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Getting Started, Part 3
revised ©2008, 2012 Sandra Petit, http://www.crochetcabana.com

Here’s how to tell the front side of your work from the back side, how to change colors, and how to join new yarn.

The “Right” and “Wrong” Sides

When I say right side, I really mean the front of the piece. If I say wrong side, I mean the back. The terms are common in the crochet world, but I think wrong side gives a negative idea. It's not really the wrong side. It is just the back of your project.

Good news! If you are working a square or afghan where you chain and turn for each row, working back and forth, you really don't have to worry about right and wrong or front and back, because every other row is a "front" and the next row is a "back" so to speak. It becomes more important when you’re working in the round.

If you want to call your first row the front, though, all you have to do is tie a little piece of yarn or place a paperclip or stitch marker around one of the stitches to remind you where you began. That's what the pattern means when it says “mark this as right side.” (And you thought you couldn't read a pattern!) Also, you will see the little tail or strand where you started your foundation chain. When you finish your first row, the tail will be on your left.

If you are going to put an edging around your work, I personally like to use my first row as my right or front side and work the border on that side. In my patterns when I talk about "right side", that's what I mean. That doesn't mean that you have to do that. That's just what I do. However, if I mess up and use the other side for my border, I don't have a panic fit. It's perfectly fine.

First, I'm going to show you how to tell the front from the back on the first row, worked into the foundation chain. There are several ways to work that first row and everyone has their preference. None of them are right or wrong IMHO. What works best for you, the one that gives you the look you want, is the right way for you. Crochet is all about creativity. So be creative.

Method 1 - The left image shows the front side of a single crochet row worked into the foundation chain, going under the top two loops. The picture on the right shows the back side of the same row.

Method 2 - Some people like to work under the top loop only on their foundation chain. Here's how it would look done that way.

The picture on the left below shows the front. The picture on the below is the back. If you look closely, you can see that when viewed from the back, the stitches make a sort of bump. They seem to stick out a bit whereas the front looks smoother.

Method 3 - The method below is my personal preference, but it is also the hardest to explain. You place your hook in the back of your stitch, which appears as the center loop of your chain, and is the little hump or nub that sticks out when you're looking at your stitches from above. Let's see if I can make it clear. First, you need to get familiar with your foundation chain.

Below is the FRONT of your foundation chain.

Below is the BACK of your foundation chain. See where the nub is?

One picture explains it all:

Below I show two views of inserting hook into the back nub.

And here's a picture of a row of sc worked into the foundation chain back nub, front view.

Okay, now you've got the foundation chain front and back side.

Below I will show you the front and back of your stitches. That way, no matter what row you're on you can tell whether you've just worked a front side or back side if you leave the project and come back to it later.

This is the front of two single crochets:

This is the back of two single crochets:

These are two rows of single crochet:

Note that the bottom-most row is the back, and the top row is the front. That's because I worked the first row into the foundation chain, and then chained 1 and turned to work the second row. The picture shows the end of the second row, so the first row is showing its back to us.

This is the front of two double crochets:

This is the back of two double crochets:

These are two rows of double crochet:

The bottom row is, once again, the back side. The top row is the front of the double crochet stitches. You might notice that in a double crochet when you are working a front stitch the top loops, though they are at the top of the stitch of course, are also a little bit to the right of the post. When you're looking at the back side, the top loops are still at the top but a little bit to the left of the post. This will help you when you are trying to match stitches to join squares, especially with granny squares that are worked without turning.

It's easy for you to see it here while I'm telling you this is the front, this is the back. But what about when you're ready to put together those squares, huh? Or perhaps you want to add an edging, and you want to put it on the front. As I noted before, you can mark your first row if you want to. I usually try to finish my piece so that the first row I've done on it and the last row are both "fronts", showing the front of the stitches and not the back. Then I put an edging around it and that clinches the right side for me. You need only look at the edging (if you've done it right) to see which is the front of the work.

Some squares are worked in the round and most often these are not turned. The side you are working on is the front.

The square below is worked in single crochet and edged in single crochet also. Since I turn each row, there is really no right or back side, but I am showing the square from what I consider the front -- the last row of the edging, which shows the front of the single crochets. This is the side I will use when joining this square to others.

On the two squares below see if you can tell which one I consider facing front.

