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How to Crochet: Learn the Basics of This Time-Honored Handicraft

How to Crochet

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Did you know that a handicraft like crochet is a proven stress reliever as well as a positive creative outlet? With the recent resurgence of interest in crafting, more and more people are discovering the versatility of crocheting. No longer viewed as your grandma's hobby, amateur and professional textile artists continue to explore crochet's creative possibilities.

Luckily, it's not too difficult for beginners to get started. With so many techniques and stitches to choose from, it's possible to start out slow and pick up skills over time. With just a few basic techniques and stitches, you can be well on your way. So what exactly is crochet? This textile art requires the use of a long stick with a hook at the end, known as a crochet hook, which is used to make loops of yarn, thread, or cord to produce a fabric.

As crochet hooks come in all sizes, you can work with fine thread all the way up to thick rope to produce items like socks, blankets, mittens, shoulder bags, hats, sweaters, and much more. Most projects follow a crochet pattern that will help you achieve the look you're after, though some artistic techniques like freeform crochet are perfect for those who love to freestyle. Crochet is so versatile that you can even get away with ditching the hook and simply use your fingers in a technique aptly called finger crochet!

 

Scroll down for supplies and the basic stitches to learn crochet.

 

Essential Crochet Supplies

Crocheting Basics

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To get started, the most important supplies you'll need are a crochet hook and yarn, thread, or cord to create your fabric.

  • Crochet hooks — These metal or plastic utensils (we'd recommend metal) come in different gauges depending on the thickness of the material to be looped.
  • Yarn and crochet threads — This is the fun part of crocheting—picking your fibers! Again, depending on what you're making will determine what kind of yarn or thread you'll need to use.
  • Scissors — Fiskars makes some of our favorite craft scissors.
  • Stitch markers — These little locket-shaped pieces will help you keep track of where you are in your patterns.

There are a wide variety of crochet stitches, but most projects start with you needing to know how to make a slip knot in order to get your yarn on the hook and a chain stitch in order to make a solid row to anchor your entire piece.

 

Basic Crochet Stitches for Beginners

Basic Chain Stitch for Crochet

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Watching is often the most effective way to do something, which is why YouTube is such a great resource for learning how to crochet. Here are popular videos that will help you learn how to crochet.

 

How to Crochet for Absolute Beginners

 

How to Slip Knot and Chain 

 

How to Crochet a Slip Stitch

 

Make a Single Crochet Stitch

 

How to Work the Half Double Crochet Stitch

 

How to Double Crochet Stitch

 

Want to gain more knowledge of crochet basics? Try these online classes.

You might also consider joining Skillshare for complete access to a wide variety of tutorials and projects. Their vast library of materials on crocheting is great for all skill levels.

 

Crochet vs. Knitting

History of Crochet

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It can be difficult for novices to note the difference between crocheting and knitting at first glance, but though both use yarn there are many distinctions between these crafts.

The first, and most obvious, are the tools used. Knitters use two flat knitting needles, while crochet requires a hook to latch onto the yarn. Crochet hooks come in a variety of sizes depending on the material used and are typically made of plastic, wood, bamboo, aluminum, or steel.

Crochet requires the use of only one hand, which some people find easier, and typically goes faster than knitting. The results are often lighter and drape better than knit pieces. While both crafts use yarn, crochet is a bit more flexible. Using different gauges of hooks, it's possible to crochet anything from thread to rope.

The types of stitches used also vary. Knitting primarily uses two stitches, while crochet has a huge variety of intricate stitches that you can use to create different effects. The way the stitches are formed differs greatly as well, with knitters having many active loops on their needles at the same time. In crochet, there's usually only one active loop at a time. (An exception to this rule is Tunisian crochet, which uses extra-long needles to produce a knit-like product.)

One similarity is that both crafts use patterns with abbreviations, many of them the same whether you are knitting or crocheting. This will make it much easier to hop back and forth between each craft. And, of course, many of the items one can make are the same, whether they're mittens, blankets, sweaters, or slippers. Good hand-eye coordination and patience is a must, so give both a try and see what you prefer.

 

Types of Crochet

Similar to embroidery or quilting, there are different types of crochet. These styles, developed in different countries according to local customs, can produce diverse effects. Whether producing delicate lace or thick woven baskets, these styles show the versatility of crochet as an art form. Here are just some of the approaches you might want to try depending on the end product you're after.

