Crochet 101: Everything You Need to Know

So you have made the decision to take up crochet. Let me offer you a word of advice: don’t do it.

My mom taught me to crochet when I was in middle school, and my grandmother–an expert seamstress–was also an expert knitter. Yarn crafting is basically woven into my DNA (excuse my horrible pun). It wasn’t until I faced the world on my own in college that I really got into it though. Four hours away from any friends or family and faced with an uncanny amount of inconveniently spaced free time, (thanks college block schedule) crochet was an easy way to pass the time I spent watching Netflix.

If you are new to the yarn world, it can be extremely overwhelming. Walking in to a hobby store and seeing aisles upon aisles of different colored, varied sized yarns can be a sensory overload for anyone. But worry not! This post will walk you though a step by step guide on how to take up crochet.

I’m sure you are wondering why I have warned you against this seemingly innocent hobby. The simple fact is, crocheting is incredible. Once I really started, I couldn’t stop. Over the years I have managed to collect and entire Hobby Lobby worth of yarn in my spare room, shoving it on to shelves anywhere it will fit. Just driving past the Michael’s on my way home from work it takes all of my self control not to make a quick yarn stop.

Then, once I figured out that the mindless repetitive motions were an easy way for me to unwind after a long day at work, or to cope with my anxiety, there was no stopping me. I am officially a yarn entangled force of nature ready to make anything for anyone. It is only unfortunate that our winters here in the Humid Hell of the South don’t frequently dip below a brisk and rainy 60 degrees. Thick crocheted scarves, no matter how beautiful, are obsolete. So I have taken to making baby blankets, because babies will always need another blanket–especially the soft squishy ones you can easily whip up with some basic stitches.

So, if you are still commited to delving in to the bottomless yarn pit with the rest of the crafter crazies, kudos to you. Here are all the things you need to know to start your very first crochet project.

Step One: Choose a Project

This step really depends on how ambitious you are feeling. It takes some time to get the hang of the stitches, and a lot of my first projects ended up becoming more trapezoidial than a regular rectangle scarf. Luckily, once they sit on a shelf collecting dust for long enough, it doesn’t cause as much emotional pain to just commit to ripping it all out, balling up the no longer knotted yarn, and starting on something new.

This step is were Pinterest becomes your new best friend. There are zillions of patterns for anything you could possibly dream of at every skill level. Just doing a quick search with the keywords “crochet pattern easy” or “crochet pattern beginner” is sure to get you at least one project you’re excited about.

For your very first endeavor I would suggest something simple, with one just one stitch, and preferably in a straight line.

Some of my favorites (and highly recommended) include: 

A Simple Granny Square – These squares are great for beginners because you can work them just one at a time. Each one is only a few rows and most are just made of double crochets (I will cover stitches later). And it truly is a satisfying feeling to be able to complete something–start to finish–in one sitting.

grannysquare

This Pattern from haakmaarraak.nl is simple and straightforward. It gives step by step instructions with photos for each step! It also shows squares in single colors and multiple colors, and what they look like when they’re all put together

 

A Scarf or Cowl – starting with a scarf or cowl makes a lot of sense if you live somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon–or if you’re just extra enough to wear a bulky scarf when it’s not quite cold enough for one. Because of how repetitive simple scarf patterns are, they’re perfect for a beginner. It gives you the chance to get the hang of the stitch and how tight to pull the yarn to get the look you want.

The-Easiest-Crocheted-Scarf-Ever

This Pattern for The Easiest Crocheted Scarf Ever from Life After Laundry is great. It just repeats the same stitch (a single crochet) over and over again until you reach your desired length, leaving you with a lovely long rectangle wrap around scarf.

This 1 Hour Cowl from Fynes Designs is super simple. For those of you (like me) who don’t know what a cowl is, imagine a really short, wide scarf that’s joined at the ends. So basically a giant circle. Essentially an infinity scarf that you don’t double.

 

A Basic Baby Blanket – If you’re feeling extra ambitious (or just know a baby that needs a blanket) you can certainly start with a project that’s a little bigger. The only thing that makes this one more difficult than a scarf is its size. Having to commit to the same project for a few weeks often tired me out when I first started–I wanted instant gratification and immediate results.

baby-blanket1

This pattern from Twisted Fibers Design is perfect for a fast and easy receiving blanket.  It is so simple in fact, the pattern is only about twelve words long!

Of course, you can pin away and use any pattern you would like to start with. These are just a few good examples that are easy to follow for those of you new to the “lingo”.

Step Two: Buy Supplies

This is my personal favorite step. I’m not sure what it is about the rows upon rows of colorful yarn that makes me so happy, but every time I visit my favorite Michael’s I have to resist the urge to dive into the clearance yarn bin.

