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Crocheting Basics

Martha Stewart Baby, Winter 2001

Learning how to crochet requires little more than a few simple stitches and some practice. Soon, you'll have the skills you need to make a soft, bright baby blanket, a toy ball, or a granny square.

Tools and Materials
Crochet hook
Measuring tape or ruler
Straight pins
Yarn needle

Holding the Yarn
There are several methods for threading the yarn through the fingers, but no matter which method you choose, the yarn must be able to flow easily from hand to hook. We passed it over the little finger, under the ring finger, and over the middle and forefingers (left). If you prefer, loop the yarn around the little finger, passing it over the forefinger. How the yarn is held is a matter of preference; practice until you find a comfortable way to keep the tension consistent. Hold the hook as you would a spoon, as shown here, or if you prefer, a pencil. Use the hook to pull the yarn from your fingers through the loop on the hook.

Making a Gauge Swatch
Most patterns indicate the size of the finished item. To ensure that your item ends up that size, crochet a gauge swatch first to compare with the gauge recommended in your pattern. Using the same hook, yarn, and style of stitches you plan to use for your finished piece, work a sample at least 4 inches square, then place on a flat surface. Insert two straight pins vertically into the swatch, 3 inches apart. Count the number of stitches between the pins. Repeat with two horizontally placed straight pins for rows. If your sample has more stitches or rows than indicated in the gauge, switch to a larger hook. If your sample has fewer stitches or rows than indicated, use a smaller hook.

Hook Size and Yarn Weight
If you are new to crocheting, it helps to remember that both hook size and yarn weight refer to thickness. A hook's thickness is indicated with a letter (most U.S. sizes), a number (most metric or European sizes), or a combination. The higher the number or letter, the thicker the hook. Yarn weight, like hook size, refers to thickness, but is denoted by a name. From lightest to heaviest, yarn is referred to as: fingering, sport, double knitting, worsted, aran, and bulky.

Increasing and Decreasing
To increase the width of a piece, add more stitches by working two stitches of one row into a single stitch of the row before it. To decrease the width, subtract stitches: Skip a stitch, and work into the next stitch instead. There are other ways to increase and decrease in crochet, but these are the simplest.

Getting Started
Once you decide what to crochet, read through all the instructions first: Being familiar with the pattern before you begin is the best way to ensure success. Typically, the first five rows of crochet are the most difficult, even for experienced needle crafters, and projects are most likely to be abandoned at this early stage due to frustration. Try to work at least ten rows so that your fingers become accustomed to the work.

Learn How to Crochet

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