Things I wish I had known when I started to crochet…

Hello 2016! With the New Year comes a lot of new resolutions, plans and goals. If one of your goals is to learn a new craft/hobby and you want to try your hand at crochet then this is the perfect post for you! I’ve been crocheting since early 2012 and am entirely self-taught (thanks YouTube!) so don’t be discouraged if you don’t know someone who can teach you. There are wonderful blogs, tutorials and videos out there on the internet which can give you all the help you need! This post isn’t designed to teach you any crochet stitches but rather to let you in on a few tips and bits of information that will hopefully save you a lot of time and/or frustration – all things that I learnt the hard way! All you experienced crocheters out there will already know this info but there might be something you would add to the list or remember learning the hard way when you started out?

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1. US vs UK terms
Ok this is probably the single most important thing you need to know when starting out with crochet – especially if you’re learning off the internet! There are two different “languages” when it comes to crochet stitches and reading patterns. The confusing thing is that they actually use the same terms but they mean different things. What?! I know. My lightbulb moment came when I was making my first ever project – a blanket made up of lots of different square designs. I was learning how to do a stitch from a YouTube tutorial and couldn’t figure out why this one square was double the size of the other ones I had somehow managed to make. Before I go any further, check out the comparison between the two terminologies:

US                                                                         UK
ch = chain                                                          ch = chain
sl st = slip stitch                                              sl st = slip stitch
sc = single crochet                                          dc = double crochet
hdc = half double crochet                             htr = half treble
dc = double crochet                                        tr = treble
tr = treble                                                           dtr = double treble

SOO confusing right? Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it! So how do you know if a pattern uses US or UK terminology? If you’re lucky, it’ll tell you at the start! Most patterns should state at the beginning what terminology they are written in. If you have found the pattern on a website and it doesn’t tell you straightaway, have a look for the origin of the site but bear in mind that this isn’t foolproof as some countries don’t have a strict rule, e.g. Australian and New Zealand sites will vary in what they use, and you might even find that someone in the UK uses US terms for whatever reason, or vice versa! Another way to figure it out is to look over the whole pattern and see if you can spot any ‘sc’ stitches. If it has ‘sc’ in the pattern, it’s US terminology. But just to be confusing, don’t automatically assume that a pattern without ‘sc’ stitches is written in UK terms – it could just mean that the pattern doesn’t use that particular stitch. Have I totally confused you now? Hopefully not! If you’re just starting out with crochet, don’t freak out. Pick one of the two terminologies and stick with it until you are confident with your stitches. If you find a pattern that isn’t in the terminology you know, go through and write it out, “translating” the stitches using the table above (or any other that you find on the internet). You might be happy with sticking to that method but I would recommend eventually becoming familiar with both as it makes life a lot easier – and boosts your crochet confidence – knowing you can work off either version of a pattern!

Ok that first point was a lot longer than I anticipated! My next few points are just little tips which should help make your life a bit easier.

2. Check the dye lot on yarns/hang onto labels
This is something that once again I learned the hard way. I was working on one of my earlier projects and ran out of the yarn I was using. No biggie, I thought, I’ll just pop out to the shop and get some more. Except it wasn’t quite that straightforward…I found the yarn I needed and started filling my basket when I suddenly realised that it looked like I had two slightly different shades in my basket! I started pouring over the label, trying to see if it had the colour name written on it anywhere. The only thing I could find was something called “dye lot” followed by a few numbers. I checked it against a label from one of the other balls of yarn and sure enough, the numbers didn’t match. So I’d figured out that there could be a slight variation in batches of yarn but what I didn’t know was what version I was using at home. This meant I had to go home, find a stray piece of yarn, go back to the shop and try to match it against the ones on the shelf. How to avoid this big rigmarole? When you start a project, snip a couple of inches off the start of the yarn and tie it around the label. Keep it with your project so that if you ever need more yarn, you can take the label with you and check that you are buying the right dye lot! (The reason for tying the yarn to the label is so that it doesn’t get confused with any other labels/colours from the same brand that you may be using with the same project).

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3. Stitch markers
These are incredibly useful for when you are starting to learn how to crochet as it will take a while to recognise the different stitches. Think of stitch markers as your new best friends. You can use them to mark the first chain of a round, mark various stitches throughout a round so you can remind yourself which one is which, or use them for keeping track of how many stitches/rows you have done so you don’t have to start counting from zero every time. Stitch markers aren’t just for beginners though! I use them all the time when working something in the round as they really help keep track of where you are in a pattern.

4. Magic ring/loop
One technique that you will undoubtedly come across in various patterns is the magic ring or magic loop. This technique replaces chaining a certain number of stitches and joining them with a slip stitch to create a circle when starting a project that is worked in the round such as crochet squares or any type of amigurami (crochet toys/shapes). This is by far my preferred technique for starting a project in the round, particularly amigurami, as it means that you don’t end up with an open hole in the centre of the crochet. I never use the chaining method anymore for starting a project in the round! The magic ring or magic loop can be a little tricky to get your head around at first but once you have mastered it, I promise you won’t go back! There are a couple of different ways to do it:

This is the technique I use.

But I have since taught a few people how to do the magic loop and found that this version is slightly easier for them to get the hang of!

Hopefully this has given you a few helpful tips for learning how to crochet! Is there anything else you would add to this list or have questions about?

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