Monday, November 17

Ultimate Foundation Crochet Stitch Class!

It turns out that the most popular post of this blog is "Which Foundation Stitch? And Why?" If you were reading that post just now, then you're probably here because you want to learn even more about foundation stitches. I can't imagine a better way than to take this class—no matter how much crochet experience you have.

Doesn't this look like fun?
Marty Miller created an online seven-lesson class on foundation crochet stitches. Craftsy produced it. If you've already taken a Craftsy class, you know that you can interact with the instructor and view it at your own pace multiple times. You can also leave bookmarks and notes to yourself along the way, and download class materials.

I learned a lot from Marty's class, even though I already use foundation stitches in my crochet! While taking this class I was also in the midst of comparing methods for extreme increasing in Tunisian crochet lace. (See the resulting newsletter issue #64.) 
Test of 3 different end increases for
Warm Aeroette Tunisian Filet Scarf.
See this DesigningVashti stitch how-to.

Increasing whole groups of lacy stitches at the end of a Tunisian forward pass can be a tricky, tricky thing. To add an infinite number of stitches this way, what you really need to do is add foundation stitches. Specifically, lacy ones. It takes a bit of engineering and I just hadn't thought of it this way at first. 

Blocks of lacy Tunisian crochet
stitches added to both edges. (Part of a
stitch how-to for Warm Aeroette.
Marty's class is mostly about regular crochet, but it can be applied to other kinds of crochet too. One of the valuable things Marty does in her class is explain how to make a lacy foundation row that's based on a lacy stitch pattern.

Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches is full of Marty's original material, distilled from her years of teaching classes on foundation stitches, *plus* her class on extended stitches too! In fact, Marty teaches how to crochet extended stitches in Lesson One. It's an ingenious move to use extended stitches as a way to introduce foundation stitches.

She has a patient, step by step teaching style, and speaks with a calming, knowledgeable voice. Her personality, teaching skills, crochet love, and special tips show. 

Marty's Craftsy class is a bargain. Turns out Tammy came to the same conclusion! Have a look at Tammy Hildebrand's review, swatch, and description of each lesson.

See Laurinda Reddig's review and her fun range of swatches.

Friday, October 31

Blocking Crochet: Five Methods

Five Crochet Blocking Methods to Know About

One of the methods below could be the perfect finishing touch for your next crochet project, depending on your yarn and project type. It also depends on your own preferences. Each crocheter has a favorite method.

Special considerations for a specific stitch, technique, or project follow.

Five Crochet Blocking Methods –from least to most aggressive:

This is how love knots crocheted in wire look at first.

Same love knots, "dry blocked(method #1; 
I used the crochet hook to help open them up)
  1. Dry block, a.k.a. hand iron. Every crocheter has done this without even knowing that it has a name. Stretch, spread out, and flatten your crochet piece on something flat. One's knee always seems to be nearby! Using one's knee or upper leg is not too bad for a small item, especially if you're wearing jeans or other fabric that provides a bit of friction. (Don't use it for measuring a gauge swatch though!) If your surface is hard and flat, such as a table, you can also press it, i.e. "hand-iron" it. Personally I almost never use this method. 
  2. Damp block a.k.a. spray block, and block with mist. Spritz liberally with water, especially the edges, then spread out on a toweled surface to dry. This method is my personal favorite. I blogged about it back in 2010. I also combine with methods 3 or 4 below, but only when I must: damp block while crocheting, then a final wet block when the project is completed. I prefer damp blocking partly because it's the most portable, and partly because it's fast. For most of the year here in humid Florida, wet things simply take too long to dry. Use a bath towel on a flat surface; the towel will provide some friction that I find in most cases replaces the need for pins.
  3. Wet block: Fully immersed in water. You can soak plant fibers like cotton, linen, hemp, rayon in warm or cool water a bit. This is Doris' favorite method. For wools, immerse briefly in cool water to avoid fulling (felting), then remove excess water gently before spreading out on a toweled surface to dry. I like to add a little hair conditioner to the water if the yarn is wool or silk. ShamWow super absorbent microfiber cloths are really helpful for speeding up the drying. I use them instead of, or on top of a bath towel on a table.
  4. Steam block acrylic yarns. This method can really pay off if you carefully test first. Steam blocking is an art that can bring out extra softness and luster in some silk, camel, and llama fibers too.
  5. Pin or stretch on blocking wires while wet or steamed. Personally and non-professionally, I have only ever pinned crocheted snowflakes. The most important thing about pinning is to use rust proof pins. I don't own blocking wires, but I sure admire the knitted lace wraps that have been blocked with them.

