Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Do You Want To Learn To Crochet?

By Sue Norrad

Have you been thinking about learning to crochet? Many people have told me that they would just love to be able to crochet, but they feel it would be too hard for them to learn. They know nothing about yarn, hooks or even how to begin.

Actually, crochet is not difficult at all. It's only hard if you think it is, so you have to change your thinking by looking at the basics of crochet.

Have you ever seen children (or perhaps you have done this yourself) playing with a piece of yarn or string? They make a slip knot in the yarn or string using their fingers, then make a loop and pass it through the first loop, then another loop through that loop and so on. This is the same as the basic starting chain in crochet, except you are using a crochet hook instead of your fingers.

How do you choose your yarn? In selecting your yarn, there are five basic types: baby/fingering, sportweight/baby, worsted weight, chunky and bulky. Worsted weight is a good type for a beginner.

Fingering and baby yarns are very fine, sportweight is usually 3 ply (ply means the number of strands that are twisted together to form the yarn). Worsted weight is a 4 ply yarn. Chunky and bulky are heavier yarns.

Yarns can be made of synthetic or natural fibers. Acrylics are popular and easy to work with and wash. Cotton yarns are very easy to work with and make great crocheted dishcloths, an easy project for beginners.

For a beginner, you will want to stay away from using the fuzzy and fur yarns. They are soft and very pretty, but more difficult to work with as it is hard to see your stitches. You can try them later as your crocheting skills improve.

To choose your yarn, just look at the labels. They will tell you what you need to know. Some yarns even have free patterns inside the label. You will want to save those in your pattern collection, even if you are not interested in making the item right now. It's always great to build a pattern collection for later use.

Next you will choose your crochet hook. Hooks can be made of aluminum, plastic, wood or steel. Steel hooks are very small and used in fine work such as doilies and lace.

As a beginner, you will be learning with the worsted weight yarn so you will want a H (5.00mm), I (5.5mm) or J (6.00mm) hook. As you learn to crochet, you will want to build a collection of the many different hook sizes.

The problem I have found that most beginners have is getting the hook and yarn working together. But as with anything, practice makes perfect. It doesn't take long before you will get the hang of it and be in the flow.

Before you actually make an item you should do some practice pieces. Start out making a chain of about 15 to 20 chains. You do that by making a slip knot by wrapping the yarn around your finger and pulling loop through, then put the slip knot onto your crochet hook. Pull on both ends of the yarn to tighten and adjust the slip knot. Then bring your yarn over your hook from back to front, grab the yarn with your hook and pull through the loop on your hook. Repeat until you have 15 to 20 chain stitches.

Now you will use the single crochet (sc) to make your practice piece. In the second chain from your hook (just count two chains away from the hook) and insert your hook into that chain. Put your yarn over the hook and draw that yarn through the chain stitch. There are now 2 loops on hook.

Bring your yarn over the hook from back to front, and draw it through both loops on hook. One loop remains on the hook. You have completed your first single crochet stitch.

Keep repeating the single crochet stitch until the end of the chain row. If you started with 20 chains, you will 19 single crochet stitches in this row as you skipped the first chain and began in the second chain from your hook.

To do your next row of single crochet, first you make a chain stitch by wrapping the yarn over your hook and pulling it through the loop on your hook. Now you turn your work so that the last sc you made on the previous row is now at the beginning. Make one single crochet stitch in that stitch and in each remaining stitch of the previous row. Repeat this for every new row.

You will notice that there are two loops on the tops of the completed single crochet stitches. You put your hook through both those loops. I have noticed that a mistake that some beginners make is by only going through one loop of the single crochet. That is a variation that works well in some patterns, but you will learn that later as your skills improve.

Keep working your sample piece for practice until you get the feel for crocheting. This will help you to learn how to hold your hook in a way that makes it easy to grab the yarn and it will also help you to get your tension on. You may find that you are crocheting too loosely or too tightly at first. As you practice, you will learn how to keep your tension uniform throughout the whole project.

Once you have practiced and feel you are ready to try an easy pattern, you can do a search online for a scarf pattern, which is what most beginners start out with. Or, as mentioned before, dishcloths are easy patterns for beginners.

By searching online you will find everything you need to know about crochet. There are free patterns, charts with crochet abbreviations used in patterns, charts for hook sizes, etc.

I am sure that you will enjoy your crochet experience. I find it very relaxing, a great stress reliever. It is also fun to work with the different yarn colors and textures. It is great to be able to make items for yourself and as gifts for family and friends.

You can do it while you are watching TV, or while sitting in a doctor's waiting room, or traveling as a passenger in a vehicle. Just get yourself a crochet tote bag (or crochet one yourself) and you are ready to go.

I hope this information has been helpful to you in making your decision to take up crochet as a hobby.

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