Learning How to Crochet
Go straight to the tips here or continue reading how I started my journey.
My journey into the amazingly wonderful, endlessly creative, challenging yet rewarding world of crochet began one cold and stormy night. Here in Nova Scotia we have lots of those.
On this particular night I was fighting waves of morning sickness (I cringe when I hear the term “morning” when it lasts the whole <insert your choice of expletive> night). In addition to sudden cravings, I had a sudden bout of determination that my first task as a newly pregnant mom-to-be was to knit a blanket for my baby and nothing was going to stop me!
Despite only knitting not much more than half a scarf in my entire life (that looked more like a crooked triangle) I figured that somehow this pregnancy would spark these magical motherly knitting instincts and I’d have all the skills of a professional instantaneously.
An hour later, the wind howling, every box in the house rummaged though, I could only find one knitting needle. Can you knit with one needle? I guess not. Trip to the craft store it is! And no, my dear sweet loving husband, this cannot wait til tomorrow. The baby is going to be here really soon (212 days is really no time at all) so I must go to the craft store right now, well, let’s stop for some Twizzlers along the way and then go straight there.
Ahhh the craft store. Is there anywhere more heavenly on earth. The rows and rows of possibilities. For me it’s like a trip to the spa. As I wander around, my fingertips lightly touching felt, beads, faux flowers. I’m at complete ease. I’ve been making crafts and following patterns for over 30 years but never had I ventured into the world of knitting and crochet. That was about to change.
So there I was with my Twizzlers in hand staring at the ceiling-high shelves of yarn. No pattern in mind, no idea of what kind of yarn to buy or needles to use.
Baby section, oh yes, this is what I need. Color, hmm. I’m so sure it’s a boy. But what if it’s not. Yellow? No. Green? No. Multi-colored pink and blue…perfect! Oh and it’s so soft, ok great. Hmm how much do I need. One little ball of this chunky fleece yarn should certainly be enough for a baby blanket. Look it even comes with a pattern for a baby blanket on the label, how perfect. Oh it’s so cute. Is this knitted? What exactly is “crochet?” And what’s this hook pictured? Well whatever it is I am going to make it. It’s perfect for the baby. And I set off home with my ball of yarn and brand-new first-ever crochet hook.
Exhausted from that trip and fatigue hitting me like a ton of bricks, I did not finish the blanket that night. Wouldn’t that have been a great end to the story though?
I started the next morning. With my decaf tea by my side and some crackers. I tore off the yarn label and with my hook in hand began to read the pattern. “Ch” what is a ch? Dc? What’s a rnd? What’s a gauge? Is this in English? What’s a sl st? Why is there no legend? I’m obviously reading the French version. Ok I can figure this out: googling ch-3 space. That’s a perfect place to start. Um nope. I’m now more confused. What does this hook even do. I’m hungry. Where did my crackers go? Maybe I’ll have a nap.
After a little siesta, my mamma bear determination to make this blanket was still ever so present. But, maybe, swallowing my ferocious can-do attitude, this pattern is a little advanced for my liking. However, I will learn to crochet!
And I did. I learned how to do a slip knot, chain stitch and basic single crochet stitch and made the blanket with all single crochet stitches. It was a little on the triangular side but it was my first crochet project and I’ll never forget it. Oh and one ball was definitely not enough. It looked more like a washcloth than a blanket.
Fast forward to Christmas morning (200 days after I began crocheting) and I could not believe the joy I felt when I saw everyone open their crochet gifts that I had made. My husband still wears the socks I made for him!
I hadn’t realized until that moment how far I had come in such a short time and how much I had learned until I heard the “wow…you made that!?!”
That is the best part of crochet. You can and will learn extraordinary techniques and patterns that result in truly fabulous “made with love” items. It will give you a sense of accomplishment, test your patience, hone in on your perseverance and spark your curiosity. That’s why I love it.
That Christmas morning was also special for another reason. It was the morning we found out that we were having a girl…and Charlie found out he was getting a sister!
Notice my crochet booties? I went from struggling to complete a triangular washcloth to making beautiful booties in no time!
At the moment when I set out to learn how to crochet, I wish I could have received some advice on where to start. And as I began expanding my skills (I literally jumped for joy the first time all my rows were the same size), I was still confused in the sea of so much information.
I’m sure these or similar tips were out there but I didn’t see them. I eventually figured it out and of course made some trips and falls along the way, but that’s part of the fun. The following advice is just to help provide some useful tips that will hopefully save you stress, help you to avoid the mistakes I made and make your crocheting more enjoyable.
10 Crochet Tips & Crochet Mistakes to Avoid
Here are my 10 stress-saving crochet tips (that I wish I knew) when learning how to crochet:
Get Off to the Right…Yarn and Hook
I recommend using a bright, worsted weight yarn and size H hook to practice. Colors like pink, yellow, green are good for beginners. Stay away from black and white as those can be harder to see. Worsted weight (size 4) yarn is great to practice with. It works up quickly you can easily see your stitches as well as undo any mistakes. Remember that big bulky blanket yarn that I got started with? I do not recommend that!
