How to crochet for absolute beginners - Master Class #1: The supplies you REALLY need
I have met more knitters than crocheters in my life. And the majority of knitters I met were surprised that I knew how to crochet too. Some of them found crochet hard to learn, and that seemed funny to me since crocheters say the same thing about knitting! The two crafts are fairly easy to learn. However, the pro and cons of crochet versus knitting are subject to another post. What I am positive about is that with a little bit of practice and our amazing tutorials, you can learn both!
The basic materials you will need to get started with crochet
Are you ready? You will need... just yarn and a hook! Really easy, right? That is what makes it such a great hobby! Of course, you will find other pretty tools and wonderful supplies offered in the market, but they are not essential tools. For now, yarn and a hook will suffice. Let’s learn a little bit more about these two materials.
1- A guide to choosing the best yarn (aka fiber! ) for crochet beginners
I use the word yarn, but please know that you basically can use any fiber you wish. I love to experiment, try new materials, mix them around, and especially leave my creative spirit flow! That is the reason you will find different fibers in our store, from the basics like cotton and wool to more exquisite ones like cotton cords and raffia. All of them can be used for crochet. More so, if you do not feel like buying, you have the choice to recycle, and make your own fibers at home from old sheets or plastic bags!
Be aware that when you are learning, some fibers will work with you and some against you. Keep reading to know what to look for when choosing the best yarns for crochet beginners.
A - What are the different types of crochet yarn? Which one is best for beginners?
When we talk about different types of yarn, we refer to the content of the fibers. The content is found on the label, usually expressed in percentages (50% merino wool and %50 cotton, for example). There are natural and synthetic fibers. Natural fibers are sourced from animal hair (alpaca, merino, mohair, cashmere) and from plants (cotton, hemp, linen). The synthetic fibers are man-made, which the majority come from petroleum, such as acrylic, dralon, polyester, etc. Lastly, there are fibers made from a mix of these materials (50% merino wool, 50% acrylic).
I have to say I prefer natural fibers for their environmental benefits, characteristics, and quality. Wool is an excellent choice because it is super soft and stretchy. This elasticity will ease the flow of your crochet, and it will make it simpler to handle. It is durable and resilient, which means that if you make a mistake, you can unravel your project and reuse the yarn. Nowadays, it is commonly available and has one of the best price-quality relations, making it one of the top choices. It has other incredible properties: it is anti-microbial, odor-resistant, flame-retardant, water-resistant, insulating, and wrinkle-free. What can we say, we love wool!
Cotton is another amazing material for beginners. It is not as elastic as wool, it holds its shape better, but it is still very soft and versatile. It is light and breathable, ideal for home decor, or summer projects. It also provides excellent protection against the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The greatest advantage is that cotton is hypoallergenic, making it ideal for close to skin projects. I have to say I love our cotton cords for crochet learners. Given their construction, they are more elastic than cotton yarn; they are soft on the hands and easy to handle.
B- What does yarn weight mean? What yarn weight should a crochet beginner choose?
Yarn weight refers to the thickness of the yarn. Don’t confuse it with its actual weight in grams or ounces. It actually relates to its diameter, and there is a system that crocheters and knitters use established by the Craft Yarn Council. This system rates yarns from 1 to 7, or from lace to jumbo, meaning from the thinnest to the thickest yarn. As a crochet beginner, we recommend using a medium worsted weight yarn, or #4. This type of yarn will be easier to manipulate. It won’t be too thin that will slip through your fingers or too thick, which will make you feel awkward.
C- What about texture?
Pick a smooth, easy to handle yarn. If it is too hairy, has loops or many plies, for example, it will make your life miserable. It will not only be hard to work with, but it will also make it challenging to observe your progress and catch your mistakes. At the same time, these types of yarns will make it painful if you have to undo your work because they are more likely to get tangled. Simple is always better.
D- Choosing the right color.
In this case, color matters. For example, I love black; it is so modern and fashion-forward. Everything looks good (or even better) in black. However, if you are getting started, save it for later. It can be difficult to see and work with, especially without adequate lighting. The same goes for all darker colors. It is better to pick a light-colored yarn.
