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How to Crochet Shell Stitch (Step-by-Step Tutorial)

Do you want to learn how to crochet shell stitch? It’s a beautiful, easy crochet stitch that you can use for a variety of projects. In this beginner’s guide, we will show you how to crochet shell stitch with step-by-step instructions and photos. After reading, you’ll be able to make amazing shell stitch projects in no time!

a swatch of crochet shell stitch in gold yarn on a gray background

If you’re looking for a beautiful and versatile crochet stitch, look no further than the shell stitch! You can use this beginner-friendly stitch to create everything from shell stitch baby blankets to scarves and sweaters. This guide will teach you how to crochet the shell stitch with plenty of step-by-step photos and detailed instructions. Let’s get started! (New to crochet? Read our “How to Crochet” beginner’s guide first.)

What is the Shell Stitch?

The shell stitch is a crochet stitch pattern that creates a beautifully textured, scalloped design. You can work the shell stitch in rows, in rounds, or as a border around a larger project.

The shell stitch is made by working a group of 3 to 7 stitches into a single stitch (or space). The tops of these grouped stitches flair out, creating the look of a fan or a shell.

The shells are usually anchored on each side by a shorter stitch, usually a single crochet stitch. Repeating this pattern creates a row of “shells” that are separated by small gaps.

Types of Shell Stitches

There are many types of shell stitch, which vary according to the type of stitches, and the number of stitches in each shell grouping. The most common shell stitch is made with double crochet stitches, but alternative shell stitch patterns use half double crochet or treble crochet stitches.

In this tutorial, I’ll teach you the basic 5 double crochet shell stitch. The basic repeat looks like this:

  • Work five double crochet stitches into the next stitch.
  • Skip two stitches.
  • Single crochet in the next stitch.
  • Skip two stitches.
a swatch of crochet shell stitch in gold yarn on a white background

How to Crochet Shell Stitch

Now that you know the basics of the shell stitch, let’s learn how to crochet it! Follow along with our step-by-step instructions and photos below.

Supplies You’ll Need

You don’t need anything fancy to crochet the shell stitch, just your regular crochet supplies.

  • Yarn. Any yarn will work for this tutorial, but I recommend beginners start out with a smooth, light-colored, worsted-weight yarn.
  • Crochet hook. Choose the right size crochet hook for the yarn you’ve chosen. If you’re using a worsted weight yarn, try a US Size H 8 (5.0 mm) hook.
  • Scissors
  • Stitch Markers. These may come in handy to help you keep track of your stitches and turning chains.

Abbreviations Used in This Pattern

Here are the standard crochet abbreviations you’ll see in this tutorial.

If you’re following a crochet pattern that uses shell stitch, it’s important to read through the “Notes” and “Abbreviations” sections of the pattern to see which type of shell stitch the designer wants you to crochet.

The pattern might give an abbreviation for shell stitch that looks like this, “5-dc shell.” Or, the pattern might spell out the stitches step-by-step, as I’ve done in the free pattern below.

Pattern Notes

  • This stitch pattern is written in US terms
  • Turning ch-1 does not count as a stitch.
  • Turning ch-3 does count as a stitch.

Crochet Shell Stitch Chart

Here is a crochet chart of the 5-dc shell stitch that we’ll be learning in this tutorial.

Shell Stitch Instructions

Starting Chain: Chain a multiple of six stitches plus two. To follow along with my swatch, use a starting chain of 26. (Here’s the math: 4 x 6 + 2, which will give us a swatch that’s four shells wide .)

gold yarn on a gray and pink crochet hook

Row 1: Sc into the 2nd chain from the hook. *Skip the next two chains, then work 5 dc into the next chain. Skip the next 2 chains, then sc into the next chain. Repeat from * across the row. The last stitch should be a sc into the last ch. Turn.

Row 2 is very similar to Row 1, except it starts with a half shell instead of a full shell. This way, you’ll still have straight edges to your swatch.)

Row 2: Ch 3 (counts as a dc here and throughout.) 2 dc into the first st. (The turning chain plus the 2 dc form a half shell.) *Skip 2 sts, and sc into the next dc. (If everything is lined up correctly, you should be working the sc into the center dc from the group of shell stitches in the previous row.) Skip 2 sts, and 5 dc into the next sc. (You should be working the 5 dc into the sc in the row below.) Repeat from * across the row, until you get to the last 3 stitches. Skip 2 sts, and work 3 dc into the last sc (This forms another half shell.) Turn.

Row 3 is very similar to Row 1. One thing to watch out for, here: the last sc will be made into the top of the turning chain from the previous row.

Row 3: Ch 1 (does not count as a stitch here nor throughout). Sc into the first stitch. *Skip the next two stitches, work 5 dc into the next sc. Skip the next two stitches, sc into the next dc (the middle of the shell from the previous row). Repeat from * across the row, ending with a sc into the top of the turning chain.

Repeat Row 2 and Row 3 until you reach the desired length for your crochet shell stitch swatch.

a closeup image of the texture of crochet shell stitch

Tips for Crocheting Shell Stitch

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your shell stitch projects:

Try different yarn weights and hook sizes to create different effects. Use a bulky yarn and a large hook to whip up a cozy scarf super quickly. Or, use a thinner yarn and a smaller hook for a soft, drapey baby blanket.

