Have you been searching for a new hobby during these times of lock-downs and restrictions? With some of those restrictions lifting, are you still thinking about trying something new? You’re not alone! I tried to order yarn recently and even basic colors were sold out. I initially thought that was because of manufacturers being closed but then realized it’s actually due to so loads people trying yarn crafts for the first time.
Good for you for joining in the fun! Crocheting is quite a craft. I’ve been toiling at for almost 30 years now. My grandmother taught me in her lap with my little hands stretched out over hers to mimic every move her fingers made. We’d watch all of her stories (aka soaps) and she would tell me each stitch she was doing, have me keep count, and make me check that she’d done them right once I got the eye for it. Since you are reading this, you are probably too old to sit in anyone’s lap for such a lesson but it’s not too late to learn.
Crochet is different from knitting because it uses a single pencil-length “hook” to manipulate the yarn as opposed to two variable-length, pointed “needles.” Hooks come in all different circumferences that correspond to how fine the yarn you’ve chosen is and how detailed the work will be. The circumference is always measured in millimetres but, seeing as we don’t use that in the US, there is also a corresponding alphabetical identifier. The most common hook you’ll be asked to use is the H or 5.00 mm so you should definitely purchase that as your first hook. You’ll also want to purchase a very sharp pair of scissors, a sewing measuring tape (so it’s flexible) that goes to at least 60 in, a set of stitch markers, and a couple of tapestry needles (thick with wide eyes but with blunt points).
Now on to yarn. There are so many options we could spend pages and pages on this topic and you’d be scared off and/or bored to tears. The best place to start is to understand what is meant by yarn weight and what, again, is most commonly called for in patterns. The weight of yarn is describing its thickness and is described on both a numerical scale and a named scale. 0, or lace weight, yarn is what is used for superfine work (think grandma’s doilies and table runners) and 7, or roving weight, is popular now for making college kids super bulky blankets. Most patterns will call for 4 which is also known as medium or worsted weight yarn. It’s definitely the Goldilocks of the yarn world – not baby soft but not bulky and cumbersome.
Ready for the fun part? Pattern selection! You’ll want to start with something labeled beginner. Don’t worry, we all start somewhere and even us experienced types come back to beginner patterns when we want a reprieve from special stitches. The majority of beginner patterns will have the three basic stitches (hold your horses, I’ll get to those I didn’t forget) and maybe one new one to challenge you with. I’d recommend sticking to the main three for your first couple of projects. You’ll want to start with something small, like this coaster project, and then work up.
Where to start?
You may be wondering now “okay, so how do I actually do this thing?” Although it’s great to learn in person like I did with grandma, consider the loads of great videos online. This includes the coaster project mentioned above. Here is a list of some excellent instructional content. I’ve put them in step-by-step order for you and they are not very long. I encourage that you read the rest of this post because there are some more tips for beginners you’ll want to know.
- How to make a slipknot for crochet
- How to make a magic ring for crochet
- Chain stitch
- Single crochet stitch
- Double crochet stitch
- Crochet prodigy: 11 year old boy in Wisconsin (that one’s just because he’s amazing).
The ultimate key to even, uniform crochet stitches is the tension you keep on the yarn with your yarn hand. For lefties** this will be your right hand and for righties this will be your left hand. You want to keep just enough tension on the yarn that it stays on the hook but not too much that the loop you form tightens down as you draw yarn through it. You want to leave just enough slack that the loops are all a consistent size but not so much that the yarn slips off at every turn. You will initially “death grip” the yarn. Everyone does this because you’re learning a new motor skill. Think back on when you learned to write and how tightly you held that pencil/marker. Same thing here.
Don’t be afraid to take stitches out, start over, or make yards and yards of chains until you get comfortable with it. It’s a lot like golf in that the hand placement and usage is not exactly natural and you probably won’t get a feel for it over night but it is sooooooo worth it! The projects you’ll make, the joy you’ll have gifting people custom made keepsakes, and how your work will inspire others to learn as well is all worth it. Be sure to make things for yourself as well. This is your new hobby! Flaunt those first attempts at scarfs, hats, dishcloths and coasters proudly. People will always ask you about them and you will have great stories and inspiration to share.
**Key thing to note for you lefties out there, you can absolutely crochet!! All patterns are written to be worked from right to left but you will have to keep it in mind that you will be working left to right instead.
People out there, just like you, are asking tons of crochet questions as they start their journey. Here are some of the top ones and the answers I’ve got:
Are crochet hooks allowed on planes?
HECK YES THEY ARE! Crocheting on long plane flights is one of my favorite ways to pass the hours. Everyone will ask you about it and you may score some extra snacks or toiletries items from the flight attendants (speaking from experience). Your super sharp scissors will have to remain at home though unless you bring a mini set like you’d find in a sewing kit or nail clippers. You’ll also want to bring a project that requires only one or two colors of yarn so you aren’t totting around pounds of the stuff and changing colors every five minutes.
When I crochet, why does it curl?
This could be a couple of things but, most likely, you are inserting your hook into the wrong loop of the previous stitch. Review the videos on single crochet and double crochet carefully and see if that helps your curly-q.
When I crochet, why does it get smaller?
Check your stitch count. You may not be ending your row in the correct stitch of the previous row, thus losing a stitch with each row. If it is getting smaller but you are keeping the same count on the stitches, it is because your tension is too tight. This causes you to tighten the loops as you draw the yarn through. Ease up on your tension so those loops stay the same circumference as the hook.
Go forth and conquer!
The joys of crochet are so numerous. Each project is worth the time and effort to see the smile on the recipient’s face (even if it’s yours in the mirror). It’s a craft that, as you grow more skilled, will keep you interested for years. You’ll pique the curiosity of others around you and then you’ll have a crocheting friend! We’d love to hear about your first-time crocheting. Connect with us below in the comments, via email, or on any of our social platforms. Happy crafting!