The Basics of Crochet: Tools of the Trade

Updated on April 18, 2016
Hand dyed silk and cashmere yarn in pastel colors.
Hand dyed silk and cashmere yarn in pastel colors. | Source

So you want to learn to crochet?

Taking on the task of learning to crochet can be daunting. There are so many things to consider! I'm here to help you grasp some of the basics concerning the different tools you may (or may not!) use while you crochet. To make this simple, I'm going to run on the assumption that you have no prior knowledge to anything crochet related. We will go over the different hook styles, sizes, and materials that they're made from. We will also go over the different yarn types, where they come from, and what they're good for making.

Plastic crochet hooks in a variety of sizes.
Plastic crochet hooks in a variety of sizes. | Source

Material Differences

One of the first things you will need is a crochet hook. Now, these aren't to be confused with knitting needles, and you can see why by referring to the above photo. Knitting needles are not hooked at the end, and you use two when you knit. For crochet, you only use one hook.

There are a few things to consider when picking out a crochet hook. One of them is the material that the hook is made from. The cheaper options are typically plastic. These are nice when you're first learning, but they can break easily when you get faster. The next best option is metal, my personal favorite so far. They glide smoothly over the yarn I'm working with and hardly ever break.

There are also more expensive options, including hand carved wooden hooks, polymer clay hooks, and ergonomic hooks. These aren't necessary for a beginner, but might be something you want to look into in the future.

Which Hook to Use When?

Depending on where you live, crochet hook sizes are not always standardized. If you live in the US, hooks are generally sized by a letter first (from B-S), and then by millimeter size. If you live in the UK, they're sized by a number first (14-00000), and then by millimeter size. For the sake of your sanity, we will be using the millimeter size, since that is an actual measurement.

Now, different yarn types will suggest different sized hooks. This is because you typically wouldn't use a 2.00mm hook with a larger weight of yarn. While learning to crochet, it is best to stick with the recommendations of the yarn that you are using.

Differences in Hook Sizing

U.S. Hook
Metric
UK
 
2.00mm
14
B
2.25mm
13
C
2.75mm
12
 
3.00mm
11
D
3.25mm
10
E
3.50mm
 
F
3.75mm
9
G
4.00mm
8
7
4.50mm
7
H
5.00mm
6
I
5.50mm
5
J
6.00mm
4
K
6.50mm
3
The most common crochet hooks in their US, metric, and UK sizes. This is not an extensive list, only the most common used.

What is Yarn Made From?

Now that you know a bit about the different hooks and their sizes, now comes the fun part! You now get to decide what kind of yarn you want to use. Some yarns are great for blankets and hats, while others are good for things like washcloths, towels, and clothes.

One of the most common types of yarn you can find is acrylic yarn. This is a man made fiber that will not shrink in the wash and has good stretch. There are several different brands, but some of my favorites are Red Heart and I Love this Yarn by Hobby Lobby. Acrylic yarn is perfect for making beanies, blankets, headbands, etc. It is machine washable, which makes it perfect for wearables. You don't want to use acrylic yarn for anything that will come in direct, or even indirect, contact with heat. Since acrylic is a man made fiber made from polymers, it will melt when it gets too hot!

Cotton yarn is, well, made from cotton! This is perfect for making things that you don't want to stretch, will get wet (like face scrubbies!), and anything that will touch heat. Since the cotton won't melt, it's perfect for making hot pods and dishcloths.

Wool, and other animal blends, all have their own rules for use. For example, you must be careful when washing wool because it can felt. This means that it will lose its stitches and become a solid fabric. When working with animal blends, it is very important that you always read the label, as it will tell you how to care for the yarn.

How is Red Heart Yarn Made?

Yarn Weights

When you go shopping for your yarn, you will notice that there are different "weights" of yarn. This is the term used for describing how thick the yarn is. You have lace, fingering, light-worsted, worsted, bulky, super bulky, and jumbo. Now, what does this mean in terms of your project? Well, the thinner the yarn, the more delicate the project.

Lace yarn is perfect for doilies and lacework.

Fingering yarn, also called sock yarn, is perfect for socks and other semi-delicate projects.

Light-worsted and regular worsted weight yarn is good for afghans, hats, and the like.

Bulky and super bulky can be used for chunky scarves or large stitch blankets. These two yarns require a much larger hook!

Fingerless gloves made from acrylic, worsted weight yarn.
Fingerless gloves made from acrylic, worsted weight yarn. | Source

That's a Wrap!

There you have it! Those are the basic tools of the trade. As you move forward in your crochet quest, you'll learn more about what works for you in terms of hook size and type of yarn. A few things you will need to compliment that basic tools are scissors, a measuring tape (depending on your project), and a yarn needle to weave in the ends. Don't worry if you don't have a yarn needle yet. You can always weave in your ends with a smaller hook.

Venture into the world of crochet and check out Pinterest and Ravelry.com for patterns and inspiration! Happy hooking!

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