Experiment with texture. Don’t forget that you can use the shell stitch for other projects like hats, bags, and even home décor items like pillows and table runners.

Play with color! The shell stitch looks beautiful in a single color, but you can also try using multiple colors to create stripes or an ombré effect.

Add a shell stitch border to any blanket project for a polished finishing touch. Use a contrasting color to really make your border pop!

Shell Stitch Variations

Now that you know how to crochet the shell stitch, why not experiment with some of its many variations? Here are a few of our favorites.

Half-Shell Stitch

When working a shell stitch in rows, you’ll need to use half-shells to keep straight edges on your project.

As you saw in the pattern above, every other row of the shell stitch pattern starts and ends with a half-shell. In our case, you make a half-shell by crocheting 3 dc into the same stitch, rather than the usual 5 dc.

Shell Stitch Stripes

To create stripes with the shell stitch, change yarn colors after every row. You can alternate between two colors or use a rainbow of shades. To learn how to change colors in crochet, click to read our tutorial: How to Change Colors in Crochet (Rows and Rounds)

Shell Stitch Border

You can also use the shell stitch to create a beautiful border around a blanket. Start by crocheting a single crochet border around the entire blanket, with 3 sc in each corner to turn the corners. Then, crochet a round of shell stitch into the round of single crochets. Join the round with a slip stitch (sl st), and weave in the ends. (If your project’s stitch count isn’t a multiple of “six stitches plus two”, you can fix it by skipping more or fewer stitches in the last pattern repeat.

Open Shell or V-Stitch Shell Variation

If you replace the 5 dc shell with a (2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc), you’ll have the V-Stitch shell variation. In this variation, you’ll work the sc into the ch-spaces from the row below. The chain stitch in the center of the dc-group gives the pattern a more open appearance.

Shell Stitch FAQs

Here are some common questions about crocheting the shell stitch.

How do I change colors in shell stitch?

To change colors in shell stitch, work until the last stitch of the row in the old color. Work the last stitch in the older color, but stop before pulling through the last two loops on the crochet hook. Drop the old color of yarn.

Then, put the new yarn color on the hook, and use the new color to pull through the last two loops on the hook. After that, continue with the pattern as usual.

Can I crochet shell stitch in the round?

Yes, you can crochet shell stitch in the round! To work shell stitch in the round, you’ll chain multiple of 6 + 1. Join the chain to work in the round. Work the first round in the pattern described above – but instead of ending the round with a single crochet, you’ll end the round with a slip stitch to the first stitch of the round. Then, chain 3, and work 2 dc into the same stitch to start the next round. End the second round with 2 dc into the first stitch of the round, and slip stitch to the turning chain to finish the round.

How do I turn the corner on a shell stitch border?

If you are crocheting a shell stitch border around a rectangular item like a blanket, you’ll need to add extra stitches in each corner. I recommend starting with a single crochet border first, and adding 3 sc in each corner stitch. Then, you can work the shell stitch round. You might also want to make extra shell stitches in the corner. For example, you might make a 7-dc shell instead of a 5-dc shell to have enough width to turn the corner.

More Easy Crochet Stitches

We hope you enjoyed this beginner’s guide to crocheting shell stitch! With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to create beautiful projects using this versatile stitch.

If you enjoyed this free crochet stitch tutorial, you may be interested in these related articles:

What’s Next?

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a swatch of crochet shell stitch in gold yarn on a white background

Crochet Shell Stitch Tutorial

Yield: 1
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: 1

In this beginner’s guide, we will show you how to crochet shell stitch with step-by-step instructions and photos.

Materials

  • Yarn

Tools

  • Crochet hook
  • Scissors

Instructions

  1. Starting Chain: Chain a multiple of six stitches plus two. gold yarn on a gray and pink crochet hook
  2. Row 1: Sc into the 2nd chain from the hook. *Skip the next two chains, then work 5 dc into the next chain. Skip the next 2 chains, then sc into the next chain. Repeat from * across the row. The last stitch should be a sc into the last ch. Turn. gold yarn on a gray and pink crochet hook making shell stitches
  3. Row 2: Ch 3 (counts as a dc here and throughout.) 2 dc into the first st. *Skip 2 sts, and sc into the next dc. Skip 2 sts, and 5 dc into the next sc. Repeat from * across the row, until you get to the last 3 stitches. Skip 2 sts, and work 3 dc into the last sc. Turn. gold yarn on a gray and pink crochet hook at the end of a row of shell stitch
  4. Row 3: Ch 1 (does not count as a stitch here nor throughout). Sc into the first stitch. *Skip the next two stitches, work 5 dc into the next sc. Skip the next two stitches, sc into the next dc. Repeat from * across the row, ending with a sc into the top of the turning chain. a swatch of crochet shell stitch in gold yarn on a gray background
  5. Repeat Rows 2 and 3 until you reach the desired length. a swatch of crochet shell stitch in gold yarn on a white background

Notes

Pattern Notes

  • This stitch pattern is written in US terms
  • Turning ch-1 does not count as a stitch.
  • Turning ch-3 does count as a stitch.

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