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The Shell Stitch is one of my favorite stitches. It is simple to learn and very repeatable. However, for such a simple stitch consisting only of single and double crochet stitches, it gives an interesting, wavy texture full of colors.

You can use the shell stitch in plenty of projects. The most popular ones include baby blankets and all baby garments that you can imagine: hats, cardigans, dresses, etc. You don’t have to limit yourself to baby stuff though. You can use it to make an adult hat, scarf, women’s top or bag.

Crochet Shell Stitch in white peach and pink

The shell stitch is very easy! So, it’s an excellent stitch for beginners wanting to develop their skills.

The shell stitch is very repeatable: the pattern repeats every 2 rows. It is based on simple stitches itself. All you need is basic knowledge – how to make a chain, as well as a single and double crochet and you are good to go.

What is a Shell Stitch in Crochet?

A shell stitch is a popular crochet motif created by working a few stitches in the same place. Each shell is made into a single crochet between the shells of the previous row. The basic crochet shell stitch has 5 double crochets worked into the same chain followed by a single crochet.

On crochet diagrams, you will recognize a shell by this symbol:

Crochet Shell Stitch Chart Diagram Symbol
A symbol of the shell stitch used in crochet charts or diagrams

The shell can be created from more stitches than 5, but there have to be tall stitches to give its characteristic shape. So you would need double crochets, treble crochets, or even taller stitches.

The shape visually resembles a traditional shell, so that’s where the name came from.

The Shell Stitch Crochet Diagram

The Shell Stitch is a lovely and repeatable stitch. When you know it, your hands can work your stitches subconsciously while you are watching your favorite TV series or movie.

Below, is a diagram showing the sequence of simple stitches that make up the shell stitch pattern. This simple and easy to read shell stitch chart is all the information you need to lay out your shell stitch project.

Crochet Shell Stitch Diagram
Diagram – Crochet Shell Stitch Pattern

Tips to help you to read crochet diagrams

If you never read a crochet stitch diagram before, don’t be discouraged. It’s simpler than you think.

A crochet diagram consist of symbols. To crochet a shell stitch, you are using only 3 diffrent stitches – chain, single crochet and double crochet. Each of these stitches has a corresponding symbol underlined in yellow on the diagram above.

To follow the diagram, you always start from the bottom left. Start by making a row of chains (19 on the crochet shell stitch chart above). You are moving from the left to the right side of the chart.

A turning chain will take you to the next row of stitches. Now, follow the diagram from right to left.

Shell Stitch Crochet Pattern and  Tutorial

Handcraft enthusiasts are no strangers to the popular crochet shell stitch pattern. This beautiful stitch is often used in various crochet projects, and it is easy to see why. With its pretty and delicate look, it has become one of the most beloved and popular stitch patterns among crocheters.

I hope I convinced you to learn how to do the shell stitch with me! It will take less than 15 minutes of your time to learn and turn you into a shell stitch pro.

This stitch yields a solid texture with a unique design. It is no surprise that the crochet shell stitch is so popular for a baby blanket or tops. Shell stitch projects are also easy to personalize by introducing your favorite colors in various combinations.

 First, gather all the materials needed to learn this pattern.

Materials you will need:

some yarn

To crochet the shell stitch can use any yarn you already have.

For beginners, usually worsted-weight yarn is recommended as the most universal yarn. It is a medium weight yarn (marked as size 4 on a yarn label). It will be ideal for many items, including bags, cardigans or blankets.

However the final choice of yarn will depend mostly on your project’s intended use. Lighter yarns, such as DK or sport, will be better for summer wearable items like tops or dresses.

a crochet hook

Crochet hooks come in different sizes and are essential in making shell stitch patterns. A typical crochet hook size for making baby blankets is H-8 (5mm) or I-9 (5.5mm) to produce an ideal tension for the yarn used. Moreover, baby blankets can be made using various types of yarn, ranging from acrylic, cotton, or wool. One can choose to use a specific type of yarn depending on the preferred texture, color, and durability.

