It can be overwhelming to try to jump into the world of crochet without some basic knowledge of terms, techniques, and patterns. But don't fear! Learning to crochet really is easier than it looks at first glance. Here are some basic crochet tips for beginners.
Crochet obviously involves yarn and a hook. Since you're just starting out, I recommend a worsted weight yarn. Yarns come in different weights, or thicknesses. Each weight is assigned a number, and the higher the weight number the thicker the yarn. When you're starting out, you don't want to use too thin or too thick a yarn, so worsted weight is a good starting point. I also recommend that you choose an acrylic yarn because it's cheap and easy to work with. Once you've picked out your yarn, choose a hook. I prefer aluminum hooks because they allow the yarn to slide easily. Hook sizes are indicated by letters and by width in millimeters. You can find the size of the hook on the package and on the hook itself. If you come across a hook that doesn't have the size labeled on it, you can purchase a small card with holes in it called a gauge that can tell you the sizes of your unlabeled hooks. My favorite sizes of hooks to use with worsted weight yarn are H and I. They're not so small that it's hard to see your stitches, but they're not so big that your stitches are loose and sloppy-looking.
Now that you've chosen your yarn and hook, you can get started crocheting. Most crochet patterns start with a slip knot. All you have to do to make a slip knot is to pretend you're tying a balloon, but instead of pulling the end all the way through the loop you make, pull another loop through it. Start about seven or eight inches from the end of the yarn. Wrap the yarn around your finger once and take that loop off your finger. Pull up a loop through the one you just made and tighten the knot around it. Now you should have a loop with a knot around it that will come out if you pull on both ends of the string. Once you have your slip knot completed, insert your hook into the loop and pull it taut.
Hold your hook in the hand with which you feel you will be most comfortable crocheting. Hold the lower part of the hook with the tip of your thumb resting against it and your third, fourth, and fifth fingers curved around it while the tip of your index finger rests on the upper part of the hook. Point the hook up and slightly angled toward your other hand.
The opposite hand is your tension hand. Tension is how you hold the yarn so the hook can grab it. To create tension, I wrap the yarn once around my little finger, bring the yarn across my palm toward my index finger, and then draw it over that finger. Your tension should be taut but not tight. It takes practice to keep your tension correct and consistent.
Your non-dominant hand is also where you control the work you've just done and the stitch you're currently working with. You must keep your hands close together so your non-dominant hand is close enough to reach the work.
Now that we have a few of the basic principles figured out, let's try the foundation of crochet: the chain stitch. Make sure you're holding your hook properly and have your yarn tension the way it should be. Yarn over, which means to angle the hook so that it's in front of the yarn in your tension hand and to fold that small bit of yarn over the hook. Now, if you twist the hook toward the yarn slightly and pull toward the loop on your hook, you should be able to grab the yarn that's over the hook and pull it through your loop. Don't forget that at this point your tension hand should be holding the slip knot to help pull that loop over your hook. Now you've made one chain stitch. Resist the urge to pull the yarn tight after every chain. Continue making chains until you're satisfied with your practice so far.
I hope these crochet tips for beginners have given you a good foundation for your new craft. In next week's article for beginning crocheters I'll cover basic stitches as well as common beginner problems and how to avoid them.