Crocheting

The word "crochet" is derived from a word meaning "hook." The pattern is created by using a tool with a hooked end to pull loops of fiber through previously created loops.

Crochet has a mysterious past. Only speculation on its origin exists prior to the 1800’s when it became popular in Europe. A Dutch magazine published what is thought to be the first crochet patterns in 1824. Many publications gave detailed instructions on how to do the stitches clear up until the mid-1800’s. This was usually an indication that the technique was not widely known and the basic instructions had to be included for ladies to do the patterns. Crocheted lace had a rough start because it was looked down upon as being a cheap imitation of fine lace. However, over time the crocheted laces became more elaborate and by the 1910’s crocheted lace was popular. Crochet is one of the few techniques that remained popular over the century, continually expanding with new designs, tools, and fibers. One reason for the continued success is because very few tools are required and variations of a couple stitches make up almost all patterns.

Supplies

Crochet hooks can be made from a variety of materials including aluminum, wood, bone, and plastic. The hook needs to be smooth so it won’t snag on the fiber being used. Hooks are classified by size, with a difference between the US and UK size designation. For example, US Size G (or 6) is called an 8 in the UK, with both being approximately 4.0 mm in diameter.

Today there are many different hooks on the market, so find one that is comfortable for you. For example, my hand cramps up when I first get back to crocheting because I hold my hook very tightly. However, now there are ergonomically designed hooks that have a larger middle body making it easier to grip. The one I just bought also has a lighted hook but I haven’t tried that out yet!

There are also some special hooks for specific patterns or stitches. The double-ended hooks have a regular crochet hook at each end of a flexible tube similar to circular knitting needles. There is also an afghan or Tunisian stitch that requires a tool with a crochet hook on one end and a knitting needle shaft on the other.

Your pattern will suggest the size of hook you should use. However, because each of us crochets differently, we need to always crochet a 4" square swatch using the fiber, hook, and stitch the pattern calls for. Your pattern should have a statement about the gauge near the top of the instructions. For example: "GAUGE: In pattern, 24 sts and 24 rows = 4." If your swatch is not 4" square, then you will need to adjust your hook or your tension so your finished project will be the right size.

There are some other tools that would be good to have in your workbasket to make your crochet experience more enjoyable!

A tape measure or ruler comes in handy when checking your gauge.

Tapestry needles or yarn darners are great for weaving the beginning and ending threads through the stitched sections.

A good pair of scissors with fine, sharp points will let you get in close when you cut your fibers.

Stitch Markers are needed in some patterns to mark the beginning of a round or one side of the design. There are a variety of stitch markers on the market today, but a regular safety pin (990-590-0075) will work every time!

Hand-Aids Support Gloves (6722) reduce discomfort, muscle cramping, and stress by generating heat, stimulating circulation, and massaging your hands as you crochet or stitch.

We have a couple of new tool cases that would be great to store your crochet hooks in. The Mini Cozy (370-605-0011) measures 2.75″ x 8.5″ x 0.25″ with a faux leather fabric in three colors. The Flip Top Tool Tube (6411A) is a brand new storage gadget with a see-through panel so you can see what tools are inside. The top pops open with the pressure from your finger.

A ball winder (6837) will take thread in hanks and create a ball, which makes for smoother stitching. The thread minder (6409) will hold up to 3 balls of pearl cotton or 1 or 2 balls of Cordonnet or Cebelia keeping them clean and tangle-free!

FIBERS

You can let your imagination go wild when it comes to crocheting. Yarn, thread, strips of fabric, ribbons, and even wire can be used. Here are some fibers to think about for your next project!

DMC makes several types of thread for crocheting. Cebelia is 100% cotton, three-ply, tightly twisted thread available in 3 sizes (10, 20 and 30). The thread is double mercerized for a smooth and silky finish.

DMC Cordonnet is 100% cotton, six-ply mercerized thread. It some in two colors – white and ecru and sizes 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100.

You can also use DMC pearl cotton for edgings and small projects.

Anchor Marlitt is a four-ply embroidery thread made of 100% viscose rayon. The high luster of the rayon gives it the look of silk for a fraction of the cost. It is excellent for small crocheted items.

Kreinik braids can be used for crochet. Experiment with the different sizes to get the look and size you need. They have a free snowflake design using #8 braid at their website.

Think outside the box for small ornaments and embellishments. Try Silk Ribbon or some Rainbow Gallery fibers such as Gold Rush.

There are a lot of specialty yarns on the market today. Have fun, experiment with the colors and textures. Here are some thoughts: Woolen and wool-blends have some give to them making it easier to insert your hook. Acrylic and nylon yarns may have a tendency to pill easier than other yarns. Specialty yarns such as the furry or hairy yarns make delightful scarves and accessories; however, sometimes it is hard to see where your stitches should go. Loosely woven yarns also can be difficult to work with because it is easier to split the fibers.

