Switchback Join Tutorial

In not one but TWO of my recent projects I’ve come up against that ubiquitous trait of circular crochet: The Lean.

Crochet stitches, for the most part, tend to lean in the direction of the dominant hand – so if you’re a right-handed crocheter, your stitches will lean right, and if you are a lefty, they will lean left. When working back and forth in rows, this balances itself out… but when working circularly (and therefore not turning) the lean gets compounded and you end up with a spiral pinwheel of joins and increases.

Which can be quite pretty, but not if you are trying to keep the seam in one place, or use your first stitch as a marker for the center of a circle.

I was trying to do both! Turns out, there are a few interesting fixes for this problem. The best technique I found was from the very talented Wilma Westenberg, which uses a method of skipping the first stitch every second round – check out her awesome tutorial here.

I like this method, but I wanted something more tailored to working in flat circles. So I did some experimenting and came out with the following method, which I call the Switchback Join. Like Wilma’s method, it alternates rounds in the following way:

(F)Rnd : Create a normal hdc join by working a slip stitch in the first st, ch 1 (or 2 if you prefer – I did 1 for this type of join to reduce bulk) and hdc in the same stitch to begin next round. – This round will lean BACK (or toward the dominant hand)
(B) Rnd: Join with a slip stitch, then skip one more stitch and add an extra at the end of the round to make up for it.

By alternating a Forward (F) round and Backward (B) round, you create a switchback seam that balances itself and stays mostly centered.

The difference in my method is the way in which the first stitch of the round is skipped, and which stitch replaces that skipped one at the end. If you are interested, read on for the full photo tutorial for this method!

P.S- I also came across this very interesting method of “self-correcting” your crochet stitches in this brilliant tutorial series from Ira Rott. Mind blown! It doesn’t fully correct the slant of hdc seams, but it’s a seriously handy trick!

Update 11/21/19: There is now a video demo for this tutorial! Check it out on Youtube <3

Switchback Join Tutorial

This tutorial works a flat circle in half double crochet, working non-continuously (meaning that we join at the end of every round). I will assume knowledge of how to make a flat circle – so I won’t be explaining the increases, etc. 🙂 If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Rnd 1: You can and probably should count this as the first round, meaning it will be an A or backward leaning round, although I have to admit that I didn’t – oops. That will set me off-center slightly but it won’t matter much. Make Ring, 8 hdc into the ring. Join with a slip stitch to the first hdc of the round.

Pull up a loop
Draw through to create a slip stitch join.

Rnd 2: (B – backward leaning round) Ch 1 to begin the rnd (does not count as first hdc). 2 hdc in each st around. Join with a loose slip stitch. Remove your hook from the loop and insert into the Back Loop Only of the next crochet stitch. Draw the free loop through this back loop to complete the join.

Here’s the step-by-step:

Ch 1 to begin the round
2 hdc in the same stitch and in ea stitch around
Rnd 2 completed before the join
Leaving the loop on your hook loose, insert hook into the first hdc of the round
Make a slip stitch…
Then remove your hook and insert into the back loop of the next hdc stitch…
Then catch the loose loop with your hook and draw it through the back loop of the stitch. From this stitch you will begin the next round, with the slip stitch loop (highlighted in teal) open to act as the last stitch of the round.

(F) Rnd 3: Ch 1 (does not count as first hdc) to begin the next FORWARD leaning round. Now you have started the round off one stitch forward than you would have with a regular join. This offsets the backward balance of the stitches of the round below. The stitch we have skipped is replaced by the loops of the loose slip stitch join later. 1 hdc in the same stitch. 2 hdc in the next st. (1 hdc in the next st, 2 hdc in the next st) around. Work the last increase in the slip stitch of the previous round’s join. Join with a regular slip stitch join.

Once again, let’s take that step by step:

Ch 1 to begin the next round (A – Forward)
Insert hook into BOTH loops of the same stitch. The front loop may be tight, since you have already pulled on the back loop some.
Hdc in the same stitch
Work around, placing your last increase in the slip stitch of the previous join (highlighted in teal)
Join with a regular slip stitch join.

(B) Rnd 4: Ch 1 to begin the round (does not count as first st). 1 hdc in the same stitch, 1 hdc in the next st, 2 hdc in the next st. (1 hdc in ea of the next 2 sts, 2 hdc in the next st) around. Join with a loose slip stitch, drop your loop and insert hook into the back loop of the next st. Pull dropped loop through to begin next round.

Here’s Rnd 4 step by step through to the forward join for the next round:

Ch 1 to start
Work around as normal
Work a loose slip stitch…
Insert loopless hook into the back loop of next stitch….
Catch the dropped loop and pull through.

(F) Rnd 5: Ch 1 to begin (does not count as first hdc). Hdc in the same stitch and in ea of the next 2 sts. 2 hdc in the next st. (1 hdc in the next 3 sts, 2 hdc in the next st) around. Place final increase in the slip stitch of previous join. Slip stitch normally to join.

Getting the swing of it yet? 🙂

Hdc in same stitch
Place final increase in slip stitch of previous join

Continue to alternate rounds as B/Backward and F/Foward to keep your seam balanced throughout the circle!

This method has the effect of also offsetting your increases a little, which will disrupt their slant and keep them from spiraling too!

If you’re working increases for every round, you can easily tell whether you are on a forward round or a backward round by where the increases are placed – if they are centered on the last round’s increase, you are working a Backward round. If they are placed just to the left or right of the previous round’s increase, you’re working a forward round.

I hope this little joining trick helps and inspires you – and if you have no idea what to use it on, fear not- I have a few patterns available that utilize the Switchback Join!

Tree of Life Mandala – available for FREE here

The Hedge Witch Hat also uses this join! FREE crochet pattern available here.


P.S – for more crochet joining trickery, check out my Chain and Stitch Join Tutorial!

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