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What is a Shift Stitch in Crochet, and how do you make it?

In short – shift stitch is an extra stitch(s) you work at the end of a round to make your work look symmetrical (if you thread marker moves right), or unravel a stitch(s) at the end of a round (if you thread marker moves left).

Here is a short video on how to make it and a detailed explanation below.

Here is the example of shift stitches on Doll Marie The Christmas tree’s head.

Shift stitch was made twice to keep the marker in a straight line.

shift stitch

Without those shift stitches, the marker would go like this:

shift stitches and how the marker goes

The Red line – how marker would go without shift stitches.

The Yellow line – how the marker would go after the first shift stitch.

The green line - how the marker would go after the second shift stitch.

Every time you work shift stitch, the beginning of the round moves to the center of the work (dotted line).

shift stitch with markers and straight line

More detailed explanation.

As crochet work tends to twist to the right or left, sometimes you need to adjust the position of the round marker (the beginning of the round). When you finish the current round and notice that the marker moves right, you need to work one stitch into the first st of the next round and move the round marker behind the last worked stitch. So the 2nd st of the next round becomes the first now.

If you notice that the marker moves left, you need to unravel one stitch (or more if needed) and move the round marker behind the last worked stitch again. This is a shift stitch. As a rule, it is not included in the description of rounds.

Please note that it is not an increase. You do not increase or decrease the number of stitches; the stitch count in the particular round remains the same but overal, in the project you will have more or less stitches in total if you were to count all the added shift stitches or the stitches you removed to move the marcer back.

In some patterns, it is clearly stated: “Work 1 shift stitch now”. In other patterns it is not included in the description of rounds but stated that you have to keep work symmetrical or keep the marker straight.

However, the number of shift stitches and the necessity of working them depend on the yarn you use, the size of the crochet hook, and your gauge. If you use yarn other than the one the designer uses in the pattern, try to follow the round marker in the pattern's pictures (working extra or unraveling to make the shift stitch or more at the end of the round) if needed.


Why do I need to work shift stitches?

A shift Stitch is needed to keep the piece symmetrical. Some toys have cheeks, knees, elbows, and other “bumps” and “sockets.” As your work tends to twist when working in a spiral, some of these parts may end up in the wrong place or misshapen. You don’t want a horse with a knee sticking out the wrong way or a cat with his head twisted at an unnatural angle. That is why you need to work shift stitches in some patterns when the symmetry matters (usually toys). Shift stitches keep the marker in a straight line instead of running around your work.

In the next picture, it is clearly seen that you have to keep the marker straight. Otherwise, you will end up with ears misplaced or the snout misshapen.

shift stitches on dog genres head

Here is an example of how a toy looks like when shift stitches are not used.

It is completely twisted. The Head is on the back, and the back side is on the front (however, it is meant to be like this in the Lady pattern).

how marker twists on a lady figurines body

How do I know I need to work a shift stitch?

In all LittleOwlsHut patterns where you have to work shift stitches, it is clearly stated at the beginning of the pattern: “Keep work symmetrical and work shift stitches where needed”, “Keep parts symmetrical,” or “The marker goes down the center front of the piece from the top of the head, through the center of the nose and down through the belly”.

Usually, only patterns by Svetlana Pertseva and Tatiana Chirkova call for shift stitches. Other LittleOwlsHut patterns are mostly designed in spirals where the marker doesn’t have to go in a straight line.

How do I adjust the line of the round marker correctly?

Crochet certain amounts of rounds and fold the piece in half. Lay the marker straight along the folding line. Use this straight line as guidance as you continue.

Continue working following the pattern until you notice that the marker has moved aside. Do not work any shift sts until the marker has moved 1 st aside (not less!). The amount of the worked rounds may differ from 3 to 7 (it depends on your gauge, the yarn you use and the sts the round calls for).

Keep stitch marker in straight line

Work a Shift Stitch and move your round marker behind the last worked stitch. Continue working. Repeat the steps above when you notice that the round marker has moved again. Usually, you have to do shift stitches every 3-5 rounds (depending on the yarn, hook, and gauge). To check if it is time to work a shift stitch, again fold your work in half and check if the marker still goes straight.

Keep stitch marker in straight line
Keep stitch marker in straight line

Keep stitch marker in straight line

In conclusion, even if it is said you need to make a shift stitch, it doesn’t mean that you actually will. It’s about reading your crochet stitches and being aware of how the round marker needs to go.

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