Originally posted 2017-06-08 17:00:33.
Hello! I thought I’d start a “How to Crochet” series for anyone interested. Before we get into how to actually make stitches, there are some important things to discuss. Crocheting is a form of needlework or fiber art that uses various types of yarns and strings with hooks of different sizes to create a wide range of items. Crochet can be used to make almost anything. I’ve seen everything from washcloths, pot holders, and dish scrubbies to blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. You can even make clothing and accessories with crochet.
First, let’s discuss the various types of yarns or strings that can be used, and select a good one for a beginner. If you walk into any local craft store, you’ll see a wide variety of yarns, threads, and other materials that can be used for crocheting, as well as knitting and other fiber crafts. The most common yarns are made of acrylic or acrylic blends, wool, or cotton. Some fancy yarns are made with bamboo or silk fibers. Acrylic yarns are the most versatile, as they can generally be machine washed. Wool and cotton yarns are made with natural fibers. Most cotton yarns can be machine washed as well, but many wool yarns cannot. This is because wool is like hair. When you ruff it up, it sort of grabs on to the other fibers near it and compacts itself. This process is called felting, and is how wool felt is made. Some wool yarns are listed as superwash, which means they have been pre-washed so they can be machine washed after a project is completed without fear of felting. If you look at the wrapper around a yarn, you’ll see various laundry care symbols that denote this information. You want to make sure you choose a fiber that is appropriate for the project you’ll be making, keeping in mind what sort of care will be needed once it’s complete. For example, you would likely want to choose a yarn that is machine washable for anything made for a baby, as they’re pretty messy. This chart shows many of the options for care symbols:
Not only are there different care options, there are different yarn weights to consider. The numbers range from 0 being the thinnest (a crochet thread) to 7, a super bulky roving (think those blankets they make with their arms because the yarn is so big. The difference between the sizes is the ply, or number of threads twisted together. This chart is a great summery of the weights of yarns:
Yarn weight is important because you don’t want to try to make a pair of socks with a jumbo yarn, unless you want super thick socks. Conversely, if you try to make a blanket with a sport weight yarn, it’s going to take you an incredibly long time. The chart above shows approximately how many stitches you should get in four inches. This is called the gauge. It is important to check your gauge, especially when starting out, to make sure your finished piece will be the correct size. If your stitches are too loose, your finished product will be too big, with the opposite being true as well. This is one of those things were practice makes perfect. The more you crochet, the more you’ll find you won’t need to be checking your gauge all the time. I will discuss this further in future posts. Not only are there your standard yarns that are basically strings made of different types and numbers of fibers, but there are several very fancy yarns you can use to crochet with as well. There are eyelash yarns, fuzzy yarns, yarns of varying thicknesses, yarns that make ruffles, etc. I may discuss making a project with each, depending on interest.
Onward to hooks. Hooks are an essential part of crochet. They are what you use to make your stitches. It is important to understand the anatomy of the crochet hook, as it will help you when you are trying to learn stitches, etc. The handle is the part where the bulk of your hand rests. The thumb rest is … where your thumb goes! The shaft is where loops of stitches go, and the throat, groove, lip, and point are where the magic happens. I prefer hooks with straight groves and lips, but the blogger this photo is from prefers the opposite. She has a very in-depth discussion of hooks on her blog page, which can be found at the address below her image.
Knitting uses two needles simultaneously to produce the stitches needed for production of an item. Crocheting uses one hook, and a very different motion, to get a similar result. You can tell the difference between the two by comparing their stitches. I do not possess the level of skill required in knitting to even attempt to teach someone else how to do it. The two are vastly different. Here are some pictures for examples (the first picture is knitted):
Crochet hooks come in a wide variety of sizes, each used for a different size material. Steel hooks are very small and are used with crochet thread. Big plastic hooks are usually either denoted as P or Q and are used with very bulky yarns or multiple strands of a worsted weight yarn held together. This is my collection of hooks:
The steel hooks are on the far left, the “regular” hooks in the middle, and the big Q hook is on the right. I am missing a few sizes, which is sad because I thought I had them all. Crochet hooks come in a variety of materials and styles. They are usually plastic, aluminum, wood, or a combination of those. My hooks are aluminum, because that’s what I learned with. There are many companies that make hooks as well, some plain like mine, some have grippy handles of various shapes, and some with vary fancy wooden handles designed to be heirloom pieces. Hooks also have varying head styles. There are inline hooks (Susan Bates), non-inline hooks (Boye), and hooks that use a combination of features (Clover). I personally prefer to work with the Susan Bates hooks. I find that I prefer the look of the hooks, and the feel of how the yarn works up with them. Susan Bates hooks have flat lips and grooves and more pointy heads. Boye hooks have more rounded lips, groves, and heads. Here is a picture of the hook heads of a Susan Bates and a Boye for comparison:
The Susan Bates hook is on the left, the Boye hook on the right.
The main difference is that Susan Bates hooks are inline and Boye hooks are tapered. What that means is that the Bates hooks are basically a perfect cylinder with the notch cut out, and Boye hooks have the tip of the head offset from the shaft a bit. I am using Susan Bates and Boye hooks as examples because that is what I have on hand, and what I am most familiar with. There are a plethora of other hooks out there, so don’t feel like you are locked into these two types.
I have covered the basics of yarn and hooks. Do not think that you are limited to simply using yarn and other materials labeled for crocheting. You can crochet a nice produce bag for shopping out of jute. You can crochet with wire and beads. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination. How you choose which yarn and hook is appropriate for which project is based on your chosen use and pattern. I will cover reading patterns in another post, but all of the information you need about hook size and yarn weight is included at the top of a pattern. You just need to decide what sort of fiber you’d like to work with and how easy you want the care of your project to be.