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Turning chains are the chain stitches crocheted at the beginning of each new row. They are used to make the beginning of the new row easier to crochet.
If we were crocheting a garment using the straight line technique having just finished the foundation row and the first row of pattern, we would have a very difficult time trying to begin the next row with a treble stitch.
The reason behind the difficulty is that the yarn is still at the level of the last row. In order to easily be able to crochet we need to be at a higher height. Hence the need for turning chains.
Now obviously as with everything there are rules for the amount of turning chains we use to start off any row. These amounts depend on the stitch the chains are going to replace. Here lies another misconception, these beginning chains ARE part of the pattern, they do represent the first stitch, with the exception of double crochet stitches. (More later.) The stitch represented depends on the pattern being followed.
This is not difficult to understand and makes a lot of sense. The chain stitches go at the beginning of a row taking up the position of the first stitch so therefore they must be counted as such and hence worked into on the next row.
If we started with a foundation row of 10 chains, and our rows of treble stitch, then we would need 10 trebles to keep our work straight on each and every row. However because of the height difficulty we can’t just begin a row with a treble stitch we must begin with chain stitches taking the row to the appropriate height so that we can easily work our treble pattern.
So after our foundation row we work another 3 chain stitches to represent the first treble of this first row.
We then work the first of the 9 treble stitches into the 5th chain from the hook and then complete the other 8 trebles.
Our second row would begin with 3 chain and then go on to work 9 trebles, working the first treble into the second stitch.
The amount of chain stitches worked at the beginning of the row depends upon what stitch they are replacing.
If we are replacing a treble we make 3 turning chains and then work into the 5th stitch of a foundation row.
If we are replacing a half treble we make 2 turning chains and then work into the 4th stitch of a foundation row.
If we are replacing a double treble we make 4 turning chains and then work into the 6th stitch of a foundation row.
If we are replacing a triple treble we make 5 turning chains and then work into the 7th stitch of a foundation row.
If you look you can see that the rule for working into the chain stitch on the foundation row is:
Number of turning chains required plus 2.
The exception to this is the double crochet stitch. This stitch is so small that it is possible to add only 1 turning chain just to level off and then work into the first stitch as if you had not turned, ignoring the turning chain completely. The turning chain is there only to level off and does NOT need to be worked into on the next row.
Take care however as some patterns do not work in this way and use the rule for the half treble instead.
To read the whole article and learn more about crochet go to http://www.crochet–made-easy.com/turn_chain.htm
About the Author: Author Ruth Talbot owner of www.crochet-made-easy.com and Hooked newsletter has more than 30 years crocheting experience and over 10 years as a lecturer.