This week’s Crochetpedia theme is Foundation. Just like with any project, we must first begin by building a solid foundation, as well as, understand the basic tools and techniques before proceeding to the main section. Previously we explained how to choose the right yarn for a project as well as how to accurately determine the correct gauge, or hook size, for your yarn choice and pattern. So now that you have your hook and yarn picked out for your project how do you begin? This is what we will be explaining in today’s post, the foundation of crochet.
Depending on how your yarn is packaged, you may need to wind your yarn before beginning. Some yarns are packaged in a pre-wound center pull ball or “yarn cake” and can be easily crocheted with without having to do anything further to it. Other yarns are sold in a hank, these look like twisted rolls of yarn and require you to untwist and wind into a farm that can be worked with. If you do not properly untie a hank you will end up with a huge mess of knots and will take you a lot of time and effort to remedy this mistake. First you have to untwist the hank and lay it over something to keep the center open to prevent tangles. You will notice that the hank is tied in areas by a piece of string, one of these ties will also incorporate the ends of the hank. Carefully cut the ties off and locate the ends, choose an end to work with(usually one is much easier than the other). Gently start winding the yarn in the method of your choosing, either a center pull or a ball is most common. I will be doing a post soon on a more in depth look at this procedure as well as providing a tutorial on a DIY yarn winder from household items.
Now that your yarn is ready to work with, it is time to choose your gauge, crochet hook. This is the magic wand, so to speak, of the crocheter; it is the tool used in creating the stitches of crochet. Hooks are made from a variety of materials, most common being aluminum, and come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Personally I began working with aluminum crochet hooks with no special grip or structure, simply an aluminum hook that cost about $1, companies like Boye and Susan Bates are popular brands among this type of hook design. These hooks are easy to work with and a most often suggested to those who are looking to begin learning crochet. Once you get the feel of holding your hook in a way that is most comfortable for you in your dominant hand, then you can begin exploring new grips, or handle structures that make crocheting projects even more comfortable on your wrists.
Understanding the parts of a crochet hook will aide you in getting the most consistent stitches.
Tip: The tip is slightly pointed to help you maneuver and push your hook through stitches while crocheting, It also helps in grabbing, or hooking, the working yarn to create the many different stitches in crochet.
Throat: Directly attached to the tip is the “throat” of the crochet hook where yarn loops sit when creating stitches. This section and the tip are the parts of the crochet hook that work up the stitches.
Shaft: The shaft is right after the throat and is the part of the crochet hook that determines its gauge, or measurement. It is highly suggested, especially when chaining, to move your loops up to the shaft before finishing a stitch in order to maintain proper gauge and tension throughout your project.
Grip: Many hooks come with a flattened area on the hook that is a suggested resting place for your thumb to sit while holding the hook. Some do not have this feature as their structured in a way that the user finds comfort in the shape of the handle as a whole, like ergonomic hooks.
Handle: The handle of a hook is for the user to comfortable hold and maneuver the hook and have the most control over the hooks movements.
There are two most common methods to holding a crochet hook.
Pen Hold: Considered to be more “old fashioned” and “dainty” the pen hold means the user holds the hook the same way they would hold a writing utensil.
Knife Hold: The crocheter who uses the knife hold, holds their hook as if they were using a knife to cut something. Many believe this method to be less of a burden on the user’s wrists.
How you hold a crochet hook will be unique to you, try them both and modify them as needed to achieve the most comfortable, yet controlled grip.
Hooks come in many different sizes ranging from jumbo 25mm to the tiniest steel hooks of less than 1mm. When choosing a hook you need to know your yarns gauge and also how you want the tension of your stitches to be. You wouldn’t want to choose a 4 mm hook for size 7 weight yarn as this would make super tight stitches as well as being very difficult to work up since the hooks tip would be quite a bit smaller than the yarns thickness which makes hooking the yarn difficult. Same goes for the opposite, if you try to crochet cotton crochet thread with a 6 mm hook you will be left with very loose stitches. So choosing the proper gauge is extremely important in producing the look you want for your project. Each hook is separated and labeled with a letter and/or a measurement, typically in millimeters.
