How to Crochet: Learn the Basics of This Time Honored Handicraft
Luckily, it’s not too difficult for beginners to get started. With so many techniques and stitches to choose from, it’s possible to start out slow and pick up skills over time. With just a few basic techniques and stitches, you can be well on your way. So what exactly is crochet? This textile art requires the use of a long stick with a hook at the end, known as a crochet hook, which is used to make loops of yarn, thread, or cord to produce a fabric.
As crochet hooks come in all sizes, you can work with fine thread all the way up to thick rope to produce items like socks, blankets, mittens, shoulder bags, hats, sweaters, and much more. Most projects follow a crochet pattern that will help you achieve the look you’re after, though some artistic techniques like freeform crochet are perfect for those who love to freestyle. Crochet is so versatile that you can even get away with ditching the hook and simply use your fingers in a technique aptly called finger crochet!
Origins of Crochet
In terms of modern crochet, we can look to 19th-century Europe as a starting point. The word crochet itself comes from the Middle French word for hook—croche. Originally used as a cheaper substitute for lace, it gained popularity when Queen Victoria purchased Irish lace made with the crochet technique. Subsequently, thanks to the work of Riego de la Branchardiere, who began publishing early crochet pattern books, the skill spread across many different countries.
Of course, early examples of crochet can be found far and wide, from Asia to South America, but certainly, Europe was a hub and as mass immigration to the United States began, many women brought their crochet skills with them. The earliest items created were more decorative in nature, moving forward to the 1920s and 1930s when crochet began being used to create entire garments.
Throughout World War II, crochet was seen as a way that women could contribute to the war effort by saving on clothing and decorative items and boosting morale by creating decorative elements for the troops at a low cost. In the 1970s, crochet—along with macramé—became a chic technique for clothing and accessories.
Though crochet’s popularity began to wane after the 1970s, it never completely went away. Fashion houses continued to employ the technique and thanks to a recent boom in handiwork, crochet is seeing a revival.
Crochet vs. Knitting
It can be difficult for novices to note the difference between crocheting and knitting at first glance, but though both use yarn there are many distinctions between these crafts. The first, and most obvious, are the tools used. Knitters use two flat knitting needles, while crochet requires a hook to latch onto the yarn. Crochet hooks come in a variety of sizes depending on the material used and are typically made of plastic, wood, bamboo, aluminum, or steel.
Crochet requires the use of only one hand, which some people find easier, and typically goes faster than knitting. The results are often lighter and drape better than knit pieces. While both crafts use yarn, crochet is a bit more flexible. Using different gauges of crochet hooks, it’s possible to crochet anything from thread to rope.
The types of stitches used also varies. Knitting primarily uses two stitches, while crochet has a huge variety of intricate stitches that you can use to create different effects. The way the stitches are formed differs greatly as well, with knitters having many active loops on their needles at the same time. In crochet, there’s usually only one active loop at a time. (An exception to this rule is Tunisian crochet, which uses extra long needles to produce a knit-like product.)
One similarity is that both crafts use patterns with abbreviations, many of them the same whether you are knitting or crocheting. This will make it much easier to hop back and forth between each craft. And, of course, many of the items one can make are the same, whether they’re mittens, blankets, sweaters, or slippers. Good hand-eye coordination and patience is a must, so give both a try and see what you prefer.
To get started, the most important supplies you’ll need is a crochet hook and yarn, thread, or cord to create your fabric. Crochet hooks come in different gauges depending on the thickness of the material to be looped. The beauty of crochet is that it allows for a wide variety of items to be stitched into a fabric. Craft and fabric stores like Joann Fabrics will have a nice variety of yarns and crochet threads to inspire you. Stitch markers are also helpful in letting you keep track of where you are in your patterns.
There are a wide variety of crochet stitches, but most projects start with you needing to know how to make a slip knot in order to get your yarn on the hook and a chain stitch in order to make a solid row to anchor your entire piece. Other basic stitches that will allow you to start on beginner projects are the single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet, and slip stitch.
Want to gain more knowledge of crochet basics? Try these online classes.
You might also consider joining Bluprint for complete access to a wide variety of tutorials and projects. Their vast library of materials on crocheting is great for all skill levels.
This article first appeared on MyModernMet.