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How to Crochet: Getting Started for Beginners

Updated on September 16, 2017
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Melissa taught herself crochet stitches & pattern reading in 1999. Today she creates her own patterns and teaches others the art of crochet.

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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:

  • Chain
  • 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?

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Crocheting Supplies

To get started with crochet, there are a few things you will need, the most basic of which are the following:

  • Crochet Hook
  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • 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 Supplies
Crochet Supplies | Source

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.

Crochet Hooks
Crochet Hooks | Source

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 Labels

This particular yarn is a medium weight (#4) yarn and the recommended hook is an I hook also known as a 5.5 mm hook
This particular yarn is a medium weight (#4) yarn and the recommended hook is an I hook also known as a 5.5 mm hook | Source

Yarn Sizes - Quick Chart

Size
Name
Alternate Name
0
Lace
Fingering or Thread Weight
1
Super Fine
Sock, Fingering or Baby Weight
2
Fine
Sport or Baby Weight
3
Light
Sport or DK Weight
4
Medium
Worsted Weight
5
Bulky
Chunky, Craft or Rug Yarn
6
Super Bulky
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.

A simple gauge swatch.
A simple gauge swatch. | Source

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 Abbreviations

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!

Abbreviation
Meaning
ch
Chain
sc
Single Crochet
hdc
Half Double Crochet
dc
Double Crochet
tc
Triple or Treble Crochet
ss
Slip Stitch
yo
Yarn Over
sp
Space
st
Stitch

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.

Crocheted baby booties
Crocheted baby booties | Source

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

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    • profile image

      Susi 5 months ago

      Hi Melissa. That is a really interesting article for all crochet beginners. I would love to Pin the Yarn Sizes quick chart but it is somehow not working. Maybe you can help me out here? Wish you a nice evening.

    • profile image

      Elspeth. Mullen 9 months ago

      It's lovely to be able to read a simple pattern thanks

    • profile image

      Cindy 10 months ago

      I have problems with maintaining the same width on a project. Help

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      Liz 11 months ago

      If something doesn't make sense use YouTube. I love reading and following the instructions but sometimes I need to see it done. You Tube has a ton of tutorials showing you how to crochet different style of stitches. It definitely is a fun hobby. Good Luck.

    • profile image

      threadworkzrosado 2 years ago

      I learned to crochet blankets and a basic scarf in High school and wished I knew more, with the Internet I have been able to learn a few different stitches. Now I need to know more. I want to be able to create more. I'm eager to make different things and make my own patterns, and be able to write them to share with others and pass them on to my children.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Excellent. Looking forward to it. :)

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      lol Phoenix!! I wish!! I could use a few extra hours myself! I'm working on a hub that explains the single crochet stitch, so stay tuned, the hub after that will talk about how to double and triple crochet, which really are just variations of the single crochet. I'll have plenty of pictures and I might try some video!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      How weird is this. I used to crochet, sort of, about 40 years ago. I never got past the basic chain stitch and I couldn't understand the instruction book so I lost interest. About a month ago, I started getting interested in crocheting again. I looked at some books but the old confusion set in again so I didn't peruse it any further. But I was still interested in taking up crocheting again.

      This hub makes more sense to me than any of the books so I'm bookmarking this as a reference guide. I'm starting to get excited about crocheting again. This time I think I can really learn to make something. Just one thing, could you grant me an extra hour or two a day so I can squeeze this in along with everything else I do? lol

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thank you Ceres! Some patterns like the crocodile stitch can look very intimidating, but it's just a matter of manipulating the stitches. The hat and baby booties, I just recently finished for my Etsy store. :D

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @Kittyjj Thank you!! I sell them on Etsy, but it's difficult for me to let them go because they really are adorable! lol

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @Nicole, I'm currently working on a hub that steps you through each stitch with pictures. I should have it done within the week, but the pictures are taking longer than I expected! A great book to teach you how to crochet is "Crocheting in Plain English" by Maggie Righetti. It taught me how to crochet, and it's very easy to understand.

    • nicolehubbard10 profile image

      Nicole Hubbard 4 years ago from North Carolina

      I do know how to crochet. I have only used the crocheting hook. I know how to do chains, but I would like to make things like hats. I commented on the one Hub you post on how to crochet hats, and that is one thing I would absolutely love to make.

      Only if my great-grandmother was still alive she would teach me. She would make sweaters, afghans, blankets, socks and many other things to. My birthday is coming up and I am thinking about getting me some crochet hooks, and a few books teaching me how to crochet.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 4 years ago from San Jose, California

      Love that cute baby booties. Thank you for sharing this informative hub.

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 4 years ago

      Interesting hub filled with a lot of details regarding crocheting for beginners. This does sound like a fun thing to do but it seems that it can also be pretty hard and complicated. The images of the crocheted shoes and hat look really nice.