Last week, I posted a tutorial and a pattern for Dylan’s Blanket. That pattern featured the Lattice Stitch, a type of Tunisian Crochet stitch that I refer to as a “shrinking stitch”, meaning that your initial chain will be wider than the final width of your finished project.

So what is a “shrinking stitch”? It is a stitch that produces a narrower fabric than what your initial chain measurement would lead you to believe you would create. Say, for instance, that you crochet a chain that measures 10 inches. You cast on a foundation row, then work up 25 rows of fabric. If you were to take a measuring tape and measure the width of your fabric, you’d find that it is not 10 inches across, but maybe 8, leaving 2 inches of fabric unaccounted for.

The missing 2 inches of fabric are not missing, but rather condensed into the fabric. Why did this happen? Here are three reasons why you ended up with a shrinking stitch:

  1. The stitch itself:
    Some stitches require you to crochet 2 or more vertical stitches together, such as the Lattice Stitch. With these types of stitches, you usually add loops during the cast on, or add chains in the return pass to maintain your stitch count. However, you’ll find that the tension of the stitch will tighten up after about the second row of work, This tension (or tightness) is not something you can easily adjust by changing your grip on the fabric, or loosening up the stitching when you crochet a return pass. This tension is brought about by the stitch itself, and results from joining two or more stitches together.
  2. Tension, AKA Gauge:
    Any time you knit or crochet, the tightness and drape of your fabric is a result of how tightly, or close together you create your stitches. When following patterns, this tension, or the number of stitches and rows required to achieve a specific size, feel, and drape, is referred to as “gauge”. This tension, unlike the one resulting from the stitch itself, can be controlled by your fabric, yarn and hook grip. The more tightly you pull on your yarn and fabric, the tighter the stitch. The more loosely you hold the yarn, and higher you pull your hook when you cast on, the looser the stitch. In this case, a shrinking stitch would result from crocheting a loose initial chain (so that the stitches are large), and working your fabric stitches tightly.
  3. Hook Size:
    You can also end up with a shrinking stitch when you use a hook that is larger than the recommended size for you yarn. This doesn’t mean that you always have to use the recommended hook size, lest you end up with a smaller project than pattern suggested size, It just means that you will have to adjust your measurements to accommodate the stitch size resulting from the bigger hook.

    What happens when you use a larger hook, is that your natural stitch tension (how you normally hold and work with your yarn and hook) starts to come through after a few rows. So unless you are paying really close attention to how your are pulling and casting on stitches, you’ll likely end up pulling on your stitches a little more tightly than how you did in the first few rows.

    We’ll cover reasons why you would want to use a larger or smaller hook than what is recommended by your yarn label, in another post.

So, how do you account for all of this when resizing a pattern? The easiest way I have found, is by adding length to my initial chain. And while you can just wing it and make a large chain (and hope for the best), I have found that I end up frogging my work 90% of the time and have to begin again. In order to save time (and spare myself the fall into the pit of despair that every crocheter tumbles into when frogging hours of work), I use some simple math to calculate the correct size for my initial chain.

Calculating Chain Length

A tutorial called “Resizing Your Tunisian Crochet Work” will be available on August 20, 2020, on the Mode Bespoke Channel on YouTube, in which I cover how to complete the steps below. 

For this part, I strongly suggest using the yarn and hook you intend to use for your project, as your measurements can and will change based on the yarn and hook you use.

You’ll need to start by crocheting a swatch using the stitch required by the pattern. I normally crochet a 4 x 4 inch (10 x 10 cm) swatch for this part, but you can make it in any size you choose. Keep in mind that the bigger your swatch, the more accurate your calculations.

Once you have your swatch, you can calculate your shrink rate, and use that to determine the additional length of chains that you’ll need to add to your work, in order to meet the size you want for your pattern. Let’s set up an example, using a blanket as our pattern.

This blanket is worked in multiples of 4 + 3.

Calculating the shrink rate:

  1. Crochet a chain that measures at least 4 in (10 cm) in length, and is worked in multiples of 4. Note the measurement of the chain (if it is larger than 4 inches).
  2. Follow the instructions in your pattern to crochet a square swatch of the stitch. Crochet as many rows as you need in order to complete a square swatch.
  3. Measure the width of your swatch, and note the measurement. Subtract the swatch width measurement from the measurement of the initial chain to get the “shrink amount”. 

Let’s Math!

Let’s say our initial chain measured 4.5 inches, and the width of our swatch measured 3.5 inches.

Take your chain measurement, and subtract the swatch width:

        4.5  – 3.5  = 1 in
(the 1 inch is your shrink amount)

Divide your shrink amount by your chain length of 4.5 in, to get the “shrink rate”:

    1 / 4.5 = 0.22
(this is your shrink rate)

This means that your blanket’s final width will be 22% smaller than the width of your initial chain. 

To use your shrink rate:

Decide how wide you want your blanket to be without a border. For this example, we’ll say we want a blanket that measures 50 in across (not including a border). 

Take your desired blanket width (50 in) and multiply it by 1.22 (1 + shrink rate) to get the “adjusted initial chain measurement”. 

50 x 1.22 = 61 in
(this is your adjusted initial chain measurement)

This means that in order to end up with a blanket that measures 50 in across (without a border), you will need to make a chain that measures approximately 61 inches. Remember to mind your multiples! So while you crochet your chain, remember to not only chain 61 inches in length, but also chain in multiples of 4 + 3.

If the stitch you are using does not have multiples, then just chain a length of 61 inches.

Once you’ve calculated your adjusted chain measurement, you are set to go! Work the pattern as written, and you’re set!

For questions or comments on this pattern, please contact Atenas at:

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Written by

Atenas Ruiz-Ramos

Hi there!

I’m Atenas, the designer and content creator for Mode Bespoke.

When I’m not designing patterns or creating tutorials for YouTube, I spend my time making things, reading, writing, or learning something new.

I’m a linguist, musician, martial artist, seamstress, fantasy & sci-fi novelist, bibliophile, artist, cooking enthusiast, soap maker, budding mechanic, gardener, and a mom.