Fig 1

Fig 2

If you guessed the one on the left (Fig. 1), you win. That's the one with the front side of the edging facing you.

Granny squares are most often worked "right side only". Generally, you don't turn when you work a granny. You work in rounds and attach to your first stitch each round. Then you go up and continue. This depends on your pattern, of course, and some do instruct you to turn.

Can you tell which granny square below is seen from the front?

Fig 3

Fig 4

If you guessed Fig. 3 on the left, you are correct.

Below I've show you a completely different pattern. This uses crossed stitches within a granny square. Since it's a granny, it is worked on right side only, with no turning. You can easily see that there is a front and back. Which one is the front? Well, I guess it's the one you like best, huh? However, the literal front is, once again, the picture on the left.

Fig 5

Fig 6

As far as front and back, right and wrong go, the best way to learn is to be observant. When you work, notice what you're doing. Examine your own work and the work of others. You might even join an exchange within a crochet list e-mail group, where you make items for and receive items from others. I always enjoy seeing what others do.

There's one other stitch I want to show you in this section, and that is the puff stitch. It has an obvious front and back, but you might be surprised by it. The puffs actually stick out more on the back side than the front, and this is the side I use as my front.

Fig 7

Fig 8

Changing Colors - Basic Method

When I first thought of doing a page on changing colors and joining new yarn, I thought, "Well, this won't take too long." Aha! You knew better - why didn't anyone tell ME? As I got into it more and more, I saw it was going to get complicated, but perhaps be one of the most useful pages on the site. I hope you are happy with the results and find it both entertaining and helpful. I have rec'd several suggestions as to improvements and have implemented most of the them here so don't hesitate to suggest away.

The pretty things you see in books and magazines often use more than one color. You can completely change the look of a piece by changing the colors you use to create it. I often use patterns that I find quick and easy to make over and over again, but I use different colors. As a crocheter, I can tell that it is the same pattern, but you will find that not everyone will be able to tell. Try doing an afghan in solids, and then in variegated yarn - very different look. Here's an example of different afghans created using different colors. This particular one is still worked in stripes, so that part is the same, but the different colors give it a different look.

What are the advantages of working with different colors? Well, as above, you can use the same pattern over and over again and not get bored with the same color scheme. Since you are familiar with the pattern already, it is more relaxing than doing a new one where you have to count stitches and rows.

Also, many times what attracts you to a pattern is the way it looks in the magazine or book you are working from. If you use a different color or a variegated yarn instead of the solid pictured (or vice versa), you may not be as happy with the outcome. On the other hand, you may like it even better. I personally use my own color schemes, though when I was a beginner I would never have dared to change the author's design. :-)

Obviously, if you are making an afghan for Aunt Lou and she hates yellow you don't want to give her a yellow afghan - but you love this pattern which is created using solid yellow yarn. Solution: simply find out Aunt Lou's favorite color and use it instead of the yellow. Sometimes the opposite occurs - a particular pattern which is done all in one color, will look even better using different colors - stripes or variegated. You will develop an eye for these things as you get more experience.

Another reason you might want to change colors, is so that you can use up all those little balls of leftover yarn you have from other projects. There are several scrap yarn leaflets and books available which have some lovely patterns, all using small amounts of yarn. If you don't want to work a pattern, you can just do one of the easiest scrap yarn afghans there is - make a chain as long as you want the afghan to be, pull out your little balls of yarn and work until you run out, then add another ball, continuing until your afghan is as large as you want it to be. Small children will love the variety of this style. Another option is to do single rows of each color, to give it a more uniform look. If you don't have enough yarn for an entire row, you can just continue in another color, or you can rip back that small portion and use it for a first round of a granny square or if you are working in double crochet, try a row of sc now and then for smaller balls. If the majority of your balls are small, make strips to join instead of a solid piece, or squares - yo-yos, saltines (two round grannies, see elsewhere on site) and such are great for this.

Another reason you would be changing colors is if you are working a picture afghan from a graph. I am not going to talk about that here as that is a special circumstance. I've not done a lot of it and don't feel qualified to go into it too deeply. I recently completed an afghan which required many colors changes. What I did was to use yarn bobbins for the color changes. I only worked over when it was a stitch or two. Carol Ventura is a tapestry crochet expert and her site Tapestry Crochet would be a good one to visit for information on changing colors to create a picture. Though tapestry crochet is a special type of picture crochet, the techniques would be similar.

