Crochet – the basics

Welcome to my favourite hobby – crochet. This page is designed to give you a quick and simple introduction to the basics of this craft and to get you ready for the tutorials that will be following soon. This information is in no way exhaustive, and you may well find out things during your practice sessions that you find easier to understand than the way I explain it (I used YouTube ALOT when I started, and I recommend you do too!). That’s no problem – just use this page as a stepping stone to get you started!

What is Crochet?

Crochet is the process of making fabric using yarn and a crochet hook. Hooks can be made out of wood, plastic and metal and are sometimes IMG_1465hand-made by artisans. Crochet is different to knitting. Knitting uses two needles to pass the fabric from one side to another, and the stitches are added whilst the fabric is on the needle. Crochet uses one hook and the stitches are added to the fabric whilst the fabric is held in your other hand. This might sound a bit confusing now, but it is important to know that crochet and knitting are different. Contrary to popular belief, if you can knit, you CAN crochet – saying you can’t is a bit like saying you can make a cake, but you can’t make a pie! They are different ‘crafty’ skills that are both used to make fabric but with a bit of practice anyone can make the perfect crocheted masterpiece – or, indeed, the perfect victoria sponge 🙂 Here’s some knitting, to illustrate the difference:

and here’s some crochet, to show you how the fabric ‘hangs’ away and is ‘added to’ without ever sitting on the hook:

So there’s the basic difference, and the general idea behind crochet. Using hook and yarn, you add stitches together to make fabric.

Hooks and Yarn

Hooks come in different materials and different sizes. The size will be written in millimetres (‘mm’) on the side of the hook and corresponds to the type of yarn you will need to use (for advice on putting hook and yarn together, see below).

hookanatomy

Here’s a closer look at a crochet hook. The point is the part of the crochet hook that you will insert into stitches to make more stitches. It will be pointy, but not too pointy that it splits the fibers in your yarn or wool. Don’t worry if that sounds confusing, you’ll pick it up as you go along! When your hook picks up the yarn, it will slide onto the throat. The shaft determines the size of your stitches. If your hook is 4mm, the width of the shaft will be 4mm and the shaft determines how loose or tight your stitches are. Your stitch will be created on the shaft of the hook and will then slide off over the throat. The thumb rest speaks for itself and is where you will find the size of your hook embossed into the hook (in most styles of hook, some have it printed in ink at the bottom of the handle). The handle, the last part of the hook, is used for balance. Even though you won’t hold the hook by the handle, it will provide a little bit of weight at the end of the hook, keeping everything nicely balanced and even.

Choosing your yarn

The main difference here is between ‘wool’ and ‘yarn.’ Yarn is made up of various materials – it can be a mix of wool, acrylic, merino, and so on. Wool is just ‘wool’ – pure wool. Yarn is cheaper. You can buy 100% acrylic yarns for around £1-£3 per ball, a really economical way to make gifts or a cheap way to start yourself off with crocheting. Acrylic yarn is usually really easy to care for, whereas wool might need to be hand washed and may not be able to be tumble dried. The care instructions are just as important as the colour of the yarn or wool. If you are making a baby blanket, it may be best to choose an easy-care acrylic yarn that can be washed and tumble dried. That way, the blanket will get used more! For garments like crocheted cardigans, shawls, jumpers, gloves and scarves – anything that will touch the skin – you may prefer to use a more expensive wool, perhaps a blend of merino and alpaca. This will make a more luxurious garment but will, of course, be more expensive. Of course, you can use an expensive, luxurious wool for a baby project – but you might like to make sure it is fairly easy to care for!

This yarn – Hayfield Baby Bonus DK – is a 100% acrylic yarn that I am using to make a baby blanket. As you can see from the care label, it is quite easy to care for. It can be washed on a warm wash, can be dry cleaned, dry pressed and even tumble dried on a cool setting. This would make a really good choice for a project for a baby, or perhaps a snuggly blanket that might get tea spilled on it often!

Now take a look at the opposite of the label (image to the left). Here you can see that the colour of the yarn – the shade – has a number. This will make it easier for you to find extra yarn online, for example – you can guarantee you will get the right shade and not, perhaps, an ‘off-white’ that wouldn’t be quite right for your pattern. More importantly, though, is the lot number. All yarn/wool is dyed, and this is done in batches. Sometimes, batches of the same colour that have been made seperately can have very slight variances in colour, which when placed next to eachother in a pattern for any type of blanket, garment or decorative piece will really show up. So it is really important to make sure that when you are buying multiple balls of the same shade of yarn, they all have the same lot number. Just look at the label on each ball and check the numbers are the same. If you are ordering online and require multiple balls of the same shade, make sure the company will supply multiple balls in the same lot number. Sometimes you can specify this when you add your yarn to your basket.

