Getting Started With Crochet
So, you’re looking for a new hobby, and you’re considering crochet. However, where do you even begin? From the outside looking in, crochet can seem quite complicated, but once you get the hang of it, crochet feels so natural, and can bring you so much joy. It’s also a very useful craft, as you can make tons of different projects, including wearables and household items. You can make them for yourself, to give as gifts, or even to sell in your own shop or at a craft fair. Regardless of what you choose to do with it, crochet is a great hobby, and a really useful skill to learn. So, let’s get started!
Choosing Your Materials
Before you can even begin learning to crochet, you’ll need to pick up some supplies. The wonderful thing about crochet is that it doesn’t require very much in order to get started. All you need is a hook and some yarn. Now, there are hundreds of different styles of hooks on the market, but I’d recommend getting a cheap set to begin with. That way, once you’re more familiar with crochet, you can figure out which types of hooks appeal to you most, and get a more expensive hook set once you have a better understanding of the craft.
To begin with, though, try looking online for a basic set of hooks. You’ll want to make sure the set includes hooks sized between 3mm and 6mm, as you won’t really be using smaller or larger hooks until you have more experience. You can find good deals on Amazon or Ebay, as many sets are less than £10. Alternatively, you can take a look in a craft store near you to see what they sell, although often they only supply more expensive hooks.
Yarn for crochet
Once you’ve got your hooks, you’ll need your yarn. This is where many beginners slip up, as different types of yarn act very differently on your hook. Many people have quit crochet thinking it was ‘too hard’, when really the issue was that they were using the wrong type of yarn, as some fibres are geared more towards experienced crocheters.
As a beginner, you’ll want to use 100% acrylic yarn. Acrylic is great for two reasons. Number one, the fibres are quite loose, meaning that there is a fair amount of give in the strands, and the yarn will be quite forgiving if you make your stitches too big or small (which you will at first). Secondly, it’s cheap, which means you can mess up your first few attempts, and it won’t really cost you very much. You’ll want to avoid cotton as it’s a very tight fibre, and requires perfect precision in your stitches. It’s also better to avoid wool, as depending on the breed of animal, the fibres can be quite fuzzy which will inhibit your ability to see your stitches. Also, wool is quite expensive, and so you don’t want to waste good quality yarn at the start of your crochet journey, as you will make a lot of mistakes at first.
In terms of colours, it may be tempting to go for something with a gorgeous gradient or variegated pattern, however you’ll want to avoid this. Having too many colours going on at once can be distracting, and will make it harder to see where your stitches are. As such, when you first start out, you’ll want to choose yarn with a solid colour. You’ll also want to avoid black yarn and white yarn, as they make it difficult to see your stitches. Your best bet is to go with a pastel colour that isn’t too light, such as pastel blue or pastel purple, or for a colour that isn’t too dark, such as a vibrant red or orange. You want to be able to clearly see the stitch definition, so you’ll want yarn that stands out against itself.
Make sure that the yarn you get is thick enough that you can get a good hold on the stitches, without being too thick that it makes it harder to work with. The yarn label will say which size hook it requires, and for your first projects you ideally want something between 4mm and 5.5mm. You also want to avoid textured yarn as this is harder to work with, so get a yarn that’s a smooth, consistent thickness throughout.
Learning the Basic Stitches
Now that you have your supplies, you’re ready to start crocheting! Learning how to do so can be tricky, but there are a few options. First, if you have a friend/ family member who crochets, see if they’re available to help get you started. It can be really useful to have a teacher in person, as they can correct you on any mistakes you make. There may also be crochet classes near you, but these are less convenient if you’re on a budget as they tend to be quite pricey (although good value for the skills they give you). There are many books on crochet techniques, so if you learn well by reading, then this is a route to consider. However, the easiest way to learn is by seeing the stitches performed, and so if you can’t get a teacher in person, Youtube is a great alternative.
