Getting Started in Crochet

The patterns shown here are easy and a great way to get started.

There are a lot of resources out there to get started in Crochet, including a variety of books. But there are lots of free resources, too – especially YouTube vidoes. So I took the time to review several of these videos to find the very best. I looked for easy-to-follow instructions, clear pictures, and all the info you need to get started in one place.

I didn’t find any videos that meet all these criteria and also cover yarn selection, hook selection and give a pattern. So, here’s my suggestion to get started without having to buy any books:

  1. Yarn: Review my post on selecting yarn. I recommend you start with an even, smooth, lighter colored worsted weight yarn. You might want to go to the craft store to pick your first one out so you can feel the yarns and see the exact color. If you are making the dish cloth pattern below, you will want your yarn to be absorbent so select one that has a high amount of cotton in it. Acrylic yarns are cheaper, but they won’t really soak up water. And cotton yarns aren’t going to shrink or otherwise change if exposed to hot water.
  2. Hook: The pattern you select will specify the hook to use, which will also be based on the size of yarn you select. Smaller yarns generally require smaller hooks & vice versa.  If you have the funds, you might want to get a kit of inexpensive hooks to start. That gives you several sizes to work with. You probably will end up liking a different style of hook better, but these will work and give you the flexibility to do many different projects without having to buy more hooks. If you don’t have the funds, the patterns I have selected below all don’t have a gauge that matters, so you can buy an H sized hook (probably the most commonly used with worsted weight yarn) and have a minimal investment to start with.
  3. Technique: Then check out this series of YouTube videos – they are the best and most comprehensive I found.
  4. Patterns: Once you have the basic techniques, here are a few great free patterns for a beginner. You do NOT have to use the yarn brand or color suggested in the pattern. You can, but any worsted weight (size 4) yarn will work. You will need a free account on Lion Brand yarns to view these patterns. But, trust me, its well worth your while to sign up for a free account on their site.

If none of the patterns I’ve suggested are to you liking, try doing a search for Beginner patterns on their site or on Ravelry and you will find all sorts of choices.

I’d love to hear how these resources worked for you! Please let me know in the comments.

Beautiful Opera Gloves

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Project Log: “Opera Sleeves”

The finished "Opera Sleeves". As you can see, the flowers really show. And the length is quite nice, too.

These opera gloves were one of the most frustrating things I’ve made in a long time! Here’s what happened: first I created all the little crochet flowers as specified by the pattern (there are 20). I wove in all the ends and then I started working the mesh. Man did I have trouble. I worked the thing 4 times before I finally contacted Lion Brand Yarn for some help with their pattern. To their credit, they responded pretty quickly. I told them I couldn’t get the pattern to work correctly and that I thought there was an error. They got more information from me and then, I suppose, worked the pattern for themselves. Only a few days later they responded – they couldn’t find anything wrong!

“I’m an experience crocheter”, I thought. “There must be something wrong with the pattern. I’ll just have to figure out what it is myself.”

I printed the pattern and I started picking it apart in detail. I even highlighted every other row in the chart for the mesh so I could see where the mistake was. And eventually, I figured it out. I couldn’t believe it. I had done every single one of my flowers WRONG! They were supposed to have 8 loops on the outside at the end (4 petals) and all of mine had 10 (5 petals). Sigh.

Worried I would run out of yarn, I didn’t think I could start over with the flowers again. So I found the woven in ends on every single flower, undid them, unraveled them to about row 2 of the pattern, worked them all again, and wove all the ends in again. Strangely enough, ONE was right – so I assume that I must have incorrectly done the pattern from memory after the I finished the first flower.

Here is the flower as I first did it - with 10 loops around the outside instead of 8.

Sorry Lion Brand Yarn for doubting you (and for any mental cussing I may have directed your way).

After I found my mistake with the flowers, these sleeves were difficult to work. They really mean it when they say its for experienced crocheters. The second one went pretty easily but the first one was a real bear. I ended up undoing and redoing some part of the work at least 10-12 times by the end of it. The pattern was complex, not terribly intuitive and it was also not very forgiving of mistakes. What I didn’t realize was that I was working from the elbow down to the wrist – knowing for the second one made things a lot easier. But I’m thrilled with the final product. And they are wonderfully stretchy, elegant and just one of my favorite things I’ve made.

