Are you trying to crochet a flat piece and finding yourself baffled as to why it seems to be getting narrower? Maybe I can help. Here are 4 common reasons why your crochet is shrinking.
1. After the first row, check your stitch count.
This may seem like a really obvious one but you'd be amazed at how one missed stitch can go under the radar until it's 30 rows too late. If you're practising crochet for the first time, stick with 10-20 stitches at a time. This will help you to study your stitches without the exhaustion of having to rip back an entire jumper that is 4 inches too narrow. Trust me, these little stumbles in the early days will earn you all the skills.
2. Don't forget to make a turning chain when you finish a row.
You'd be surprised to hear how often this happens; people forget to make a turning chain. The reason the turning chain exists is to make the transition into the next row as smooth as possible. Not making a turning chain could result in a stitch at the end that is too short and causes the piece to slope inwards. You will then probably miss it when you're working back across the row, leading to fewer overall stitches.
If you'd like a handy guide on turning chains and stitches at your fingertips, you should download my crochet stitch guide for beginners.
3. Make sure that you know which chain is the one you're supposed to be working with on the next row.
Is it the 3rd chain from the hook, the 4th chain or the 5th chain? The chain on the hook does not count. You have to count the chains from the hook. Inserting the first stitch too early will result in a wider piece whereas inserting too late can result in a narrower piece. In this picture, I have made a ch2 for a half double crochet and should be inserting my hook into the 4th chain from the hook. Can you see what I mean by "4th chain from the hook"?
4. Remember that the turning chain counts as a stitch.
Whether you are making a turning chain at the beginning of the row or just coming to the end of a row- the turning chains count! If you do not make a stitch into the top of the previous turning chain, you will not get an even amount of stitches and your crochet will start to shrink.
Tip: Use a removable stitch marker to mark the top of the turning chain.
This is a bit fiddly but when you are learning, it will save you so much hassle. Just take it off after you've made your last stitch and insert it into the top of the next turning chain. Hopefully you'll get so sick of seeing it that you will learn to never miss the turning chain again.