Use a crochet hook corresponding with your yarn. You will find a recommended hook sizes on a yarn label.

scissors to cut yarn tails.

a yarn or tapestry needle (for weaving in ends)

Abbreviations Used in This Pattern

The standard crochet abbreviations I used in this tutorial are:

  • ch = chain stitch
  • dc = double crochet stitch
  • sc = single crochet stitch
  • st/sts = stitch/es

eg. work 5 dc means work five double crochets

And that’s all! Amazing, isn’t it?

Pattern Notes

This shell stitch pattern is written in US terms

How to Crochet a Shell Stitch Step-By-Step

Below, you will find a step-by-step guide on how to make an easy shell stitch. For those who are more visual learners, I also made a photo tutorial to explain how to crochet a following steps of a shell stitch.

Foundation:

 

The multiple for a shell stitch is 6 plus 1 plus a turning chain (i.e. 12,18,24,30,36,48,56,60, plus 2 (1 chain and a turning chain). For example, to make 3 shells in a row, you need a starting chain of 20. (Multiply the number of shells by 6 and add 2, here 3×6+2=20).

If you want to increase the number of shells in a row, simply add 6 chains for each additional shell you planning to make.

When we do the math, we start to crochet the calculated number of chains.

I made 3 shells per row in my example. To follow along with my swatch, start with chain 19. Next, make 1 chain more (a turning chain), and single crochets in each chain, 19 single crochets in total.

In many sources, you can find that the multiple of the chain for the shell stitch is 6 plus 2. It such cases, a turning chain is counted as an additional chain.

But what if you are incorporating the shell stitch into an existing project? Your shells would ‘occupy’ 6 stitches of the previous row per shell plus 1. That’s why here we will start with a row of single crochets. It’s easier for a beginner to understand and count stitches correctly.

Step 1: Start the row with ch 1 (a turning chain). Sc into the second chain for the hook.

How to crochet a shell stitch step 1

Row 1:

Step 1: Start the row with ch 1 (a turning chain). Sc into the second chain for the hook.

Step 2: Skip the next 2 stitches, and then make 5 dc into the next chain. Skip the next 2 stitches, and make sc into the next stitch. It’s your first shell.

How to crochet a shell stitch row 1 - a crochet shell

Step 3: Repeat step 2 until you reach the end of the row.

If you like diagrams, here is how it looks schematically:

A schematic of a crochet shell

The last stitch should be a sc into the last sc from the previous row. Turn.

How to crochet a shell stitch - finished first row with 3 shells

Row 2:

Step 1: Now we will form a half-shell to maintain a swatch. To do that, chain 3 and 2 dc into the first stitch. (Chain 3 counts as dc, so 3 dc here formulate a half of a shell).

Step 2: Next, skip 2 sts and work sc in the next st. (You should be working the sc in the center dc of the shell from the previous row).

How to crochet a shell stitch - a beginning of row 2 - how to make a half-shell
  1. Skip 2 sts and 5 dc into the next sc. (You should be working the 5 dc into the sc in the row below).
  2. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to the end of the row. Finish the row with a half-shell by working 3 dc in the last sc from the previous row.
How to crochet a shell stitch - the second row of shelves

For the next rows, repeat rows 1 and 2 until you reach the desired length of your project.

How to crochet a shell stitch - the third row of shelves

Pin this pattern for later:

How to crochet a shell stitch free crochet pattern and crochet diagram

Troubleshooting Common Mistakes to Avoid

A shell stitch is very easy and there aren’t many traps along the way. Here are the most common mistakes and problems:

How do I change colors in a shell stitch project?

 The shells look even more spectacular when each row is made in a different color. Use 2 or more different yarn hues to get stripes.

To change color, simply pull through a new color when making the last step of the last stitch in a row. Work the last single crochet stitch with current color without completing the last step of the stitch. Instead of pulling through the current color, grab a loop of a new color and pull it through 2 loops on the hook. Contunue pattern with a new color of yarn.

How do I change colors in a shell stitch project?