Pattern: Opera Sleeves (requires log in to LionBrand.com to access)

Yarn: Lion Brand Vanna’s Glamour® in the Onyx colorway. The pattern calls for 2 skeins and, even with my mistakes, that was more than enough yarn. But one would not have been enough. The yarn is a little difficult to work with – the dark color and the texture of it make it hard to see your loops. But the results are beautiful and if I did this pattern again I’d use this yarn.

Lessons Learned:

  • You can tell where the knot is on a piece of finished work in the round, even after you weave in the ends, by feel. Even if you can’t really see it, you can feel a spot on the edge that is more hardened that the rest of the edge.
  • The best way to work out a knot from finishing off is with a small needle. Insert the needle into the knot to loose it up, then you can pull loose the end.
  • When Lion Brand says that a pattern is for experienced crocheters, they really mean it. But when they say they will help if you find mistakes they mean that too. Well done to them.
  • When you are making 20 of something, be extra darn sure that you are doing it right.

What was the most difficult project you have completed so far? Let me know in the comments!

Why You COULD Do Something Like That

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All of the work is totally worth it when you're cuddled up under an afghan you made yourself.

As an avid crocheter and knitter, I wear a lot of hand made items. And when I do, I hear people say to be all the time “I could never do something like that.” Although I suppose this is intended to be flattering, it drives me crazy! I’m nothing special. I wasn’t born with some special crocheting gene. I just tried it. At first it was horrible – the first sweater I ever made for was for my brother. It was over 20 years ago and the sleeves are actually two very different lengths. And yet, he still has it because I made it for him.

The second sweater I tried to make didn’t even get finished. I made the whole body, then the first sleeve, then the second sleeve. But when I finished the second sleeve I discovered it didn’t match the first one. The problem was I didn’t know which one was right. And I didn’t have enough yarn to make a third sleeve. It took so long to make that I couldn’t stand the thought of unraveling it. So that sweater got put in a bag where it still sits to this day, unfinished.

The first afghan I ever made was so small it was useless as a blanket except for a child (which wasn’t the intended purpose). I didn’t check my gauge – yes I know almost every pattern says to check your gauge but I didn’t think I needed that step for some reason. That blanket is currently used by one of my dogs when she’s in her crate.

The second? Also way too small – although bigger. And the pattern was really hard because it was full of popcorn stitches. Ugh I hate popcorn stitches.

The third took me 2 years to complete. But I finished it and it is beautiful and I use it to this day. Sure I look at it now and know that I shouldn’t have used a variegated yarn on that complicated cable stitch pattern, but I’m amazed how well its held up.

My point:

You may not love the first thing you crochet or knit. You may not even love the second one. Did you write a fantastic paper in school the first time you tried in kindergarten? Did you ride a bike on your first attempt? Was the first meal you cooked a gourmet one? Just like any other skill, it takes time and practice and patience. So the question is – is it worth all that? And I say “Hell yes!” I have been glad I knew how to crochet and knit for so many reasons. You CAN do it. And now days its easier than ever with all the blogs and videos on YouTube to help you out. I had to learn from pictures in a book for pity’s sake!

If I can help on your journey I’m happy to. Just post in the comments with your questions, concerns or doubts and I’ll help you get going in the right direction.

Happy crafting!

Tutorials & Patterns

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I’ve come across some great tutorials in the last week and I thought I’d gather them all here for your amusement.

Knitting

Tutorials

Patterns

Sewing

For other ideas, inspirations, patterns and tutorials (and to see photos for all these things) – be sure to follow my Pinterest board.

Purple flower bracelet made from scrap yarn.

Ideas for Leftover Project Yarn

Purple flower bracelet made from scrap yarn.

Many times when you finish a project you have leftover yarn. I really don’t like to add to my yarn stash (which is already big enough) so I try to think of creative ways to use up the leftover yarn. And if you are making something wearable and add another wearable item, it can give you a level of coordination that you just don’t get with store-bought items.