Blocking is actually an art, and you might enjoy this newsletter issue about that. 

Here are some special blocking considerations:


Tug and pinch each picot to round it out and make it visible, adding more water to them than the rest of the stitches, if necessary. 

Love Knots

Most love knots are intended to be plump, like a semi-inflated balloon. If yours are, spritz lightly with mist and smooth gently in a way that doesn't flatten the love knots, nor weigh them down with too much water. You might feel like it's not worth blocking them at all, but I tested this in my love knot classes and people could tell the difference.
Tunisian filet-style crochet swatches UNBLOCKED

Mixed colors and other yarn issues

If the yarns you used might give off some excess dye, avoid wet blocking. Use light spray blocking instead. Maybe combine light mist with heavy #1 and/or #5.

Lace, especially Tunisian crochet lace and filet crochet 

Same Tunisian crochet swatches, wet blocked (method #3.)
These respond great to wet blocking. Also very careful steam blocking if you used acrylic yarn. Aim for squared filet eyelets. For Tunisian crochet lace, tug on the return pass lines to straighten evenly. Tug vertically on extended Tunisian stitches to fully extend them, if you used them. 


Wet blocking is the method here for a stylish fit, silhouette, and an elegantly flowing, breezy movement. See Doris Chan's blog post. If you used acrylic yarn, steam blocking can bring out all the fashion drape and gleam, as if you used silk! Be sure to block the accessories that need to drape stylishly, such as wraps, scarves, collars, and even necklaces. Steaming some animal fibers will soften them enough to wear against the neck.

Home Decor

Especially doilies, snowflakes, and afghan squares; also flowers and other appliques: These are the projects I have the least amount of experience blocking by any method. The most notable thing about them is that they usually need to be as perfectly flat and square, or round, as possible. Wet blocking with pins or wires is common. Sometimes starch is added (especially for snowflakes). 

And finally...for all blocked items by all methods:

Let air dry completely, then admire your work and bask in the compliments!

Sunday, August 31

Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks

This is the third and last post of a three-day series about crocheting Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomon's Knot, Lover's Knots, or Knot Stitch). The earlier two posts are: 
- How to Crochet a Love Knot (See the freshly updated version of this post.)
- Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots.
This mini-series presumes that you already know how to make a slip knot, and how to crochet chain stitches and single crochets (UK: double crochet). To learn how to crochet a Love Knot, see the first post in this series (above). The abbreviation "sc" means single crochet stitch in the US; in the UK it's "dc."
Electra Wrap


Today's post is about two small stitch modifications ("tweaks") that bring out the best in one's Love Knots. I use these the most to keep a Love Knot from loosening up over time. Several things can cause the stitch to do this: the yarn type, a loose gauge, and the weight of the rest of the stitches pulling on each other. Also, the weight of beads, if you use them.

Tweaks abound in crochet and that's something I love about it! Tweaks are what get shared at crochet conferences and you're lucky to be there when they surface. To me, our real crochet culture is in these unofficial, off-road modifications crocheters are actually doing.

If you have your own favorite Love Knot tweak, please share it in the comments.

I. Lock It Down With a Tight Chain Stitch

Zuma Skirt by Doris Chan
Photo © 2013 Interweave Press.
Here's how: You've made a long loose chain, then knotted it with a sc to complete your Love Knot (see Part 1 for a refresher). Now chain 1 tightly. You can even yank it tight. You've added a padlock to that knotted love, baby.

It's easy, fast, and it seems to melt away from view. I've not found it to change drape or stretch. I do not crochet into it in the next row. I just ignore it.

Sweetberry Clasped Love
This was Doris' strategy of choice when she designed the Zuma skirt (shown at left). Skirts need to be able to hold up to real wear, and Doris didn't want the Love Knots loosening and looking sloppy over time.

