, let’s get started. First you will need to make a slip knot and put it on your hook. I have a tutorial, Casting on in crochet, that teaches how to create a slip knot. If you are new to crochet and need help with how to hold your hook and working yarn, read How to Hold Your Hook – Crochet Tutorial and Crochet – Holding the Yarn & Tensioning.
Next, yarn over the working yarn by moving the hook underneath and up behind the working yarn. Catch the working yarn from above in the hook. Turn the hook so the opening is facing straight down.
Pull the hook and captured working yarn back through the loop on the hook (the one made by your slip knot).
The loop that you just pulled through the slip knot loop stays on the hook and the slip knot loop is no longer on the hook. The slip knot loop (not the knot itself) becomes the first chain and the loop you just pulled through will become the second chain when the next stitch is added. The loop currently on the hook does not count as a stitch.
This process of yarn over (YO) and pulling a loop through a loop is continued until you have made the number of chains required by your pattern or design.
The above pictures show what your chain will look like. The first shows the front (top) of the chain, and the one below it shows the back (bottom) side of the chain.
The following two pictures show what the chain looks like after more rows of the piece have been added. The first picture is showing the front (top) of the chain along the edge of the work. Notice the V-shape of the stitches? The second picture below is the back (bottom) side of the chain along the edge of the work. The back side has a line of single “bumps” down the middle of it. When using a chain as a foundation chain, stitches can be worked either through the two legs of the V on the top of the chain or into the bumps on the back of the chain. The method chosen gives a different look to this edge of the crochet fabric. If the stitches are worked into the back bumps, the fabric edge will be the opposite side of the chain – it will look like the line of Vs in the first picture below. Likewise, if the stitches are worked into the Vs on the top side of the chain, the fabric edge will look like a line of bumps as in the second picture below..
A final note about the length of the chain used to start a piece of flat crochet (where the rows are added back and forth – not in the round): The length of the chain should equal the length of the piece plus an additional few stitches. These additional stitches will depend on the type of stitch that will first be added in the first row. For instance, if the first stitch of the first row of crochet built onto the foundation chain will be crocheted in single crochet, one additional stitch will be needed. This extra stitch becomes the turning chain. If a double crochet stitch is first, three stitches will be added extra to make the turning chain the height of the double crochet stitch.
Thanks for reading and I hope this is helpful! Feel free to leave any questions or comments below.