Knowing How Much Yarn is Left

Well that can take a bit of math. But most yarn skein include not only the yardage, but the weight. Find out how much your yarn weighs per yard and then weigh your remaining yarn on a kitchen scale. This will give you an idea of how much you have left. If you don’t have enough left for the project that most interests you, consider adding another color yarn from your stash and making the item more than one color!

Finding a Pattern

One of my favorite ways to find a pattern, once I know how much yarn I have, is to search on Ravelry. If you aren’t on there, sign up NOW! It’s an awesome site. They have a fantastic pattern search that will allow you to put in the type of yarn you have, the amount, and the type of craft (knitting or crocheting) you want to do. You can search for free or paid patterns and with or without pictures. I do recommend selecting your language as well – its an international site. Once you find a pattern you like, you can add it to your favorites or your queue and see notes from others who have done the pattern before you. VERY helpful.

Wearable Ideas for Leftover Yarn

  • Make Jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, anklets, and slave bracelets can all be made with leftover yarn. And it usually doesn’t take very much yarn at all.
  • Wristers/Gloves/Mittens – fingerless gloves can be a great way to use up yarn but they take a lot more yarn than jewelry.
  • Scarves – You can base the thickness and length of your scarf on the yarn amount you have left.
  • Sock edging made with leftover yarn - I used the same pattern as I had used to add a border to my knitted poncho.

    Sock Edging – crochet a little edging to a pair of socks you plan to wear with the new piece. Just be sure you use lots of stitches to give it enough give to get it on your foot!

  • Headband
  • Hair decoration – you can attach a crocheted flower to a barrette or comb.
  • Brooch – attach a crocheted flower to a pin.

Household Ideas for Leftover Yarn

If you made something for the house – like a pillow or afghan – you might want to coordinate with an additional item in a matching color. Here are some ideas:

  • Pillows – it can be whatever size makes sense for the amount of yarn you have left.
  • Curtain Tie Backs – A big crochet flower or “scarf” can serve as a curtain tie back.
  • Curtain Edging – Add a bit of lacy edging to a curtain.
  • Cup Cosy – keep hot beverages in flimsy paper cups from burning your hands
  • Yarn for birds nests – You can put small bits of yarn out for birds to incorporate into their nests, adding color.

For some more great ideas, check Scrap Yarn Ideas.

Do you have other ideas for leftover project yarn? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

7 Reasons You Should Start Knitting or Crocheting Today

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The beginning of a project is often the best part. Well... except for the end of course.

When I talk to people who are not crafters, they often say they wish they could knit or crochet. But they usually follow it up with a list of reasons why they can’t do it. Common reasons are: not enough patience, not enough creativity, not enough time or just a general “I could never do something like that”. Well I firmly believe that anyone can learn to knit or crochet. Sure there are things which are hard to make, but there are also things which are easy to make. And its a very rewarding hobby. So I thought I’d present to you 10 Reasons You Should Start Knitting or Crocheting Today.

  1. It is a wonderful feeling when you wear something you have made in public, someone compliments you on it, and you can say “Why thank you, I made it myself.” And it doesn’t take a really complicated piece to get compliments. Often the ones with simple stitches and fantastic yarn get just as much attention.
  2. Everyone I have ever made a gift for using knitting or crocheting has greatly appreciated it. Handmade items make better gifts than anything store-bought because they are customized & personalized to fit that person to a T.
  3. Handmade items last a really long time and continue to look great. For example, I have a crocheted project bag I made in the 80s that still looks fantastic. Granted the colors are a bit dated, but I know if I hold on to it for another 10 years it will probably be back in style again. I also have afghans I crocheted decades ago that I still use on a regular basis.
  4. Crocheting and knitting give you something to do with your hand. This is great so many times but I find it helps to keep me from munching while I watch TV, gives me something to do during long phone calls, and even gives me an activity on plane flights.
  5. You can make an item exactly the way you want it. Heck, if you can’t find yarn in the color you want (highly unlikely) you can even die it yourself. Instead of being limited to what other people want to offer you for clothing or home accessories, you can make something to exactly fit your style.
  6. You can make just about anything. I’ve seen all sorts of wearables, jewelry, household items – its really just incredible the things you can make.
  7. Crocheting and Knitting are both very relaxing. Granted there are times of frustration, but the vast majority of the time I spend working with yarn is incredibly relaxing – almost like mediation.

