Turning Chain Explained
In crochet the turning chain is the chain of stitches one makes at the beginning of a row to bring the crochet hook up to the level of the stitches to be worked on that row. The turning chain can be made at the end of a row before turning the work, or at the beginning of a row after turning the work. These days, patterns usually instruct the crocheter to turn her work upon completion of a row and then make the turning chain as it usually counts as the first stitch in the row. The exception is the single crochet, where the turning chain does not count as the first stitch of the row.
Since each kind of stitch has a different height, you will need a different number of chains in the turning chain.
* Single crochet (sc): one chain
* Half double crochet (hdc): two chains
* Double crochet (dc): three chains
* Triple crochet (tr): four chains
Once you've made the turning chain, where you insert your hook next depends on whether you are counting the turning chain as the first stitch. Usually, you won’t work into the first chain from the crochet hook unless the pattern states to do so. Depending on the stitch, you’ll be instructed to crochet into the second, third, fourth, etc. chain from the hook.
If you aren't following a written pattern or chart, it’s up to you whether or not you want your turning chain to count as the first stitch. Whatever you decide to do, consistent throughout the project is important.
Alternatives to the Turning Chain
There are several arguments as to why one might want to use an alternate method to the turning chain such as there’s no obvious seam when working in the round; Projects lay flatter and look neater; it doesn't leave an unsightly gap and every stitch of the row will look the same.
The turning chain is the standard for published patterns, so every crocheter should know its purpose and how to do it. However, search the Internet for “alternative to crochet turning chain” and you’ll find several techniques that eliminate the use of a turning chain. Just know that you won’t find these techniques in standard written publications. If you want to incorporate them into your crochet techniques, you’ll have to be flexible and adaptable.
Here’s a fairly easy to do example of an alternative to a turning chain for a double crochet project. When you've reached the end of a row turn the work then up an elongated loop to the approximate height of double crochet. With the loop still on the hook, place the hook behind the loop using it as a yarn over. Then yarn over with the yarn coming from the skein. Now have three loops on the hook. Pull the first loop under the elongated loop so that there are two loops on the hook. Yarn over with the skein yarn and pull through the two loops on the hook. You should now have one loop on the hook and completed your alternate turning double crochet stitch.