How to Crochet: Getting Started for Beginners
Crocheting can be a fun and very rewarding hobby, and has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Unlike knitting, crocheting involves using a hook instead of needles to make knots in yarn. There are six basic stitches in crochet:
- Single Crochet
- Half Double Crochet
- Double Crochet
- Treble (or triple) Crochet
- Slip Stitch
These five basic stitches can be manipulated to create gorgeous and intricate patterns and motifs that can be used to make anything from afghans and doilies to sweaters and socks.
How About You?
Do You Crochet?
To get started with crochet, there are a few things you will need, the most basic of which are the following:
- Crochet Hook
- Tapestry Needle
There are optional supplies you may wish to have to make things a bit easier such as:
- Stitch Markers
- Stitch Counters
- Gauge Measurement Guide
Crochet hooks come in a wide range of sizes and materials. The most common materials are plastic and metal, but you can find bamboo. Just be careful and only purchase bamboo hooks from a reputable source. There’s cheap bamboo and expensive bamboo, and if you want your hooks to last, you need to stay away from the cheap kind.
Yarn depends on what you want to work with because there are just so many different kinds of yarn on the market today. Yarn is classified by weight and there are six different weights:
- Size 0 – Lace (typically called fingering or 10 count crochet thread)
- Size 1 – Super Fine (most patterns will refer to it as sock, fingering or baby weight yarn)
- Size 2 – Fine (this yarn is usually referred to as sport or baby weight)
- Size 3 – Light (commonly called sport weight, it is considered a light worsted weight yarn)
- Size 4 – Medium (this is the most common type of yarn used in most patterns and is typically called worsted weight)
- Size 5 – Bulky (can be called chunky, craft, or rug yarn in some patterns)
- Size 6 – Super Bulky (like its name suggests, it’s super bulky and is often referred to as bulky or roving yarn)
When you start a crochet project, remember that different hooks work with different yarns. You can find which hook works best with a specific yarn by looking at the label (see photo below).
Yarn Sizes - Quick Chart
Fingering or Thread Weight
Sock, Fingering or Baby Weight
Sport or Baby Weight
Sport or DK Weight
Chunky, Craft or Rug Yarn
Bulky or Roving Yarn
What is Gauge?
Gauge is probably the most hated word in crochet and knitting. It can be a real pain in the neck, especially for a beginner. But if you plan on making clothes like skirts and sweaters, or socks and hats, you’ll need to know how to figure out what your gauge is.
Essentially, gauge will determine the size of your finished project. It is a certain number of stitches in a particular section of cloth.
For example, 5 single crochet stitches may equal 2 inches in a hat pattern that uses worsted weight yarn and a G hook. But, you may not get the same gauge using the same supplies.
Everyone crochets differently, some people make their crochet stitches very tight, others make loose stitches. This is why it is recommended to make a gauge swatch, or a sample swatch of the pattern to see what your gauge actually is.
Finding out what your gauge is involves crocheting a “swatch” the size of which is typically indicated by the pattern. The swatch uses several rows of the pattern, and once you complete the swatch, you measure it to see what its dimensions are. Finally, you compare your dimensions to what the pattern says the dimensions should be. For example:
GAUGE: In pattern, 12 sts and 8 rows = 3 ½ inches
Gauge Swatch: 4 ¼” w x 3 ½” h
To find your gauge based on the above, you would crochet a swatch (using the pattern) that is 4.5 inches wide, and 3.5 inches high (tall). Then count in 12 stitches and then up 8 rows and you should have a square that measures 3.5 inches.
If your square is the right size, you’re all set. If your swatch isn’t the right size, you’ll need to change your hook size. If the swatch is too big, you’ll need a smaller hook size. If the swatch is too small, you’ll need a larger hook.
Once you decide on which hook may fix the problem, you’ll need to crochet another swatch and repeat the process. Can you see how this would be a real pain?
A Tip About Gauge
Pay attention to your stitches when you start crocheting. Are your stitches tight? Or are they loose?
When you first begin to crochet, your stitches will most likely be loose, but as you get the hang of the stitches, they will tighten up. Your gauge will also change with your mood.
For example, your stitches will be tighter when you’re angry or anxious and looser when you’re happy or calm. Keep this in mind when you make your gauge swatch.
It’s also wise to pay attention to this when working
Crochet patterns often look like some sort of code, and if you don’t know the abbreviations, deciphering this code will be virtually impossible!
Because there are only six stitches, there aren’t a lot of abbreviations. They are pretty simple to remember since they are only two letters long!
Half Double Crochet
Triple or Treble Crochet
If you’re going to crochet, you’ll need to memorize these abbreviations because they aren’t listed on every pattern; however, they are listed in the back of most pattern books. Once you start crocheting, you quickly get the hang of reading a pattern.
Reading a Pattern
That said, reading a pattern can be intimidating in the beginning. I thought so when I first started crocheting! But if you take it a little bit at a time, it’s much simpler. For example:
Ch 1, sc in same st, *3 dc in next stitch, ch 1, skip next sc, sc in next sc, 3 dc in next sc, ch 1, repeat from * across to last st, sc in last stitch
I just made this up as an example, but it reads as follows:
- Chain 1, single crochet in same stitch as the chain stitch you just made.
- Double crochet three times in the next stitch and then chain one.
- Skip the next single crochet stitch, and then make a single crochet in the next stitch (which also happens to be a single crochet).
- Double crochet three times in the next single crochet and then chain one.
- Repeat this pattern starting at the asterisk until you get to the last stitch.
- Make a single crochet in that last stitch.
Obviously, not all patterns will be this easy to read. In fact, I still have problems reading a pattern on occasion. If this happens to you, try walking away from it for a few minutes. I’ve found that taking a break and coming back to the piece with a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference.
© 2013 Melissa Flagg OSC