Almost everyone has heard of crochet and has an idea that it is some kind of needlecraft involving yarn and a hook. Here is an in-depth discussion about just exactly what is crochet, what does crochet mean, and what to crochet to start it as a new hobby.
What is Crochet, The Definition
If you look in a dictionary, crochet is defined as: ”Needlework consisting of the interlocking of looped stitches, formed with a single thread and a hooked needle. “ (Meriam Webster.) This means loops of yarn are joined together with the use of a crochet hook to form a fabric.
What Does Crochet Mean?
In a language that is easier to understand, crochet is a way of creating fabric by using a special hook to join a single strand of yarn into a textile. This is achieved by looping the yarn in different ways with the crochet hook.
What Can You Crochet?
You can crochet absolutely anything which can be made from fabric. You can create garments of any type, for any age or size, accessories, stuffed toys, home décor, applique decorations such as flowers, washcloths, baby blankets, tote bags, a crochet top and so on. It is a limitless skill!
What is Crochet's History
The basics of crochet go back as far as 6500 BC, when the crochet was nothing like today's crochet but more like simply slip stitching. The evidence of actual pieces of fabric which look like crochet that has survived is found from around 900 – 1100 AD.
The crochet, which is closer to what we know today, was developed in the 1500s. It was generally used for church textiles. Around 1845 – 1850, Irish crochet was used to provide some relief from the potato famine in Ireland. It was sold to create some form of income.
By the time the 1900s came around, crochet became more elaborate, and colored silk was used to work it, together with beading. In the 1980s, the popularity of crochet declined when machine-knitted fabrics became popular.
Nowadays, crochet has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. The internet helped this, along with online crochet communities and easily available patterns. During the 2020 pandemic and lockdown, many people turned to this craft to pass time, disconnect from screens and cope with anxiety. It is now a popular craft amongst all ages.
Is Crochet Easy?
Crochet is an easy craft to learn because you only have one hook and one strand of yarn to cope with! Of course, like learning any new skill, it does take some practice to master the movements required and build up muscle memory to be able to do it quickly and efficiently.
Once you have got the basic crochet stitches, you can make all sorts of items before you even move on to the more advanced techniques.
What Is Crochet: The Basics
Like all new hobbies, knowing where to start can sometimes be difficult. If you would like a good overall article, read crocheting for beginners.
Materials Needed for Crochet
The most crochet tools you will need are a crochet hook and some yarn.
- HOOKS - Hooks come in a variety of materials, such as steel, aluminum, bamboo, plastic, and wood. They also come in a variety of crochet hook sizes, as you will need to match your hook to the thickness of your yarn.
- YARN - Chunky, thick yarns need a thicker hook, and very fine threads of crochet cotton need a very small hook. Most yarn labels give a guideline as to what size hook is suitable for that particular yarn.
- OTHER SUPPLIES - The other basic supplies you will need are scissors, a yarn needle, a tape measure, and stitch markers. It is also nice to have a cute project bag to keep your bits and pieces in!
Basic Crochet Abbreviations
To keep patterns short and easy to follow, there are special abbreviations in crochet that only apply to crochet! As your crochet techniques grow, so does the list of abbreviations! As a guideline, here are some of the basic abbreviations that new crocheters need to know:
- ch = chain stitch crochet
- sc = single crochet
- hdc = half double crochet
- dc = double crochet
- tr =treble crochet
- dtr = double treble
- sl st = slip stitch crochet
- dec = decrease crochet
- inc = increase crochet
- ch-sp = chain space
- st(s) = stitch(es)
- sk = skip
- rep = repeat
- rs = right side
- ws = wrong side
- yo = yarn over
- wrh = wool round hook
Those will see you through any basic pattern. There are many more to learn once you start working with front posts or puff stitches, but you can absorb those once you get to them!
It is important to note that these abbreviations apply to American crochet terminology. British crochet terms are different, and you will need to determine whether you are following a pattern that originates in the USA or the UK.
Basic Types of Crochet Stitches
The basic crochet stitches comprise 6 basic types. These form the basis of many other stitches, and you will need these for a crochet project. Different stitches give different textures and densities of fabric.
- Slip Knot
- Chain Stitch
- Single Crochet Stitch
- Half-Double Crochet Stitch
- Double Crochet
- Treble Crochet Stitch
1. Slip Knot
To start your foundation chain, you will need to use a slip knot to get the yarn on the hook.
2. Chain Stitch Crochet
A chain stitch is the first step and is used to create a foundation in which to stitch your first row. The chain stitches length will determine the width of the crochet fabric.
- With the slip knot on your hook, wrap yarn around the hook from back to front, making a loop.
- Pull this loop through the slip knot, making a new stitch.
- Repeat this movement through the new stitch each time until you have made the required number of stitches.
3. Single Crochet
Single crochet is one of the first stitches more beginners learn. These easy crochet stitches are very dense and solid and great for bases and baskets that need structure.
- Turn work and miss 1 chain. *Insert hook into next chain.
- Wrap yarn around hook, draw through a loop. (2 loops on hook)
- Yarn around hook again, draw through 2 loops. (1 loop left)
- Repeat from * to the end of the row.