If you have any trouble with yarn or wool selection, then ask in your local hobby shop or craft store. They will be able to advise you on the best type of material for your project!

Choosing a hook and yarn for a project

So as we have touched on already, your hook and yarn work together to make fabric. It is important to get the right hook for the right yarn so your fabric is even in texture and looks good.

The most common type of yarn is called ‘DK’ or ‘double knitting.’ You will see this printed on the label of the yarn. It’s the yarn we are most familiar with – average size and used for a huge range of projects. ‘DK’ wool is (usually) used with a 4mm hook. You can, however, determine the size of hook needed for a type of yarn by simply looking at the label. Here it is again:

Look closely at the bottom left hand icon on the label, and you’ll see that it is a crochet hook. Above that little crochet hook is ‘4mm’ and this tells you the size of hook you need to get good tension in your project. Tension is just how ‘tight’ or ‘packed’ the fabric is. So you can see if you used a 4mm hook with this type of yarn, you would have a nice, even, texture to your work. It wouldn’t be too loose, nor too tight (this is also dependent on the way you crochet; we will get on to this). Occasionally, the label won’t have a crochet hook icon. It will just have knitting needles (in the image to the left the knitting needle symbol is next to the crochet symbol). As a rough guide, whatever size knitting needle the wool asks for, will be the same for the crochet hook you’d need.

For starting out and practising various crochet stitches, I would recommend a DK wool in a light colour. A light colour will make it easier for you to see your stitches. Use this with a 4mm hook and you have a good pairing to start you off learning to crochet. You can use any type of yarn or wool you like, but I would go with a cheap acrylic yarn, just to practice with.

When you are working from a pattern, you will find that the pattern will call for a certain type of yarn or wool and a certain size of hook. Until you have experience it is best for you to stick to these particulars as it will make sure your work is the same size as the pattern intends. But this does not mean you have to use the exact same wool – just make sure it is the same weight. So, your pattern might ask for ‘Rooster Almerino DK’ wool – a beautiful blend of merino and alpaca that is £4.95 per ball. But take note that this type of wool is just ‘double knitting’ wool. So you can substitute it for a cheaper type of DK yarn – a 100% acryclic, perhaps, that will be a third of the price. Like I said earlier, ask your local hobby shop or craft shop for advice. I know how confusing all those shelves of yarn and wool can be. Just go in with an idea, and they will help you to come out with the right hook and the right yarn for the job. Just remember to look at the label and check the lot numbers match up and that you have the suggested size of hook for the yarn.

Here’s a few swatches I have crocheted to illustrate the importance of hook and yarn –

Each of these swatches was crocheted using a double knitting yarn. The swatch to the left was crocheted using a 5.5mm hook, the middle using a 4mm hook and the right hand swatch using a 3mm hook. All of the swatches were crocheted using the same number of stitches. Can you see how they all differ in size, and the texture looks a bit different? The 5.5mm hook, being too big for my DK yarn (that calls for a 4mm hook), has crocheted up quite loose and, as a result, the swatch is bigger! The 3mm hook on the right has made a much smaller swatch, with a tighter texture. The middle swatch, though, has got it just right. It’s even, smooth and not too ‘holey.’ So you can see how the right size hook makes the most of the yarn.

As you progress, you might start to get a bit adventurous with your hook choices. For example, you might want to crochet a tea cosy for a bright green teapot, but you want to be able to see a bit of the green peeking through the cover. In this instance, I would use a hook a tiny bit larger than the one recommended for my wool. So perhaps for DK wool, I’d use a 4.5mm. Bearing in mind this would make the fabric bigger (as we can see in the photo above with the larger hook), you will be able to adjust the pattern to allow for a looser finish whilst ensuring the tea cosy fitted the teapot. Don’t worry about this too much now – all that is important is that you understand the importance of the right size hook for the right type of yarn or wool!

How did I do?

That’s it for this basic introduction. Is there anything you would like me to add, or is there anything that you think could be described better, or perhaps needs more photos? Drop me a line at amandaceades[@]gmail.com (remove the brackets – this is to try to stop spammers!). I’d love to hear from you, and would love to offer any advice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s