Are you looking to get hooked on a new crafty hobby that’ll allow you to make clothes, toys, accessories, and more? If so, you might want to try your hand at crochet.
Crochet is a textile craft that involves using a hooked needle to intertwine and loop together fibre (in most cases, yarn). It’s used to make a whole range of things, from bags and blankets to toys and tea cosies.
Unlike knitting – its older and more conventional cousin, which can be traced all the way back to medieval times – crochet as we know it was developed relatively recently; in the early 19th century, as a way of making a cheap substitute for lace.
Throughout the Victorian era, crochet steadily gained popularity, in no small part thanks to Queen Victoria taking it up herself. She famously crocheted eight scarves for soldiers fighting in South Africa.
Then, as we moved into the 20th century, crochet was used not only in a decorative capacity like lace, and to make accessories like scarves and hats, but to make full garments.
However, the 60s and 70s were really the heydays of crochet, with homeware like plant holders and cushion covers made from crochet being particularly popular – as well as dresses, tops, and skirts. And now that the bohemian/hippie style of the 60s and 70s is coming back into fashion, crochet is experiencing a sort of revival, as more and more people are taking it up.
So if you’re looking to get involved with this popular craft and you’d like to make some crochet masterpieces of your own, why not read on to find out about what materials you’ll need, as well as some of the basics of crochet?
1. Get your basic crochet supplies together
The first supply that you’ll have to pick up is the fibre you’re going to be working with – and initially, choosing fibre for crocheting might not seem so difficult. But once you’ve had a look at what’s available, the selection and the terminology can prove to be a little confusing.
Firstly, you’ll notice that some fibres are called ‘yarn’ and others are called ‘thread’. Both are lengths of fibres that have been spun together for the purpose of making textiles. Yarn is typically thicker than thread and is usually woven together to create fabric or rope. Thread, on the other hand, is thinner and used mainly for sewing and embroidery.
However, you’ll see some crochet fibres labelled ‘crochet thread’. Crochet thread tends to be a little thicker than thread meant for sewing and embroidery, but it’s still generally a lot thinner than crochet yarn. While crochet yarn is typically used for chunkier projects like scarves and jumpers, crochet thread is used for smaller, more intricate pieces, such as doilies.
If you’re just starting out on your crochet journey, most seasoned crochet enthusiasts will recommend that you use some form of yarn. Once you’ve honed your skills, then you can move on to more intricate projects using thread.
Below, we’ll break down the most popular choices of yarn, as well as what’s most appropriate for beginners…
Types of yarn
When choosing yarn, you’ll first need to consider what type to use. This will depend on your skill level, the project you’re undertaking, and a whole range of other factors. It’s also down to personal preference. So here are the most common types of crochet yarn…
- Wool. Although it’s mostly sourced from sheep, wool can come from a wide range of other animals, including alpacas and goats. If you’re an absolute beginner, wool is probably your best bet. This is largely down to how stretchy it is. Because of its elasticity, you can untie it relatively easily if you make a mistake.
Wool is also a durable, long-lasting fibre. This means that whatever you make from it – whether it’s a scarf or a jumper – can last you for decades if you look after it. It’s also breathable while being a great insulator. So if you’re using it for clothing, it’ll keep you nice and warm in the winter, without leaving you hot and bothered.
Although it’s possible to get sustainable and ethically sourced wool, if you want to avoid animal products, then wool isn’t the best choice. The same goes if you have wool allergies.
- Acrylic. Acrylic yarn is another popular choice among crochet enthusiasts. Not only is it cheap, but it’s also durable (you can typically wash it in the washing machine) and versatile – meaning it’ll be appropriate for a whole range of projects. You’ll also find that it’s widely available in a wide range of colours.
However, acrylic yarn does have its downsides. It’s not as absorbent or breathable as other types of yarn, and it’s also not the most sustainable and environmentally friendly option, as it’s essentially made of plastic.
Not only will it take hundreds of years to biodegrade, but it’s made from fossil fuels, which are the world’s biggest contributor to global warming. Plus, every time it’s washed, it releases hundreds of thousands of microplastics that pollute water supplies.
