You are crocheting along, row after row, with your afghan project bunched on your lap. You finally open up the afghan to look at your work only to notice it’s gotten narrower. This happens to beginner and experienced crocheters alike. Very honestly, once you learn the basic stitches, getting your pieces even is the next hardest thing. It is not an uncommon occurrence. Don’t panic. There are a few things you can do.
To begin with, let’s practice with something simple like a small washcloth. Working on a small project while you practice will give you more confidence and you’ll be ready to tackle that big project with gusto in no time.
Next, you’ll need stitch markers. Head to the local hobby store and pick up a packet of locking stitch markers. These are usually located next to the knitting needles and crochet hooks. Locking markers is the key here. If you can’t find them, you can use safety pins as well, you’ll just have to be mindful that the yarn may get caught in the coils of the pin, but that is easily remedied should it happen.
So, to begin let’s look at the “top of the turning chain.” The turning chain is usually 2 to 3 chain stitches that you do at the end of a row in order to bring the stitches up to a new row. In this case we are working double crochet, so the standard is to chain 3 for the turning chain. Once I have chained three, I will stop and clip the stitch marker through the loop on my hook. From there you can ignore the marker until you reach it again. It is easy to skip the last stitch (the turning chain) of the row which would result in decreased stitches and thus the piece narrowing. This is common to do, but easy to fix by counting your stitches each row or every few rows to make sure you have the number of stitches you are supposed to have. This way you can make adjustments by adding or subtracting stitches along the way or rip back to correct.
Now let’s look at the “last stitch of the row” – work your entire row of stitches as your pattern specifies. Remember that to get nice even rows, the last stitch always goes in the top of the turning chain. So you’ll come to the stitch marker you placed on the row previously when you did the turning chain, and you’ll know right where to go. Insert your hook in the stitch right where the marker is clipped. That’s it! Once you have worked your last stitch (which should be in the top of the turning chain in this case), stop and remove your stitch marker from the previous row and clip it through the loop on your hook. Complete your turning chain and complete the row.
There are a few reasons your crochet piece might narrow as you stitch. It could also be that your tension has changed. Maybe your tension has been tightening up. It’s natural that when you are relaxed that your stitches are looser and when you are tense, your tension may tighten up. Or maybe when you picked up the afghan again to work on it, you inadvertently changed hook size, thus, changing your gauge.
In some cases, you might be able to block the afghan out even. If there are only a few stitches missing causing minor narrowing, then blocking is a great option. If your afghan is made using 100% acrylic yarns, you would want to steam block the afghan rather than wet block as you would if you are using a yarn containing animal fiber. However, if the narrowing is significant, more than a few stitches and you don’t want to rip back, you can be creative and cover up the irregularities with a lace edging or a wide border. Try a free-form crochet technique to be completely unconventional and unique.