By Marnie MacLean
If you know my work, you probably think of me as just a knitter, but my first love is crochet. I am largely self-taught in the fiber arts, though I got a bit of a nudge forward from my knitting mother and crocheting father. One night, I raided my dad’s crochet stash and found a 1970s-era crochet pattern book that had it all: bikinis and capes, fedoras and more. To 7-year-old me, it was a treasure trove and it kicked off two decades of a near-exclusive passion for crochet. In college, I could be found working as technical support in the computer lab and when it was slow, I’d be cranking along on an afghan in acrylic yarn sold by the pound.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I went from being someone who knew how to knit, to being, well, the kind of person who knits, designs knitting patterns, and writes about knitting technique, but I’m still sad every time I hear a knitter speak dismissively about crochet. I don’t know if I’ll convince knitters to take on whole projects in crochet. If Amy didn’t convince you back in Twist’s second edition, what chance will I have? But I do hope knitters will at least consider crochet’s merits as an accent for knitted projects.
Crochet is a great option for subtle edge finishes that help control the curling of stockinette. It worked beautifully on Kate Gilbert’s Haussmann and is used for dramatic effect to join the large motifs for Janel Laidman’s Elysium. It’s featured on the neckline of my Lacewing, Damariscotta, and Raina patterns and is used to make the neckline ties for Heyday. This season, you can even use crochet to finish my shawl design, Iana. If you’ve ever struggled to get your bind-off loose enough for a shawl to block out nicely, this is a great solution that’s almost mistake-proof. If you end up really enjoying crochet, you can even cut your teeth on a crochet version of Fiona Hamilton-MacLaren’s Torque.
Interested? Then let’s cover the basic stitches you’ll encounter most often.
Note: U.S. and U.K. crochet terminology is similar but different enough to be maddening. Throughout the article U.S. terms will be listed first followed by U.K. terms in brackets. If only one term is listed, it applies to both U.S. and U.K. terminology. See the end of the article for a conversion chart that includes the most commonly used symbols in crochet charts.
Basic Hand Positions
If you look at photos of crocheters, you’ll notice two dominant ways of holding a hook: like a knife or like a pencil.
Pencil hold (left), knife hold (right).
I’ve never successfully crocheted more than a few stitches holding the hook like a pencil. I find it impossibly uncomfortable. But I’m not going to tell you that it can’t or shouldn’t be done. Use the method that is most comfortable for you.
Hold the hook in your dominant hand. Your non-dominant hand will hold your work taut. You may hold the working yarn in whichever hand you like but holding your yarn in your non-dominant hand, as for continental knitting, often proves to be fastest and most ergonomic. See what works for you.
How I hold my yarn and hook.
Step 1: Make a slip knot and place it on the hook.
Step 2: Catch the yarn on the hook either by moving the hook around the yarn or by wrapping the yarn around the hook.
This step is known by many names:
- Yarn over (yo)
- Yarn or wool round needle (yrn or wrn)
- Yarn or wool over needle (yon or won)
And I’m sure there are other variations I’ve missed. In my pilfered Mon Tricot book, I can find multiple variations on the same page.
Step 3: Pull the yarn through the loop. The key to success is the tension being held on the tail. Rotate the hook as needed to keep the yarn secure while you pull it through the loop.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the desired number of chain stitches are formed.
Note: Keep your chain stitches loose and even. Your hook must be able to fit back into the chain stitches on the next row.
When you are done, there will be a top side and a bottom side to the chain. On top, will be a series of nested Vs. On the bottom, there will be a series of bumps. If the instructions do not specify, you can either work your next row into the bumps or the Vs. Sometimes, you’ll be asked to work into either the front or back loop of the previous row to form a mock-ribbing effect. In that case, you’ll work either into the front or back leg of the nested Vs. Whatever you do, be consistent, so the starting edge will look tidy.
Top of chain (top) and bottom of chain (bottom).
Step 1: Insert the hook into the indicated stitch, then wrap the yarn around the hook.
Step 2: Pull the yarn through the stitch and the loop on the hook.
Single Crochet [Double Crochet]
Step 1: Insert the hook into the indicated stitch and wrap the yarn around the hook.
Step 2: Pull through the stitch only.
Step 3: Yarn around the hook and pull through the two remaining loops.
Half-Double Crochet [Half Treble]
This stitch is worked just like a single crochet [double crochet], with an extra wrap at the start of the process so that three loops remain before the last step.
Step 1: Wrap the yarn around the hook and insert into indicated stitch.
Step2: Yarn around the hook and pull the yarn through the stitch.
Step 3: Yarn around the hook and pull through all the loops.
Double Crochet [Treble Crochet]
Steps 1 and 2: Work as for the first two steps of half-double crochet [half-treble]
Step 3: Yarn over the hook and pull through two loops on the hook.
Step 4: Repeat step 3 to complete the stitch.
Treble/Triple Crochet [Double Treble]
Step 1: Wrap the yarn around the hook twice, and insert into indicated stitch.
Steps 2-4: Work as for double crochet [treble crochet] steps 2-4. Two loops remain on the hook.
Step 5: Yarn around the hook and pull through remaining two loops to finish the stitch.
Once you’ve mastered these basic crochet stitches, they can be combined and modified in a near-infinite number of ways, keeping you happily hooked for a long time to come. From there you can move on to Tunisian crochet, hairpin lace, broomstick lace, Irish lace, freeform crochet, amigurumi, filet crochet, and more. Keep in mind that crochet tends to be a real yarn hog, so a crochet piece in a similar yarn and size to its knit counterpart will use a lot more yardage (for those of you looking to stash-bust, this can be a real boon). Clean house making everything from earrings to afghans with your new crochet skills.
Marnie MacLean lives in Oregon with her husband and three rescued dogs. She holds a desk job by day and she designs and works as a production coordinator for Twist Collective by night. Find all her patterns and blathering at http://MarnieMaclean.com