Foundation Rows in Crochet: How and Why They’re Done

Several years ago I discovered a set of simple stitches called foundation stitches, that changed the way I crochet. Let me explain how.

My least favorite part of beginning a crochet project is the foundation chain and first row. Working the first row of stitches into the foundation chain is a fiddly, clumsy task, and you have to be pretty exact on your chain count. Many times I would reach the end of the first row only to discover I had either run out of chains before I had worked enough stitches or I had extra chains. If this has happened to you, do you frog everything, try to work an extra stitch or two in the last chain or attempt to disguise the extra chains with a decrease stitch? With foundation stitches you work the foundation chain and the first row's stitch in one step!

Even better, your project is easier to hold and the stitches are easier to work into. Plus you can be more exact about working precisely the number of stitches you need. No accidently skipping a chain or working two stitches into one chain because you can't differentiate the loops. Best of all, this first row is slightly stretchy, without the tightness that can develop with a base chain alone. I have used this technique on many patterns, including the Big Bow Cardigan by Julia Vaconsin (Interweave Crochet Winter 2008), which I'm modeling above.


How to Crochet Foundation Rows

To work a foundation single crochet, begin with a slipknot on hook, chain 2 (Figure 1), insert hook in 2nd chain from the hook, pull up a loop, yarn over, draw through 1 loop (this loop is the next "chain," Figure 2), yarn over and draw through 2 loops (this is the single crochet)—you now have 1 sc with its own ch st (shaded) at the bottom (Figure 3)—, *insert hook under the 2 loops of the "ch" stitch (shaded) of the last st and pull up a loop, yarn over and draw through 1 loop, yarn over and draw through 2 loops; repeat from * for as many foundation single crochets as you need (Figure 5).


The extra stretch of foundation stitches is especially helpful for patterns that need a lot of stretch like socks or pullovers. I would also use a foundation single crochet on a project such as the Seafoam Vest (below) where the foundation chain needs to fit comfortably at the hip.


Seafoam Vest (Spring 2007)  

Things to Remember When Crocheting a Foundation Row

There are a few tips to keep in mind when substituting a foundation row for a chain row. 

  • When working a regular chain row and then a row of single crochet, you end the single crochet row by working in the first chain you worked. When working the foundation single crochet you will finish on the end opposite the first "chain".

Pretty Pleats Skirt (Spring 2009)

  • Some patterns, such as Annie Modesitt's Pretty Pleats Skirt above, need to end by working in the first chain because of shaping or the stitch pattern. For garments such as these, simply work your foundation row, fasten off, and rejoin your yarn at the opposite end of the row.
  • When a pattern would benefit from a foundation with more stretch but the first row is not a simple stitch such as a single or double crochet, you can work a foundation single crochet row, then work into that row as you would the chain. Very little extra length is added and in some patterns, the extra stretch is worth the slight height addition.

  • When substituting a foundation chain with a foundation single or double crochet, work the number of stitches given for the first row not the number given for the foundation chain.

Grab a scrap of yarn or your latest "must make" garment and give foundation stitches a try. They are so easy to master that when I teach people to crochet, I use a foundation stitch rather than a foundation chain. For more information on foundation stitches check out Marty Millers article "Getting into the Loop: Foundation Stitches" in the Interweave Crochet Spring 2007 issue. I love how you can find informative articles and must make patterns in every issue. I would recommend getting your hands on a year of our award winning crochet magazine. For information on how to work the Foundation Double Crochet visit the Crochet Me Glossary.

Best wishes,


P.S. Share your tips for working with foundation stitches.

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Crochet Me Blog
Toni Rexroat

About Toni Rexroat

Toni Rexroat is the Online Editor of Crochet Me. Outfitted with several crochet hooks and surrounded by bins of yarn, she has been the assistant editor for Interweave Crochet magazine as well as PieceWork, Interweave Crochet’s sister magazine. She was born and raised in a little town in Wyoming where she was exposed to wool and other fibers at an early age, and began crocheting in her early teens. Enjoying a wide variety of fibery hobbies from crochet and knitting to sewing, she is determined to learn to spin so she can crochet with her own yarn.