It was a crucial tweak for me when I used metallic embroidery floss and beads for Sweetberry (shown at right). That floss was so slippery and wiry that it would start uncrocheting itself as soon as I finished each stitch! Not only that, the weight of the beads encouraged this misbehavior and just looked like a mess. A yanked-tight chain stitch fixed this.

II. Compress the Sc Knot

This tweak is so important to me that it's what caused me to do this three-part series. It's difficult to describe in patterns, so I created a photo tutorial for it, and then I wanted to share it!

Basically, when you crochet into the sc of a Love Knot, crochet into three loops of the sc, not just two. But which three?
The yellow-tinted loop is the 3rd loop that I use to compress the knot.
You can see with the gold needle on the left that it has all three loops on it.
If I don't do this, that's the loop that tends to loosen and drop down.

So while you're crocheting the next row, the backs of the sc you crochet into will be facing you. Insert your hook into the top two loops as usual, and tilt the top of the stitch toward you and down a bit to see that third loop at the bottom of the sc (as shown in the photo).

Compare these two images, one with the tweak, the other without it:
With the tweak (3 sc loops crocheted into, not just 2).
Note that the backs of Love Knots are facing.
Standard way, NO tweak: I crocheted into only the top two
loops of the sc. See how the Love Knot loosens? Look at how
the whole row looks uneven and sloppy. The loop that has
dropped down the most is the 3rd one I use in my tweak.  
Note that I tugged on all stitches to simulate wear, and used a looser gauge to help make all loops more visible.

That helpful third loop is actually one of the side loops of a sc, sometimes called one of its "legs" or part of its "post" or "stem." It's the same side strand that is used when making a popular type of picot
Beach day for the Electra Wrap.
Photo © 2013 Interweave Press.

When it comes to Love Knots, however, familiar loops look unfamiliar, and shift around. The side loop of the sc looks like a bottom loop instead when it's part of a Love Knot. This is one of those things about Love Knots that confuses folks! 

Now you know my special tweak for preserving the Electra Wrap's starry charm. 

Expanded PDF version of the Electra pattern is almost ready for purchase in my pattern shop! Subscribe to my newsletter to find out when.

Other posts in this series:
Part 1 of 3: How to Crochet a Love Knot.
Part 2 of 3: Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomons Knot, Lover's Knot)

Saturday, August 30

Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomons Knot, Lover's Knot)

This is the second of a three-day series about crocheting Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomon's Knot, Lover's Knots, or Knot Stitch). This mini-series presumes that you already know how to make a slip knot, and how to crochet chain stitches and single crochets (UK: double crochet). 
Today is about how to crochet your next row into Love Knots. Topics of the other two posts are: 
- How to Crochet a Love Knot. Or see this freshly updated version.
- Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks. 
Top to Bottom:
  Dragonfly Cord, Seagrape Anklet, Sambuca Necklace

Yesterday's post was about crocheting a single string of Love Knots. Depending on your project, it might be called "the foundation row" or "Row One" or, "Hey look, I just made a necklace/eyeglass cord/wrap bracelet/ tie belt!"

Free Love Knot pattern
Buffalo Knot Belt

Things get really interesting when we crochet Love Knots (and other stitches) into Love Knots. Not only do we have fun choices, Love Knots can mess with your mind. Seriously.

A single string of Love Knots is three-dimensional, like a sculpture of bubbles. Crocheters often lose their way when it's time to turn and begin a new row. The risk of accidents (changing the stitch count, adding a twist in the foundation row) can make even a seasoned crocheter twitchy about this stitch.

The first step is to know when your Love Knot is upside down! Let's dissect the loopiness.

Anatomy of a Love Knot

Doesn't the bottom of the single crochet
look weird when it's facing up?
A common mistake is crocheting into upside-down Love Knots when you don't mean to. The top loops of a Love Knot can look weird. The easiest way to identify them is to look for the top two long loops (tinted green), which are always paired. In contrast, the bottom long loop of the Love Knot (tinted yellow, above) is always a singleton.

The top two loops of the single crochet (sc) have more of the familiar chain-link look, like the top two loops almost all crochet stitches have (tinted pink, above).

Unless a crochet pattern states otherwise, plan to crochet your next row into both top loops of either the sc (pink) or the long loops (green).

The Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots

Method 1.

