When I say "working in rounds" I am talking about where you start with a ring in the center and make a circle or spiral where your piece grows outward, getting larger, until it is the size you need. In a circular pattern, worked in the round, you would join each round and chain up to bring to height as well. In a spiral, you don't join or chain up, but you do need to mark your first stitch. This tutorial concerns the circle. I have a different tutorial on working in a spiral elsewhere on site.
The granny square is one example of a piece that is worked in the round. I have a tutorial on the granny square and other shapes as well. Sometimes working in the round will result in a circular shape. Other times it will be worked into a square after the first few rounds, but you will still continue to increase outwards rather than upwards.
Getting Started - The Ring
Before you get into your project, you will need to make an initial circle, or ring. There are a few ways you can do this.
One method is to use the first chain as your center circle or ring. In other words, if you are working in single crochet, you would chain 2, then work the necessary single crochets in the second chain from hook. If you are working in double crochet, you would chain 3 or 4 and work your double crochets in the third or fourth chain from hook (in other words, the first chain you made) as the first chains will be your first dc.
You may also use a small foundation chain joined with a slip stitch to make a ring. You can close this a little when you sew in the beginning strand, but you cannot fully close the hole - at least I can't.
A third method is to use an adjustable ring, or “magic loop,” which creates a circle that can be closed almost completely, leaving no definable hole in the center.
There are two ways to create an adjustable ring. The video above showed the first method, using one loop. However, you can also use two.
The procedure and results are otherwise essentially the same.
When your pattern indicates an adjustable ring, either method will work fine. It’s up to you!
I am going to show you how to increase rounds while still keeping your circle flat. When working in the round, most commonly you do not turn but rather continue working from the right or front side of the work. There are exceptions to this (see making a hat for tips on avoiding the traveling seam), but that is how many patterns work.
Pauline Turner's book How to Crochet has a chart which gives the basic information on how to keep your circle flat. This is handy to have in chart form. Basically, to keep your circle flat you need to work an increase each round which is equal to the number you began with. In other words, if you work 12 dc into the ring on the first round, you will increase 12 dc each succeeding round.
For example, on your first round, you might have 12 stitches - the beginning ch-3 and 11 dc. To make an increase of 12 dc, you will have to put two stitches in each of the double crochets of your first round, giving you 24 dc. Now you need to increase another 12 dc to keep the circle flat. That means you need 36 total dc (24 + 12). So you will put an increase every other stitch. In other words, you work (1 dc in next st, 2 dc in next st) all around. Then in order to increase 12 in the next round, since you have already added 12 stitches, you will need to put your increase in every third stitch.
Remember that your ch 3 to bring up to height is worked for each round and counts as one stitch, and an increase means to work 2 dc in one stitch.
You would have this: Round 1: 12 dc in ring Round 2: increase in every stitch -- 2 dc in every dc of round one for for a total of 24 dc Round 3: increase in every other stitch -- 1 dc in next st, 2 dc in next st around for for a total of 36 dc Round 4: increase in every third stitch -- 1 dc in each of next 2 stitches, 2 dc in next st around for a total of 48 Round 5: increase in every fourth stitch -- 1 dc in each of next 3 stitches, 2 dc in next st around for a total of 60
You would continue in this fashion until your circle is as large as you want it to be.
To put this another way: Round 1: sts in ring Round 2: 2 dc in ea st Round 3: dc, 2 dc Round 4: dc, dc, 2 dc Round 5: dc, dc, dc, 2dc
If you are using a different stitch you will work a different number of beginning stitches into your ring. The taller the stitch, the more stitches you need to work in the center ring.
The standard increases are sc (6), hdc (8), dc (12). For triple I have seen both 18 and 24. Of course, you are free to change that up if you like. Different people have different tensions and what works for one may not work for another.
To keep your piece flat, you increase the same number as that first round on each succeeding round. Keeping in mind that every round has a larger number of stitches, you would have to work your increases further and further apart until you get to the size you want your project to be.
What if you are working the increases correctly, but your work is still not staying flat? Why would that happen? Well, one reason might be your tension. Another has to do with the length and the width of your stitches.
There are a number of things you can do to correct this but it might require some ripping and retrying to find what works for you. You can try changing hooks. Use a larger hook if your work is curling inward too soon or a smaller hook if your work is ruffling. I most often have problems with ruffling when I work an edging, so I generally use a hook one size smaller for my edgings.
Another thing you can do is adjust the pattern. For example, if your pattern has a ch-1 between shells but that seems to be too many, just skip the ch-1. If in the corners you use ch-3 but it seems too many, just use ch-2. Or vice versa, if your piece seems to pull in, increase the number of chains.
Another thing might be to adjust your golden loop and make your stitches taller, or use a taller stitch in the pattern. If the pattern calls for dc but using dc is causing a ruffle, then try using an extended dc or a triple crochet in that pattern. Your width will be the same but your height will be different.
Yet another means of adjusting your circle is to change the number of increases from the norm. If you are ruffling, then you want to work fewer increases. If it is curling, then you want to add increases. Make sure you haven't accidentally missed stitches or increases in the round as well.
What if you have a pattern that says to increase xx number of stitches? For example, you may have 80 sts and it wants you to increase to 100. Now it should tell you how to do that, but if it doesn't, I read about this link at the about.com forum and checked it out. It is an increase calculator for knitting, but you could easily use it for crochet as well. In the above example, I put in 80 as my "number of stitches" and 100 as my "increase or decrease to number of stitches". It replied with:
The translation of this is a bit tricky. I had to have help myself to figure it out. The abbreviation "M" stands for "make" as in make 1 more st (increase). (thank you, Marcia).
So what the increase program is stating when it says K3, M1 is that you make your increase in the 3rd stitch.
In crochet it would not read the same. You would write: DC in ea of next 2 sts, 2dc in the next st.
So that entire sequence to go from 80 to 100 sts would read:
DC in ea of next 2 sts, 2dc in the next st,*(DC in ea of next 3 st, 2 dc in next st) 9 times, *(DC in ea of next 2 sts, 2 dc in next st) once, *(DC in ea of next 3 sts, 2 dc in next st)* 9 times, DC in ea of next 2 sts. Voila! 100 sts. Now that may be more trouble than you're willing to go through. I did find references to crochet increase calculators but they were all with programs that you have to purchase. I'll have to think on this a while and come up with something easier. :-)
Extra note: My crochet pal Megan Mills has written up her increase method. Go have a look!
Hopefully, this video will help to explain the process.
There are lots of patterns and projects which are worked in the round, and mastering the technique will open up a new world of crafting options. Hats are a great first project, because they are small and quick to complete. If you’d like to follow along with me, I have a basic hat tutorial here.