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How To Prevent Crochet Projects from Narrowing

Tips for making sure your project stays even

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.

What are your tips for making sure your projects don’t narrow? We’d love to hear your experiences!

This article combines expertise from past articles by Tian Connaughton and Chris Hammond.

  • Mary Lou W.

    I have the narrowed edges, but I used them for recliner chair covers because the tops are wide and most narrow down, but after I read your tips, I am doing better. Thank you.

  • Deborah M.

    I use a bobby pin as a stitch marker. Just slip it though the stitch and easy to move when you need to.

  • Yvonne H.

    Love this article! I just went thru this problem a week ago!
    Such a pain! I un raveled two whole sections to get mine even! Thanks for your advice! I’ll count stitches next time
    Rather than crocheting everything twice! Thanks again! Carolyn Huskisson

  • Reader L.

    I always have several projects going so I use a locking stitch marker to attach a lettered bead to the right side of my project….then I always know which hook I was using.

  • Nina S.

    I count the stitches but I work on several projects at one time and I definitely need to keep a card telling me what crocheting hook I was using and the name of the design as well! It can make a big difference!

  • Joanne F.

    I’ve had this happen so I’m going to use your suggestion. Makes sense and would be helpful. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Mary O.

    Sometimes I count backwards from where the ending stitch should go just to make sure that I start the stitch after the turning chain in the correct place. I also use a stitch marker.

  • Patsy B.

    Ragged side edges were a constant problem for me until I watched a tutorial and she recommended using fewer chains when turning….. for instance, ch 2 instead of 3 for a dc. I still watch my sides and count if I see any narrowing but rarely have a problem. Hope this helps someone. ????

  • This is always my problem! Thanks for this helpful article. I’ll give it a try.

  • Donna O.

    I’ve been Tunisian Crocheting for a while and am currently making a large afghan for a queen size bed. It is 372 stitches long (I use the long, long hook with tube tail). I put a stitch marker every 100 stitches, then 50, then ending with 22. There is no turning in Tunisian which I love and, the edges are perfectly straight but, you can drop a stitch or even, add one or two in the returning operation. This afghan has four colors and each has 8-10 “rows” depending on the pattern which depict the width, and every color panel has a different stitch. So, narrowing or widening is very easy to do. I am now on the border and chose to do the shell pattern to “cover” any errs I may have committed. Anyway, the stitch markers are so very important and I thank you for your suggestions.

  • Crocheter E.

    I remember I learned to crochet when I was around 8 years old, around 17 years ago. My squares would turn into triangles because I hadn’t figured out that turning chains and, subsequently, stitch count were a thing you had to pay attention to. I still forget about it when I’m working a complex piece. It is only natural for us to miss these little things because we are human and can’t always think about these small details when worrying about a new stitch pattern or an intricate flower in your work. These are good tips for people having a problem with keeping up with the small things.

  • Janet B.

    I mark the first stitch in every row, on every project, no matter the stitch used or the size of the turning chain.

  • Debbie C.

    I tried the pin at the end of each row and IT WORKED! Thanks much for the tip. It’s nice to know that experienced crocheters have the same issue. I’ve only been crocheting for a couple of years after more than than 40 years of knitting! I love crocheting.

  • Jeannine S.

    You are ‘spot on’ in recommending the counting of stitches in a row! The first shawl I crocheted ended up being a cat blanket, because I wasn’t counting my stitches at all. I didn’t want to rip out all my work so the ‘shawl’ was presented to my cat. My next attempt worked out perfectly as I smartened up and counted my stitches. I’m still getting used to using stitch markets, though!

  • Allison P.

    The tension changing, is the reason I’ve had to stop so many times with this project that I’m trying to get finished. Any new ideas on how to prevent my tension from changing I’m listening.

  • I love your tops and your patterns. Have done many projects from your site! Thank you.

  • Robin H.

    You need to read the pattern carefully to be sure that the turning chain is included in your stitch count. Especially when doing rows of sc or hdc the turning chain may or may not be considered a stitch.


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