Crocheting 101:The Stuff You Need to Know Before You Pick Up a Hook

A dear friend of mine excitedly sent me a text the other day with a photo of a ball of yarn and a hook. Yes, she’s been HOOKED. My job is done here.

Oh, wait. I can’t leave her high and dry! hehehe

I was chatting with her about it and of course she was full of questions. There are a lot of questions that come to mind when you’re first starting out. I’m going to try to answer some of them. The questions I want to focus on are ones that aren’t generally covered in tutorials or patterns.

What is a dye lot?
This is a question that many beginners don’t even know to ask, yet it is so important if you’re going to be requiring more than one ball of yarn for your projects.

Yarn is dyed in batches, both commercially and by those of us who do it by hand. While every effort is made to stay consistent with colour formulas, there is always a chance of some unknown variable causing the results to come out a little bit “off.” For example, I had three balls of Bernat’s Handicrafter, all the same colour but with different dye lots. The difference in colour was mind-blowing when you held the three together.

Here are 2 examples of labels with dye lots:

20140503-143021.jpg   20140503-143012.jpg
As you can see, the one on the left specifically says “Dye Lot.” It’s there on the label on the right, but it doesn’t say it. One way you can tell is that if it looks like it’s been printed independently of the label. It looks like it’s just been stamped on there (which would make sense… They make the labels up and add the dye lot numbers as they go).

What kind of yarn should I get?
This all depends on what you’re planning to do with it. If your intention is to just practice the stitches, I would suggest a value worsted weight such as Red Heart’s Super Saver. That way if crocheting isn’t your “thing”, you’re not out that much money. It’s also a personal choice too. Some people want to start off with cotton. I find it’s really nice to work with. Others already know they are going to love the art, so they invest in some wool. I would suggest staying away from novelty yarn until you get the hang of crocheting. I’ve been crocheting for almost 28 years and I still find it a challenge in some cases.

If you’re planning on eventually working on a pattern, I would suggest getting the kind of yarn that the pattern calls for. You can still practice your stitches and then when you’re ready, you can start the pattern.

A note about Red Heart Super Saver:
I, along with many others, find this yarn to sometimes be scratchy and rough. I do use it, but it is primarily for slippers, bags and things that don’t need to be soft. I would NOT use it for things like afghans, sweaters or hats. Their Super Saver does seem to be getting better in quality, but it’s still not there yet in my opinion. One thing you can do to help this is to wash your yarn in a mesh bag before you use it.

A note about Bernat Handicrafter and Lily Sugar ‘N Cream: It has a tendency to lose its colour over time. Some of the colours in their lines also bleed. I suggest hand washing items made from it to preserve the colour (ALL of your handmade items should be hand washed anyway). It’s also best if you can soak the item in vinegar and water before you part with it or use it. Bleeding and fading is common in cotton yarn.

What hook size should I get?
Again, this depends on what your intentions are. If you’re just looking to practice, I would suggest a bigger hook like a J/6mm. It is often used in patterns for things such as hats and scarves.

If you’re planning on using a pattern, it will give you a suggested hook size. Once you get “hooked” on crocheting, you will find that you’ll probably want to purchase a set. Different patterns call for different hook sizes. It’s handy to have them available when you need them.

What type of hook should I get?
There’s a few categories when it comes to types of hooks. There’s brands, shapes and the material it’s made out of to name a few.

There are various brands out there such as Bates, Aero, Knitters Pride, KnitPicks and Boye. I primarily use Bates. Again, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Hooks can be made of materials such as aluminum, wood, bamboo and steel. I’ve found that the smaller hooks are generally made of steel.

There are also different kinds of grips as well. If your hand bothers you or you have arthritis, you may want to consider an ergonomic hook. The ergonomic hooks can get quite pricey, but it’s worth it. I priced out different hook sets, but I ended up going with a set of hooks with polymer clay handles from NK Designs on Etsy. I got them a little over 2 years ago and they have been worth every penny.


What is the right way to hold the hook?
There is no “right” way to hold the hook. It’s whatever is most comfortable for you. There are two basic ways though:


The pencil grip


The knife grip

I use the knife grip. I’ve tried the pencil hold and I just can’t seem to get it to work for me. To each their own.

What is a gauge and why is it important?
Gauge is the number of stitches and/or the number of rows/rounds it takes to achieve a specified measurement. For example:

15 stitches and 15 rows in sc = 4” x 4” (10 cm x 10 cm) using a J/6mm hook

Some designers include a checkpoint in their patterns. That means that they will have you measure your work after a certain row/round to ensure that it is the same size that the designer has. On a side note, I LOVE it when designers do this because you don’t have to do a separate swatch.

It is ESSENTIAL to ensure you match the gauge in order to achieve the same measurements in the pattern. In other words, if you want to be sure that hat fits, you need to match the gauge.