Your supplies will vary based on your pattern. At the top of every pattern there will be a suggested yarn, most likely even a brand and color. It is important to remember that these are only suggestions though!

Now, before you go pulling every beautifully colored yarn off the shelf there are some things you should be aware of.

Yarn and hooks_DSC_5841

Weight – There are six different weights of yarn (one being the thinnest and six being the largest) ranging from what is essentially embroidery floss (to make laces and doilies) all the way to super bulky (as is featured in the “arm knitting” epidemic going around). I tend to stay away from anything lower than a four. I don’t have the patience for tiny yarns that take thousands of rows to work up. Certain weights work best for certain projects, but there is no real rule saying you can only make Granny Squares out of a skein of size four yarn. If you want to use the size six yarns and make a twelve inch granny square, more power to you!

crochet+hook

Hooks – Crochet hooks and knitting needles are the main difference between the two yarn crafts. In knitting you have two needles and you’re essentially weaving yarn together with them. Crochet however, there is only one. I like to think of it as tying zillions of tiny knots in a whole lot of yarn. Seems a lot less crafty when put like that. The hook you use will depend on what weight yarn you pick.

 

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Yarns

Here are some yarns I recommend for certain projects (these are all based on personal preference and completely subject to change):

For Granny Squares: 

I like to use worsted weight yarn for my squares (that is size 4). If I am going to Michael’s I will use Loops & Threads Impeccable because they have a variety of solid and varigated colors and are always consistent in color and weight of each skein.

If it is a very special project though, I will more likely make the drive to Hobby Lobby to get I Love This Yarn! because I, in fact, do love this yarn. There are more colors than I can even imagine, making it the perfect yarn for any project. And as a bonus, it is incredibly soft both before and after washing!

For Scarves and Cowls: 

This is where Hobby Lobby always lets me down and Michael’s swoops in to maintain “Favorite Craft Store” status. While the Hobbz has two entire aisles of worsted weight yarn in every imaginable color, they seriously lack selection of heavier weight yarns. And the ones they do have are ridiculously expensive.

Luckily, Michael’s has a pretty good selection of bulky and super bulky skeins. And as a bonus, they typically have terrific sales.

An easy starter yarn is Loops & Threads Charisma. It is a bulky weight yarn with lots of coordinating color options and often goes on sale for just $2 a skein! The only downfall with this yarn is that, while very soft before, after washing it becomes stiff and loses its stretch. I have been able to combat this with a decent helping of fabric softener and dryer sheets, but this yarn is not for every day wear.

Another great scarf yarn is Loops & Threads Cozy Wool. While it is a little more expensive, you get what you pay for. The softness and color on this yarn lasts through many washes and it is super warm! It also helps that all the color options are drool-worthy.

For Baby Blankets: 

Because this project is a little bit bigger, I recommend going with a bigger yarn so it doesn’t drag on forever.

My personal favorite is the Bernat Blanket Yarn (this also happens to be the yarn featured in the blanket project above). They recently started making huge skeins of this super bulky yarn that is equivalent to three regular sized skeins. This just means that when I made my toddler sized blanket of out their Ocean Shades color, it only took TWO skeins (as opposed to the usual 6 or more). I felt very accomplished.

Once you have picked your project, and your yarn, you will have to read the back of the skein to purchase the proper hook.

How do you know the weight and hook? 

When you pick up a yarn, you can almost always turn it over and find all the information you need in perfect easy to read pictographs–that is, if you know what they mean.

They’ll typically look something like this:

thumb-1343954530726-04_label

Here is what they mean:

weight

 

This little bundle of yarn will have a number (between 1 and 6) in it. This indicates your yarn weight.

 

knitter

This is the hook size and gauge for knitting. Irrelevant for a crochet project. And if you are a knitter you have truly stumbled to the wrong blog somewhere along your path. I envy your skills.

 

hook

This is what size crochethook is reccomended for this weight yarn. However, if you already know that you pull really tight stitches you can use the next letter hook (the next larger size). Same goes if you are very loose with your yarn, you can use the previous letter.

 

wash

This little set of symbols are your washing instructions. They are the same as the ones that you can find on your clothes tags. Here is a handy chart from Apartment Therapy to help decipher these if you–like me–never actually follow those instructions and don’t know what any of those mean.

This section will have a printed number on it indicating the dye lot of this skein. Because of the mass production of yarn, colors within the same brand and family tend to be pretty consistent. Unless you are using super specialty yarn, this is pretty irrelevant.

Once you have your hook, your yarn, and your pattern you are ready to go!

Be on the look out for a soon coming post going over the very basics of crochet stitches.

Please let me know how your first projects go, or if you have any questions and welcome to the dark side!

sign off

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