The most common nowadays is to single crochet (sc) into the sc "knot" part. (I say "nowadays" because old thread crochet patterns often used the second method, below.)
Insert your hook under the pink loop AND
the other top loop behind it (not showing in this photo.)
An example of sc stitches
crocheted into the sc of Love Knots
(Sister Act Shawl).

This is the method I used for the "Sister Act Shawl and Shrug" published in Interweave Crochet magazine, Summer 2013 issue.

Fish Lips Lace.

Less common variations: You can crochet a different stitch into the Love Knot sc, for example double crochets (dc; UK: tr). That's what I did for the Fish Lips Shrug

When you crochet taller stitches into the Love Knot sc's, special things happens. The Love Knots have more room to expand. I find that Love Knots have a special affinity for dc stitches in terms of scale.

Method 2.

Single crochet before and after the sc "knot." This means one sc into two long top strands of one Love Knot just before the next sc "knot," and a second sc into two long top strands of the next Love Knot just after the sc "knot." 

This traditional method has several merits. It makes even the finest thread easy to crochet with, because the long loops are very easy to see and crochet into with a tiny, tiny crochet hook. It reinforces the places where the rows are linked to each other. The weight-bearing stress is distributed across more threads and stitches. This helps even the largest, most delicate lace pattern support its own weight, with less wear - while also holding open the lacy part of each Love Knot!
Method 2: Emphasis on the knots.

It does take a bit of foresight when planning the foundation row because you'll be adding more stitches in the next row (another sc each time you crochet into the Love Knots). Another factor to consider is that the extra sc can make the knot parts look lumpier in thicker yarns.

Variations: I hope you feel free to try this with other stitches besides a sc, such as the half double (hdc; UK: htr). Crocheters did 100 years ago!

Method 3. 

This is the rarest of the three: crochet into the long strands of only one Love Knot (not two, like in Method 2). In the inset photo below you can see a resulting stitch pattern. In the top two long loop of each Love Knot I crocheted a sc and a Love Knot.

This Marisa Artwalk (in progress) is a free form type of Love Knot pattern. Part of its unusual look is due to using Method 3.
Marisa Artwalk

Did you enjoy this post? I want to hear about it and so do your friends! Please check back for the third installment. 

Part 1 of 3: How to Crochet a Love Knot.

Part 3 of 3: Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks.
UPDATE: I posted a fresh revision of Part 1, and from there you should see Crocheting the Love Knot Mesh.

Friday, August 29

How to Crochet a Love Knot, Part 1 of 3

Nov. 2017 UPDATE: I uploaded a revised version of this post to my new website. Then go to the new "Crocheting the Love Knot Mesh".

This is the first of a three-day series about crocheting Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomon's Knot, Lover's Knots, or Knot Stitch). This mini-series presumes that you already know how to make a slip knot, and how to crochet chain stitches and single crochets (UK: double crochet). 
Today is about how to crochet one stitch. One Love Knot at a time. Topics of the following two posts are: 
- Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots.
- Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks.

The Foundation Love Knot

A beautiful, beautiful thing about Love Knots is that you don't need to start with foundation chains. Love Knots can easily serve as their own foundation row.

A foundation row of Love Knots of equal size. This is the front.

As students exclaim in Love Knot classes, "You mean I just make them in the air?" YES. Like magic (or like the chain stitch), you just crochet Love Knots out of thin air.

Step 1, The Loose Chain Stitch 

Use a smooth, light-colored yarn and a crochet hook size that goes with the yarn. Make a slip knot and place a loose loop on your hook. Loose = about an inch long. Now yarn over and pull the yarn through to make a loose chain. 

If you know how to crochet a chain, this is nothing new. Feel free to crochet a few chains first, even tight ones if you like.
Notice loop "A." That's the important 
one for Love Knots.

Know Your ABCs!

Compare the three loops of your loose chain to the A, B, and C loops in the drawing at right. 

Love Knots have a reputation for being tricky. Feeling unsure about which loop of the chain stitch to use is a common hurdle. 
Now you're ready for Step 2.

Step 2, Tie the Knot in That Love with a Single Crochet

The single crochet stitch in progress. 
(Ignore the label "D" which is for 
beading purposes.)
Single crochet in loop A. Insert your hook between Loop A and the other two loops, yarn over (as shown in the next drawing), pull through the loop: 2 loops on your hook. Yarn over and pull through both loops on your hook to complete a normal single crochet.

