By Maria Welke
Crochet is a wonderful fiber art. Whether it’s your only method of textile creation, or you’re adding it to your arsenal of fiber skills, you’re in for a treat.
We know that starting something new can be overwhelming at first. There’s new jargon to learn, supplies to purchase, and projects to plan. Lucky for you, we’re here to help.
The first tool you need is a crochet hook. Crochet hooks are usually about six inches long and come in a range of sizes based on diameter. There are two main sizing systems used for crochet hooks - US sizing and metric sizing. US sizing assigns letters from A through P, but are mostly available in sizes D through N. Metric sizing gives the diameter of the crochet hook in millimeters. Most crochet hooks have both the US sizing and the metric sizing stamped or etched on the handle of the hook.
Crochet hooks come in a variety of materials, including aluminum, steel, plastic, and different woods.
For beginners, we recommend starting with a size G or H hook that you like the look and feel of. If you have problems with arthritis, we recommend getting the Knitter's Pride crochet hooks, as they will be easier on your hands.
After you have your crochet hook picked out, you need to find some yarn. This sounds like a pretty simple task, until you realize the wide variety of different colors, fibers, and weights available. Don’t get too flustered, though. There are really only two things to consider - fiber content and yarn weight. Well, there’s color, too, but we’re confident you can pick that out on your own.
Fiber Content: Yarn can be made from a variety of fibers, including wool, alpaca, cashmere, angora, cotton, bamboo, and acrylic, to name a few. There are other exotic or specialty fibers that exist like buffalo, camel, and milk. The fiber content of a yarn affects how you wash your finished project as well as how the finished item behaves. Cotton, for example, tends to grow as it’s used. Wool, on the other hand, has more elasticity and will spring back into shape better. Wool, with the exception of superwash wool, needs to be hand washed. Most animal fibers need to be washed by hand. This is because animal fibers tend to felt, and unless you’re doing that on purpose, it isn’t really a good thing.
Yarn Weight: Yarn is classified by how thick it is. Most commonly yarn weight is described by a name. From thinnest to thickest they are lace, fingering, sport, DK, worsted, aran, bulky, and super bulky. These weights also correspond to a standardized number.
The fabric you create is affected by what size hook and what weight of yarn you use. If you use a thicker hook and a thinner yarn, you’ll get a drapey, open fabric. If you use a thicker yarn with a medium sized hook, your fabric will be denser. What quality of fabric you’re looking for depends on what you’re trying to create. As you gain experience with crochet, you will get a better idea of how to pair hook size and yarn weight to create your own garments and accessories.
For a beginner project, we recommend starting out with a worsted weight yarn like Cascade 220. If you want something machine washable, Berroco Vintage or Plymouth Encore Worsted are also good choices. For a little more luxury, you can’t beat Berroco Ultra Alpaca.
First projects should be fairly simple. You’ll be learning new skills and new lingo, so you don’t want to get too overwhelmed. Scarves are often chosen for first projects. In our Beginning Crochet class, we start everyone on a simple cowl.
Something like this cowl pattern is a great first project. It won’t take forever to make (like a traditional scarf can), you can practice your crochet stitches, and you can dress it up with fun colors and buttons.
Here are some great ideas on how to get started with crochet with some of our favorite projects!
If you’d like to look at patterns on your own, check out our pattern browser to get more ideas and inspiration.
The best way to learn a new skill is by taking a class. If you’re local, come join us for our Beginning Crochet class. It consists of two classes of two hours each, where you’ll learn more about selecting yarn, how to form stitches, and how to read a pattern. Your class fee includes all the materials you need, including your hook, yarn, and pattern. And even though it’s called, Open Knitting, we’re happy to include and help crocheters as well. Feel free to come to our Tuesday evening or Thursday afternoon groups for help and new fiber loving friends between and after classes.
Here's a video that will help you choose your supplies and get you going on knitting your first scarf!
Do you prefer step-by-step photos to learn? No worries, here's a photo learn to crochet tutorial to help you get started.
Hopefully, you’re now feeling more confident in your decision to take up crochet. It’s a fun craft that can also open doors to new friendships.
Remember that new skills take practice. Be patient with yourself as you’re learning. And, most importantly, have fun!