- Cotton. Because of its inelasticity, cotton yarn is slightly more difficult to work with than wool. So it’s not usually recommended for absolute beginners. However, once you’ve got to grips with a few basic stitches, and maybe even tried your hand at a few projects, you might want to try working with cotton yarn.
A plant fibre, cotton is both free from animal products and can be sustainably sourced and produced. It’s a strong, long-lasting fibre which has a lovely smooth finish and is quite heavy. So, although you might not want to use it for lightweight projects, it’ll give that ‘good quality’ feel to your creations.
While these are three of the most popular types of yarn, this is by no means an exhaustive list. From bamboo cotton and silk to alpaca wool, there’s plenty to choose from – and trying out different types is all part of the fun of being a crocheter. Blends are also especially popular these days; combining different fibres to create yarns with all sorts of properties.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that just because the yarn is made from natural materials, this doesn’t mean that it’s sustainable or ethically sourced and produced. So, if you’re a conscious consumer, it’s worth doing your research before you buy.
As well as thinking about what type of yarn you want to use for your projects, you’ll also need to consider the weight of the yarn. Yarn weight doesn’t actually refer to how heavy it is – rather, how thick it is. And what yarn you use will affect the look, size, and texture of your project.
For instance, for a chunky wool jumper, you’ll probably want to use yarn with a larger weight, and for small, delicate projects like doilies, you’ll most likely want to use a yarn with a smaller weight. As we’ve already mentioned, yarn that’s particularly thin is called crochet thread.
When it comes to crochet yarn, here in the UK, there are seven different sizes; 1ply, 2ply, 4ply, DK, Aran, Chunky, and Super Chunky. But because different countries use different weight systems, not every ball of yarn you buy will classify itself like this. If you come across yarn that’s weight is labelled differently, you can use a conversion chart, which will also tell you what size hook to use (which we’ll get to in a second).
To find out more about Yarn weight, as well as a weight system conversion chart, why not take a look at this comprehensive guide from Love Crafts?
Crochet hooks are what you’ll use to turn your bundle of fibre into a masterpiece. However, just like yarn, there are many different types of crochet hooks to choose from, so it can be a little confusing for a beginner to find the best ones for them.
While crochet hooks are made of all sorts of different materials and come in all different sizes, the first thing you need to know is that there are two different types of crochet hooks: inline and tapered.
To understand the difference between an inline and a tapered crochet hook, we must first understand the different parts. There are five different parts of a crochet hook:
The handle – the long length that you hold on the furthest side from the hook
The thumb rest – a wider, depressed section of the shaft where you rest your thumb
The shaft – the consistent length between the thumb rest and the throat
The throat – the part of the shaft that slopes down towards the hooked point
The point – the very end of the hook
For more information on the different parts of a crochet hook, as well as a diagram, take a look at this article.
Inline vs tapered hooks
With an inline crochet hook, the throat is steep and the point stays ‘in line’ with the shaft. And although there’s a slope, the throat and the shaft are the same width. However, with a tapered crochet hook, the point extends wider than the shaft. The throat’s slope is much shallower and it gets thinner as it slopes down towards the hook.
As for what’s best for beginners, most crocheters will recommend that you start out with an inline hook. Because the hook head is in line with the shaft, it makes it easier to create even and uniform stitches. The steeper throat also means that the yarn doesn’t slip off your hook as easily, and the pointier head means it’s easier to push through stitches.
However, when you’ve become familiar with the basics of crocheting, and you’ve practised your skills, you might find that you prefer tapered hooks. Many seasoned crocheters report that because it’s easier to unhook the yarn from a tapered hook, they can crochet a lot more quickly.
When it comes to choosing a crochet hook, size is probably the most important factor, and it depends completely on the weight of your yarn, as well as what project you are undertaking.
Depending on what hooks you’re buying and where you are in the world, crochet hook size is usually measured in either millimetres (this refers to the width of the shaft), letters, or numbers.
The size of your crochet hook will determine the size of the stitches you make. If you use a larger crochet hook, you’ll make bigger, looser stitches and your project will end up being larger. If you use a smaller crochet hook, your stitches will be smaller and tighter, and your project will end up being littler.
Your crochet hook size will also depend on the weight of your yarn. If you’re using a really small hook with a big thick yarn, you won’t be able to hook the yarn properly and pull it through your loops.
