I recently received a very nice email praising the resource page of the site (I really need to check my email more often). I was also asked if I had any tips for beginners.
Strange thing there. I don’t see myself as much of a teacher and I much prefer to recommend resources rather than create my own…despite having written numerous tutorials on a variety of topics for others along with homeschooling. Most everyone I know would point and laugh and disagree with me about not being a teacher…so I am going to try here.
1. There are a variety of different hook types out there. Some are made from metal, some from plastic, some with special handles. Find something comfortable to hold. Kids learning to crochet may have a hard time holding ‘standard’ hooks and might need something with a thicker handle. Ergo-dynamic handles are good for people with arthritis. The thing is, if you are clutching your hook, your hand is going to cramp.
(The images are affiliate links through Amazon. I am providing them to give you an idea of the different kind of hooks out there and where you can read more about them.)
These are your basic hooks that come in just about every size you can think of. They may be difficult for some to hold because most of them are thinner than a pencil or pen. They are also the most inexpensive hooks and can be bought in various sets and individually. Because of price I want to say that they are a good starting set of hooks, especially if you don’t know if this is a hobby you are going to enjoy. You won’t be investing a lot of money if you end up abandoning things. However, if hooks are comfortable to use, you may not enjoy crocheting and give it up. It’s kind of a catch-22 there.
I don’t know anything about this hook set, but it’s an awesome price. It comes with 9 hooks with ergo-dynamic handles. I love hooks with handles because it makes holding onto them easier. You are less likely to drop them, clutch them causing your hand to cramp, and you don’t have to keep adjusting to holding different sizes. The handle is closer to the size of a pen or pencil and more natural to grip. As a side note, this come with my favourite type of stitch markers and having different size tapestry needles is a must.
I have no idea if there is any benefit to using bamboo hooks but they are an option for those who want more natural hooks. Personally, I would be afraid of breaking these. I am also a huge klutz and danger to myself who has quite the list of craft related injuries and various broken hooks and needles.
You can also get hooks that light up (designed to help with seeing what you are doing with dark yarns) and “designer” type hooks such as Clover Armour and Tulip Etimo. Both are preferred for different reasons by people who have been crocheting a long time.
If you know someone that crochets ask if you can check out their hooks prior to buying your own. It will help you decide what you like and don’t like. Ask around on crochet sites (Facebook groups are great for this) and ask people what hooks they like and why. You may find out that the hooks are you looking at getting break easily and aren’t worth the money.
2. This is something I wish I had been taught. It would have saved me a lot of guessing and trial and error. Learn to read yarn labels. They tell you everything you need to know about the yarn and working with it.
Yarn weight, recommended hook/needle size, and care instructions can be found on the label. Here is a good blog post on how to read a yarn label.
3. Pick yarn that you are happy working with. I know that a lot of people recommend working with Red Heart acrylic yarn, especially when starting out, because it’s inexpensive and can take a lot reworking when you have to tear out things and start over. Here’s the thing. Acrylic yarn isn’t all that environmentally friendly (it doesn’t decompose). Outside of that, I have met and talked to a number of people who end up with severely dried and cracked hands from working with acrylic yarn. There is inexpensive cotton (Lilly Sugar ‘n Cream, Premiere, some craft stores have a store brand) and wool yarn (Lion Brand) out there that you can start with. Some yarns take more patience to work with than others. Much like needles, if you don’t like the yarn you are working with, you are not going to like crocheting. As a side note, do not start out with the expensive boutique type yarns. It’s too much of an investment. If you want my thoughts on the various yarns I have tried out, you can find them here.
4. Start with a project labeled ‘beginner’. Do not jump right into something more difficult. I know immersion is recommended for learning a foreign language. Not so much with crochet. You really need to get a grip on the basics before moving on. There are entire books dedicated to different stitches. Also like a foreign language, the more advanced stuff is built on the basics that have already been mastered.
5. Always count your stitches. It’s easier than you think to skip a stitch somewhere and throw off your entire project.
6. Use stitch markers when crocheting in a round. It is so easy to loose track of where a round starts and stops.
7. Don’t ignore blocking. I have been crocheting for years and just learned about it. It’s not used for every project, but the projects that it is recommended for, it makes them look so much nicer.
8. Get enough yarn for your project before you start. This way you have yarn from the same dye lot and you aren’t having to go back to the store in the middle of a project. Trust me, having to do that is one of the most annoying things that will ever happen to you.
9. Most crochet resources are written for right handed people. If you are teaching yourself to crochet, go over to YouTube and find a good video for left handed crocheters, like this one from The Crochet Crowd. This, I think was my biggest problem learning to crochet. I am ambidextrous and because of that my coordination is crap. Some things are easier for me to do right handed, and some things left handed. The problem is back in the day left handed people were always forced to use their right hand for everything. I got in trouble in school by some of my first teachers every time I used my left hand. The first time anyone tried to teach me to crochet it was done right handed and I just couldn’t get the hang of it. In short I was forced to conform to a right handed world even when something was horribly awkward for me to do right handed. If you are left handed (or just find the hook more comfortable in your left hand), find left handed crochet resources. They are out there.
10. Take breaks. You will discover, especially when you are starting, that your hands and wrists will start to ache. Put your work down for a few minutes and come back to it. Crochet isn’t worth developing repetitive stress injuries over.