4. Half Double Crochet
Learning how to half double crochet is an important skill. It makes a wonderful dense fabric and can be used as ribbing.
- Turn work and miss 2 chains. *Yarn round hook.
- Insert hook into next chain.
- Yarn over and draw through a loop. (3 loops on hook)
- Yarn over, draw through 3 loops on hook. (1 loop left)
- Repeat from *to end of row.
5. Double Crochet
Double crochet stitch is commonly used in granny squares.
- Turn work and miss 3 chains.
- *Yarn over, insert hook into next chain.
- Yarn over, draw through a loop. (3 loops on hook)
- Yarn over, draw through 2 loops. (2 loops on hook)
- Yarn over, draw through last 2 loops. (One loop left)
- Repeat from * to end of row.
6. Treble Crochet
Treble crochet gives a nice tall stitch that makes up really quickly. It looks less dense and more lacy than the previous stitches.
- Turn work and miss 4 chains.
- *Yarn over twice, insert hook into next chain.
- Yarn, draw through a loop. (4 loops on hook)
- (Yarn over, draw through 2 loops) twice.
- Yarn over, draw through last 2 loops. (1 loop left)
- Repeat from * to end of row.
What are More Crochet Techniques
You will see that with each stitch described, I have said, “Turn work and miss x chain”.
This is your turning chain at the start of each row. The amount of chains needed depends on which stitch you are working, as each stitch is a different height, and you need your turning stitches to equal that height.
Intermediate Crochet Stitches
Here are many intermediate crochet stitches that you can complete easily after learning the basics.
What is Crochet Gauge
Crochet gauge is a measure of the size of your crochet stitches. Your gauge needs to match the pattern designer’s gauge so that your garment works out to the correct size when complete.
If you crochet loosely, your garment will be too big, if you crochet tightly, it will be too small.
To adjust your gauge to match the pattern, you will need to use a smaller hook if your stitches are too big and a larger hook if they are too small.
You can also change the thickness of the yarn. To measure the gauge, you will need to crochet a sample swatch, then count how many stitches and rows you have in 4” (10cm) square. Then adjust your hook or yarn accordingly.
How to Read A Crochet Pattern
To be able to read a crochet pattern, you need to be familiar with the abbreviations I discussed earlier. You will, of course, also need to know how to form the stitches required in the pattern.
Usually, the pattern will give guidelines as to the difficulty level of the project. The skill level may be given as:
- BASIC - Beginner level
- EASY - Basic stitches with simple variations.
- INTERMEDIATE - A variety of stitches as well as shaping of the garment.
- COMPLEX OR EXPERIENCED - Many complex variations and techniques in repeating patterns, color changes, shaping, and finishing skills.
If you simply take the pattern slowly, step by step, and work out exactly what the instructions are saying before you dive in and start crocheting, you should be able to read and follow the pattern easily.
Where to Find Crochet Patterns
It is easy to find printed pattern leaflets at your local yarn store. There are many books and magazines which include patterns.
Then, of course, there is the marvelous resource of the Internet. It is possible to find free patterns on many sites (such as this one!) as well as buy patterns from independent designers on sites such as Ravelry and Etsy.
What to Crochet - Beginner Crochet Projects
Now you know what is crochet and some basic crochet stitches; it is time for some simple crochet projects. Here are 10 easy projects that even beginners can do! These are all free crochet patterns.
1. How to Crochet a Scarf
A crochet scarf is a great starter project if you are looking what to crochet because you don’t need to worry about shaping at all; it is just a long rectangle. It is also a good project to practice a new stitch on. Read how to crochet a scarf.
2. How to Crochet Coasters
These are also super quick little projects, ideal for mastering new stitches. You can choose to make conventional square coasters or rectangular mug rugs, which leave a little space for your teatime snack without needing a plate. Read more about how to crochet coasters.
3. How to Crochet Flowers
There are scores of online patterns available for how to crochet flowers. You can choose your degree of difficulty, from super simple to very intricate. They are a great way to use up scraps of yarn, and can be used for things like hair accessories and brooches.
4. How to Crochet Granny Squares
Learning how to crochet a granny square is an absolute must. They also have many variations, such as multi-color, single-color, traditional type with lacy holes, or solid granny squares. They can be stitched together to make blankets or cushion covers.
Here are some more articles on granny squares and what to crochet:
5. How to Crochet a Blanket
If you are not keen to join all those little squares together, you can easily make a crochet blanket in just one big piece. The size of your blanket is up to you; you can crochet anything from a tiny baby blanket to a large king-size blanket.
6. How to Crochet Slippers
Number 6 in our what to crochet list is slippers. This easy how to crochet slippers pattern can be customized to fit any size foot. It uses easy half-double crochet to create warm and cozy slippers.
7. How to Crochet an Infinity Scarf
Learning how to crochet an infinity scarf is a great beginner project. This tutorial will show you how to crochet 2 styles.
8. How to Crochet a Baby Hat
Learn how to crochet a baby hat with this simple beginner's pattern. These hats are crocheted in the round so they have a seamless finish which is super comfortable.