Watch and Learn, and Watch and Learn Again
For each stitch you learn watch at least 5 different people’s videos while practicing. I made the mistake when I was learning of thinking I knew how to do a half double crochet stitch because I watched one person’s video. Little did I know I was doing it wrong for four years! No wonder all those hats didn’t fit. More on that later.
While you watch videos, pay close attention to how the person in the video holds the yarn and hook. Try out different ways that feel the most comfortable.
Knot Your First Rodeo
The very first thing you need to learn is a slip knot. A slip knot begins every crochet project (unless your pattern tells you to start with a magic ring). The thing is, patterns don’t tell you to start with a slip knot. They say to make a chain row but what starts the chain row is a slip knot.
The Craft Yarn Council has a great overview of getting started on their “How to Read a Crochet Pattern” page, which actually covers everything you need to know when you are just beginning, including how to make a slip knot. I highly recommend that as a starting point.
You Can’t Build a House Without a Foundation
I know that five coloured, bobble stitch, granny square blanket is pinned on your Pinterest board and you’re dying to get started on it. That’s awesome, keep it there! It’s not going anywhere.
What makes crochet such a great hobby is how quickly you will learn new stitches and techniques and you will be able to apply them to any pattern so keep pinning! But start by really grasping the basics and build your crochet skill foundation. Start by learning these four basic stitches (after you’ve learned the slip knot): chain, single crochet, double crochet and slip stitch.
Practice Makes…Pot Holders
It’s way more fun to make something than just practicing stitches. I wish I had started on smaller projects before attempting a large blanket. So my advice is: put practicing those basic stitches to use and make pot holders! Make ’em with all single crochet stitches, then with double crochet stitches.
These small projects will help you learn and practice a slip knot, chain, single crochet, double crochet and slip stitch. And with that knowledge you can complete so many awesome patterns!
What are you going to do first? If you need an idea, my Simple Baby Blanket only requires the four basic stitches and is a great way to practice your skills.
It’s All the Gauge
I really wish I knew about gauge when I started. Maybe I was just too excited to get going on projects that I completely ignored learning about it. And let me tell you, the feeling of utter disappointment when the crochet baby hat that you’re so excited to put on your newborn baby doesn’t fit, is brutal.
Checking gauge is actually super easy and so worth it. To help you avoid the same mistakes that I made, I’ve written a complete Step by Step Guide on Crochet Gauge including what gauge is, why it’s important and how to check it.
wty = What The Yarn?
There is nothing worse than running out of yarn mid-project and having no idea what exact brand and yarn you were using. I can’t tell you how many times I have taken my half-finished white mitten (or whatever project I’m working on) into the store and holding it up next to the 100s of white yarn skeins and trying to determine which one I started with.
Save yourself this hassle and save your yarn label! Want to know a handy trick to conveniently store your yarn labels? Check out my post: How to Organize your Yarn Labels.
If You Like It Then You Shoulda Put a Pin On It
Want to know how many bunny hat eyes, robot hat mouths, Spider-Man hat webs, polar bear hat noses that would have been attached in the right place the first time! I have wasted so much time re-attaching eyes, ears, etc. because I didn’t pin them onto my project first and they were sewed on crooked or in the wrong place. Don’t be like me. Put a pin in it!
Bonus tip: use those pins to “block” your finished item. Blocking means to set your work with some form of water. Instead of rushing on to the next project, take a quick moment and pin what you made onto a foam mat or open cardboard box and spray with water. Let dry and all the stitches will set and your work will look even better. For more information on blocking, Interweave has a great overview here.
Break the Rules!
I wish I had known that it was okay to go off the beaten path earlier in my crochet journey. It’s okay to create your own techniques, methods, stitches, etc. In fact, that’s what it’s all about!
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso
Don’t Let Your Hobby to De-stress Stress You Out
Did you know that when your stressed, your stitches are tighter than when you are relaxed. So on one project, your stitches could be really tight on one row and then relaxed on the next. I wish I had known to be more mindful of my mood and how it can effect my stitches. You can also tell when you’re cro-stressing (I just made that up) that your hand will be sorer and your back/shoulders may hurt.
Studies have shown that crochet can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health. Try to be mindful, present and enjoy your project. Which leads me to the next and final thing I wish I had known…
Last But Definitely Not Least….
It’s Not the Destination, It’s the Creative Process…
It’s the picking out yarn, deciding what you are going to make, finding help from the amazing online crochet community and the struggles and crooked rows along the way.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is to enjoy every moment of it. Don’t get too caught up on getting it perfect. Make it your own and have so much fun just figuring it all out. It’s been a life changer for me and from the very first moment, I was hooked. Pun totally intended.