HOLDING THE HOOK AND THREAD

Finding the position you prefer for holding the hook may be the hardest part about learning this technique. The three ways suggested are:

  • Holding the hook like a pencil with your thumb and forefinger in the middle of the hook and the end of the hook coming over the top of your hand.
  • Holding the hook like you would hold a violin bow with your thumb and fingers on the middle of the hook but the end of the hook stays under your hand.
  • Holding the hook like you would hold a knife with your pointer finger straight along the hook and your thumb and middle finger in the flat section of the hook.

Once you have a comfortable hold on your needle, you need to find a way to hold your thread in your other hand so you can keep some tension on the thread. Some people weave the thread in between the fingers while others actually wrap the thread completely around their little finger, under the fingers and out between your middle and pointer finger. The goal is to have a steady tension on your thread, but be able to comfortably pull the thread through your fingers as you stitch.

STITCHES

Crochet has a language of its own using abbreviations and sometimes symbols to direct you. Keep in mind that terminology and symbols can differ among patterns from the US, UK and Australia. Some companies even use a charting system instead of written instructions. It is important to read through your instructions before you get started to make sure you understand the terminology and pattern. Some of the basic abbreviations are:

  • Chain(s) – ch(s)
  • Single Crochet – sc
  • Half Double Crochet – hdc
  • Double Crochet – dc
  • Treble Crochet – tr
  • Skip – sk
  • Yarn Over Hook – YO

Some symbols are used to group a series of stitches together or to tell you how many times to repeat something. The most common symbols are:

  • Parentheses ( ) or Brackets [ ] – Work enclosed instructions as many times as specified by the number immediately following, for example (dc, ch 1) twice.
  • Asterisk * – Repeat the instructions following the single asterisk as directed in addition to the first time, for example, *YO, insert hook in next ch-1 sp, YO and pull up a loop even with loop on hook; repeat from * 2 times more.
  • Double Asterisk ** or elongated crosses † – Repeat instructions between the symbols as many times as directed. There may be additional instructions and groupings within this section. For example, † ch 1, skip next 2 dc, (work Puff St in sp before next dc, ch 1, skip next 2 dc)5 times, work (Puff St, ch 3, Puff St) in next ch-1 sp, ch 1, skip next 2 dc, (work Puff St in sp before next dc, ch 1, skip next 2 dc) 5 times †

To learn more about the stitches used, check out these websites! DMC has a great set of printed instructions.

NexStitch is an invaluable resource for crocheters! In addition to some trendy patterns and a few freebie patterns, they have a full range of video tutorials on stitches.

The A to Z series of books are excellent hard copy resources and cover a variety of topics including A-Z of Crochet (1659P) and the A-Z of Knitting (1659M).

SPECIAL TYPES OF CROCHET

There are some specialty types of crochet that you may have heard about.

Romanian Point Lace uses crocheted cording rather than a flat lace as the foundation for needleweaving. This is a special crochet technique that allows the cord to be unraveled from either end when necessary to make it fit correctly for a pattern.

Crocheted edgings for hankies and doilies are sort of a specialized technique as certain stitches and combinations work better than others for the edges. We stock a large selection of pre-hemmed doilies and hankies ready for you to add your own touch.

Hairpin crochet is also known as hairpin lace. It gets its name from the frame, or loom, used to create the lace as it looks like an extra-large, old fashioned, hair pin that grandma might have used. The yarn is looped around the pin prong and then a crochet stitch is made down the middle.

Filet crochet uses a foundation row of chain stitches. Then a design is created using open and closed mesh blocks. The closed mesh block is made of double crochet stitches. It was very popular for creating head and armrest doilies picturing flowers or animals. Another popular use for filet crochet is for the surname doilies. Smart Crochet has a website with tutorials and patterns just for filet.

Irish crochet is a very stylized form of crochet often worked over a foundation cord so the crocheted elements are thicker than regular crochet.

LATEST TRENDS

We are always interested to see what new ways people use a technique. Check out the latest trend for crochet and knitting called yarn bombing. Wikipedia defines it as "a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk. The practice is believed to have originated in the U.S. with Texas knitters trying to find a creative way to use their leftover and unfinished knitting projects, but it has since spread worldwide." (reference)

There are blogs dedicated to this phenomenon, including this one that talked about some of the yarn bombing going on in Vancouver for the Olympics. February 1st had a posting by leanne about it "raining cats and dogs" and she credits WooWork with the deed. Check out his blog »


We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit www.nordicneedle.com. A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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