15 Tips For Beginner Crocheters
Hi everyone! Today's blog post features 15 tips and suggests for beginner crocheters! Previously I offered a list of advice for beginner knitters, which you can find here. Some of the advice listed in today's is the same as what I included for the knitters, but with some changes to make the content more relevant to crochet. There are some entirely different tips listed here as well, since there are few aspects of crochet that are not relevant (or at least not as relevant) to knitting. So with that, here they are. Feel free to post feedback in the comment sections. I have taught crochet a few times, but not as often as I have taught knitting.
1. Be Patient
Likely you will not learn a technique immediately, and that is okay. As with most things, crochet takes time to learn. One of the worst mistakes you can make is thinking that you master crochet overnight; don't tell yourself that, and don't let anyone pressure you into rushing. This is one of the biggest issues I have seen when helping beginner crocheters; many people expect that they will learn the basics of crochet in two or three lessons, which unless you happen to be a prodigy, probably will not happen. I struggled with being patient when I was younger; crochet came easier for me, however, and was making fairly advanced projects in a matter of three or four years. It took twenty years for me to get where I am now, and I still work to improve my skills as much as possible.
The best way to learn anything is to practice, and continually put your new skills to use. Even now I still take time to practice new techniques or stitches or review those which I do not often use. Making swatches is a great way to practice stitches, techniques, and tension. The swatches do not have to be large—and 8" (20cm) square is usually a good size to work with. Another way to practice is to make miniature (or partial) versions of different garments, such as hats, blankets, and sweaters. Use inexpensive or scrap yarn for these tiny projects. This is very effective because you do not have to worry about taking out an entire project if you make a mistake in a particular section.
3. Mind Your Hand Health
Unfortunately, one of the major downsides I have found with crochet is hand stiffness/joint pain, especially when working on certain stitches when crocheting for a long interval of time. This seems to be a common complain among crocheters, more than with knitters and other textile artists. With that said, I would recommend wearing compression gloves (or just one if only one hand starts to bother you). There are also special hand stretches that help with crochet-related joint issues. As a note, any crochet stitch requiring a tighter tension (such as basketweave, waffle, crochet cables, entrelac, front and back post), or projects that are more time consuming (blankets, sweaters, large wraps) tend to cause hand discomfort faster than other types of crochet projects.
4. Be Selective With Yarns
When first starting with crochet, try using only brightly colored yarns with a smooth texture, like mercerized cotton or superwash wool. These are generally the easiest fibers to work with, though everyone has their individual preferences. Avoid darker colors, black, and even white yarns, as it can be difficult to see stitch definition with these. Also avoid fury, rigid, slippery, and novelty textured yarns; these include yarns with glitter, beads, ribbon, or other additions, or fibers such as mohair, linen, ramie, 100% silk, and bamboo. Be careful with variegated yarns as well, especially where the variegation contains large patches of dark colors, black, or white. For practice, I would recommend an inexpensive yarn; save the luxury yarns for when you are more comfortable and are ready to work on an actual project. Inexpensive cotton, wools, and synthetic yarns are good for practicing. I generally recommend my students start with a light-medium pink, blue, grey, brown, or green yarn. These colors have the best stitch definition, even in poor lighting. While it may seem counterintuitive, working with smaller yarn is better for crochet; chunky yarns, especially chunky acrylics, often effect the quality of your project and are actually more difficult to work with. I usually recommend DK weight or worsted weight yarn to start, though sport weight can also work.
Also consider whether the yarn is sold as a cake, ball, cone, or skein. Skeins will have to be unwound into a ball or cake, so if you are not up for the added challenge, simply start with a yarn shape that does not have to be modified before use. If you do wish to use a skein, look to see if someone can unwind it for you; some yarn stores will, usually for an additional fee between $1-$10, but occasionally they will offer this service for free.
A note on synthetic fibers: some knitters prefer acrylic, polyester, and nylon yarns. However, I would not recommend using these for close-fitting garments, or anything intended for pets and young children, or those who cannot react quickly to sudden temperature changes. Synthetic yarns can melt easily if exposed to high heat, and cause severe burns.
