Starting at Square One: The Very Basics About Crochet

What is crochet?

Let’s start with the very basics of crochet.  Crochet is different than knit.  Gasp, I know…people usually use the word “knit” to explain anything that was made with yarn. Crochet uses a hook, while knitting uses needles.  I’ll be honest…I know nothing about knitting!  I used to watch my grandmother knit and it looked like she was conducting a silent orchestra and convincing them to create an afghan!  It amazed me, but I decided to learn crochet.

Why crochet and not knit?

When you crochet, you are looping the yarn over your hook and creating little loop knots.  Your project works up faster with crochet, compared to knitting.  Crochet leaves “spaces” in your work.  For this reason, crochet can be a little tricky when designing purses or socks/slippers.  Who wants their pens slipping through their purse, or a toe popping out of the side of your sock?

Yarn…So Much To Choose From!

This may be one of the most overwhelming things you face when deciding to start crocheting.  You can buy yarn in balls or skeins (pronounced sk-ee-n or sk-ay-n); I prefer skeins because I like to pull my yarn from the center so the skein collapses on itself as I use it.  There is soft yarn, scratchy yarn, thin yarn, thick bulky yarn…and everything in between.  If you are creating a small dainty project, like a bracelet, you will use super thin yarn, almost like a thread.  If you are creating something a little more substantial or are looking for warmth, like a hat, scarf or blanket, you will use something a bit thicker.

Yarn Size = Gauge/Weight

Now, when I say “thicker”, I’m talking about the “gauge” or weight of the yarn.  Take a look at the label on the skein of yarn.  You will notice they have different sizes (or thickness) and they even recommend what size hook to use with it!  Take a look at the pictures below.  These are from some skeins I have laying around…because I “may have” a small yarn addiction!

Reading the Label

Light yarn.JPG
Size 3 “Light”
medium weight.JPG
Size 4 Medium
bulky yarn.JPG
Size 6 Super Bulky

Let’s start with where to find the “weight” or size of the yarn.  On each label, there are a bunch of boxes with symbols…they look like ancient Egyptian writing or something you need a secret decoder pen to understand.  In each picture above, you will see a picture of a skein of yarn with a number on it.  In the top picture, you will see the number 3 and the word “Light”.  In the middle picture, the number 4 and the word “Medium” and the last picture, the number 6 and the words “Super Bulky”. These are general terms used to describe how thick and heavy your yarn is.  You may also see words like “Sock Weight”, “Fingering Weight”, “Sport Weight”, “Worsted Weight”, “Bulky Weight”…these confusing words tell you how thick or thin your yarn is.  Take a look at the picture below.


What’s the difference?

The top white yarn came from the “Super Bulky” skein, the middle came from the “Medium” and the bottom one came from the “Light”.  The Bulky Weight, or Super Bulky Weight yarn, is fantastic for crocheting a blanket, scarf or hat…but your finished product will, in fact, be bulky!   The medium weight, “Worsted”, is one of the most common weights to be used for hats, scarves, baby blankets…it can be the most versatile.  And the light weight is great for dainty baby blankets (it’s not as warm so it’s great for a spring or summer blanket), wrist warmers, and arm warmers.  What I love about this weight yarn is how it can form to your hand and offers great movement…it also shows your stitches beautifully.

Here is a comprehensive graphic of different types, weights, and names of yarn.

Yarn weight graphic.jpeg
Commonly used terms for yarn weight

Before you go grabbing any ole’ hook, your skein of yarn, and go skipping off to your rocking chair with your cup of tea, you need to know WHICH HOOK to use for your project.  Keep reading and I’ll get you on the right track!

Does it really matter which size hook I use?  YES!

crochet hooks.JPG
Hooks and stitch holders and yarn…oh my!

Just as you have so many choices when it comes to yarn, you have a bunch of choices when it comes to hook sizes!  There is a reason they come in so many sizes…it has to do with the size and weight of your yarn.  Let’s revisit those labels we found on our skeins of yarn.

