You might have noticed that crochet has made a definite comeback and that is most likely because interest in handmade items has picked up again.
Crochet is highly versatile and can be used for so many things. It is beautiful, delicate yet hardwearing; it cannot be produced by machine so everything you make will always be handmade.
It is a fantastic way to introduce a bit of the bohemian into your life, a bit of modern vintage so, if you’ve been eyeing up crochet times more and more, it’s time to take matters into your own hands and learn how to make your own.
Crochet is easy because you don’t need much to get started, just one single hook and one active loop of yarn at any one time.
Crochet is far more forgiving than knitting; it is easier to put own an pick up without losing your place, you don’t need to worry about stitches that fall off the hook and you can easily make adjustments to fix mistakes without the need to unravel all your hard work.
Also, it is much quicker to crochet a scarf or a hat than it is to knit one.
So, if you are ready, let’s learn crochet!
Start at the Very Beginning
The beginning is learning about the equipment that you need to start your new crochet hobby. In all fairness, for beginners, there is little that you need but I will talk in more detail about each item – just to make sure you do not get overwhelmed when you go to your nearest store to pick everything up.
When you first walk in to the store, you will be confronted with shelf after shelf, aisle after aisle of crochet gear – hooks, yarns, needles, patterns, you name it, and it’ll be there.
To make life easier for you, all you need to do when you go to the store, is take this list with you:
Essential Tools for Crochet
These tools really are just for beginners; as you cruise through these lessons and find that you want to move on to more complex patterns, you might need more equipment.
Stick to buying an aluminum hook to start with, rather than plastic or wooden. The yarn will slide easier on an aluminum hook, making it easier for you to handle and not get caught up.
The best size to start off with is an I-9 or an H-8; your store will carry both of these.
The reason for starting with these is that they are comfortable to use and the stitches are bigger, helping you to see what you are doing and more importantly, where you go wrong.
Having the right yarn is an absolute must for a beginner and, again, you will be overwhelmed with the choices available to you.
Choose a yarn that is a solid color, a light or bright one. Stay away from dark yarns and multicolored yarns because you will not be able to see your stitches very well.
Definitely steer clear of any of the fancy metallic yarns for now! Choose a yarn that is a worsted weight (there should be a number 4 on the label) and make sure it is made of wool or acrylic fibers.
It doesn’t matter which brand of wool or yarn you buy at this stage but do NOT go for bargain yarns. They are not made properly and are not even – you are likely to find it fraying or it will be thinner in some places than others.
Needle and Scissors
You will need a small pair of scissors that have a sharp point – you can get them from a craft store. You will also need a yarn needle or an embroidery needle for finishing off.
Again, you can get these from any craft store and it doesn’t matter which you purchase.
How to Hold a Crochet Hook
There are many different sizes of crochet hook, from fine and delicate steel ones that are used in lace work and intricate pieces, to the larger aluminum, wood and plastic hooks that are used to make household items, clothing and Afghans.
Most of the time, you will use a hook that is around 6 inches long and sized from B to Q, with B being the smallest and Q the largest.
The crochet hook is the most important piece of equipment you will need when you are learning how to crochet and it must be right; you must also understand each different part of the hook.
When you look at it, it will look just like a straight piece that has a hook on the end but look a little closer and you will see that there are actually 5 parts to the hook. You need to know which each part is used for when you are crocheting.
The hook itself is used to hook up the yarn and draw it through the loops. The throat is the next section down and is a shaped part that helps you to slide the stitched onto the next part, which is called the working area.
The flattened part is the thumb rest, to help you to grip the hook comfortably and the last part is the handle, which should rest beneath your fourth and fifth fingers as an aid to balance.
Every stitch you make must be made on the working area – if you make them on the stitch, they will be too tight and if you make the on the finger hold the stitches will stretch.
Now let’s look at the ways in which you can hold the crochet hook. There are a few ways and you will need to experiment a little to find the best way for you.
If you do not hold the hook comfortably, your hand is likely to cramp up and you will find that your stitches do not run evenly. I am going to tell you the two most common ways to learn how to hold a crochet hook:
The Knife Grip
This is similar to the way you would hold a knife when you are eating, with your hand gripped over the hook.
Put your hand over the hook and make sure the handle is resting against your palm.
You should be gripping the thumb rest between your third finger and your thumb.
