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Special Talents of Each Chain Loop

Starwhirl prototypeAn unexpected research journey brings me to this week's topic. I'm discovering fun stuff about star stitches, so watch for the next issue (#59). Meanwhile, new crochet patterns are finishing up all at once. The fresh news I can't quite announce in this issue will be ready for the next one (with fewer delays!).

Amidst imminent crochet happenings, I wrote a simple blog post about the chain stitch, and then noticed the chain stitch is not simple at all! 

Foundation chains with normal yarn overs; 2 BL at a time

The only difference between the blue foundation chains in the two small photos at right is the direction of the yarn overs.

Consider with me how the chain stitch (ch) is conventionally explained in crochet how-to books. The ch is almost always described as having two strands, or loops, on the front of it with a braided, chained, or "V" look. Some mention that chs feel flatter on the front and bumpier on the back. 
Foundation chains with alternative yarn overs; 2 BL at a time


Surprisingly, the third loop of the ch is often ignored. It may be described as a "ridge" or "bump" (in quotes) without actually being named, even if the other two loops are named by their standard terms front loop and back loop. (An illustration of the bump loop in a recent crochet book shows the wrong loop.)

The impression I have from most of the books I checked is that the two top loops of a ch are the main event, and there's nothing much going on behind them on the "wrong side." It's odd because to me, the bump loop is a power loop. Not only that, each top loop has its own special talents.


(I love the crochet books that encourage beginning crocheters to explore crocheting into any one or two of a ch's three loops. I've listed them at the bottom.)


I see a chain stitch as a three-dimensional, three-sided thing, not a 2-D binary (front/back, flat/bumpy, right side or wrong). To me each chain has three unique sides because each loop works differently: the two top loops make one side, the bump loop and one top loop make a second side, and the bump loop + the other top loop form the third side. Inside of this triangular shape is space. When crocheted tightly, a chain appears to be filled with fiber, but if you can crochet into it, the space isn't truly full.

A slip stitch is a chain that includes a loop or two of another stitch in its inner space. 
Love knots make this space the most visible.

Bump Up the Power Loop

Two well-known special powers of the Bump loop are that it's responsible for the bubble-like shape of Love Knots, and it's where pre-strung beads end up by default. The Bump loop is centered between the two other loops, which is really valuable in some designs. Beads on the Bump are automatically centered, for example.

Beaded example below and in the top right corner use the Bump Loop.
"Cabochon Collar" prototype
The three patterns I've just released (Starpath Scarf, Candied Color Charms, Lotus Chips) all depend on crocheting stitches into the 
Bump Loop, for different reasons:

  • Crochet Row 1 into just the Bump of each foundation ch if you want your foundation edge to look the same as the edge of your last row. 
  • Create a truly sharp corner by crocheting into the Bump of the ch you just made (I'm calling it a "fat-free picot").
  • Crochet into the Bump of each turning ch for a smooth finished starting edge of a star stitch row.

Flounces from the Candied Color Charms SetOther special Bumpy talents are: adding a purled-looking ridge to Tunisian Reverse Stitch, and contributing a garter stitch look to front-loop slip stitch fabric.

Lastly, unlike the other two loops, the Bump has some grit:
it resists looking pulled out and stringy because of the sharp bend in the ch that creates the bump shape.

About Those Two Top Loops

The top Front loop (FL) and the top Back loop (BL) look the same in a ch, but we know they behave very differently. How? Compare rows of slip stitches (sl st) or single crochets (sc) in the FL only, or the BL only. BL fabrics are ridged, corrugated, and stretchy, whereas FL fabrics relax, flatten, drape, and use less yarn. These are pretty dramatic differences! 
Slip Tectonics Cowl is designed to contrast the difference between the BL and FL effects.

This Slip Tectonics cowl was designed to contrast the differences between FL and BL slip stitch fabrics.

Get this: in my informal tests so far, changing the yarn over direction switches the behavior of the top loops! So does crocheting with the other hand. To be continued...


Crochet books notable for encouraging crocheters to crochet into different chain loops:

Deborah Burger, Crochet 101

Jan Eaton, The New Encyclopedia of Crochet Techniques

Julie Holetz, Uncommon Crochet

Cecily Keim & Kim Werker, Teach Yourself Visually Crocheting

That's it for #58! If you know someone who would enjoy this kind of newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe. (Click here to subscribe: ) If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks!      --Vashti
Foundation Chains Revisited
Beaded Foundation Chain Bumps
Beaded Foundation Chain Bumps (still the easiest way to crochet with a lot of beads fast)

Often when I refer to the bump loop in my crochet classes, students check in with me: "You mean this part of the chain, right?" Or, "Oh that. I always call it the butt." Or, "So I should crochet into just that third one?" Now I see why: not all chain loops are equal in the crochet how-to books.

Three ways to crochet Row One into only ONE foundation chain loop.
Three ways to crochet into only ONE foundation chain loop.

Three ways to crochet Row One into 2 foundation chain loops.
Three ways to crochet into any TWO foundation chain loops.
Links I Enjoyed This Week
I really enjoyed Darleen Hopkins' blog post about men in crocheted pants!
DesigningVashti News
Starpath Scarf: How to Crochet the 19th-cen. Star Stitch
Presenting...Starpath Scarf! It's inspired by a 19th century star stitch. In DV Shop,; 

Above, sport weight cotton-rayon Lotus yarnStarpath Scarf: medium-weight wool version, no chain fringe.The green striped one at right is a medium weight wool version. Pattern is written for both yarn weights.

CAL for Frostyflakes is still going strong! So many beautiful projects that I'm creating a gallery. (Link in next issue.)

I redecorated the Crochet Pattern Companion blog at the suggestion of a reader. It had a swirly wallpaper that could be distracting. I think the colors and background textures are more soothing now.
Steampunk Tiki Wristbrace in purple Lotus, double-stranded

UPDATED: One of my early patterns, Tiki Steampunk Wristcuff, is updated for Lotus yarn and uploaded to the DV Shop and in Ravelry pattern calls for medium weight yarn, and it worked well to use two strands of Lotus held together. I prefer it actually.

Vashti Braha & Gwen Blakley Kinsler
Starpath Scarf & I had breakfast with Gwen Blakley Kinsler & her Tunisian scarf in Anna Maria Island. I'm looking forward to reviewing her new book The Fine Art of Crochet on her blog in April.
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Subscribe to this newsletter. Vashti Braha is a professional crochet designer & teacher who resides in Florida (USA). She writes 100% of each issue and emails it to subscribers
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