Creating a slip knot can be accomplished in a variety of ways, and everyone tends to have one method that they prefer the most. It is a good idea to have a few different methods of creating a slip knot so that if one method is difficult with a specific yarn you have other options for creating the knot that starts it all. Just about every crochet project begins with a slip knot that the crocheter then begins to chain from, but what is a slip knot exactly and why is it used. A slip knot is basically a type of knot that is able to be adjusted by pulling on either the working yarn(loosen) or the tail end (tighten) and should fit the shaft of your crochet hook. It is important to keep your slip knot fairly loose so that your chain stitches are not too tight.
Once we have our slip knot tied and our hook grip selected, we can begin feeding yarn to our hook in order to create crochet stitches. There are many ways to hold yarn in your non-dominant hand, but ultimately how you hold it will be unique to you based on how it is most comfortable and easiest to control. Just like with your crochet hook, explore and try different methods until you find a method that feels most natural to you. Many suggest wrapping the yarn loosely around your pinky then weaving the yarn thru your next three fingers and using your index finger to control the tension of the working yarn and providing a space for your hook to grab the yarn.
The foundation of a crochet project is called the chain, this is the area in which the first row of stitches can be worked into. Even if you go the route of a chainless foundation, you still must crochet three chains to begin that process. So, simple put, it is the most basic skill for all crochet projects.
Once you have secured the slip knot to it’s proper tension for the hook you choose, insert your crochet hook and yarn over (yo). You can do this by moving your hook in front of the working yarn, the yarn you are feeding to the project, maneuver the yarn over the hook. Now that you have yarned over, the next step is to pull through the loop on your hook, creating your first chain stitch.
The amount of chains needed for your projects foundation is completely dependent on the project’s measurements and stitch choice, Some stitch types require you to work in multiples of two or three, so it is important to keep that in mind when working your chain.
At the start of every new row of crochet you must also chain a corresponding number of chains to the type of stitch you are doing.
Single Crochet = 1 chain
Half Double Crochet = 2 chains
Double Crochet = 3 chains
Triple Crochet = 4 chains
The chains help keep your projects shape, the correct number of stitches per row, as well as provide the height for the row. Most of the time this small chain at the beginning of a row counts as the first stitch of that row, this is often how new crocheters end up dropping stitches as they crochet. To keep yourself from forgetting to crochet into the chain it is a good idea to put a stitch marker into the top chain to distinguish the chain making it easier to remember to crochet your last stitch there.
Anatomy of a Chain Stitch
A chain stitch is composed of three parts.
Front Loop: the strand of yarn facing closest to you.
Back Loop: the strand of yarn Facing farthest from you.
Bottom Loop: the strand of yarn on the underside.
The front and back loops together form a “V” shape, which is also how the top of mostly every crochet stitch will look from the top view, these two loops is where you will normally crochet into unless otherwise stated. Unless specified, it doesn’t really matter which loop of the chain you put your stitches into, however, whichever loop you choose needs to be the same for the entire row.
Slip stitch is very similar to a chain stitch, however it worked over other stitches rather than by itself. It is used to join rounds of crochet, add a finished border, and do crochet embroidery. To do a slip stitch, insert your crochet hook into the stitch you wish to slip stitch into and yarn over; pull through both the stitch and the loop on your hook. Be careful to keep the tension on slip stitches loose or you risk your work becoming misshapen. A slip stitch is slightly different from other crochet stitches in that the “V” shape formed from the front and back loops lays on the front of the work rather than on the top. This is why a slip stitch is used mainly for places that you do not count as working stitches, like joining a round, or adding a finished border to a piece.
We have made it to the end craftista’s! Whew take a moment to look away from your screen that was a lot to take in. Just like any project the foundation is to key to creating the ideal outcome. I hope this helps you all perfect your crochet foundation and leads you to improving your skills.
Next I have a few more posts for you on the foundation of crochet; including a video for unwinding a hank of yarn into a center pull, as well as, Chainless Foundation for single crochet, half-double crochet, and double crochet. Happy Crocheting til then!