 

Amigurumi

 

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This Japanese style of crochet is used to create small, stuffed yarn creatures. They're particularly popular for their kawaii aesthetic and are typically created using basic crochet stitches. Small gauge crochet hooks are used in order to create a tight weave.

 

Aran

 

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This incredibly textured style is often used for chunky sweaters and blankets. Also known as cable crochet, it's a Celtic style that uses many interconnected crochet cables. Aran is also the name of a type of medium-weight yarn that is more commonly called worsted yarn in the United States. Don't get confused, as Aran crochet doesn't require specific use of Aran yarn.

 

Bavarian

 

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Typically worked in rounds rather than rows, Bavarian crochet is an intermediate technique that is often used to make blankets and shawls. The resulting fabric is thick and allows for subtle color gradations.

 

Bosnian

 

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Often mistaken for a piece of knitting, Bosnian crochet, also known as Shepherd's knitting, is created by exclusively using the slip stitch. While a regular crochet hook can be used, some find it easier to use special Bosnian crochet hooks. The technique can be time-consuming, so is best used to create smaller items.

 

Broomstick

 

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This classic 19th-century technique is sometimes called jiffy lace. It involves using a hook and long wooden dowel. According to Red Heart, “the design is made by using a crochet hook to pull tall loops of thread up on to a dowel (historically, a broomstick, which is where the name comes from).”

 

Clothesline

This technique, which traces its origins to Africa and Nepal, involves using thick rope or cord to create a sturdy durable fabric often used to make bags, baskets, and rugs.

 

Cro-hook

 

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This variation on Tunisian crochet uses a double-sided hook called a cro-hook. This allows you to work in two colors at once and create double-sided fabric. Sometimes called Cro-knit, double hook crochet, or double-ended Tunisian, the technique is perfect for creating colorful scarves and blankets.

 

Irish

Also known as Irish lace, this technique involves using very thin crochet hooks and cotton or linen thread. It has a long history, dating back to the 19th century when it was developed by the Irish to imitate more expensive Venetian lace. The craft was used to revive the economy after the Irish Potato Famine and, by the mid-19th century, 12,000 Irish women were working with Irish crochet.

 

Tapestry

 

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A wonderful technique for creating fabrics full of color and pattern, tapestry crochet uses different color yarns to produce something that looks almost woven instead of crocheted. Intarsia, jacquard, colorwork, and mosaic crochet are all names for similar techniques. The indigenous Wayuu people of Columbia and Venezuela are well known for their use of tapestry crochet to make small bags known as mochila.  The style is also quite popular in Guatemala and African countries like Ghana, where it's used to make hats.

 

Tunisian

 

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Tunisian crochet is a popular technique that uses an extra long crochet hook with a stopper at the end. Also known as Afgan crochet, it's similar to knitting in that multiple loops are worked at the same time. The technique produces a fabric that is notably thicker than other types of crochet and less pliable, which makes it a good technique for items like blankets and winter hats rather than softer wearable items.

 

A (Brief) History of Crochet

History of Crochet

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In terms of modern crochet, we can look to 19th-century Europe as a starting point. The word itself comes from the Middle French word for hook—croche. Originally used as a cheaper substitute for lace, it gained popularity when Queen Victoria purchased Irish lace made with the crochet technique. Subsequently, thanks to the work of Riego de la Branchardiere, who began publishing early crochet pattern books, the skill spread across many different countries.

Early examples of crochet can be found far and wide, from Asia to South America, but certainly, Europe was a hub and as mass immigration to the United States began, many women brought their crochet skills with them. The earliest items created were more decorative in nature, moving forward to the 1920s and 1930s when crochet began being used to create entire garments.

Throughout World War II, crochet was seen as a way that women could contribute to the war effort by saving on clothing and decorative items and boosting morale by creating decorative elements for the troops at a low cost. In the 1970s, crochet—along with macramé—became a chic technique for clothing and accessories.

Though crochet's popularity began to wane after the 1970s, it never completely went away. Fashion houses continued to employ the technique and thanks to a recent boom in handiwork, the craft is seeing a revival.

 

This article has been edited and updated.

Related Articles:

25+ Knitting Patterns You Can Start Working on Right Away

How to Make a Quilt: Learn Quilting Basics & Get Creative With Textiles

Modern Macramé: How an Ancient Fiber Art Has Resurfaced as a Beautiful Craft

What Is Needlepoint? Learn the Basics to Begin the Craft

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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