If you’re using a crochet pattern (from the internet, a book, etc), it’ll usually tell you what size hook to use. But, if you’re not using a pattern – or your pattern doesn’t give you any guidance on hook size – you can take a look at the label of your yarn, which will usually give you an indication of hook size.
For more information on crochet hook size, why not take a look at this comprehensive article from Joy of Motion Crochet?
Some extra information about crochet hooks
If you find the hand that’s holding the hook gets tired or sore easily, or you’re crocheting for long periods of time, you might want to consider purchasing some ergonomic crochet hooks.
Ergonomic crochet hooks have larger handles that are often shaped to match the contours of your hand. This makes them easier and more comfortable to hold. Ergonomic hooks are great for crocheters with arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
And if you find yourself crocheting into the early hours of the morning, or you often struggle to see your stitches (this can be common when using darkly coloured yarn), you might even want to pick yourself up a set of light-up hooks.
Some other crochet supplies you might need
Once you’ve got your two main supplies together, your yarn and your hooks, there are a couple of other items you’ll need to pick up before you get going…
A tape measure or ruler. Even if you’re working from a set of instructions, determining the size of your project is important. This is because when it comes to crochet, some people tend to make looser stitches than others. And when working on a large project, the difference between tight stitches and loose stitches can alter the size of the finished item quite considerably.
Therefore, it’s always important to measure the gauge of your work with a tape measure and ensure it’s the same as the one stated in your instructions. Your gauge essentially tells you how big your stitches are by measuring how many rows you make within a certain measurement.
To find out more about measuring gauges, why not take a look at this video from Yarnspirations?
2. Learn the basics of crochet
Before you get started on your first crochet project, it can be helpful to get to grips with the basics. So once you’ve got all of your supplies together, it’s time to learn: how to attach your yarn to your hook, how to hold your hook and yarn, a few basic stitches, and a few common techniques.
Learn how to attach your yarn to your hook
The first step in any crochet project is attaching your yarn to your hook, and you do this by tying a slip knot. Take a look at the video below to see three different ways to do this.
Learn how to hold your hook and yarn
Once you’ve successfully attached your yarn to your hook, now it’s time to learn how to hold your hook and yarn…
How to hold a hook
When it comes to crochet, there isn’t really a right answer as to how you hold your hook. When you’ve been crocheting for a while, you might find that you like to hold it slightly differently from others. Perhaps one way is comfier, but you find you have a little more control another way – it’s all down to personal preference.
However, when starting out, most seasoned crocheters will probably recommend that you hold your hook one of two ways: the way you hold a pencil or the way you hold a knife…
Pencil grip – hold the hook exactly as you would if it were a pencil and you’re about to write with it. Place your thumb on the thumb rest and grip the hook between your thumb and index finger, so that the handle of the hook sits comfortably on your middle finger. When using this grip, you’ll find that the hook movement is mostly controlled by the fingers.
Knife grip – for this one, hold the hook as if it were a knife and you were eating dinner; gripping the hook between your thumb and forefinger, and then wrapping your other three fingers around the handle. When using the knife grip, you’ll notice that the movement of the hook is mostly controlled mostly by the wrist.
Most crocheters hold the hook in their dominant hand and the yarn in their non-dominant hand. The hook itself should also be slightly facing you, and not up or down.
How to hold your yarn
So once you’ve got to grips with how to hold your hook, now it’s time to pick up your yarn.
The hand that holds the yarn has two purposes. Firstly, it feeds the yarn onto the hook, and secondly, it controls the tension of your yarn, which determines how loose or tight your stitches are (less tension, looser stitches).
Just like holding your hook, there are lots of ways different people hold their yarn – it’s all about finding what’s best for you. Take a look at the video below to find out a few different ways.
Learn the basic crochet stitches
So you’ve attached your yarn to your hook and you’re holding them both correctly. Now you’re ready to start crocheting. Below, we’ll cover the most basic stitches, so you can start getting to grips with the fundamentals of crochet.
The best way to practise these stitches is to first make a foundation chain (which we’ll cover below) and use these stitches to make square pieces of fabric – which are called ‘swatches’. If you want to really nail different stitch types, try making a few swatches until your stitches are nice and even.