Light yarn.JPG
Size 3 Light
Medium yarn.JPG
Size 4 Medium yarn
Super Bulky.JPG
Size 6 Super Bulky Yarn

Let’s look at those labels again…find the picture of the crochet hook…it’s right next to the picture of the knitting needles that look like a giant X.  When you find the crochet hook, find the hook size.  It will usually have the letter and the actual size of the hook.  The sizes run with our alphabet…”A” would be a teeny tiny hook, “H” is an average size, and “L” is bigger.  The hook sizes also use the metric system to accurately describe the actual size. You will usually see both mentioned on the label.

Let’s Practice!

So, in the top picture, find the picture of the crochet hook.  In the box, you will see that it says you should use a 4mm crochet hook, also known as a “G” hook in the US.  The middle picture, (which is a little difficult to see, so I’ll do this one for you), says you should use a 5.5 mm hook, also known as an “I” hook in the US.  Ok, the last one is on you!  Find the crochet hook…got it?  What size in mm and what letter in US hook sizes does it say we should use for the Super Bulky weight yarn?  I’ll give you a minute.  Ok, got it?  If you said 8mm and an “L” hook in the US, you are correct!

How are crochet hooks like chairs?

Now that we have learned how the alphabet is incorporated into our crochet hook sizes, we can learn a little more about the different hooks.  They are like comfortable chairs.  You have to find what is most comfortable for you to hold.  I started out with just your standard metal crochet hooks, and then started trying out different “comfort grips” until I found what I liked.  You can also find wooden hooks, ergonomic hooks, vegan hooks.  I’m sure they make hooks for everyone!  Here is my collection.  It’s not as bad as some people I have seen (some people have more than 100 hooks…why?  I have no idea).

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So many different kinds of crochet hooks!

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My favorite sizes and types of crochet hooks

I find that I use the “G”, “H”, “I”, and “J” hooks most often, for nearly all of my projects.  So, if you are looking for a starting place, those are the perfect ones to start with.  The crochet hooks on the left are my favorites!  They have a comfort grip, similar to those squishy things you can put on your pencil in school.   This set is my favorite and buying them as a set gives you extra savings! Now let’s look at the hooks on the right…those are the metal hooks I was telling you about.  Most people starting out will buy these hooks because they are some of the least expensive.  They like to see what size they use the most before they drop some money on the comfortable ones.  That’s fine…and some people end up preferring the metal hooks.

Note:  If you are flying somewhere for a vacation…the airlines WILL NOT let you bring metal hooks in your carry on luggage or purse.  You either have to put them in your checked bag or find the plastic or wooden versions of the sizes you need.

Here are some wonderful, and beautiful, wooden hooks!

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My favorite crochet hooks with the comfort grip!

Changing the hook size…yes or no?

   Remember when I said that you can change the hook that the yarn label “recommends” to you…but only a little?  Here’s why.  If you go with a much smaller hook than the yarn you are working with, your stitches will be super tight and your project will start to ripple.  Your finished project will also be WAY smaller than you wanted it to be.  If you use a larger hook than recommended on the pattern, your finished product will be larger than intended and have more space between the stitches.  When following a pattern, that person wrote the pattern using a specific hook size to get the desired finished size.  If you are looking forward to jumping right in and getting the most comfortable hooks possible, take a look at these hooks!  I use them and love them!

Now you have learned a little…but wait…there is more!

I hope you have learned about the different yarn sizes, or weights, and the difference in hook sizes and why using the correct size is important.  In my next post, I will talk about the different ways to hold your hook, how to hold your yarn so it easily “feeds” your project, and the “tension” (how tight to pull your yarn while you crochet).  So, if you are brand new to crochet and you want to walk through these basics with me, go out, buy a skein of cozy yarn and the hook that goes with it.  Then come on back and see me again…we will walk through some more basics!

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