The Pencil Grip
This one is similar to the way you would hold a pencil so pick up the hook with your thumb and forefinger holding the thumb rest, just as you would hold a pencil. Your middle finger should be near to the tip of the hook.
Practice until you find a position that you are comfortable with.
The crochet hook should be facing slightly towards you, and should not be facing up or down.
Hold the hook firmly but not too tight – when you first start you will have a tendency to grip the hook hard but, as time goes by and you gain confidence, you will relax a little and your grip will loosen off.
Basic Crochet Stitches
We will look at patterns later on but first I want you to learn the basic stitches. You will be making a number of different swatches here so have plenty of yarn to hand!
To start with, we need to look at making a foundation chain, as this is the most important part of any crochet piece. If the foundation is wrong, the rest of the piece will be wrong.
The two parts that make up the foundation chain are the slipknot and the chain.
Making a Slip Knot
Holding the crochet hook comfortably, we are ready to start and the very first thing you have to do is make a slip knot:
- Pick up the yarn end and loop it around your index finger – always use your non-dominant hand for this.
- Now slip the yarn off your finger and hold on to the loop with your thumb and forefinger.
- Holding the crochet hook in your dominant hand, draw the loop up so it goes around the hook.
That is all there is to a slipknot.
Feeding the Yarn
Now you have your slipknot and the yarn is secured to the hook so now is a good time to have a little practice at holding the yarn. You must have control over how the yarn is fed so that your work retains an even tension throughout.
It is down to you how you hold the yarn but you must be comfortable and you must have control over it. The yarn should be held taut so the hook on the crochet hook catches it but not so taut that the hook won’t go through your stitches. As you practice, you will get a feel for how the tension should be.
So, to have a practice at this, choose a yarn that will crochet either 4 or 4 ½ stitches per inch (worsted weight) and use a size I-9 hook, which is 5 mm. The reason for using this yarn is that wool is very elastic and is more forgiving than many other yarns; you will find it easy to work with compared with cotton or other materials.
Go for a smooth yarn, not one of these novelty ones. Although they look very pretty and you will be able to use them soon, its best to start with plain smooth yarn.
- Hold the yarn in your non-dominant hand.
- Keep your palm facing upwards and thread the yarn through your fingers, allowing it to flow.
- Move your index finger up and down to increase or decrease the tension.
- As you work, you will find a natural rhythm and will know exactly how to hold the yarn to control it.
- Take the yarn between your little finger and your ring finger, about 4 inches from the hook.
- Draw it in towards you, taking it from the ring ad little fingers, over your middle finger and then under your index finger.
- Adjust it so is firm but not tight around your fingers.
- The yarn is now attached to your hook and you are holding it to control the tension.
When you are comfortable with this, it is time to start crocheting.
The Foundation Chain
Think of this as something like a building site – if you were putting up a house, you would need a good foundation for it to go on and crochet really isn’t any different.
You begin every piece of crochet, no matter how small or large, with a foundation chain. This is a simple row of chain stitches that serves as the base for the rest of the crochet. If this bit is done right, the rest will go right.
- Hold the hook in your dominant hand and the yarn in your other hand.
- To begin, take the yarn over the hook and then pull it through the slip loop that is on the hook.
- When you catch the yarn with the hook, this is called a yarn over. It might feel a little awkward to start with but it will begin to feel natural after a while.
- Catch hold of the short end of the yarn just underneath the slip knot you made.
- Take the hook under the yarn and then back over, from the back to the front – this is a yarn over.
- Catch the yarn with your hook and then pull both the hook and the yarn through the loop on the hook – that is your very first chain stitch.
- Continue making more chain stitches and, as you work, move your thumb up and hold onto the yarn just below the hook – this is something else that will become natural to you as you learn.
Try to keep each chain stitch the same size. If they are too tight, you won’t be able to get the hook into the chain when you want to make stitches later on.
You can always begin with a larger hook to do the foundation with, until you are happy that you can do this bit right.
Every crochet pattern will tell you how many chains to put in your foundation so it is important that you learn how to count the chains.
Let’s assume that your pattern says to make 20 chains. Start with your slip knot and then you need to yarn over and pull the yarn through the loop 20 more times, leaving you with one loop on your hook.
The slipknot is not counted as a chain and neither is the last loop on the hook, as this will be used to make the next stitch with.