There are thousands of instructional Youtube videos, and some are more helpful than others. You’ll want to find a teacher that resonates with you, whose teaching style matches your learning style. A great Youtuber to check out is Bella Coco, as she aims her videos at beginners, and goes nice and slowly. You’ll also want to make sure that the video is aimed at beginners. A lot of crocheters start off trying to learn what’s known as ‘the granny square’, however this isn’t a great project for your first attempts. Granny squares can be very tricky to get right, as they require accuracy, and multiple stitches. As such, your best bet is finding a video teaching the following stitches:
Chaining is how you start nearly every single crochet project, and it’s how you create the base row. It involves making a series of loops, and it ends up looking like a length of chain, hence the name. Before you move on to making the basic stitches, you’ll want to make sure you get the hang of making chains. You’ll want your loops to be of roughly the same size as each other, and you want to make sure that they’re not too loose, and not too tight. One of the awesome things about crochet is that it’s really easy to undo your work. Simply take your hook out, and pull on the thread attached to your skein of yarn. It will unravel your previous stitches, so you can try them again and again without going through too much of your yarn. This process is known among crocheters as ‘frogging’ because you rip the stitches out, aka rip it, which sounds like ribbit.
Single crochet is the simplest stitch there is (with the exception of chaining). It’s important to be aware that in crochet there are both US and UK terms for stitches, so ‘single crochet’ is the US term, and it’s called ‘double crochet’ in the UK terms. It’s abbreviated to ‘sc’ when you’re reading a pattern (or ‘dc’ if the pattern uses UK terms). It involves working stitches into the loops you made from the previous chains.
Double Crochet and Half Double Crochet
These are the two next stitches you can learn after single crochet, and it’s up to you which order you learn them in. However, I’d recommend learning double crochet first as it will make it easier to learn half double crochet after. In the UK terms these are known as treble crochet and half treble crochet. The abbreviations in patterns are ‘dc’ and ‘hdc’ (or ‘tr’ and ‘htr’ in UK terms). These stitches are slightly taller than the standard single crochet, and are useful stitches to know for when you’re ready to follow patterns.
Projects and Patterns
Once you’re able to confidently create all of the above stitches, you’re ready to start creating projects! Please be aware that crochet takes a bit of time to become perfect at, and so your early projects may have a few mistakes in them. Don’t be too harsh on yourself if that happens, and remember that you can always frog your stitches and try to redo them if you’re a perfectionist.
A great first project is to try and make scarves, as they’re a decent size, they’re useful, and you’ll be able to really practice your stitches. You don’t want to go for something too large like a blanket, but something small like a washcloth would require using cotton yarn, which as explained earlier can be trickier to use as there’s no give in the fibres. Hats are also a possibility, but will require either sewing or working in the round, so are less convenient than scarves. For your first scarves, try just repeating rows of double crochet or half double crochet (making a project with single crochet can take quite a long time due to the small size of the stitches). Once you’re comfortable making basic scarves, you can try branching out to a pattern.
You can either find one that you like on Youtube, and follow an instructional video, or you can follow a written pattern. Creative Fabrica has a great range of crochet patterns, including the below two scarves. This first one is really pretty, and despite looking quite complex, is actually suitable for beginners as it only uses stitches that you’re already familiar with.
This next one has a gorgeous lacy effect, but is a little bit more complicated, so isn’t a great idea whilst you’re still a beginner. However, once you have a few projects under your belt, and are very comfortable with your basic stitches, this would be a great project to attempt as a challenge for yourself.
You can also find a wide range of free and paid patterns on a site called Ravelry, and you can try different projects such as blankets or stuffed toys. Stuffed crocheted items are known as ‘amigurumi’, and can be quite fiddly to make. They require a lot of concentration as you’ll need to constantly count your stitches, and they may also cause hand cramp as you need to stitch very tightly. There are lots of adorable amigurumi patterns out there, so it’s definitely worth trying them out, however don’t feel bad if they’re not really your forte. Even a lot of experienced crocheters prefer flat projects as amigurumi require a very different style of working your stitches.
Crochet Your Way
That’s the basics covered! There’s almost no limits to what you can achieve with crochet, so take what you’ve learned and apply it in whichever way appeals to you. You may even find yourself creating your own patterns for others to use. However you choose to use your new hobby, hopefully crochet will be a source of joy in your life!