There is also a second method. You can secure the just introduced yarn with a knot and then continue with the pattern. See my short video tutorial on Pinterest explaining these two methods of adding a new yarn color at the beginning of a row: 

Shell Stitch How to Change Colors in a Row

How do I change colors in the middle of a shell stitch project?

When making a shell stitch, you usually add a new colour at the beginning of the row. But you don’t have to wait till the end of the row. You can introduce a new color at any point of your shell stitch project. 

The best spot for the color change in the middle of a row is a single crochet stitch in between 2 shells. 

To change the color, finish the current shell with the color you are already working with. Then, insert the hook and yarn over to make a single crochet. You now have 2 loops on the crochet hook. To finish the single crochet, skip the current yarn, and pull over the new one.

Continue with the new colour to make the next shell. 

If you want to change the color back or again, introduce the new yarn just before the finishing the 5th double crochet stitch of a shell. Watch a video tutorial below to see how to add a new yarn color in the middle of a shell stitch: 

Video tutorial how to change color in the middle of the shell stitch

What to do with the yarn tails

The downside of stripes is a lot of yarn tails to weave in. You have to weave in the ends before cutting off the yarn ends. To do this, pick the off side of your work. A shell stitch is double-sided and there is no good or off side, so you have to decide which side will be the front.

Using a tapestry needle, weave in the ends following through the stitches of the same color. To do that, run the end under several stitches, then reverse the direction. Changing the directions keeps the end more secure. Weave it back under several more stitches.

Finish on the ‘wrong’ side of the project and trim the yarn close to the work.

Trim far from the edge

Avoid trimming on the side, as any run-free ends are more visible at the edges. Unless you are planning to add a border to your project, finish weaving in the yarn an inch or more far from the edge.

Tips for beginners

Foundation chain

As I mentioned before, you can start the first row with shells directly on a foundation chain and many patterns show exactly that method. However, if you are a beginner adding a row of single crochets will help you to count the stitches correctly.

Miscounted Stitches

you have to double-check whether you follow the pattern correctly. Any mistakenly skipped stitch moves the next shell and there will be not enough room to finish the last shell. Additionally, it will distort the symmetry of the next rows and the whole project. Thankfully, after row 1, it’s harder to make a mistake, as already existing shells will help you to get through the next rows.

Crochet Shell Stitch Variations

The crochet shell stitch has many variations. It is like a popular dish, everyone has their own favourite :).

The most ‘true’ one is the one I describe above. It’s a shell stitch that consists of five double crochet stitches. The variation in the shell stitch can be based on:

  • Different stitch – instead of double crochets, you can use treble crochets, half double crochets, single crochet or a mix to form the shell
  • Different heights – a shell is made of a variation of stitches of different hight (smaller stitches are outside and taller stitches are placed in the center e.g. 1 sc, 1 hdc, 1 dc, 1 hdc, 1 sc)
  • Different numbers of stitches to make a shell – e.g instead of 5 dc, you have shell of 7 or 3 stitches
  • Chain spaces added in between the shell’s stitches and creating a fan stitch structure. Often, fan stitches are called a shell stitch as well. In the FAQ below, you can see the difference between the shell stitch and a fan stitch. 
  • Shell stitches are worked into different stitches and not into the same stitch. To create a shell stitch border, you will repeatedly work the sequence 1 sc, 1 dc, 1 tr, 1 dc, 1 sc into the five following stitches
  • Plain.  Shells are worked with a different symmetry: instead of making rows, shells are structured in vertical or diagonal rows
  • Open shell stitch variation – replacing the single crochet in between the stitches with higher stitches will create a more open, airy pattern. A popular way to make this shell stitch is to implement the V shape by inserting 1dc, ch1, 1dc in between the shells.

For a more intricate shell stitch variation, see the examples below. 

The Truly Shell Stitch Free Crochet Pattern

The Truly Shell Stitch Free Crochet Pattern and Tutorial

Here is an exceptional shell stitch pattern and tutorial. I called it The Truly (Realistic) Shell Stitch because it looks like real shells, as no other project does. You can use this pattern in almost in every project.

Try it in baby dresses, jackets, blankets, and hats.