What are some of the reasons you like to knit or crochet? Let me know if the comments.

And if you are trying to decide which one to pick up, be sure to check out my post Difference Between Knit & Crochet.

Choosing a Yarn

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A wrap worked in crochet showing different kinds of yarn: fun fur, mohair, and yarn with sequins and metallic threads.

For those of you who are just starting off with knitting or crocheting, here are some lessons I’ve learned about yarn that might be helpful.

  1. Texture requires experience. The fuzzier it is or the more textured it is, the more difficult it is to see your stitches. Textured/fuzzy yarn also tends to be harder to unravel (or frog) if the need arises. Really heavily textured yarns (like mohair) can require you to work pretty much by feel.
  2. Use at least worsted weight [4]. The larger your yarn is, the easier it will be to see your stitches.
  3. User lighter & shinier yarns. Color makes a difference in how easy it is to see your work. The two things which make yarn easiest to use are lighter colors and sheen. So a yarn which is black and doesn’t shine very much would be the very hardest to use.
  4. Check the dye lot.  Some yarns now don’t even have a die lot now days. This can be great when you don’t know how much yarn you will need for a project. You might think that dye lot doesn’t make much of a difference, but the first time you wear your new sweater into really good light -like sun light – you will see the differences between the skeins more easily. So unless you only plan to wear your project on a cloudy day, use the same dye lot throughout.
  5. Check the washing instructions. If you are making something for children, pets, or people with children (or sometimes pets) it can really make a difference. New moms dont’ want to wash that baby blanket by hand (and lay flat to dry) every time their kids spits up on it. At the very least the recipient of your hard work will appreciate knowing the best way to take care of their new treasure.
  6. Softer vs. rougher yarns. In my experience, yarns don’t get much softer over time. They will soften up a little if you can dry them with dryer sheets. And washing them with hair conditioner can also soften them up some. But in general, you should expect to get the softness it is when you buy it.
  7. Getting enough yarn for large projects. If you are making a project that requires more than about 3 skeins of any given yarn, you are probably better off buying your yarn online. These days, craft stores rarely seem to stock more than about 3-5 skeins of any given yarn and often that will include more than one dye lot.

Differences Between Knit and Crochet…

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I know a lot of people who knit and a lot who crochet but very few who really do both all the time. Most people have a preference. So if you were thinking of picking up a hobby, some information on the 2 might be helpful. In general, you can make all the same things with either craft (although some things are better suited for one or the other).

Knitting socks using double-pointed needles (dpn)

Knitting

With knitting, you use at least 2 needles (sometimes as many as 5) and you carry many stitches on each needle at a time.

Advantages:

  • Lots more patterns than there are with crochet (although this is changing).
  • Less bulky so its better for making socks (and probably some other things as well).
  • Many people can knit without looking at the work at all for long periods of time.
  • Usually knitting is stretchier – especially when working ribbing.
  • I can have longer finger nails when I knit. Hey: these things matter!

Disadvantages:

  • You can “drop” a stitch. This can be recovered from but it makes it a bit more difficult.
  • More difficult to go backwards if you need to unravel something and start over.
  • Patterns tend to be harder to read. They are more subject to interpretation than crochet patterns tend to be.
  • You have to weave in ends when you are finished.

Crocheting

With crocheting you typically have one stitch on your hook at any given time (there are exceptions for certain stitches or styles of crochet). Typically the work contains more holes than knitting.

Advantages:

  • Because you only have one stitch on at a time, you usually can’t drop more than one stitch at a time.
  • Its easy to unravel one stitch, several or even several rows. There’s only one stitch to pick back up after you unravel.
  • Easier to learn (in my opinion).
  • Patterns tend to be very precise and not as open to interpretation.
  • Many times, you can weave in ends as you go (unless the pattern is really lacy).
  • Usually doesn’t require much (or sometimes any) blocking.

Disadvantages:

  • Fewer patterns are available (again this is changing).
  • Stitches are bulkier, in general, than knitting with the same type of yarn.
  • Usually you have to look at the work. Its very difficult to do without looking.
  • You can make crochet stretchy, but most basic stitches don’t have a lot of give.