That's it, you're done, you created a Love Knot out of thin air!

Step 3, One Love Knot, Now What?

Lovebud Vine Charms
Love Knots!
Sparkle Love Knot Lariat
You have one loop on your hook after completing the single crochet. You can now launch right into a second Love Knot, as shown in the photos at the top of the post. 


Since we're crocheting, there are of course lots of fun Love Knot variations. For example, instead of a single crochet in loop A ("the bump loop") of the chain, try a different stitch, or group of stitches. Instead of loop A, try crocheting into a different loop or loops of the chain. Once you're clear on how to make a classic Love Knot, invent your own variations. Try a wide range of yarns, too - the same Love Knot can look very different in other yarns.

Next posts in this series: the 2017 "Crocheting the Love Knot Mesh"
Part 2 of 3: Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots.
Part 3 of 3: Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks.

You might also like: 

This is what the backs of the Love Knots look like when I
turn to begin a new row. More on that in the next post.

Friday, June 6

How to Crochet Into that Third Loop or Lower Horizontal Bar of Single Crochets

The moral of the story is, if you think you're looking
at the tops of stitches, you probably are
. Orbit Cowl
The third loop is required for "camel crochet." It has also been called the humpbump, nublower loop, back-back loop, and lower horizontal bar of the single crochet (sc in the US; double crochet or dc in the UK and Australia). The patterns that result from using this loop in different ways have been called Savvy Single Crochet, and Camel Crochet™. 

Pallas Scarf uses a few kinds of third loop
stitches. Its prominent top loops give this
design a strong impact.
I've listed these alternate names first so that crocheters searching for help have a chance of finding this post! For some reason this loop - a simple part of a simple stitch - is ignored in the crochet how-to books. (Be sure to see the end of this post for a chronological list of books that mention this topic somehow, and some how-to videos!)

It's not that I think beginners need to launch right into using it, but if it were named in a diagram along with other stitchy bits, it would give newbies a stronger foundation for broadening their understanding later. We'd have a common language. Designers wouldn't think twice before using it.

Here's how to find the loop in sc and use it. (Scroll down for hdc.) I've used it in a few of my patterns and want to use it more without confusing people. 
Single crochet stitches. This is a close up of the next photo below. I tinted the third
horizontal loop of the single crochets. The copper needle point is inserted through the
loop from under it, just like you'd do with the crochet hook for a nice ribbed look.

1. Loosely crochet a row of some sc. You already know about the two top loops of a sc, right? They're the ones you crochet the next row of stitches into (unless directed otherwise). The top loop nearest to you is the front loop and the other is the back loop. These loops are labeled consistently in the books.

2. While you're crocheting each sc, you see the front of it. Look closely at how different the back is from the front of the stitch. The main difference is a small horizontal bump strand on the back only, just under the top loop.
The fronts of the dark blue rows are facing us, and their top loops are bent over toward us, because the light blue rows were crocheted into this third loops. We're looking at the tops of their heads.
I crocheted the dark blue rows into both top loops of the light blue sc.

Issue #61 of Crochet
Inspirations Newsletter
Not only can you crochet into that third lower bump loop, you shouldFor more on the uses and possibilities of this third loop, please see issue #61, "Top Loops Optional," of Vashti's Crochet Inspirations Newsletter.

3. Finish your first row, chain 1, turn. Now the backs of the first row stitches are facing you. Look again for the third horizontal loop of the stitches. Skip the first sc and insert your crochet hook in the third loop of the next sc, from under the loop (not down through the top), then yarn over and pull through the loop. You should have two loops on your hook. Yarn over again and pull through both loops to complete a sc. 
Ever wondered if third loops are used
for the Thirsty Twists Bathmat?
Yes, but not as many as you think.

Three Tips!

It's weird and slow to crochet into this loop at first, but like everything, it gets easier. (I've only used the stitch in small strategic areas of my designs for effect.)

1. Keep stitches loose; use a larger crochet hook.

2. Use a pointy-headed crochet hook. You can even file the head of some of them to customize it.

3. Try this: when you pull up a loop in that third loop and leave it on your hook, pull up on it a bit. I've seen some people make their sc with their hook at an angle - angled toward the beginning of the row (held more horizontally than vertically). This makes a slightly stretched, taller sc with a loosened third loop, making it easier to crochet into.

