Today I am going to take a look at the fundamental anatomy of a simple crochet stitch. Breaking it down into its basic parts, so you can really understand what makes your crochet work.
This is one of those things that no one really teaches you. As you practice, you get more familiar with how crochet stitches are formed. But then you go to try a new pattern or technique, and maybe you’re not quite sure what they mean by the 3rd loop or ‘between stitches’.
Having a good understanding of how crochet basic stitches are constructed will give you the best foundation to build your skills, without getting lost in the weeds.
Right Sides and Wrong Sides of Crochet Stitches
Before I talk more about the parts of the stitches, I wanted to clarify the terms ‘right side’ and ‘wrong side’. Where crochet stitches are concerned, ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ are only relative terms.
The ‘Right side” (RS) of a crochet stitch is the side which is facing you as you work. The “Wrong side” (WS) is the opposite; the side that faces away from you as you work.
In a pattern, you are often given told there is a right or wrong side. This relates to the overall stitch pattern (and what side you want seen) rather than the individual stitches.
With that clear, let’s take a look at the breakdown.
The Anatomy of a crochet stitch
The most common parts of the stitch you will see referred to, are the ‘top’ of the stitch and the ‘post’. Both of which you can see clearly highlighted in the image above.
I will say a few words about each, then break it down further into the ‘sub-parts’ (for want of a better term!) that you need to know about.
Top of the stitch
In simple terms, this is where you insert you hook when working a traditional crochet stitch.
It’s the two loops that look like a ‘v’ on it’s side, when you look at it from above (see image below)
When a pattern says something like; “slip stitch to the top of the stitch to join”, they mean work your hook under those two loops at the top of the stitch.
Front and back loops
The top of your stitch consists of two loops, or two sides of the ‘v’. These are referred to as the front loop and the back loop and are identified with the stitch facing you.
You can see the front and back loops marked in the image below (with the sides marked for context)
In some patterns, you may be asked to insert your hook ingot the ‘Front Loop Only’ (abbreviated to FLO) or ‘Back Loop Only’ (abbreviated to BLO). To do this, you literally just insert your hook under the one loop (front or back) instead of two. That’s really all there is to it.
Inserting your hook, and working your stitch into one of the loops creates different textures and structures. The most common example is probably when you work in the back loops to create crochet ribbing.
Note that the front and back loops are also relative. They will change when you turn your work as the loops are always identified when the stitches are facing you. (This is why I needed to get the right / wrong side definitions clear!)
Where is the Third Loop on Crochet Stitch?
Sometimes you may be asked to work into the 3rd loop of a crochet stitch. This might be in conjunction with working into the back loop. For example “insert hook into BLO and 3rd loop” could be an instruction you see.
The third loop is found on the back of your work (wrong side of your stitches) just below the back loop.
The hook and the pink arrows in the image below point to the 3rd loops on a swatch (which is laid with the wrong side of the stitches facing) of (US) double crochet (UK trebles).
The third loop may be a bit thinner than the main loops, so can be a bit fiddly to get your hook into until you get used to it.
Note that you won’t find the third loop in a single crochet (UK double crochet) stitch.
The third loop is only present in half double crochet (UK half treble) and taller stitches. That third loop is essentially created by the extra yarn over you make before starting the stitch.
Traditionally the third loop is used to create depth or layers. It is also a way to add extra security to stitches made in the BLO.
The post of a crochet stitch
Now we’ve addressed the tops of stitches and their loop variations, let’s look at the second major part of a stitch; the post. Sometimes called the body, of a crochet stitch.
The post of a stitch is the vertical part which gives the stitch it’s height. In a single crochet (UK double), the post is very short, whereas in a double treble (UK treble treble) it is much taller. In both cases, it’s still called the post.
The posts sit slightly to the side of the top of the stitch as you work.
The image below comes from my tutorial for the Alpine stitch. This uses front post double crochet (UK raised treble front) stitches. I’ve included this picture because it shows the hook being inserted under the post of a US double crochet. Just in case there was still any doubt about where the post part is!
Crochet stitches are slanted
This is something that I don’t see discussed to often either, but it’s important to know that crochet stitches are generally slightly slanted. The taller stitches tend to have more slant than the shorter ones, with single crochets (UK double) being almost square.
It’s important to bear this in mind because it explains a lot about how crochet behaves.
When working in rounds in the same direction, you may notice that your seam wanders off in one direction. This is generally caused by the natural slant in your stitches, although there are other factors which can make it more significant. (That’s a whole other story – it’s going on my ‘to blog’ list!).
When working in rows (as with this very simple and somewhat messy swatch seen below), you will get a kind of zig zag effect caused by the slant. This is normal.
The degree of the slant will vary with crochet style as well as stitch type, and can be straightened a little with blocking. But it is there and we can’t pretend otherwise!
Working Between Crochet stitches
If a pattern asks you to work between crochet stitches, then it is asking you to insert your hook between the posts of the stitches.
If you take another look at the picture right at the start of this post, I have pointed out what ‘between posts’ looks like. It’s literally the space between the upright posts. With shorter stitches, this space will be smaller, and with taller stitches, it could be quite a big gap. It’s the holey part of crochet.
I imagine that the first place most crocheters will see this is when working a traditional granny square. In granny squares, you work 3 double crochet between the posts of the group of 3 double from the row below.
The Block stitch, shown in the photo below, is another example of a common stitch pattern where you work between stitches. You can see that the single crochet stitches in white are worked between the posts of the groups of 3 double crochet in pink and blue.
When working common stitch patterns that you’re familiar with, working between stitches feels quite natural. However, in my Light Fandango Sweater pattern, there is a set up row which asked crocheters to work between stitches. This is by far the most queried part of the whole pattern, so I wanted to address the instruction at a fundamental level!
The Golden loop of a crochet stitch
Before I finish my tour of a crochet stitch, I wanted to talk about one last part that you can only really see as you make it.
The golden loop.
The golden loop is essentially the first loop you pull up after you have inserted your crochet hook into the place where you are working the stitch.
In the picture below, the arrow points to the golden loop for the first part of a double crochet (UK treble).
Typically, the golden loop should be about the same as the height of the crochet hook to achieve even stitches.
I won’t go into great detail about this here, but I think it’s useful to know what the golden loop is because it is the main factor in how tall your crochet stitch is.
If you’ve ever made a puff or bobble stitch, then you will know that when you pull up your loops, you are pulling them to the whole height of the stitch. In this example, you are making your golden loop taller, which will increase the height of the stitch accordingly.
Mostly, the height of your golden loop will become automated and won’t be something you think about too much. However, if you find that your rows are a lot taller or shorter when you make a gauge swatch, then this golden loop may be the culprit!
So there ends the crochet stitch biology lesson! I know that I find it useful to go back to the start and break things down sometimes, so I hope you have found it helpful too.
Next time you pick up your hook, why not try slow it down a bit and see if you can see these parts of your stitch forming. Maybe it’s the geek in me, but I find it satisfying to see it coming together!