9. How to Crochet a Heart
The great thing about learning how to crochet hearts is that they can be used to embellish all your other projects. This tutorial has several styles of heart shapes.
10. How to Crochet a Headband
Learn how to crochet a headband and keep your head warm in the colder months. Headbands are basically a rectangle and can be embellished with crochet flowers and bows.
11. How to Crochet a Magic Ring
Crocheting a magic ring is a useful skill for making round shapes without a hole in the middle. It forms the base of crochet circles and amigurumi projects.
What Is Crochet Amigurumi?
Amigurumi is a Japanese term for small stuffed soft toys. They are most commonly crocheted, but you can also get knitted amigurumi. They are usually cute little animals or characters with large heads and small bodies. Some people like to make amigurumi which resemble foods or plants. They are never realistic!
Creating amigurumi is an inexpensive and portable hobby. They are quick to make, as they are usually small, and they are almost always made up of single crochet stitches, which makes them simple to create. Also, everybody loves them, children and adults alike!
What is Crochet And Knitting Compared
Here is a little about knitting vs crochet. Both of these crafts use yarn but have different stitches and techniques.
Is crochet or knitting easier?
Generally speaking, crochet is easier than knitting. Crochet only uses one hook instead of two needles and does not unravel or drop stitches as easily.
Crochet projects work up more quickly than knitting because the stitches are larger. It is easier to fix any mistakes you may make with crochet, as you don’t have to unravel multiple stitches at once and then pick them all up again- you simply pull out one stitch at a time until you reach your mistake.
Here are some more articles on knitting and crochet:
Should I learn to knit or crochet first?
Because of all the reasons given above, it is better to learn to crochet first. But some people just prefer knitting to crochet, so it is really up to your individual choice. Give both crafts a try, watch some videos on how to do both, physically try doing both, then decide which one you would like to concentrate on first.
How to tell the difference between knitting and crochet
The two crafts are closely related. Both involve making a fabric from a single strand of yarn. The most obvious difference is that knitting creates v-shaped stitches made from interlocking loops, whereas crochet is made up of a series of knots.
Knitting is finer and smoother than crochet, but crochet creates interesting textures and is thicker and thus warmer than knitting. Knitting is more stretchy than crochet. With crochet, you are only making one stitch at a time, but with knitting, you have a whole string of stitches on your needle at once.
What Is Crochet FAQs
How do you define crochet as a handicraft?
Anything you make with your own hands is defined as a handicraft. Crochet is one of the most popular needlework handicrafts. Anything made by machine or in vast quantities is not considered a handicraft.
It is impossible to recreate crochet stitches on a machine, so it is one of the few crafts which is exclusively a handicraft.
What do you call someone who crochets?
The conventional name for such a person is a crocheter. This looks fine in writing but is actually very difficult to know how to pronounce! This name comes from the French word ‘crochetier’.
Another name for crocheters is a hooker because of the crochet hook you are using, but many people don’t like this name because of its negative connotations.
Some people who crochet like to be called Fiber Artists or simply a Crafter. Another term that comes up regularly is ‘Yarnie’ because crocheters are definitely addicted to yarn!
Is crochet an art or a craft?
It is both! As a beginner, it is more of a craft because you are using a set pattern and set combinations of stitches. However, as you become more confident in your crochet abilities, you can work on original designs and stitch combinations.
You can also start experimenting with free-form crochet designs, which are most definitely in the fine art category. Here you will be using your crochet hook and yarn as your creative medium instead of paint and paintbrushes.
What is the difference between yarn and crochet yarn?
Any yarn can be used for both crochet and knitting. Some confusion may come in when it comes to very fine crochet cotton yarn, which is used with a very small crochet hook to make delicate lace items.
This type of yarn can also be used for knitting and is not exclusive to crochet. The same goes for the opposite extreme- if you plan to make a warm winter item, you can use chunky yarn and a large hook- the thicker yarns can equally be used for both knitting and crochet.
Health Benefits Of Crocheting
These are many and varied and have been well researched.
- Crocheting helps to increase mobility and dexterity in the hands, and the hand muscles' exercise helps alleviate arthritis in the fingers.
- It increases serotonin (the feel-good hormone) in the brain and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone).
- It has been proven to improve blood pressure and decrease heart rate.
- It reduces anxiety and helps insomnia.
- It can delay the onset of dementia. It improves your memory, concentration, and sense of calm.
- It can help you overcome bad habits such as overeating, smoking, and drinking because it keeps your hands busy and your mind distracted from those cravings.
What is Crochet - In Conclusion
I hope this article has answered any questions you may have had about what is crochet and what does crochet mean, and I hope it encourages you to take up this fantastic hobby! It is wonderful to create your own individual items of clothing as well as make accessories for your home in the perfect colors to suit the rest of your décor.
It is handy to make gifts that are one of a kind and which will be much appreciated for all the effort you have put into them! It can be a hobby and a source of income, and if you get involved with crochet groups, either online or in person, you will meet many interesting, creative people.
Now that you know all about what is crochet and what to crochet, it is time to delve into the abundance of this wonderful hobby!
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