Hello. Last week I wrote about the fun I had learning to crochet, and eventually succeeding in doing it to a level that was satisfactory, to me at least (my standards aren’t too high, for self-preservation reasons). For some reason, I thought it would be good to divide that post in two, the first part being anecdotal about how I learned the craft, and then getting down to the technical aspects in part two… Now however, I think I may have left all the dull stuff for this post. It seemed like a good idea at the time… so I’ll have to try my best to make this in some way entertaining and possibly even informative too.
For a while, having learned how to make a granny square, I just carried on doing this. At some point though, I decided that I might be able to learn a few more tricks with this craft, and I enjoyed it enough to welcome it onto my very small list of hobbies. So I went to the library and took out a copy of Crocheting for Dummies to find out a bit more…
Gauge Swatch: Here’s something all the books recommend that you do, so naturally enough I never do it on account of being lazy and having a short attention span. They suggest doing a gauge swatch to determine your tension, which you do by making a small swatch and counting how many stitches there are in a certain space. I can understand that this is helpful if you are following a pattern for something that has to be a certain size. If you stitches are too small or large for a pattern, you can change hook size and apparently that helps. So far, I haven’t followed any patterns that require things to be a specific size, which is fortunate as I only have one size of hook at present.
Different Stitches: It turns out there are a lot of different stitches, although I have noticed that they all seem to follow the same basic principle of wrapping yarn around the hook and pulling it through loops, possibly because that is crocheting by definition?! The main differences seem to be how many times you wrap your yarn around the hook, or how many loops it has to go through. Also, there is the business of where you should be sticking your hook, which had me confused for months, and is probably why the first bit of crocheting I did was a bit of a mess.
It’s also one reason why a Granny square is nice and simple, because you are sticking your hook in a clear gap rather than a difficult to determine stitch.
It is useful to learn however, because then you can move on to doing fan and shell stitches which are some of my favourites, and can be used in all sorts of lovely ways such as making flowers, edging, and African flower hexagons which I am mad about at the moment.
Deciphering stupid instructions… OK, the instructions aren’t that stupid really, probably more the person trying to read them in this case, but they can be terribly tricky when you find out that A) not only do some stitches have different names in America to what they do in the UK, but B) they also all get reduced down to a bunch of confusing initials when put into a pattern. Well I find them confusing anyway, but then I have never been a fan of acronyms or initials as it seems to take my brain longer than most to process and translate them into something meaningful. I find that I am constantly having to check crochet books indexes to make sure I have read the abbreviated stitches name correctly… Here’s an example of what I mean; “*3 CH , 3 TR in same ch sp as last dc, skip [1 dc, 3 tr], 1 DC in next…” And so it goes on. I think that individual books have their own ways of writing patterns too, there doesn’t seem to be a universal crochet lingo sadly.
Stitch Diagrams: Sometimes books include these, and I often find them easier to read than the written pattern, although I usually like to follow both to make sure I am doing things correctly! They are a bit like a visual diagram of a pattern, with the stitches illustrated in symbols, so at a quick glance of a stitch diagram you can usually tell how complicated a pattern is, or whether it uses stitches and techniques that you know or don’t know. They do have a way of making big motifs look complicated and off-putting though…
Wools and yarns: I really had no clue as to how many different types of wools and yarns there were before I started crocheting, which was a bit ignorant of me really considering how many times I had been to the local wool shop to buy embroidery threads. It turns out there are many different kinds, and they are all in different grades of thickness, and even come with ‘dye batches’ numbered on their labels so that you can match your colours perfectly! Generally speaking, I stick to ‘double knit’ grade of thickness (as it seems to be the most widely available thickness), and buy nasty old acrylic yarn as it is the cheapest (although not that cheap, what with this being Ireland) so it doesn’t matter too much about all my beginners mistakes.
And finally, hooks: Yeah, hooks, without them we would never be able to crochet (although I have my own yet-to-be-tested theory that you should be able to do it with your finger). They come in different sizes, to suit the thickness of your wool and something else to do with the gauge thing that my brain fails to find interesting. You can get them in metal, wood, or with a funky handle on if that is your thing. I have one of those plain metal kinds.
So there’s the technical stuff. Of course, there is the crocheting itself, working in rows, working in rounds, circles, squares, triangles, you could almost get a third post out of it…
Here’s another book I have found helpful, with a comprehensive index of stitches in it. There are plenty more too that I haven’t yet looked through, so feel free to share any useful book suggestions in the comments section!