After being a knitter for most of my adult life, I’d always wanted to know the secrets of crochet. Crochet had always confused me – surely to create a fabric out of yarn, one stitch on a hook would be insufficient? After much deliberation, I decided to give it a whirl and pretty much taught myself using the internet. Now I’m well and truly hooked (pun completely intended).
My other half has become a crochet widow. But at least he has plenty of scarves and hats for the winter months.
Everyone I know will probably be getting some woolly creation for their next birthday/Christmas/whatever… they’ll get bored of it soon. Long before me probably.
As with any new hobby though there are a few tips and tricks that might help to smooth the path to becoming a happy hooker. It’s easy once you know how, but there are definitely some tricks to making that know-how come to you faster.
Get to grips with the terminology
Basically crochet is a series of stitches that increase in height. The actual stitches themselves are very easy to do. The thing to master is the difference between terms for those stitches that we use in the UK and the rest of the world. Once you get to grips with which terminology you’re using, you’ll be able to make up any pattern that takes your fancy. In the UK the smallest stitch we use is the slip stitch. This one basically doesn’t add any height to your work, so you can use it to travel from one place to another without changing the look of your fabric. This one is easy to remember because in US/rest of world terminology this is also called a slip stitch. This is how it’s done.
The next tallest stitch is called the Double Crochet in UK terminology, and single crochet in US terminology. If you think of crochet stitches in terms of steps up, this stitch creates one step up. This is how it’s done.
Next tallest is called the Half Treble Crochet stitch here in the UK, or the Half Double in the US. This makes a stitch about one and a half stitches tall. This is one of my favourite stitches to do, as I love the texture and look of the fabric it creates. Here’s the technique.
The next tallest is called the Treble Crochet here in the UK, but the Double Crochet stitch in the US. This adds about three steps up to your work. Here is how it’s done.
There are taller stitches in crochet, but these are three most commonly used – once you get the hang of them stepping up to higher and higher stitches a relatively easy matter of wrapping yarn around the hook more and more times before creating your stitch.
After a while keeping count of stitches becomes second nature, but at first you might struggle with making rows of work the same width. The best way to get to grips with this is working up swatches of a count of say 20-30 stitches, and working a few rows making sure you keep the same stitch count on each row. Make them out of cotton yarn and you can use the swatches as dishcloths or facecloths afterwards so you’ve got something to show for it too.
Try different hooks
When you get started in crochet you’re more than likely to pick up some cheap plastic or metal basic hooks as they are really easy to get hold of, and very cheap. If you do end up getting hooked on crochet though, these hooks might start to feel a bit unsatisfying to use. This all comes down to the way you grip the hook and how fast you crochet. Everyone develops a grip on a hook that feels natural to them, and the faster you crochet the more friction between your skin and the handle of the hook, so this can mean you can only crochet for a certain amount of time before your hands start to hurt. The solution is to try hooks with different shaped handles and made of different materials. For example, if sweaty hands are an issue, you might prefer a wooden hook. Alternatively there are hooks with chunkier, softer feeling handles, or different shaped handles. My hook of choice has a flat handle, because I tend to hold my hook like a knife at the dinner table. While basic crochet hooks are easily available at places like Hobbycraft and most department store haberdasheries, fancier hooks are available at online stores such as Deramores, and even Amazon. You can also pick up hooks with bespoke handles on Etsy.
Hats the way I like it
So you’ve got your hook, your yarn and you have mastered the art of the stitch swatch. Now your fingers are itching to get making something cool? My tip is to start with hats. Hats are a great way to learn new techniques such as increasing stitches, changing colour, creating different textures, and at the end of it you actually get something you can use. They work up quickly, and don’t take too much yarn to make. They are also a useful and tangible way to see how much you are improving as you finish each one, so they boost your confidence and make you want to make more things. Other great starter projects are granny squares – make a lot and stitch them together to make a blanket. Socks and blankets are also a good way to get hooked.
Once you get started on crochet, prevent yourself from getting bored of doing the same stitches and patterns over and over again by trying new things. The best sources of inspiration for me are YouTube, blogs and crochet magazines.
You Tube is always good to refresh your techniques such as increasing or decreasing stitches, which stitch is which, and loads of great tutorials. Some of my favourite channels include Simply Hooked Crochet, The Crochet Crowd and Crochet Geek.
Great blogs include All About Ami, and if you like the idea of making quick and very cute things such as crochet cupcakes, you can’t go wrong with Twinkiechan or Moogly Blog. Attic24 is also well worth a look for something a bit more grown up.
There are also any number of books and magazines available about crochet. I personally like magazines as each moth brings you a crop a fresh ideas and projects to try, which are usually pretty modern and suit a range of skill levels. They also contain loads of information about online shops for yarn, lovely hooks and other lovely crochet things. My two favourite crochet magazines are Simply Crochet, which is great for learning techniques and has more projects for beginners, and Inside Crochet, which tends to have more advanced and grown up but still very do-able designs. Both are available in digital form as well if that’s more your vibe.
There’s definitely something to be said for more simple designs though. Since learning to crochet I’ve made scarves, hats, lacy shawls and blankets amongst other things. At the moment though, I’m completely hooked on making socks that look like little cats.
What will you make for your first project?
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