Although not technically a stitch, crocheting chains is usually the first skill that any beginner in the world of crochet learns. This is because these chains (often called ‘foundation chains’) are used to create the base of many projects by setting the width.
To find out how to make chains, as well as some other tips and tricks, check out the video below from Bella Coco.
Double crochet stitch
The next skill any budding crochet enthusiast must learn is the double crochet stitch (referred to as the ‘single crochet stitch’ by our friends in the US). This is the first proper stitch you’ll learn. It’s a short, dense stitch and one of the most frequently used in crochet projects like toys.
To learn how to double crochet stitch, take the chain you’ve already made and follow along with the video below.
Treble crochet stitch
Once you’ve got to grips with chain and double crochet stitches, it’s time to learn the treble crochet stitch (called the ‘double crochet stitch’ across the pond). It’s much like the double crochet stitch, but it has an extra step. The treble crochet stitch is taller and less dense than the double stitch, so it’s perfect for making things like scarves and clothing.
Check out the video below from Stitch and Story to find out how to make a treble crochet stitch.
Half treble crochet stitch
When it comes to both density and height, the half treble crochet stitch is somewhere between the double and the treble. So once you’ve mastered these two, why not tackle this one?
Take a look at the video below to find out how to make a half treble stitch.
The shortest of all the crochet stitches, the slip stitch isn’t generally used to make fabric by itself. Instead, it has many other functional uses, such as moving yarn to another part of the fabric without adding any extra height.
Take a look at the video below from Stitch and Story to find out how to make a slip stitch.
Some other stitches you might want to learn
Other basic skills
Once you’ve practised the basic crochet stitches, you’re almost ready to get going with your first project. However, there are a few other techniques that are worth trying your hand at before you do…
Fastening off and weaving in the ends
Once you’ve made your swatches using your basic stitches, there’s one final step that you have to go through to make sure that they don’t unravel and you don’t have any extra lengths of yarn hanging off your project. This is called fastening off and weaving in the ends.
Check out the video below from Red Heart Yarns to see how this is done.
Crocheting in the round
Making square pieces of fabric is probably the best way for beginners to practise basic crocheting. Though you’ll quickly find that many crochet projects call for making circular shapes. This is what’s called ‘crocheting in the round’.
Take a look at the video below from JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores to find out how this is done.
Crocheting a granny square
A granny square is a commonly used motif in crocheting. And because it’s featured in many different projects and uses basic stitches like the single and double crochet stitch, it’s a great technique for beginners to have a go at.
Check out the video below from Bella Coco to find out how to crochet granny squares.
3. Choose your crochet project
Now that you’ve got all your materials together and you’ve had a go and the basic techniques and stitches involved in crochet, you’re ready to start creating your own masterpieces.
The best way to choose a project is to find a pattern. A pattern will generally tell you what thickness of yarn you’ll need and how much is required, what gauge your stitches should be, what size hook is best, and it’ll take you through the entire process – which means all you have to do is follow along with the instructions.
Crochet patterns, especially once you’re past the beginner stage, tend to use a lot of crochet-specific jargon and abbreviations. So before you start, it’s worth familiarising yourself with these. For some help, why not check out this excellent glossary from Reading Patterns?
The best place to find patterns is undoubtedly the internet. You can just search for whatever project you’d like to undertake and you’ll find loads of free patterns. Just remember to make sure that they’re using UK terminology to avoid confusion.
If you want, there are also loads of great books out there that are full of great crochet patterns for beginners. Crochet: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide and My Crochet Bible come highly recommended by crochet enthusiasts.
And finally, if you’re struggling to decide on a project, why not take a look at this brilliant article from Gathered? It has 40 different project ideas as well as free downloadable patterns for all of them.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this beginner’s guide to crochet. It’s a great hobby to get stuck into because it’s not only fun, but you can create loads of useful things that can be kept for yourself, or given away as gifts to loved ones. Once you’re experienced enough, you can even sell your creations on sites like Etsy.
To find out more about other creative hobbies, why not take a look at the learning section of our site? Here, you’ll find introductory guides on anything from calligraphy and painting to macramé and carpentry.