Forget Grandma’s doilies! Think lacy shawls, airy tops and sturdy beach bags. Crochet may be the most misunderstood of needle arts!
At first glance it looks difficult and time consuming, but, truth be told, you already know basic crochet.
If you’ve ever fiddled with a string or cord, making a “magic” knot, then pulling up loops to make a chain that can be pulled apart again, you’re just a hook and a “yarn over” away from knowing how to crochet. The rest is simple too — just learning where to insert your hook into the chain and deciding what variation of the basic crochet stitch you want to execute.
Crochet is also very forgiving. It’s easy to pull out a stitch or row of stitches that you’re not happy with and try again. After you master a few basics, you can modify patterns and improvise handily.
If you know how to tie a slip knot but you never really thought about the steps, these drawings might confuse you. Just make a slip knot that can be tightened with the yarn going toward the ball, put it on the hook and jump to Step 2.
Step 1: Make a slip knot
Start with a yarn pretzel, insert the hook under the bottom-most strand and pull up a loop. You should be able to pull the yarn that’s going toward the ball to tighten the knot. The starting slip knot is never counted as a stitch.
Don’t worry about matching the photo exactly – as long as you have a knot you can loosen and tighten with the yarn on the ball side, you’ll be fine.
Step 2: Crochet a foundation chain
Wrap the yarn around the back of the hook, over the top and to the front of the hook. This is called a “yarn over.” Next pull the yarn through the slip knot — the first chain stitch is now on the hook.
Repeat the “yarn over” and “pull through” steps to form a chain. This is called the “foundation chain” and will be the base of the first row of your project. Keep the stitches loose — you’ll be putting the hook through them to create the next row.
Step 3: Single crochet
The elements of a crochet stitch are easier to follow if you don’t get too hung up on figuring out the illustrations. Videos are an excellent way to learn crochet but still images seem to make it more difficult than it is. Try following the steps without looking at the illustrations if they confuse you.
Most patterns start with a “foundation chain” of a certain number of stitches. In patterns you’ll see something like “Chain 10” or “Ch 120” depending on the width of the piece you’re beginning.
Other ways to begin crochet projects involve “circles,”magic rings” and fancier foundation chains but this simple chain stitch is all you need for now. So, let’s get started. Make a foundation chain of 13 stitches.
1. Begin by inserting your hook into the second chain stitch from the hook.
2. Do a yarn over (from the back, over the top to the front) and pull the yarn through the chain. You should have two loops on the chain.
3. Yarn over again and pull the yarn through both loops. That’s it! You have your first single crochet stitch on the foundation chain and a new loop on the hook.
4. To complete the first row, insert the hook in the next chain and repeat steps 2 and 3 above until you reach the last chain. You should have 12 stitches.
The next row
Whenever you start a new row of crochet, you must chain the number of stitches that equal the height of the next stitch. Some patterns go into detail about beginning and ending rows and the number of chains to begin a row with.
Beginning of row chain stitch guide:
Chain 1 before a row that starts with a single stitch.
Chain 2 before a half double stitch
Chain 3 before a double crochet
Chain 4 before a triple crochet.
To continue, chain one and single crochet in each stitch across. If you’re comfortable with the single crochet stitch, begin alternating rows with the basic stitches described below using the guide above to begin each row.
The basic stitches used in crochet are variations of the single stitch. The differences are in the number of yarn overs and pull throughs. Once again, the photo might be more confusing than the written directions.
Half double crochet
By now, you’ve probably noticed the pattern — it’s all about the number of “yarn overs” and “pull throughs.” For the triple crochet, yarn over twice before you insert the hook into the chain — you will have four loops on the hook. Yarn over and pull through two of the loops — you will have three loops on the hook. Yarn over and pull through two loops — you will have two loops on the hook. Yarn over and pull through the two loops on the hook to finish the stitch.
If you chained 13 and followed the instructions for single crocheting, you now have two rows of single crochet with 12 stitches in each (12 sc) and have completed the first two rows of the following pattern.
This is how a typical crochet pattern is written:
Abbreviations: (US terms) ch – chain sc –single crochet st – stitch yo – yarn over Instructions: Chain 13 Row 1: Sc in 2nd ch from hook. 1 sc in ea st across (12 sc). Row 2: Ch 1 (counts as first sc), 1 sc in ea st across. (12 sc). Row 3-?: repeat Row 2....etc.
Most crochet projects will be made up of a certain pattern of rows and stitches. Usually once the pattern has been established, it is repeated. Some patterns are quite intricate, others are mindlessly simple.
This has been a bare bones intro to crochet. If you’ve followed along and feel comfortable with the basic stitches, there’s plenty more to learn. One way to begin is with a free registration at ravelry.com, the online community for knitterns and crocheters.
Crocheting is very forgiving! You can simply unravel or “frog” your work and start over if you don’t like it or get in over your head, so trying out patterns is a great way to master the craft and Ravelry’s searchable database has thousands of free patterns to experiment with. Most patterns have photos of other members finished attempts so you can gauge whether you’re on the right track. If you become stumped, search Google. Chances are somebody’s been there before and the solution’s out there.
Most of all, enjoy the process! Keep your fingers nimble, your thumbs off the keypad, your hands out of the chip bag and be creative.
Feel free to post questions and suggestions in the comments section.