What is Crochet? A Cheat Sheet For What You Need To Know Before You Learn to Crochet

what is crochet

The crochet trend is all but going away–and I hope that you found my website because you want to learn how to crochet, too. However, you have questions. I get it. It’s hard to start something without knowing you’ll have someone that you can ask questions to. 

Consider me your mentor, and this blog your educational resource to learn all you need to know about this craft. When you have questions, please ask! I strive to educate others so that they can enjoy the many benefits that I’ve gained from starting crochet. 

Today I’ll go through a few bits of information you may be wondering about crochet. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is crochet? A brief history of crochet.
  • What is the difference between crochet and knitting? And some Crochet myth busters.
  • What you can make with crochet.
  • How to get started learning how to crochet.
  • Where to find supplies and crochet patterns.

With a little patience, and a lot of practice (that’s the fun part!) you’ll be crocheting in no time. Let’s get started!

About Crochet

What is Crochet?

According to Wikipedia, the word crochet itself is French and means “hook.” Crochet is the process of creating interlocking loops using a hook and fiber to form textiles, such as clothing and accessories, and home decor items like afghans and rugs. 

The earliest form of crochet appears to have surfaced in the early 1800s, and the hook, originally called a Shepard’s hook, was similar to the hooks we know and love today. The earliest publications about crochet come from Europe and mention the term double-crochet, which is what we know as single crochet in the US. For more information on the differences between US and British crochet technology, feel free to check out my article on the subject.

The history of crochet stitches is fascinating as it evolved over the years. It went from a single crochet to a more elaborate lace as fashion trends evolved during the 19th century. Crochet as we think about it today in modern times can be done using hundreds of stitches, with various sizes of hooks and yarn. 

It’s also a hobby that can be done by almost anyone with the will to learn and a little patience to practice. My students have ranged in age from 6 to 70 years of age. It’s a craft that unites people, and creates something beautiful that you can pass along to future generations. 

What is the difference between crochet and knitting?

We’ll start with the obvious difference between crochet and knitting, which is the number of tools you use to create the project. In crochet, you use a single crochet hook, a device with a head on it in the shape of a hook to grab the yarn and pull it through. In knitting, two needles are used as your main tool, with points on either end. These needles are used together to create the fabric. 

The second difference between the two lies in creating the stitches. In crochet, the stitch is almost always completed when your hook leaves it (with the exception of Tunisian crochet, which is done with a very long hook). With knitting, the stitches aren’t completed on the first pass, as you often transfer the yarn from one needle to the next to complete the stitch. Many have said that the use of one hook and the fact that you complete the stitches before moving to the next one make crochet faster than knitting. (I tend to be a perfectionist and slower at crochet to ensure I get it right, so I’m not sure I completely agree with this one.)

Crochet also cannot be done on a machine–only by hand. Now, similar to how we try to make a crochet project look like knit by doing a special stitch, many have done crochet-like stitches on knitting machines. But since crochet stitches are much more involved, it’s hard to find a machine that will do that. 

Also, due to the more intricate stitches, crochet is said to take more yarn than knit. I could see where that could be the case in producing some garments, but I wouldn’t say that it would be true in every apples to apples comparison between the two, simply because it would depend on the size of hook and the yarn used. 

Some Common Misconceptions (Myths) About Crochet

Crochet is for Grandmas.

Let me set something straight right off the bat. Crochet IS for Grandmas. It is also for children, moms, men, college students and every other single person who is willing and able to learn. 

While you see many people who are retired working on crochet, there is a reason for that. . .crochet takes time. Also, when I retire, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be crocheting the day away, because I can. Not only that, but using your hand-eye coordination like that keeps your brain sharp! But, back to the myth that crochet is only for Grandmas. I have taught people as young as six to crochet. My daughter occasionally will sit and crochet with me. But the key is. . .crochet takes patience, which I find that not everyone has. Not everyone can sit in a chair for hours and work on the project. But, I know people of ALL ages who crochet, and they are all so very talented.

Crochet is Tacky

Oh, back to the granny square days. . .People often hear crochet and they think of the granny square afghans that hung on Grandma’s couch created with browns, burnt oranges, deep reds, forest greens, and mustard yellows. Well, news flash, yarn trends come and go just like any other fabric trend. Granny square afghans, or clothing, were made with scraps of yarn that people needed to use up. So, they’d form large, multi-color, blankets made from whatever they had left over in their stash. 