E- One last remark: Check for Sustainability
As we discussed, there are plenty of fibers to choose from. For each of those options, we can make a pros and cons list, especially when it comes to sustainability. Nevertheless, an important characteristic that I have not mentioned related to natural fibers is that they are biodegradable, which means they will naturally find its way back to nature. They can also be recycled, used to produce new fibers or other products with different use (such as household insulation). Specifically wool, is a natural renewable product, in the sense that sheep grow fleece every year.
Synthetic fibers, precisely the petroleum-based fibers like acrylic or nylon, include man-made elements in them, and nature can’t break those elements away; therefore, they are not biodegradable. Scientific studies have shown that they shed micro-plastic fibers that end up in waterways and oceans every time we wash them. In recent years, new technologies have made the recycling of these fibers possible, but I honestly have not heard about any of these programs near me. Chances are, the final garment will end up in the landfill.
On the other hand, you will hear that in calculations, the water use (cotton), land use (cotton and wool), and climate change emissions (sheep breeding) give cotton and wool a low score on environmental issues. As I told you before, there are arguments for and against, and it is good to listen to them all to make an informed decision. I believe every human action leaves a footprint on our planet, and we have to make everything possible to minimize it. Investigating and seeking out the low impact variants is a must. At Max and Herb, we work hard in seeking and learning about new materials with the premise of always supporting local communities. We work with other entrepreneurs that share our same values, and together, we work to maintain the most honest and low impact supply chain possible.
2- What crochet hook is right for beginners?
The next element you will need to begin your beautiful crochet project is a hook. A difference from knitting, which uses two needles, crochet is done with only one hook. Again, there are many options in the market, and unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect crochet hook for beginners! With practice, you will find the crochet hook of your preference. In the meantime, let’s talk about the different options and attributes you will find:
A- Choosing the correct crochet hook size for your yarn
If you go to a store to buy a crochet hook, the first question you will hear refers to its size. The size of the hook depends on the thickness of the yarn. The thicker the yarn, the bigger the crochet hook you will need. For thinner yarns, smaller needles are used. The needle size usually appears directly on your crochet hook. There will either be a number or a letter, sometimes both. In the metric system, crochet hooks go from 2 mm to 30 mm and in the US, from B/1 to T/X. The smaller the number or letter, the smaller the needle, which means that it is used with thinner yarns. The bigger the number or letter, the bigger the hook, and the thicker the yarn you can use.
So, you have your yarn, but how do you know what hook size you need? Well, every yarn label should have its own recommended size needle on it, and that size is the starting point. However, in time, you will learn that not always the recommended size needle is the needle you want. Some crocheters have looser or tighter tension, meaning that they will need a smaller or bigger hook size than the one indicated in the label. Sometimes you may want to create different effects or texture, and you will change your hook size to achieve it. For now, start with the size needle suggested by your yarn manufacturer.
B-Choosing the best crochet hook material
I am sorry to disappoint you, but there are a surprising amount of different materials as well! The most common are bamboo, wood, metal, or plastic. There is also a combination of them, such as metal and plastic or wood handle and metal tip. Some hooks can have special features, like an ergonomic shape for better holding, or even include light to use in low-light or dark conditions.
Back to the materials, I love wood (especially birch) or bamboo hooks. They are eco-friendly, light, and flexible. I love how they feel warm and smooth in my hands, making me feel closer to nature somehow. However, they tend to be a little bit more expensive than plastic or metal hooks. Another characteristic is that they are not as smooth as metal and plastic hooks; therefore, the stitches and the yarn don’t slide off so easily. This could be an advantage, preventing your live stitch from falling off, or a disadvantage, finding it hard to handle and making you feel a little frustrated.
Metal (such as aluminum) or plastic, are the most common crochet hooks, and the most widely available. These hooks are the most affordable and are also very durable. Some crocheters find the metal to be a little bit uncomfortable to hold over long periods and find them too slippery.
As with almost everything with this hobby, it always comes down to personal choice and what sort of projects you undertake.
Now, let's grab your yarn and hook, and let's start the fun!