The key to the effect is that none of the top loops of the first row are covered by stitches in the next row, so they ride along the surface as a neat chained-looking ridge.

Now for the Half Double Crochet (Hdc)
I hear some of you saying, "I do this already with hdc to make a squishy hdc ribbing!" And crocheting into the third loop of hdc is more common (though not as common as you'd think, if the crochet stitch guides are any indication). It's also easier because the third loop of hdc is looser.
These are all hdc. I color-coded the two different kinds of "third loops."
The only one I've used in designs, and have seen others use, is tinted pink.
The lemon-tinted one is worth trying, though. It makes a rib that's less offset
and bent. It's structurally the same as the sc third loop.
Interestingly, that hdc third loop is anatomically different from the sc third loop. (See newsletter #61 about this.) 

I checked about 30 likely books for any explanation of this third loop of sc and/or hdc. Here's a chronological list of the what I turned up. 

If you know of a source that is not on this list, please name it in the comments.
Note: some book titles are Amazon Affiliate links. If you click on them, it helps me out a little. Thanks!

1975: Golden Hands Special #40; Aran Crochet chapter, "Crochet rib stitch: …*work 1sc into horizontal loop below top of the next sc*…" and "Aran rib" (a row of hdc in the back loop only alternates with a row of third loop hdc).

1981: Anne Rabun Ough, New Directions in Crochet; shallow sc on p. 60.

1983/1985: Pam Dawson, Complete Book of Crochet; p. 116 "Single Rib Pattern" with diagram, in "Aran Crochet" chapter. same instructions as in Golden Hands (1975).

1985/1986: Rhoda Ochser Goldberg, The New Crochet Dictionary; p. 114, "Aran Crochet" chapter: same introduction and instructions as in Golden Hands (1975). hmmm...

Third loop crochet tends to be dense and warm; rows of
all sc or hdc in the top loops are too. This speedier third-loop
fabric is a light, airy, stretchy exception. Half Circle Handbag.
1986 Denmark/1995 USA: Lis Paludan, Crochet: History and Technique; p. 233-235, "the loop behind the stitch" and "hook inserted into the little loop under the stitch," with a nice diagram. Two swatches: sc in third loop only with turning, and in the round with no turning. (Interweave Press; out of print)

1990+: Naka Pillman, Camel Crochet™ Basic Instruction Book (and others in the series).

2007: Bendy Carter, Single Crochet from A to Z Sampler Afghan™; pp. 6, 10, 13, 17. Three kinds of fabrics using this loop called "horizontal bar." (Annie's Attic/DRG.)

2007: Helen Jordan, Stitch Collection: Textured Crochet, see p.54-57; "Inserting your hook into different parts of the stitch, when working half double crochet makes quite a difference to the surface of your work."

2008: Karen Whooley, Savvy Single Crochet. (Annie's Attic/DRG.)

2010: Karen Manthey, Crocheting for Dummies; in "Creating Texture in Unexpected Ways," I love the symbols given for the top front loop, top back loop, lower front loop, and lower back loop! States a "back-most loop" can be crocheted into for half double crochets and taller stitches.

2011: Robyn Chachula, Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia; Pattern for "Middle Bar Half Double Crochet." "The middle bar is below the top two loops." "Tip: You can crochet in the middle bar of any stitch taller than half double crochet."

Videos and Recommended Webpages:

Karen Whooley's Savvy Single video. Link starts approx. 2 minutes in, when Karen has completed a row of the usual traditional single crochet stitch. She then goes on to show how to do the next row of single crochet in the third loop.
Kim Guzman's information page; includes videos.
Follow the tweets of Camel Crochet.

Camel Crochet video by Bob Wilson.


Friday, February 28

Crocheting Into Foundation Chains (& Other Chain Stitches)

Crocheting into Chain Stitches: Six Options
Crochet is all about options. 
I learned only one way to crochet Row 1 into the foundation chains back when I learned how to crochet. I didn't question it for years! 

Nowadays, when a project requires foundation chains instead of a thicker, stretchier alternative, I choose to crochet into the chains a different way than I originally learned. I specify it in my crochet patterns when it matters. 

