Updated: Jul 12, 2020
Finally, I have squeezed in the time to make the promised blog about another crochet technique: foundation double crochet! Yay!! Keep reading for the nitty gritty of this life changing skill! (Note: UK terminology is used for this blog).
Foundation double crochet (fdc) was a mystery to me for a long time. I had heard of this mystical way you could crochet both your foundation chain and the next row of double crochet simultaneously! It sounded like a magic trick, and I thought it was just to speed your first rows along. One day I sat down with Robyn Chachula’s most excellent Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia to learn the technique (her book is in American terminology but I am crochet bilingual).
Fdc is the absolute BOMB! I am a total convert. When you first do it, it really is not particularly fast… though it’s absolutely worth the effort!
At the time I decided to give this a go, I was experimenting to design some toddler garments with bottom up construction, and choosing the right sized larger hook for the foundation chain row was doing my head in! The initial chain really doesn’t stretch, and when you increase the hook size for the chain to compensate for this, you can’t really tell if you beginning chain tension is okay (ie. Does it stretch enough to match your future fabric) until you have worked 6-8 rows of crochet. I think you can already see the writing on the wall: much frogging!
When I realised fdc stretches with the rest of the future fabric it was a game-changer for my garment making.
Let me explain the technique:
Ch2, insert hook into beg ch, yoh, pull up lp, yoh, pull through 1 lp (first ch made),yoh, pull through 2 lps (first dc made), cont to: (insert hook into prev ch, yoh, pull up lp, yoh, pull through 1 lp, yoh, pull through 2 lps) to make second and all subsequent required fdc.
Note that the very beg ch2 do not count as stitches and the first one juts out a bit.
The stitch symbol for fdc is a chain symbol with a dc symbol immediately on top of it. This example below shows a row of 15 fdc. (Note that those beg ch2 are not drawn in, but you will still do them to start your fdc off).
Ok, so the big question is: when inserting your hook into the previous chain, do I insert the hook under one loop or two? Well, …my answer is both. It depends on the kind of fabric I am going to crochet from that foundation row, as they behave differently, and the special abbreviations or pattern notes section of my pattern will tell you which way I have decided to do it for that design, so always check there. But let’s explore this further:
This photo helps to show these techniques behave. Each strip of crochet in this photo is 15 sts wide. I have used a 4mm hook and Scheepjes Stonewashed Cotton Acrylic yarn (not an elastic yarn like a merino would be), so you can see the stretch is coming from the technique and not the yarn. Thank you to Scheepjes for supplying me with this yarn!
1. The strip at the top with the red stitch marker is not fdc. It is a row of chain followed by a row of dc as the conventional way of starting. This is significantly shorter than the others, and will twist rather than lie flat. When you try to stretch it, the chains prevent you from doing so. It just doesn’t stretch.
2. The strip in the middle with the orange stitch marker is “15fdc”, inserting the hook under 2 loops of the previous chain. It’s easy to see that its longer than the top strip, and can be stretched maybe 20% longer than what you see here. (Note: when inserting under 2 loops, angling the hook down to the left makes them easier to find than trying to push your hook straight through the middle.) It lies flat on the table but tends to curve a bit.
3. The strip at the bottom with the green stitch marker is “15fdc”, inserting the hook under 1 loop of the previous chain. It lies longest, is fairly flat and straight, and can be stretched approximately the same or maybe a bit more than the fdc worked under 2 loops, so it stretches the most overall.
Want to see the stretch? Check out this video.
I hope you can see the benefit of the fdc technique for garments, (and any large spans of solid crochet stitches really), but which foundation row techniques have I used where and why?
For my Daisy Chain Cardigan, I have used normal chain as the foundation row, as the fabric that follows has a chain space every second stitch – it’s not a solid fabric, and the subsequent rows won’t need more stretch than what the original chains allow.
For my Sashiko Happy Coat, fdc is used inserting the hook under 2 loops of the previous chain because the stitches that make up my main fabric are short dc flo stitches. It’s a solid fabric with no chain spaces, so the medium stretch of inserting under 2 loops suits this fabric.
For my Rhythm of Life Sweater, fdc is used inserting the hook under only 1 loop of the previous chain because the double stranded laceweight yarn makes it much harder to find where you are supposed to put it, but more importantly, the main fabric in that garment is open and lacey in character (because you are using a larger than normal hook), and the bodice is actively stretched as part of the design, so I need the fdc with the most stretch to go with that fabric.
So here is a little video to show how each version is worked:
TIP: REVERSE THE STARTING LOOP
One of my favourite little tricks is to make that annoying first chain disappear. I don’t like how it juts out, and you can solve this problem by reversing the starting loop on your hook. Reversing the starting loop makes the short tail tighten the first loop instead of the working yarn. It’s a little harder to do the first ch, but the second chain is fine, and the great benefit is that that redundant starting ch can be shrunk down to become (almost) invisible!
EXTENSION BRIDGES WITH FDC:
As I used foundation double crochet more and my general design skills improved, I had a lightbulb moment to use fdc to build extension bridges. So what is an extension bridge? Its just a name that popped into my head to describe crocheting off the cliff of your fabric out into thin air, paving the way as you go!
Let’s say you have crocheted a square of treble crochet rows that is 30 stitches wide across the top, and you want the next section of crochet to be 50 stitches wide, so you end up with an L shaped piece of fabric. How do you add the 20 extra stitches?
You could, at the end of the last row, ch20 away from the main work, turn, crochet some turning chain and work back and crochet across the top of the main fabric. If you were only adding a couple of stitches then using regular chain like this would be fine, but an extra 20 non-stretchy chains are not going to move well with the rest of the piece if the fabric does not have a lot of chain spaces.
So, on to Option 2: How do you start an fdc extension bridge?
At the end of the last row, insert hook under 2 lps into top “v” section of the post of the last stitch made (in this case it is a tr), (yoh, pull up lp, yoh, pull through 1 lp (first ch made), yoh, pull through 2 lps (first dc made)), then cont with more fdc as normal (in this case, 19 more for a total of 20 fdc).
Then all you do is turn, add turning ch, and treble on! Flexible stretchy extensions that move with your fabric.
Life changing, right? Or maybe it’s just me…..
Anyway, I hope this helps you if you are struggling a little with fdc. It really is a technique well worth learning, and why not go for bonus points by reversing your starting loop? You too can have that warm little glow in your crochet-heart when you see that annoying little bump just melt away…
If you would like to see more info about the garment designs I talk about here, the Sashiko Happy Coat, Rhythm of Life Sweater, and Daisy Chain Cardigan are all available on Ravelry .
If you are looking for the gorgeous yarns I have used in these pics, check here for all Scheepjes retailers worldwide.
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