5. Plan Projects
Planning is always important. To reduce any potential extra stress, make sure to plan all of your crochet projects thoroughly. Buy enough yarn ahead of time; for larger projects, it is always a good idea to buy 1-2 extra balls of yarn than what is listed in a pattern. Make sure you have the right size needles for the project, as well as extra in case you need to go up or down to another size if the gauge is not matching. Look through the list of notions and make sure you have everything listed. Look through the instructions in the pattern; find any stitch or techniques that you might be unfamiliar with and set aside time to practice them before starting the actual project. Estimate the amount of time you think the project will take to finish, that way you can set aside enough time, along with some extra days or hours to a lot for any mistakes.
6. Set Goals
Set aside time to decide what your crochet goals are, and how you would like to approach them. If you have been crocheting for a short time, ask yourself what progress would you like to make—are there stitches projects, or techniques you want to work on and master? If you have not started crocheting yet, set a goal for when you would like to start the learning process. Make a list of all your crochet goals and put them somewhere where you can look back later (a journal, calendar, spreadsheet, or note-taking app, for example). If you need to adjust your goals, that is okay, too. Being realistic with the goals you set is key to not being too harsh with yourself for not succeeding. View goals as a learning tool, and less as a measure of your ability as a crocheter. Sometimes rewarding yourself is a great way to stay with the goals you set. Maybe buy a fancy skein of sock yarn for learning a new cast on technique.
7. Start With Simple Patterns
Reading patterns does not come easily to everyone; some crocheters are unable to understand written/graph patterns at all. When picking your first knitting project pattern, it is best to keep it simple. You might want to start with a pattern that does not use a lot of abbreviations or charted graphs. Quality video and photo tutorials patterns might also be a good place to start, especially you are a visual learner. crochet patterns also list the difficulty level of the project, so make sure to check the rating given (find patterns that say "Easy", "Beginner", "Easy/Beginner", and "Advanced Beginner" depending on your comfort level). Also look for patterns that do not require a lot of additional math, shaping, or finishing techniques.
8. Find Your Project Niche
More so than with knitting, I would say it is easier to settle into making only one type of crochet project. These projects could be blankets, amigurumi, sweaters, and tote bags. Many crochet artists tend to focus on one item and essentially stay within a design niche, or even a subdivision of such niches (food amigurumi, granny square afghans, thread lace crochet), which is perfectly okay. I tend to focus my crochet design on amigurumi, but I will also make wraps and blankets. Most other items I prefer to knit.
9. Take A Break
I take breaks from crochet on occasion, partly to rest my hands. So, if you do not feel like crocheting, forcing yourself is not the best choice. Find another creative outlet, and there are plenty to choose from (knitting, weaving, spinning, quilting, glass blowing, photography, painting, mosaics, or cooking, just to list a few). This is connected to tip #1: be patient. Sometimes this means putting something aside for a while and waiting until you have the patience to appreciate the learning process, as the willingness to learn is also a skill. On that note, however, try not to get into the habit of never finishing anything. UFOs (unfinished objects in this instance), can quickly pile up and become a distraction.
10. Don't Overcomplicate Gauge
Gauge is not as important for crochet as it is with knitting. The only time gauge is truly important for crochet is when working with fitted garments and accessories, such as hats; you will need to know how many stitch per inch to help determine the number of stitches to start with (the rest is determined by the multiple of stitches needed for a pattern, such as 4, 6 or 8). However, it is generally easier to figure out how big your crochet projects will be than it is with knitting projects. One of the reasons why is because crochet starts out differently than knitting (normally a base chain or magic circle as supposed to a "cast on" like knitting). Particularly when starting with the base chain (flat crochet projects and bottom up hats, for example), you can measure the the chain and do simple math to determine the object's size, instead of starting with a gauge swatch. Crochet, unlike knitting, is inelastic, and tends to stay the same size even after blocking, give or take about 1-3 inches, from my observations. Unlike with knitting, I tend to omit the gauge swatch step for my crochet projects, since measuring the starting chain is fair accurate. It is also a bit easier to add or subtract length, height, and even width on a crochet item, in case your measurements were off, since adding borders, ruffles, and filler area (usually for motifs) is easier than with knitted garments. For items such as dolls and amigurumi, gauge is often not used, but based merely on the tightness of your stitches.