Almost always when I need to specify which chain loop to crochet into, it's the bottom "bump" loop (see the top grey swatch at right). This is the loop that you need to use when making the "fat-free picots" referred to in this newsletter, the love knot stitch, and when beginning a new row in some star stitch patterns. Below is a how-to.

Update, Mar. 15 2014: Crochet Inspirations Newsletter issue #58 takes this topic further.

Chain Stitch Anatomy 101
Each chain has three loops.
  1. Front Top Loop: the one closest to you as you're about to crochet into it.
  2. Back Top Loop: the one farther from you, but still the top part of the chain.
  3. Bottom Bump Loop: Turn the chain over to see the third strand on the bottom. It looks different, like a small bump between the two top loops.
Three Loops of a Crochet Chain Stitch: Anatomy Lesson
When the crochet hook pulls "A" through loop "B-C", 
a loose chain will be completed. The B and C strands
will form the two top loops of the chain. The strand 
will be the bottom bump loop of the chain. (This image 
also shows the first step in crocheting a love knot.)

You can crochet a stitch into any one or two of these loops. This is how you get the six conventional ways shown in the six swatches in the upper image (i.e., insert hook under X loop or loops of the chain, yarn over and pull yarn through). Next, I've elaborated on four of the six options.

Four Ways to Crochet Into Foundation Chains

Starpath Scarf: a new downloadable crochet pattern by Vashti Braha
Starpath Scarf: New pattern now available!
Using option #1 gives it nice edges.
Option #1, The "bottom bump loop" only, grey swatch above: This one gives me my favorite finished edge. It's a popular option for those in the know. Neither top loop is used, so they show completely along the finished edge. This creates the same lovely chain-loop look as the other finished edge; in other words, the bottom edge of the first row looks the same as the top edge of the last row. Makes an edging optional, and makes seaming a pleasure.

Option #1 firms up the foundation chain (fch) more than crocheting into a top loop, so depending on the project, I make my chains a bit looser. I don't find it to be more difficult to do; the challenge is in the pattern writing! 

I feel that not enough crocheters notice this third bottom "bump" strand of chain stitches. Even if they do, the term for that loop is not as standardized and well known. This is the main reason I wrote this blog post.

Option #2. The top two loops, blue swatch above: This is the way I was originally taught - under both of the top loops of the chain. It results in a finished edge of little "bump" loops because the bottom bump loop of each chain is the only loop that's not included in the next row of stitches. This option tightens up a foundation chain the most. I choose this one if I'm crocheting beads into the fchs.

Flounce Charms: Option #1 required
for their Fat-Free Picots
The top two loops of a chain stitch actually resemble a chain link, and other crochet stitches have two familiar top loops like chain stitches, so this option is a logical and useful way to teach a beginner. Finding the front top loop (FL) or back top loop (BL) of a crochet stitch is a common occurrence for a crocheter, which makes the names for these loop familiar.

Option #3. Two other loops (the top back loop + the "bottom bump" loop), green swatch above: I've met some crocheters who prefer this option because It's the recommended option in most of the how-to books, often as an improvement over Option #4. It's a bit firmer and neater looking than #4, and a bit easier than #2. 

Option #4. One top loop (orange swatch): Some beginners are taught to crochet into only one top loop, which is actually thtop back loop (abbreviated BL in patterns; or BLO which means "back loop only"). Crocheting into this loop of a fch is helpful for beginners, because it's easier to fish around for only one of the three loops of every chain, especially the BL, because it sticks up a bit more than the other top loop (the FL). Another benefit is that the fch firms up less. It's the most discouraged option in the how-to books, though, because it can have a stringy, loopy, or messy look.
Option #4 is used for the Luckyslip Mitts.

I use this option sometimes if I'm crocheting slip stitch ribbing that I'll be seaming with slip stitches later; and sometimes when I crochet rows on both sides of the foundation chain.

Aside from my first choice, Option #1, I also like the rarely used top front loop only - the pink swatch - instead of #2, #3, or #4. It has a stable finished feel, a flat back, and a cute nubby front.

No matter which option you choose, try to pick the same top loop(s) of every chain of the fch, or else the next chain may look weird and your finished edge might look irregular.