Saying crochet is tacky based upon one item made is like saying that all jeans are tacky because stone-wash may be a bit outdated. The thing is. . .crochet projects live well beyond the time they were created. This is intentional so that people can pass them down to family. So before you think a piece is tacky, just remember how long someone sat and spent creating it. 

Crochet is Hard

Meh. Choosing a sandwich at Subway is hard. . .crochet is a skill learned over time that takes patience and persistence. If you commit to it, it’s not hard at all, and before long you’ll be completing projects left and right! 

Anything new that you don’t know how to do might seem hard. You just have to jump in and try it. Crochet is fun! And something you can do while enjoying many seasons of a show on Netflix.

Knitting is better for garments because crochet doesn’t drape well and has to be formed. 

Super untrue. Crochet may have once been known to be thicker due to the stitches stacking on top of one another, however it has evolved. The way your project turns out solely depends on what type of yarn you use, the size of hook, and the type of stitch. I am in at least 3 or 4 crochet groups where people make bathing suits, shorts, short-sleeved tops, crop tops, pants, dresses, and so much more! It is possible to make many types of garments with crochet! And they are all beautifully done. 

What Can You Make With Crochet?

This topic might see its own blog post some day. I always say, where there’s a will, there’s a way! I’ll make it with crochet! 

I’m normally also not that cute and crafty at rhymes. 🙂

But my point is this. . .you can make virtually anything using crochet. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Blankets
  • Scarves
  • Beanies
  • Pillows
  • Sweaters
  • Beaded Bracelets
  • Stuffed Animals
  • Coasters
  • Dishcloths
  • Scrubbers using tulle and scrubby yarn.
  • Headbands
  • Shorts
  • Socks
  • Wall Hangings
  • Rugs
  • Table Runners
  • Water Balloons
  • Can Koozies
  • And much more!

I literally can’t list everything I know of that I could make with crochet. There are people who do freeform crochet, or crocheting without a pattern to make something, around town to cover things and make them beautiful (called yarn-bombing). Crochet is popular in jewelry, and you can even make crochet braids in your hair. It’s a very versatile craft!

How to Get Started Learning How to Crochet

Luckily if you want to learn how to crochet, you’ve come to the right place. I can teach you. . .online, of course. I have several articles ranging from how to hold your hook, to how to do your starting chains. As time goes on, you’ll be able to find stitches, patterns, and more right here on this very website! Also, feel free to join my Facebook group! 

The first steps in learning how to crochet are to learn more about the tools you’ll be using. 

Tools and Materials

Crochet is done with a hook, but hooks come in all shapes and sizes, so how do you know which to use? Well, luckily, your yarn will tell you. Depending on the type of yarn you purchase, if you read the label it will give a suggested hook size. Pretty simple, right? To learn more about the anatomy of a crochet hook, and for more information about hook sizes, you can view the respective links on the blog. I also have reviews of many hooks I’ve used and loved. Ultimately, you and I aren’t the same though, and what you prefer (the look and feel) compared to what I prefer, may be different. It’s important to use what is comfortable to you. In the long run, that is what will make you stick with the craft.

The next thing you need to crochet is yarn. Oh, yarn. It’s very addictive to buy and that should probably be considered its own hobby. Yarn can be made from many different types of fibers, which you can read more about here. For your first project, I recommend getting an acrylic yarn, or a cotton blend that feels nice to you. These can be fairly inexpensive if you pick them up at one of the big box stores, or a bit pricier if you buy hand-dyed from an artisan. Pick a yarn that you love, but don’t select something that is considered a fashion yarn for your first project, and also don’t select black yarn for your first project–those are both very hard to learn on.

Next, you’ll need something to cut the yarn. Any scissors will do. . .they don’t have to be fancy. Just make sure you don’t cut open your freezer pops with them before you cut your yarn. Then you’d end up in an. . .um. . .sticky situation. I like to use embroidery scissors, as they are small and compact to carry around, and sharp to cut the yarn completely on the first try. They also make yarn cutters that they sell in the craft aisle. I have one that I occasionally keep with me when I have kids around. That way there aren’t sharp scissors laying around anywhere. I’ve written about the one I like, here.

Lastly, you’ll need a yarn or tapestry needle with a large eye. This can be either steel or plastic, blunt or pointed, but just make sure that it has a big enough eye on the end that your yarn can fit through. I also found some that I really like that are angled on the end. I feel like these are great for leading your yarn back through the project in multiple directions. 