Designer :  My Picot

The Truly Shell Stitch Free Crochet Pattern and Tutorial

The Truly Shell Stitch  –  visit the free pattern site

Puff Shell Stitch 

Finally, why not to give some puff to shell stitch? This is a fun and cute shell stitch variation that you will enjoy making. Prepare yourself to have some fun crocheting!

Puff Shell Stitch Free Crochet Pattern

Go to the pattern:  Puff Shell Stitch

Puff Shell Star Stitch

To make this mesmerizing looking stitch, all you need is a single or treble crochets and a nice ombre yarn. A great pattern for a soft, warm baby blanket.

Follow the tutorial for this pattern on the Hooked by Robin:

Puff Shell Star Stitch

Easy Shell Stitch Free Crochet Pattern 

For those new to the shell stitch who want to start with a basic chain stitch  here is a tutorial how to do it.

To begin, start with a foundation chain that is divisible by six, then add an additional two chains to the end to create the turning chains. Afterward, make a double crochet stitch (dc) in the fourth chain from the hook, followed by two double crochet stitches in the same chain stitch.

Skip two chain stitches, then make a single crochet stitch (sc) in the next chain stitch, then skip two chain stitches again. After this, make five double crochet stitches (5dc) in the next chain stitch. Repeat the pattern until the end of the row, making sure to end the row with two double crochet stitches.

Turn your work and start the next row by making three turning chains, then make two double crochet stitches in the first stitch of the previous row.  In the third double crochet of the shell, make a single crochet. In the single crochet from pervious row make five double crochets (5dc) again.  Continue making 5dc and sc to the end of the row.Repeat row 1 and row 2 till you get a desired length.

Open Shell Stitch Pattern

This process will create an open shell pattern, which is the basic shell stitch pattern.

For a more intricate shell stitch pattern, one can use the double crochet shell (dc shell) stitch pattern. Start with a foundation chain that is divisible by six plus five additional chains. Then, begin by making three turning chains, followed by a double crochet stitch in the fifth chain from the hook. Skip two chain stitches, then make five double crochet stitches in the next chain stitch. Skip two chain stitches again, then make a double crochet stitch in the next chain stitch.

Repeat the pattern until the end of the row, ending it with a double crochet stitch in the last chain stitch. Turn your work and begin the next row with three turning chains, then make two double crochet stitches in the first stitch of the previous row. The dc shell pattern is created by working three double crochet stitches in the middle double crochet stitch of the previous row’s shell.

To do this, skip the first and last double crochet stitches, then work three double crochet stitches in the middle double crochet stitch of the previous row’s shell. Repeat the pattern until the end of the row, ending it with a double crochet stitch in the last stitch. Continue the pattern by alternating between rows of the basic shell stitch and the dc shell stitch.

FAQ:

Is a shell stitch the same as a fan stitch? 

The fan stitch is closely related to the shell stitch. It also consists of shells but has chain stitches added in between the shells. The most characteristic feature of the fan stitch is that the fans from different rows are stacked on top of each other, whereas shell rows blend with the bottom base of the next row in between shells from the previous row.

Here is a graphic comparison of how both stitches look like:

Shell Stitch vs Fan Stitch visual explanation

Can I use different types of yarn for the shell stitch?

You can make a shell stitch with any type of yarn you want. The most universal yarn is a medium weight yarn and it is perfect for medium thick items like blankets, cardigans or a bags. For summer wearable items like a cardigan, top or dress you should preferably go for a lighter yarn like sport or DK. You can also mix diferent yarns to make a shell stitch. I used 2 different kind of yarn of similar thickness in my example. However, if you are using significantly different weight yarns, it’s good to make a small sample first to see how the final result will looks like.

Conclusion

The shell stitch is an eye-pleasing and easy to learn stitch that has great versatility and decorative potential. While it often comprises the whole crocheted article, it’s often a fun accent to draw attention to some of the rows.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I tried to collect all the important details how to crochet a shell stitch in one place to give you a complete source to came back to when you need it. Also, if need any help, please join our kind and welcoming Facebook group community.