If you crochet - or know someone who does - chances are good that you know someone who suffers or has suffered from this embarrassing condition. It might even be you. While many sufferers seek help and are eventually able to overcome it, some hide their malady and others disguise it so well that they do not even recognize the problem themselves. Do you limit your crocheting to top-down hats, balls, amigurumi, or other pieces worked out from a small center point because long starting chains 'just don't look right?' If so, you may be suffering from moderate to severe tightchainitis. Don't lose hope, though - read on to see how you, too, can overcome this debilitating disorder.
What is it?
Tightchainitis is a condition that causes a crocheter to chain too tightly. It is primarily found among new crafters, but may be experienced by those with decades of practice. Symptoms may include puckering, pulling, wrinkling, and ruffling of crochet - finished or in progress - on or around a section including a long chain. While tightchainitis is most often associated with the 'starting chain' (the long series of chain stitches used to begin a piece), there is risk of an occurrence any time more than one or two chain stitches appear within a pattern. To see if you suffer from tightchainitis, take a recent piece of your work (something without increases, like a square, works well) and examine it. If the edge where you began is perceptibly smaller than the edge where you finished, you probably have tightchainitis.
What can I do about it?
There are several paths to take on the road to recovery from tightchainitis. Try them, and see which one works best for you! The first method is also the simplest, and the one which usually yields the fastest results. All you have to do is replace your hook with a hook of the next size up (in severe cases, two hook sizes larger is recommended) while working the starting chain. Then, when you are ready to work into the chain, go back to the smaller hook. This method does not change your crocheting, simply artificially enlarging the chain stitches in relation to the rest of your work. However, after working this way for a while, you may be ready for the next approach: loosen up!
Mastery of this approach can lead to a lifetime free of tightchainitis. When making your chains, just loosen up. This can be extremely difficult for longtime sufferers of tightchainitis - they may feel that anything looser than the chains they have been making looks too loose - sloppy, gappy, and untidy. This is a distorted perception, however, and one which must be overcome to achieve smooth, beautifully integrated work. Using a larger hook for chains may allow crocheters experiencing tightchainitis to gradually get accustomed to a looser chain, something necessary for those who cling to their too-tight chains due to a misplaced sense of 'neatness.' Big chains are beautiful! Once you learn to make loose chains neatly, you will see how much smoother and more attractive your work is for it and wonder why you haven't been doing it this way all along.
For those who cannot seem to break the habit of painfully tight chains on their own, please - seek the help of a friend. A good crocheting-buddy will make a few nice loose chains for you to work from, and help you try to relax your stitches. You don't have to fight this problem alone.
How can I tell if I am at risk?
Unfortunately, tightchainitis can strike nearly anyone, at nearly any time. Constant attention is key to preventing outbreaks of the condition, or - once recovered - relapses. Avoid making your starting chain when stressed. Try to watch how tightly you pull the yarn. Be sure to regularly check your work for signs of overly-tight chain stitches. Always remember: RELAX.
No one should have to see their crocheting pulled and distorted by a too-tight chain. If you suffer from tightchainitis, please know that you don't have to suffer any longer. Now is the time to loosen those stitches, and free yourself from the strangling hold of those chains! Loosen up your stitches and be free!