There are several other tools you can purchase to help you in your journey, but these are the only four that you need to get started!

Learning Crochet – The Basics

If you want to learn how to crochet, set aside several hours to do so. I recommend blocking off at least an hour each day to begin, and then 30 minutes to an hour on the days after so that you can practice a little bit each day. Practice is what will make you a better crocheter. When you first start out, it takes a little while to figure out how to hold your hook and your yarn, so it’s important to give yourself some time to figure out what methods you feel the most comfortable with. 

Starting crochet is pretty simple. Most projects start with a slip knot to get your yarn on your hook. Then from there, you form a foundation chain, and you crochet stitches into that, building row by row, until you have a finished product. You can crochet a flat project, or join each row and create something round, such as a hat. The project can be the same color, or multiple colors, and can even include different textures of yarn. Ultimately, you have complete freedom when it comes to making a crochet piece your own.

Finishing a crochet project is as simple as tying the yarn off and weaving in the ends. The larger the project, or the more color changes you’ve had to do during the project, the more ends you’ll probably have to weave in. There are many ways to do this though to make it secure so your project doesn’t come apart. By cutting a longer tail (at least 6 inches in length) and weaving the yarn in three directions, you will have a piece secured and not likely to rip out. You might occasionally find an end or two after you wash it, but those can be trimmed, or tucked back in. After all, remember that this is handmade and NOT supposed to be perfect. It’s the imperfections that often make it beautiful.

Washing Crochet

Yes, you CAN wash your crochet creations! I’ve written an entire blog post giving you tips and tricks to do so. When you start crocheting with some yarn, it may feel a bit stiff, but you can wash it and dry it and it will get softer each time! There’s also some fibers that you can’t wash in a machine, and have to hand wash, so pay close attention to the care instructions listed on your yarn label

Gauge

So what is this thing called gauge? Well, it’s a unit of measurement for us crocheters to make sure our project is going to turn out the same size as the pattern we are following. Not everyone crochets the same–my tension may be looser than yours, or vice versa. But the more you crochet the more even your tension gets. Gauge is to help you measure if you are crocheting too loose for what a project calls for, and then you can adjust your hook size so the pattern comes out more true to size.

Where to Find Supplies and Crochet Patterns

This is one of the funnest parts of crochet–shopping for yarn! I strongly urge that you always have a project in mind before going to the store to buy yarn. This will help you avoid buying one skein of something because it looks pretty, and then never being able to use it. 

Finding Tools

Crochet hooks, needles, scissors, and more can be found at any craft store, or a store like Walmart. Depending on where you go, these stores carry different brands, and their own brand, of supplies. JoAnn, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby are fantastic places to find crochet supplies. 

But, what if you live far away from one of those. No worries! You can buy what you need directly from Amazon and have it shipped to your house in just a few days. How’s that for convenience? There are so many online retailers now that sell crochet supplies, and I’ve listed a few below:

  • Amazon
  • Lion Brand
  • Yarnspirations
  • Etsy
  • Ebay

Buying yarn can also be done online, however I know that personally I love to give my yarn the neck test before I buy it. What is the neck test you ask? It’s nuzzling the yarn in the crook of your neck a bit to test the softness and see if it’s something you’d like to have against your skin. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this in public. 🙂

Patterns

Patterns can be found in books (both purchased at book stores, craft stores, or even on your tablet), free online via blogs and sites like Ravelry, or you can also buy patterns on designer websites or places like Etsy. I suggest you start with a few free beginner crochet patterns first, and then expand and buy some from small crochet businesses. 

Summary

I hope that this article has helped you to learn a little more about crochet, and also enticed you a bit to learn how to do this wonderful craft with me! My crochet journey goes back about 25 years to my college days, where I was often bored between classes and wanted to learn something new. Like many of you, I found something pretty I wanted to make, and I regretted never allowing my grandma to teach me how to do this as a child. So, I launched into learning myself! 

I crochet to relieve my anxiety. I work full time in digital marketing, which can often be stressful and fast-paced. Crochet allows me to slow down time, just a little bit, and gets my mind off of client work and deadlines. When I crochet, nothing else matters. It’s truly a hobby where I can immerse myself in a project and relax, which is exactly why I spend so much time doing it. 

I joke and say that crochet is therapy. . .but for me, there’s a lot of truth to that. I hope that others find this amazing hobby and fall in love with it as much as I have.