23 thoughts on “Foundation Rows in Crochet: How and Why They’re Done

  1. This is Excellent!! I loooooove it! Thank you soo much!! i have had the problem of not enough or too much chain loops. Now, I don’t have to worry about miscounting anymore!!!
    Thanks Again!
    ~ Nel

  2. Oh, wow, what a great way to start. That is my least favorite part of crocheting, is the foundation row. This will be so much easier.

    Now that’s I’ve found that glossary, I’ll be there more. Thanks.

  3. Love it. Discovered this myself a couple of years ago. Changed the way I crochet. Thanks for sharing.

    There are two recent books that include not just fsc, but foundation hdc, foundation dc. It is also possible to do foundation shell, and probably more.

  4. Great post. Yes, it’s a wonderful technique that is definitely worth doing for all the reasons you mention. It’s true you can make extra chains and pick out the excess, but the stretchiness of the foundation sc (or hdc or dc) is a real plus. And it looks nicer. It feels awkward at first, but I think everyone should give it a try.

  5. I’ve been meaning to try this since I saw it popping up in recent crochet pattern books. But the instructions in Toni’s post make it irresistable. Thanks Toni!

    Could we get some more help on yarns substitutions? I looked at the yarn requirements for the cute “Pleats skirt” and the yarn cost rang up around $100! Ouch!!!

  6. The yarn used is a wool and bamboo fingering weight yarn. The wool provides a bit of stiffness that helps define the pleats but you should be able to substitute another fingering weight yarn. If you check the sources page (page 92) you will see that this yarn has 20 wraps per inch. For help on figuring wraps per inch you can check out Sarah’s blog. They just double check to make sure you get gauge.

  7. A couple of years ago IC printed an excellent teaching article by Marty Miller on the foundation stitches. It was the best reference I have seen on making the stitches and really understanding how they work, not just memorizing them. It would be great if that article could be made available online.

  8. Yes! The foundatin chain is definitely more stretchy. It has a different look, though, but still nice.

    With regular chains, I always do a few more, because you can very easily unravel the extras. Adding more chains at the end if you run out, doesn’t look as nice.

  9. I was so excited when I started using the foundation single crochet. I could never make the beginning chain look like it belonged to the finished work. But when I started using the foundation single crochet the finished look was perfect. I have shown this to other crocheters that have had the same problem. Even a young teenager was amazed when she started using this technique. I have used both the single crochet and double crochet. Thank you to the designer that came up with this technique.

  10. Wow, I have no tips to add but wish to say that this is the best foundation chain pattern I have ever come across!! So easy, so neat and no tightness at the bottom. Thank you very much for sharing it!!

  11. Here is my favourite tip (from my Wickerwork Mitts pattern) for maintaining even tension on foundation chains: “Every time you pull up a loop, bring the hook out far enough so that it’s at a right angle to the work. This will give you an even tension, the top and bottom edges will match, and your foundation chain will be nice and straight. If your hook stays angled in towards the [top] stitches, your foundation chain will be tight on top and loose on the bottom. The tighter stitches will pull in and make the whole thing curvy.”

    The family of foundation stitches has changed my crochet life forever – in a very happy way. I first encountered fsc in Doris Chan’s books years ago, and since then have experimented with various sizes of foundation stitch – half double, double, and treble. My personal favourite is the half double foundation – a little wider, a tiny bit sturdier and easier to work, I think, than the single. But they are all wonderful! 🙂

  12. This is not related to the foundation stitches. My sister in law is left handed, recently someone has shown her how to Crochet left handed again. She has some questions that I am not sure how to answer. Do you have any tips of left handed crocheters? Do you recommend any books.
    Thank you in advance for your time.

  13. You mentioned that when you substitute a foundation stitch for the chain stitch, you work the number of stitches given, not the no of chains. I’m working on a pattern that doesn’t state the number of stitches in the first row. It only states “Chain 124. Dc in fourth chain from hook.” So would I fdc 121?

  14. If the “turning chain” or the 3 chain stitches you skip don’t count as a stitch, 121 is correct. If this does count as a stitch, you should create 122 fdc stitches.