LEARN THE BASICS


I think the safest thing to say to someone just starting out trying to decipher what a crochet pattern means is to say –“you are learning another language now”. If you don’t take the time to learn what each word- or in this case, abbreviation –means, you’re going to run into trouble! You can’t understand the language unless you learn the words!

So, let’s start with some of the most common abbreviations:

ch- chain

chs- chains

sc- single crochet

dc- double crochet

hdc- half double crochet

tr- treble crochet

sl st- slip stitch

sp- space

sk- skip

dec- decrease

inc- increase

rep- repeat

This should get you through the most basic patterns, and is a good place to start learning your new language!

Crochet Basics I- Let's Start with the Hooks

It’s quite amazing that such a simple tool can do so much, considering it has no moving parts. Let’s look at a crochet hook to get familiar with its five different sections.

The tip and the throat (the hook) are used to make a stitch; the diameter of the shaft section determines the size of the hook; and the grip and the handle are used to hold the hook.

Crochet hooks come in many different materials- they can be wood, plastic, acrylic, aluminum, bamboo, bone, and steel. While steel  hooks are used primarily for thread work, the others are made to be used with yarn. It’s entirely up to you whether you prefer man made materials for your hook ( aluminum, plastic, steel, acrylic) or natural materials ( bamboo, bone, wood). Some hooks come with comfort grips or ergonomically shaped handles and even special features like lights! As a beginner, we recommend that you experiment with a variety of types of hooks to see what feels right for you. The right hook for you will make all the difference in how comfortable you will be when you hold the hook.

Here in the United States, hooks are sized smaller to larger by letters of the alphabet ( size 7 is the exception).There will most often be a corresponding number as well, as well as a mm number. Usually, you will find the size of the hook stamped right on the hook’s grip. The smaller the hook, the finer the yarn should be used.

Steel crochet hooks are most often used with crochet thread, which can be made of  cotton, linen, bamboo, rayon, or even acrylic. These hooks are always listed differently than the yarn hooks, with the largest (used with thicker threads) to the smallest (used with finer threads). Unlike with yarn hooks, the lower the number, the larger the hook. The grip on a steel hook will have its size.

The tip and the throat (the hook) are used to make a stitch; the diameter of the shaft section determines the size of the hook; and the grip and the handle are used to hold the hook.

Steel crochet hooks are most often used with crochet thread, which can be made of  cotton, linen, bamboo, rayon, or even acrylic. These hooks are always listed differently than the yarn hooks, with the largest (used with thicker threads) to the smallest (used with finer threads). Unlike with yarn hooks, the lower the number, the larger the hook. The grip on a steel hook will have its size.

Whether you love natural fibers like wool, cotton, silk, mohair, cashmere, alpaca, angora, linen or quiviot, or the wonderful array of synthetics such as acrylics, metallics, furs and all manner of blends, the market offers a huge variety of textures from basic to boucle to keep your hook a-stitching. Basics are probably easiest for beginners, allowing stitches to be more visible to the as yet unfamiliar and untrained eye. 
 

Yarns are classified by their weight (thickness of the yarn), whatever fiber it is made from. They can be  superfine (the thinnest) all the way to super bulky (the thickest). Yarns usually have a recommended crochet hook size and a suggested gauge. This will be discussed in  more detail later on,           Generally, the finer weight the yarn, the smaller the hook size, and the bulkier weight the yarn, the larger the hook size used. It should be noted that there are occasionally exceptions to this rule.  The chart  below will help you understand the different weights possible for your projects.

Crochet Basics II- Holding the Hook & That Starting Chain

Let’s Start!
Now that you understand a bit about your hook and yarn possibilities, it’s time to begin learning what to do with them!

WHAT YOU'LL NEED TO START

It’s suggested that you start with a crochet hook that you are comfortable with, in a medium size such as 8/H, 9/I, or 10/J. These sizes tend to be most comfortable at first to hold in your hand, rather than using a very small or very large hook. At this point, your crochet comfort is key! If possible, try using different typesof hooks to see which suits you best.

A basic 4-ply knitting worsted weight yarn is probably the best yarn to use at first. The fiber is up to you, but do stay away from darker colors , as stitch visibility is important. I’d also advise against cotton, because cotton tends to be harder to work with for beginners due to its lack of elasticity.


HOLDING THE HOOK

Don’t let anybody tell you that there’s a right and wrong way to hold a hook! How you hold your hook must be your personal choice. Remember we said comfort is key? You must be comfortable while working your stitches and the way you hold your hook must be the way you feel most comfortable!

One of the ways is to grip it like a knife. This is the most common way.
Hold the hook in your hand so that your thumb is flat on the front of the grip and your index finger is flat on the back of the grip, with  the top of the hook (both the tip and throat)  facing you. The rest of your fingers will naturally wrap around it. It should feel comfortable in your hand! Do a little practice exercise by putting the hook down, then picking it up again, placing your fingers as before and getting really comfortable with it.

Another way to hold the hook is like a pencil. The easiest way to figure this method out is to just pretend that you are going to write something with that hook! Again, practice picking the hook up and putting it down, back and forth, until you reach either a comfort level with this method, or decide you're more comfortable with the knife method. In any case, practice both ways until you determine which way is right for you.

  THE  STARTING CHAIN

With most crochet, the foundation is the starting chain, sometimes, but not always, called the foundation chain. Just  like the foundation of a house, the starting chain of your work is very important. Creating an even start is essential. There’s not much worse than stitching an entire piece and realizing that everything looks good except the starting chain!

It may seem silly to just chain and chain and chain, but in the case of starting chains, practice does make perfect. It’s also a way for you to get familiar with your hook and yarn, and come to an agreement with yourself as to how you are going to hold your hook. Remember-don’t let anyone tell you there’s only one right way! The truth is- the only right way is the way you feel most comfortable, because it is that comfort which is going to get you consistent stitching.

You will start with a slip knot.

To make one, wrap the yarn around your hand.

Pull up a loop through the wrapped yarn. 

Adjust the knot to fit your hook

Now, you are going to pull a loop through the starting chain and then another through the new chain and the another through that new chain.........until you can't possibly stand doing it any more! It will feel awkward at first, but that shouldn't deter you. That's why I suggest you practice, practice, practice! Believe it or not, in time, making an even starting chain will become second nature, as easy as breathing

Now that you've practiced making a starting chain, let's learn just what you've got here!

There are two sides to a starting chain.The flat part that faces you while you make the chains is traditionally called the top. Along this top, moving from beginning to end, those loops look like a line of Vs. Your stitches will be made in these loops.

The other side of the top is called the bottom.There, the chains form a single line of bumps, which are actually loops as well. In some patterns, these are referred to as bottom loops. Occasionally a project will specify that you crochet into the bottom loops, but usually, and for our purposes right now, we will be talking about only the two loops on the top.

Practice, practice! Practice! This is the year that all your gift giving will be trimmed with a chained bow!

Just as practicing scales on the piano improves one's playing, practicing chaining will prove your ability to stitch evenly. So....chain, chain, chain!