I love to dabble in a wide variety of arts and crafts and when my creative spirit strikes, I usually dive right in and ask questions later. So, with the bitter cold of winter upon us and visions of warm handmade scarves, mittens and hats dancing in my head, I decided it was the perfect time of year to teach myself how to crochet.
Needless to say, I could hardly contain my excitement when I happened upon Hip to Crochet: 23 Contemporary Projects for Today’s Crocheter by Judith L. Swartz while perusing the crochet books in the 746.43 adult non-fiction section of the Oliver Wolcott Library. This book is filled with fun and colorful projects including stripped hats, zig zag scarves, bold design handbags, floral sweaters and even nesting baskets. After inspecting the pattern for the Block on Block skirt on page 83 and reading,” *ch 2, work 3 dc in ring*; rep from * to * 2 more times, ch 2, join with sl st to top of chain 3”, I knew that learning how to crochet wasn’t going to be one of those craft projects that I could just dive right into.
For the absolute beginner, trying to decipher a crochet pattern is akin to learning a foreign language replete with symbols and abbreviations. Fortunately, The Crocheter’s Companion by Nancy Brown is the Rosetta Stone for learning how to crochet. Not only is this book a fantastic reference guide for toting around in a crocheter’s handbag, the author provides a glossary of terms and symbols, and she dedicates each illustrated page to a different stitch and technique that’s easy to follow.
Crochet much like it’s sister handicraft, knitting, can be utilized to make a wide assortment of apparel and home décor accessories including mittens, hats, sweaters, socks, afghans, shawls, scarves and rugs in a wide variety of colors and textures. Instead of using knitting needles to create fabrics, crochet uses a single hook. Crochet hooks come in a variety of sizes that are relative to the thickness of the yarn or thread you are using and the size of the stitches you would like to make. Like knitting, crotchet can be worked “flat” to create scarves and rugs or in the “round” to make socks and hats. To learn more about the similarities and differences between knitting and crochet check out the Encyclopedia of Knitting and Crochet Stitch Patterns by Linda Mariano.
The art of crochet relies on a few basic stitches and variations there in to create an assortment of garments. The majority of crochet projects begin with a simple foundation chain that is made up of a series of chain stitches. Every stitch thereafter is made by hooking the yarn through the stitches on the row beneath it. The eight basic stitches are the chain stitch (ch), the slip stitch (sl st), the single crochet (sc), the half double crochet (hdc), the double crochet (dc), the treble crochet (tr) and the double treble crochet (dtr) and the triple treble crochet (tr tr). They may sound intimidating at first but they are quite simple to create with just a little practice. In just a few short hours, anyone can begin crafting a scarf with a foundation chain and just one other stitch.
For me, the most difficult step in learning how to crochet happens while building the first few rows of a garment because there is not a lot of “fabric” to hold onto. With any crochet project it’s important to establish proper yarn tension to make your stitches even and so your crochet hook can easily glide in and out of every loop that you build upon.
Even though I still haven’t advanced enough to try my hand at crochet patterns like the Block on Block skirt, I am enjoying the calm and repetitive motion of practicing stitches by making simple scarves of my own design and I’m becoming more proficient with every project.
If you’d like to get hooked on crochet, stop in to the Oliver Wolcott Library to check out these other great books for step by step instruction, guidance, and inspiration;
New Directions in Crochet by Anne Raun Ough. Published in 1981 the back and white photographs and featured fashions are outdated by today’s standards, however, the author provides a comprehensive introduction to the art of crochet. Not only does she detail every crochet stitch with illustrations, directions and diagrams she provides patterns to a plethora of stitch combinations that can be utilized for a wide variety of garments.
Crocheting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced crocheter, everyone will learn something new within the pages of this book. The author covers every aspect of crochet from how to select the proper hook, yarn and thread to caring for your crochet items. Included are detailed instructions and illustrations on how to make stitches, decipher patterns and how to fix mistakes.
Crochet in color: Techniques and Designs for Playing with Color by Kathy Merrick. This book is geared toward more advanced crocheters who are fluent in pattern reading but so it’s easy to get swept away in the beautiful color and luscious yarns featured within these pages. With twenty different garments to choose from including mohair shawls, silk cardigans and merino wool hats every pattern offers the beginner amazing projects that they can aspire to.
-Tricia is the Library Assistant and Publicity Coordinator for the Oliver Wolcott Library who just completed her first patterned crochet hat.