Melissa is a self-taught and devoted crocheter. Today she creates her own patterns and teaches others the art of crochet.
Learn to Crochet: Basic Stitches
Crocheting can be a fun and very rewarding hobby, and it 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.
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
Optional (but Useful) Items
There are also optional supplies you may wish to have to make things a bit easier, such as:
- Stitch Markers
- Stitch Counters
- Gauge Measurement Guide
What Type of Hooks Should You Buy?
Crochet hooks come in a wide range of sizes and materials. The most common materials are plastic and metal, but you can also 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.
Making a Gauge Swatch
Everyone crochets differently; some people make their crochet stitches very tight, while 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?
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.
How to Read a Crochet 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 COA OSC
Cheryl Rose on September 21, 2019:
Very good and clear notes. As a +50 year crocheter myself my only comment is . . . yes, occasionally you will come across a pattern with an error. Like one I had that said to increase and it should have been decrease (crochet around a Christmas ornament) Had to put it down several times before the lightbulb went off that one word was a big problem in the pattern. So if you need to, get someone else’s opinion if needed.
Julia THOMAS on March 04, 2019:
My crocheting started years ago ..managed to make a blanket....kids life and ect...took over like most of us ...so I took Quilting up 5 years ago ...Skipped reading patterns did freestyle and everything was amazing...in to present time 2 years ago picked up the hook....determined to learn went freestyle with it learned the lingo and master tention...my clothing is amazing...not a day goes by that I don’t pick up the hook...crochet away. Lady’s
Susan Fourie on November 30, 2018:
what does the abbreviation "osc" means?
Linda pski on August 19, 2018:
I would love to be able to communicate maybe via FaceTime when I have a crochet question/problem.
Debra dilbeck on August 08, 2018:
Please do a tutorial. On how to. Keep your rows staight on ends of rows. On increasing and decreaseing. Self taught but having trouble badly with this part. I love to crochet and really neef help to understand this part.
Carol Griffin on August 04, 2018:
Does anyone know how to extend a row in middle of a fan ?
Magy. on April 19, 2018:
Kathleen mc myler on March 19, 2018:
Dee on March 13, 2018:
Not enough explaination, still very confused! But still trying!
Kathy on March 02, 2018:
I know the stitches in crocheting, my problem is reading a pattern. You make it seem so simple that I can hardly wait to start a hat. Thank you
Titilayo Ogunjobi on March 02, 2018:
Please ma'am I wish to have full knowledge about crocheting
Marian Fischer on February 27, 2018:
Yes, I learned from my Noni when I was in 7th grade. She started me on edging handkerchiefs, very tiny hooks n thread. I too used to get confused trying to read patterns, than it hit me, read each comma section, then go to the next comma, that helps A lot. I read all these helpful sites to get the tips I never learned from her, Joining Pinterest and being added to a crochet group on FB got me motivated to pick it up again. I find crocheting relaxing and look forward to the times when I can just sit and work at it. Thank you, you're never to old to learn.
Carmen Bierman on February 26, 2018:
Taught by great grandma decades ago know basics but never put it together in order to produce anything. She never followed a pattern she just did.
Sally on February 24, 2018:
I am looking for a little help, I want to chrochet a dress for an 18-24 month old, I bought this beautiful pattern from Etsy but it only goes up to 12 months, do you know if I can just double the pattern? I asked the person that I bought the oattern from but have not recieved an answer
Susi on April 30, 2017:
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.
Elspeth. Mullen on January 09, 2017:
It's lovely to be able to read a simple pattern thanks
Cindy on December 04, 2016:
I have problems with maintaining the same width on a project. Help
Liz on November 10, 2016:
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.
threadworkzrosado on October 19, 2015:
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.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on June 19, 2013:
Excellent. Looking forward to it. :)
Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on June 18, 2013:
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!
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on June 16, 2013:
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
Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on June 07, 2013:
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
Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on June 02, 2013:
@Kittyjj Thank you!! I sell them on Etsy, but it's difficult for me to let them go because they really are adorable! lol
Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on June 02, 2013:
@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.
Nicole Hubbard from North Carolina on June 02, 2013:
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.
Ann Leung from San Jose, California on June 01, 2013:
Love that cute baby booties. Thank you for sharing this informative hub.
Ceres Schwarz on June 01, 2013:
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.