Now that you have seen different ways you can use color to your own advantage, let's learn how to do it. The same procedure will be followed whether you are changing to a new color because the pattern calls for a color change or if you are doing so because you have finished a skein and need to join a new skein (same dye lot, of course), or because you had to cut out a knot or other imperfection in the yarn you are using.

If you ARE doing a double strand piece and one of your strands ends but the other does not, you can join new yarn in the new color while keeping the old one until it runs out. Then you won't have two strands to sew into the same spot, which is preferable.

There are a few different methods you can use to change colors. First, it is important to know WHERE you are changing colors. Is it in the middle of your row, or the end? Back or front? When doing a piece that has a definite front and back, I try to sew all my ends in on the back. If you are on the front when you need to change colors, just thread your cut strand onto your needle and pull it through to the back or use your hook to pull it through. Of course, I try to avoid sewing as many ends as possible in the first place because I am totally lazy. LOL

I will mention that most experienced crocheters will tell you to never knot your two strands when you change color. There is a reason for this. When you knot, it leaves a little hard bump. This can be distressing if one has sensitive skin. Some say that this "wears" on the yarn more as well. When you wash your project, sometimes bits come out where you have sewn in your tails. If there is a knot there, it is difficult to sew back in. However, I have to admit to you that I occasionally do loosely tie (not knot) end strands together while I am working because I am paranoid about them coming undone when I'm swinging that afghan back and forth for each row. I untie these before sewing the tails in. To finish off the first color, I most often use the invisible finish off.

Important note: When you are getting ready to change yarns, if you are going to finish off that original color, be sure you leave a long strand of yarn. Do not cut an inch from the end and think that is enough. You need a minimum of 4" but I would strongly suggest an even longer end.

To change color, no matter where it is, the most basic method is to begin to make your stitch in the old color, work the stitch to within the last step. Complete the final step with your new color leaving about a 6" piece to sew in later. For example, in a dc you would yo, insert your hook into your stitch, yo, pull through, yo, pull through two loops, then drop the first color, and finish the stitch with the second color by working yo, then draw through the remaining two loops. If you are finished with the first color, you would cut it about 6" or more from the end and weave that tail in later. If you are at the end of a row, there are other ways to deal with the ends. See the tutorials regarding ends.

If you are working a single crochet you would insert hook into stitch, yo and pull through (with old color), yo with new color and pull through remaining two loops, finishing the stitch. Tighten slightly by pulling gently on the two threads. Don't pull so tightly that this stitch looks smaller than the ones you've already completed.

Work a few stitches in the new color and then go back and tie the two loose ends together so they don't come undone, especially if you don't intend to finish the project that day. Don't knot them, just tie loosely.

Fig A

Fig B

Fig C

Here’s the change from green to white:

Fig D

Fig E

Fig F

Another reason you might be adding a new color is when you've finished your work and want to now start a completely new color for an edging. There may be other reasons you want to join a new color where you are not going to be working from another stitch, but rather have already finished off. In this case there are a couple different ways to add your new yarn. Some folks like to start with a slip knot on the hook, then insert your hook, yo, pull through slip knot loop to secure, then chain up the proper amount and work your stitch. Some forego the slip stitch (I use this method for sc), just insert hook, lay yarn over the hook, and draw through, make a chain stitch to secure, then work your sc in the same stitch.

Changing Colors in the Middle/End of a Row

Middle: About 4" before you need to change color, lay your new color across your work (Fig. A) and crochet over it as you go. Then when you are at the point where you need to change, just clip off the old color and continue with the new one (working the stitch to within last step with old, then finishing with new as described above in basics). You will have to hold the new yarn with your right hand while continuing to hold your old yarn with your left. It takes a bit of maneuvering. This is neat because then you don't have to sew that end in later.

You can even crochet over your old color by bringing it up one row and crocheting over it on the next row (if you are using that color). You need to do this carefully so it doesn't show too much. This keeps it firmly anchored. You might even thread it and weave it through the stitch above it.

Fig G

Fig H

Note: If your color is very different - like the green and white I'm using here - then you may be able to see that old color on the back side. (If you look closely, you can see the green just a little - it shows up more on the other side (Fig. I) but if you are continuing in that color, it's not too much of a problem.) This method would work very well if you are joining the same yarn as in the case where you're doing a one-color project but have used up your skein.

