When I was picking crochet back up a long while ago, there were so many things I was so lost about. Things that, honestly, are pretty basic. I am not talking about crochet stitches, or turning chains or any of the other beginner “mistakes” (I really do not like this word). I am talking about the things that could have resolved some of the issues before they ever even happened.
There are so many videos and tutorials out there that will teach you all the stitches and techniques to make beautiful work, but what do you do when you don’t know what you don’t know. If no one ever told you there was such a thing as a chain how would you know to look it up and find out all about it? Here, I have compiled a list of seven things that I wish I would have known sooner in my fiber art journey.
Yarn Ball Bands
So you have made the decision to learn how to crochet/knit/knook/loom. You head to your favorite craft store and stand there in just such wonder in front of all those colorful and squishy balls of yarn. This is where you will find the first four items on this list. So pull out that ball of yarn that has been catching your eye and let’s take a look at the ball band.
Yardage is so important. At first, for your first project, you probably will not be needing more than 1 ball of yarn. However, very soon you will be back for more and ready to tackle your next project. This is where yardage comes in. Most patterns will not specify a total number of yarn balls you need, they will however tell you how many yards you need to complete the project. Knowing where to find this on the ball band will make it so much easier for you to make sure you have gotten enough yarn to make that amazing baby blanket you have had your eye on.
2. Fiber Content
Let’s say that you want to learn to make a washcloth. Of course, if you are going to make something you want it to be usable. The washcloths that you buy at the store are made from cotton for a reason. It is the best option for water absorbency. So this ball of mostly acrylic yarn would not be a great choice for something like that. Knowing what you are making and its use can help you narrow down the type of fiber content you want so that your projects function the way that you imagined.
3. Yarn Weight Category
Yarn weight is essentially the thickness of the yarn. The Craft Yarn Council has established standards that describe yarn thickness. Almost all patterns will have a yarn weight recommendation. If you are attempting to follow a pattern and do not select the right weight yarn, the finished piece will either be too big or too small. For beginners I usually recommend a weight 4 (worsted weight) smooth yarn to learn on. It is not too thick, not too thin and is readily available with a very large selection to choose from.
4. Recommended Hook/Needle Size
I am going to refer back to patterns here and say that most, if not all, patterns will list a hook or needle size needed for the pattern. When you are first starting out and just want to play around with learning stitches you will want to use the recommended size from the label. Using the hook size recommended on the ball band is going to provide you with a big enough hook and shaft that the yarn is not worked up too tightly or loosely due to the hook. Hook and needle sizes are not totally universal so I always suggest using the MM (millimeter) measurement rather than the sizing letter or number.
5. How to Choose a Hook
Now that we know what hook size we need, we have to figure out what kind of hook to get. We could get deep in the weeds on crochet hooks, there is so much to consider. However, for beginners I recommend only two things. The first is that you get something metal. At first try to stay away from wood or plastic. The second is that you select an inline hook.
The difference between these two types of hooks is in the shape of the actual hook. What I like about the inline hooks is that it helps to keep your tension even as you are learning. This way you will have even stitches and rows while you are building your muscle memory. If you click on the image above there is an interesting article about the differences between these two types.
6. Stitch Markers
Stitch markers are your friends. They do sell closable stitch markers at the craft store in the yarn section. You are not limited to those though. You can also use a paper clip, a bobby pin, even a scrap of contrasting color yarn. The important part of this item is to be able to mark your first and last stitches so you don’t accidentally skip those stitches when you are learning how to recognize them visually. You just slip them into the top of the stitch you just made and this will let you know where to put your hook when you are beginning and ending a row.
7. Keep Going
No one is perfect, and you will have a ton of wonky stitches and rows. Once you have the starting chain and first row done, don’t stop. You can always rip out what you have done and start over, I have found though, that this can cause a lot of frustration for beginners. Having to redo the same step over and over and over is hard and can be discouraging. For this reason I usually tell my students to just keep going when they find an error. Say you skipped a stitch the row below, that’s okay, now you have one less stitch, no big deal, keep going. The important part is that you caught it, now you know and can avoid doing it again in the future.
I really hope that this information has helped some other beginners with similar overwhelm. I would love to hear about things you wish you had known, drop them in the comments below.