11. Don' Be Afraid To Try Something New
Once you have become comfortable with a specific stitch or project type, it may be beneficial to start branching out gradually and work with something else. While practice is good, so is variety. While staying within a specific project niche is common, being limited with your crochet can later lead to boredom, which can affect confidence and motivation to continue. The new projects you try do not have to be so far beyond your comfort zone that you become frustrated; instead, look for projects and stitches that gradually build off the skills you already know. Small successes will eventually lead to the confidence and skillsets to tackle more challenging knitting projects. Again, be patient. There is, or should not, any rush. Crochet is not a competition.
12. Keep A Journal
Besides setting goals, keeping a journal of inspirations, project ideas, swatches, yarns, and other useful resources is a great way to help your crochet. This is something crocheters of any skill level can benefit from. You can also use your journal for project sketching and planning. There are many crochet project planners and templates available for purchase, but you can create your own if you are a journaling enthusiast. Journals can also be used to record goals and keep notes on what struggles you have been having, as well as ways you might have tried to overcome any challenges.
13. Don't Skip Blocking
Blocking is crucial to making sure your crochet is neat; it can be the difference between your piece looking unfinished versus looking like something purchased from a store (which might be your end goal). While blocking might seem daunting, it is very easy once you get used to the process. There are different types of blocking (wet blocking, spray blocking, and steam blocking, for example), so make sure you learn the differences between each one and pick the technique that is most appropriate for your crocheted piece (also make sure your yarn can be blocked). To familiarize yourself with the blocking process, start by using swatches in different yarns, gauges, and stitches; this way you can experiment with blocking techniques without worrying as much about your finished garment or accessory being ruined. To note with crochet: blocking is not as effective as it is with knitting, given the inelastic quality of crochet. Especially if you are working with cotton, do not expect your crochet to stretch much. However, blocking is still a good idea, because it does affect the finished quality of your items, and makes them look neater.
14. Look For Help
If learning on your own is not working, try looking for a teacher or other resources to help you in your crochet journey. There are plenty of crochet blogs, social media channels, forums, online classes, and guilds with accurate information. There are also a growing number of resources for BIPOC individuals looking to learn crochet but wanting to stay more within their community. If able, find a friend or family member who can teach you knitting, even if it is only the basics. My mother taught me the fundamentals of crochet, then I taught myself everything else over the next 19 years, with some breaks in between.
15. Find Different Sources of Motivation
What initially inspired you to start crocheting? Maybe you were looking for a creative hobby or wanted a way to make cozy accessories for yourself. Yet if your initial reason for wanting to crochet is no longer bringing the same amount of motivation, try looking for other sources to help inspire you. Crochet has offered an outlet for creative charity projects for many years. Look around for legitimate charities asking for crocheters to help them; these project calls can range from hats or scarves for the poor, to sweaters and blankets for shelter pets and injured wildlife (one of the most recent instances was the Australian wildfire animals). You can also look to see if there is a need in your community for various crocheted items. Want a secondary source of income? Crochet accessories, garments, amigurumi plushies, jewelry, or designing/editing patterns can be a great opportunity.
Bonus Tip: Have Fun!
The most important tip of all, have fun! Crochet is 96% fun (the other 4% is usually affected by sweater mistakes, bad yarn decisions, and miscounted stitches). Amigurumi in particular are lots of fun; it is definitely worth trying at least one amigurumi pattern! Crochet becomes more enjoyable once you are more confident, and less prone to frustrating mistakes. Take your time at first, learn as much as possible, then it should be a better experience.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions about crochet, feel free to comment on this post.
Until next time! Happy crocheting!
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