To a beginner, crochet probably sounds like a lot of trouble, but it is hands down one of the easiest crafts to learn. There are lots of different stitches, but you don’t need all of them to get started – not to mention getting hooked (pun intended). In fact, only two or three basic stitches are enough to help you produce a wide array of amazing products. Later on, you can learn dozens of different stitches that can make almost anything you can imagine.
That’s exactly why I love crochet: you can start right away and learn the basis within hours, and then spend many happy years honing your skills and developing your admiration for this wonderful craft.
However, this is not to say that there is nothing to it. Don’t expect your very first baby steps to look like magic. Your fingers will need a lot of practice in order to produce those smooth and consistent stitches that your grandma used to make.
The ease of learning is not the only advantage of crochet. Another, maybe even more important benefit is the fact that the expenses are next to zero. In sewing, you need a sewing machine that may cost hundreds of bucks, and a whole range of tools and supplies that can add another hundred, give or take. Crochet is so cheap that you only need a crochet hook or two, and yarn. (I suspect you already have a pair of scissors.) Later on, you can expand your supplies if you wish, and snag a storage case, yarn winder (if you also knit), and other accessories. But you can stitch your way through any project without those additional tools too.
Basic Crochet Stitching
So, let’s go through some of the crucial yet simplest techniques you need in order to make your first crochet stitches piece. Along with the stitches, we’ll learn the lingo and abbreviations that you will encounter in patterns. Note that every single stitch has many different ways to make it. So, what you learn from me won’t necessarily be the same as what you learn from someone else. But once you get the hang of it, you will be able to choose the style that works best for you, and even improve or improvise upon it.
Baby Step #1: Everything Starts With a Slip Knot
And when I say everything, that’s exactly what I mean. No matter the style, technique or personal preference, everyone has to start with a slip knot. It’s a loop that kicks off your crocheting and keeps everything in place. Even though it’s not a stitch in itself, it’s still an indispensable step. There’s no abbreviation for it, since it’s kind of default first step that doesn’t even count as a stitch.
As a beginner, make sure not to choose a very thin hook and yarn. You will want to go easy on yourself and be able to observe and control the process. So, grab a bigger hook and make sure your yarn is smooth and light enough (both in weight and color), so that things don’t get messy. The best hook size would be H (or 5mm in continental measures), and the easiest yarn to work with would be worsted-weight. Avoid black yarn like hell until you become a pro, or at least until your fingers automate their way around the thread.
So, here are the basic steps to do a slip knot the easiest way:
- Wrap the yarn’s tail around the index and middle fingers on your left hand. That’s if you’re right-handed; if not, just do it the other way round. The loose end of the tail should be facing you. The thread should be X-shaped. Hold the rest of your thread around your fingers, so it doesn’t get in the way.
- Now it’s time to start making the loop. Take your hook and push it underneath the first thread, on the outward part of your hand. Many crocheters do this without the hook, just using their fingers. And then they insert the hook when it’s time to make the loop.
- Grab the working part of your thread that’s connected to the yarn skein, and pull it back. There’s your loop!
- You can adjust the tension to be looser or tighter. For now, however, don’t sweat over it. You will get the feeling once you start your first project. Just remember not to make it too tight, or the stitches won’t be able to go through it.
Baby Step #2: Chain Stitch
The reason why this is the second logical step is because chain stitch is the basis of almost every project. Just like the slip knot holds your ensuing stitches in place, the chain stitch will hold the whole construction in place. Think of it like building a house: you need a foundation if you don’t want the entire project to crumble.
- With your hook in the slip knot, wrap your working part of your thread around the hook backward. For starters, it will probably be easiest to wrap the thread around the hook. But later on, you will actually start maneuvering the hook itself, pushing it underneath the thread.
- While doing that, make sure to gently hold the knot with your left-hand thumb and middle finger.
- Catch the thread and pull the hook through the slip knot, and there you have it! You have made a small chain. It starts at the slip knot and then builds upon it.
- Repeat the process over and over. At first, you will be very slow. My first chain stitch took me almost half an hour! But then, as you repeat it, your speed will increase to the point where you can actually call it “speed”.
The abbreviation for chain stitch will be, logically, “ch” – both for the US and the UK crocheters. That’s what you’ll be encountering in every single crochet project.
Congratulations, my dear padawan! You just made one of your first crochet stitches.
Baby Step #3: Single Crochet Stitch (or Double Crochet for Brits)
Now that you’ve made your foundation, it’s time to start building on it. And for that, meet your new acquaintance: single crochet stitch – also known as double crochet in British English. The patterns will abbreviate as such: “sc”.
- Before you make your first single crochet stitch, make sure you do one more chain stitch on your foundation than needed. That’s because you’re going to skip that stitch. Let’s say you intend on having 10 single crochet stitches in a row. To do that, you will need 11 chain stitches in the foundation.
- Push your hook through the second chain stitch. You will want to yarn over and pull through the first loop.
- Next, you’ll notice that there are two loops on your hook. Yarn over one more time and slide back your hook through both loops.
This might seem very tricky at first. But after doing a couple of rows, you will start feeling a bit more relaxed. And the best part is – you can already make all sorts of things! Just one notable example is amigurumi, the skill of crocheting cute little animals and other shapes that has already conquered the world. If you’re more on the practical side, there’s lots of other things you can make, such as hats, scarves, dishcloths, blankets, and even adorable baby boots.
Why Should I Learn Crochet?
If the above remarks about ease and affordability of crochet aren’t enough, think about this. Crochet wasn’t born yesterday, but people went especially crazy about it in between and after the 19th and 20th centuries wars. Hardship was easier to battle when you knew how to make things that were both useful and beautiful, such as hats, blankets or afghans, handbags. Many women employed this skill to earn their livelihood in times of destitution. Even Queen Victoria realized the ingenuity of this craft, and before long, she became a passionate crocheter who made stuff for her war veterans!
Things look brighter today, but crochet hasn’t fallen out of favor with the masses. On the contrary – even high-end fashion designers regularly show off this art on their products. You will see crocheted details or entire garments on top models, actors and actresses, as well as the hipster next door. Yes, crochet is that versatile. And, for all these decades and centuries, it has earned the prestigious title of a classic. Kudos for the granny square!