Fig I

End: The change of color uses the same method, but when you work your first stitch of the new row, you chain up to get it to height. That beginning chain looks different from the rest of your stitches. If you are adding new yarn at the end of a skein and are working with the same color, you can grab both the strand from the first skein and the new strand from the second skein to make your chain up. That makes it a bit thicker, looking more like your next stitches, and also firmly anchors the new strand. You can weave the rest of the strand later or crochet over it, whichever you like.

No-Sew Methods

I'm very excited to be allowed to introduce you to the next methods which my friend, Dave, shared with me and gave me permission to use here. The terminology is all mine and any errors are mine too. Dave only gets credit for having the great idea, not the mistakes!

Now for those of you who, like me, hate sewing in those nasty ends, our own Dave, the Crochetman introduced me to carrying yarn up the side of your work. I took this newfound knowledge and ran with it. Though we differ in some of the aspects, the basic idea is his. :-)

There are a few particulars you need to know. The first methods are for projects where you are using 2 colors and changing every 2 rows. Also, Method 1A would be used when you are working with single crochet rows. Method 1B would be used with other stitches, because they do not begin in the first stitch and the locked stitch would be more evident. Each method is labeled so you will know what the preferred use would be.

Just to make it easy, let's say we're using red as Color A (or MC for main color) and white as Color B (or CC for contrasting color) for Method 1A. Unfortunately, my scanner thinks red is more rusty. Pretend it's red.

Method 1A
2 row, 2 color pattern worked in single crochet, changing color at end of row

When you get to the end of your row and need to change color, complete the first half of the stitch with red (current color, color A or MC), drop red, pick up white (new color, Color B or CC) complete the stitch, chain 1 and turn. DO NOT clip red. Just let it lay there.

Take your red, bring it forward and up, laying it over the work between chain-1 and the first stitch. (Fig. J)

Fig J
Bring red forward and up, between ch-1 and first sc

Work your first stitch over the dropped yarn. This locks the yarn in place. (Fig. K) Dave's hint: If you move the yarn around the work instead of merely turning the work, the 2 colors won't twist together. In fact, if you turn the work counterclockwise after row 1 of the color and clock wise at the color change, the yarns shouldn't twist at all. I laid a skein on either side of me.

Figure K
Work first sc over the dropped yarn

Do not continue to crochet over the dropped color (red). Let it fall to the back of your work. Continue to work the row in white, chain 1 and turn. Work another row in white. After you have worked the second row in your new color (white), you come back to your dropped color (red) which is now in the front of your work. Work the first half of your single crochet. (Fig. L) Pull the red up and to the left so that you can yarn over and pull through, finishing that sc. (Fig. M) It should be barely visible.

Fig L
Work first half of sc

Fig M
Finish the sc, working
over the dropped color

You can adjust it slightly by pulling on your two threads very lightly. Don't stretch your yarn and don't pull it so tightly that it bunches up. If you are doing dc rows, then there will be an obvious piece there because dc begins in the second stitch, not the first, which is why I suggest going with Method 1B below in that case. However, if you don't mind it being a little visible there, this method is fine too.

Method 1B
2 row, 2 color pattern worked in double crochet

(Since I already scanned in the pictures using white and variegated yarn, we'll use that for this method, okay?)

When you get to the end of your row and need to change color, complete the first half of the dc with variegated (current color), drop variegated, pick up white (new color), complete the stitch and chain 2 or 3. DO NOT clip variegated. Just let it lay there.

Work your row in white, do your turning chains and work back along the row. When you get to the end of that row, you should be back to the place where you dropped the variegated. Work the first half of your last stitch, drop white, and pick up variegated. There will be a small loop along the side of your piece. When you do your border, you will sew over this loop.

Figure N
Loops from thread that has been carried

Using this method, you will have only 3 strands to sew in (unless you run out of yarn in the middle of your work, or find a knot or for some other reason have to cut and re-start). You will have your beginning strand from your foundation chain (bottom pink(variegated) strand - slip knot yarn strand - in Figure O), the beginning strand of white (middle white strand - first joining - in Figure O) when you made your first join, and the very last strand from when you finish off (not pictured). Cool, huh? Remember that this will only work well if you are using a pattern which changes color every two rows. Note that the variegated (white and blue) strand in Figure O is the strand that is currently being carried.