Gauge is affected by a few different variables such as how tight or loose you stitch, the kind/brand of hook you use and the kind/brand of yarn you use. For some people, if they were to do a swatch with a Boye hook and one with a Bates hook, they would find a size difference.

If you find that your swatch is smaller than the given measurements, it means that you need to go up a hook size or two. If it’s bigger, then you need to go down.

Many crocheters do tend to skip over the gauge swatch. It is a pain in the neck to do, but it’s better to have to frog a few rows than to frog a whole project because it’s too big or too small.

Wait, what does frog mean? It’s a term commonly used when you have to “rip it rip it” hehehe

How do I find the end of the yarn in a skein? Should I wrap it in a ball?
I’m not going to lie… Sometimes it can be tricky to find the end of the yarn in a skein. It MAY also cause some colourful language too LOL From what I’ve found, Red Heart’s Super Saver is the absolute winner in this category. It’s very rare that I haven’t been able to find an end on one of their skeins. I haven’t found a magic trick for the other kinds. I just stick my fingers in, hold my breath and hope I can find it by fishing around. If not, I end up just pulling. Sometimes it works out, other times it’s a mess. I’m open to suggestions if anyone has any that I’ve overlooked.

I was asked if I wind my yarn into balls. I don’t as a rule. If I can find the end and it’s not too messy, I generally just keep it in the original format. If I can’t find the end and it turns into one big mess, then I will wind it into a ball. Now, there are exceptions to the rules here. If I get a big ball of yarn, I will wind it into balls on my ball winder. Again, personal preference.

If you do decide to wind your yarn into a ball, you may want to make or buy a yarn bowl. I don’t have one, but it’s on the “wantwant” list.

What should my first project be?
That’s a personal choice. It comes down to “Do you want instant gratification” or “Are you a go big or go home person?” I was 9 when I started crocheting. My first project was an afghan. It just consisted of chains and double crochets. If you’d rather hold something in your hands sooner, then something like a dishcloth or a scarf may be more to your liking.

Where can I find patterns?
Oh boy, THAT is a loaded question! There a lot of sites out there with free and paid patterns. I’m also planning on doing some roundups of patterns with particular stitches. If you don’t know what a roundup is, it means that I will put up a post with links to various patterns. It saves you from having to do the leg work.

In the meantime if you feel like searching, I’ll give you a few links. There are both paid and free patterns. Good luck. DISCLAIMER: Keep Me in Stitchez will not be held responsible if you are sucked into the pattern vortex and forget to come up for air. You take full responsibility for the risk of contracting PAS (Pattern Acquisition Syndrome).

Can I share patterns I buy or find for free?

You can share the links and where you got them from, but you CANNOT share the patterns themselves. That includes emailing, posting them in groups, uploading them to patterns sites… In other words, if somebody asks you for a pattern, please give them the link.

Can you suggest a couple of links to get me started with stitches and basic projects?
As a matter of fact I can! I’m also planning on doing some pattern roundups that include links to patterns with specific stitches. Here are a couple of links to get you started:

Just the Basics from Oombawka Designs

Free Crochet Patterns and Tutorials from Look At What I Made

Crochet Tutorials from Petals to Picots

Kim Guzman’s YouTube Channel

A few other helpful things to keep in mind…

  • As you can see, crocheting involves a lot of choices based on what YOU like. There’s a lot of room for creativity too. Go with it!
  • You WILL make mistakes. Everyone does. That is the beauty of handmade. If it’s a little one, don’t sweat it. But if it’s really noticeable, it’s okay to frog it. I still frog projects from time to time. Is it fun? No. Is it frustrating. VERY. But it’s all part of the package.
  • There are a lot of good paid patterns out there as well as free ones. If you see a pattern you like that’s paid and you’re wondering if it’s worth it, look for reviews. I try to post reviews of the patterns I’ve done here on my blog. You can find them by putting in “pattern reviews” in the search box in the right column. If want to know my two cents on a pattern that I haven’t posted, feel free to ask. I may have done it, but haven’t written about it (the reviews are a recent thing here)

I hope this post was helpful. Stay tuned for the upcoming pattern roundups!


10 thoughts on “Crocheting 101:The Stuff You Need to Know Before You Pick Up a Hook

    • Thank you for sharing your link Dedri! I appreciate being able to send people your way with these tidbits in hand. Your site takes takes this post further and compliments it well. I’m excited for them!

  1. Fantastic post!
    Love your humorous approach to this subject- and all your subjects.
    Yup I know what it is like to get sucked into the pattern vortex!
    I do filet crochet and get sucked into the ‘making patterns vortex’ every so often too!

    • Thank you! I think fibre in general is dangerous territory. I mean, when I took the Fibre Arts course, I was looking to zero in and build upon my existing skills. Yeah, that worked. I came out with more skills AND a spinning wheel and loom LOL

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