If you are working more than 2 rows of dc, you can still carry your yarn. Just bring the color up that you have discontinued as though you were going to crochet with it, but don't. Just catch that strand and it will be locked in as you continue to work. When you need it, it will be there and you can work over the side loops as you do your edging.

Changing Colors Every Row

Okay, I have discovered (re-discovered?) another idea. I have been working on a scrap yarn afghan, from the book The Ultimate Book of Scrap Afghans by ASN. The one I am making is Bright Memories on p. 54. By the way, it uses a multiple of 8 + 7. :-) I chose to chain 127, rather than the 183 in the pattern and used an I hook. The resulting piece was 45" wide. Just a little extra info for you. :-)

Anyhow, this pattern calls for a change in yarn EVERY row. I never would have done this before, because I am so lazy and hate to sew in ends. However, NOW I am armed with this new method of changing yarns. Aha! It doesn't eliminate ends but it does cut them down some.

Here's what to do:

When you get to the end of the row and need to change color, you will change the color just as in the Basic Method. Start your stitch in the old color and finish it in the new one, make your chains and turn. You are not going to carry that old color because you're through with it - for now at least. You can cut it now but cut it far from the end, about a foot if you've got enough yarn.

Now bring the old color up and to the left, just like you did with the new color in method 1A. Lock your stitch in place by laying that color between your chain-1 and your first sc. Then, you have choices. You can just crochet over that strand now if you want to. Or you can do what I've been doing which is sew over a couple of stitches, then thread a needle with my yarn and sew it into the front loop of a few stitches. Why I started doing this is because in my pattern, there are some open spaces where crocheting over the strand would not work. You might say, well you're sewing ends in aren't you? Well, technically, yes, but by doing it here, I am making it more secure since I will be crocheting over the loops where I've placed my strand and the strand is not just laying over the stitches but rather inside of them. Also, there won't be so many strands left over at the end.

If you are working in dc, you can hold that old strand with the new to make your turning chain. It will be thicker than the usual ch-3 but will look more like the rest of your other dcs.

Did you know you can always sew those ends in as you go along? You don't HAVE to wait until the end to do it. :-) I know that, but I rarely take the time. Then I look at all those ends and go....yikes! That won't be fun. A little note, however. If you think you may be ripping back, it's better to wait to sew the ends in. If the ends are already sewn in then when you rip back, it will be more difficult and you may get tangles that need to be cut out which would decrease the amount of yarn for that row causing even more troubles.

The Bright Memories pattern is really pretty. You should give it a try. You don't even have to change colors EVERY row if you don't want to. If you have a large ball of yarn, you can do several rows in one color. The long stitch has to be done in white though to get the correct effect.

Joining with a Double Crochet

I saw this method in a Crochet! newsletter. However, they only had the one photo and text instructions and the photo looks to me like it is worked over two stitches. It does not (though it could if you needed a decrease). Here are more photos to help you do this join.

First put your slip knot on your hook. Yarn over. If you grab hold of the  starting tail with your right hand, it helps to steady the loops.

Insert hook in stitch where you want to join new yarn and yarn over.  I found if I held onto my stitch with my left hand, it made it easier to  draw through the loops.

Pull through the stitch and yarn over again. Again, you may have to  hold onto the loops as they tend to slid around.

Pull through two loops just as you would in making a dc.

Yarn over and pull through remaining two loops to complete your dc

You will note that the loop at the top of  your dc is a bit loose. You might like to tighten that just a tinge. I  finished with the invisible finish of. If you do not want to do that,  you might consider finishing in the loop below the original beginning  loop as that one stretches a lot. It does give you a bit of a loop on  the wrong side though.

Here is the finished purple round.

Don't worry if your first one doesn't  come out perfect. I wasn't too pleased with my first effort - which is  what you are seeing. I got better with practice though.

Here is a round in the pink again, started  with the dc join.

Here are a few links to other sites that talk about joining new yarn. Sometimes hearing things a different way is helpful.

Crochet Cindy (Afghan Stitch)

Crochet Kitten

Continue on to:
Getting Started, Part 4


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Crochet Cabana created October 1997 (domain name purchased March 2001)
Crochet Cabana’s Crafty Corral begun November 7, 2004.
The Crochet Cabana Blog begun May 2010.
Site update November 18, 2012.