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Back in the olden days, we learnt to knit in school. Yes, I am old enough to have been in a school where we learned to knit. It was a bit tongue in cheek even then, but you know what, it's actually one of those things I sincerely wish we had learned properly (along with planting schedules, how to cook at least a weeks worth of balanced meals and playing the guitar).
Difficult to say...people from all over the planet have been using their fingers, bone or wooden hooks to weave yarn for centuries. So naturally, links between ancient arts which also use a hook and chain stitch such as the Chinese art of embroidery tambour (picture below left), the Indian art of Aari embroidery (picture below right) and the Scandinavian art of Nalbinding have been suggested (center).
Liz Paludan argues that crochet as we know it today developed from tambour lace making which hooked threads through a fine mesh. The mesh was pulled taught like a drum (the french word for which is 'tambour'), using a hook (the French word for which is 'crochet'). Eventually the mesh was discarded with the hook weaving the thread into elaborate chains, or as the French termed it 'crochet in the air'.
Intricate pieces became popular in Europe in the early 1700 with delicate lace from France, Italy and Belgium especially sought-after. It travelled over to the USA with Irish immigration.
In 1844 the process of mercerization was invented, making cotton more durable and thus easier to crochet with.
After war-time restrictions were lifted, doilies and hippie fashion were all the rage from the 1960's to the 1970's.
How to Crochet: A Beginner's Guide
1. Gather Your Supplies:
To start crocheting, you'll need a crochet hook and yarn. The choice of hook size and yarn weight will depend on the project you're planning to undertake. I got a bit carried away and bought the beautiful hook pictured above from Montpellier-based artisan creationscristalline, not understanding that the 6.0mm noted is actually for a hefty yarn. I then had to get quite an expensive heavy yarn...
If it's not clear from the pattern what size you need, ask a salesperson for help because crochet hooks come in all different sizes. Hook sizes vary between brands as there isn't yet a standard measure.
Here is a rough guide to hook sizes and yarn:
- 0 (Lace Crochet, Thread) – B/1
- 1 (Super Fine) – C/2, D/3
- 2 (Fine) – E/4, F/5
- 3 (Light, Light Worsted) – G/6, H/8
- 4 (Medium, Worsted) – I/9, J/10, K/10.5
- 5 (Bulky) – L/11, M/13
- 6 (Super Bulky Yarn Weight) – N/15
2. Learn the basic stitches:
- Chain Stitch: This is the foundation of most crochet projects. It creates a row of interconnected loops.
- Single Crochet : A simple stitch that adds height to your work.
- Double Crochet : A taller stitch that creates a more open fabric.
- Half-Double Crochet : A stitch that falls in between single and double crochet in terms of height.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice:
Like any craft, crochet improves with practice. Start with small projects like scarves or dishcloths to build your skills.
4. Follow Patterns:
As you gain confidence, you can follow crochet patterns for more complex projects. These patterns provide step-by-step instructions, stitch counts, and often include diagrams or video tutorials.
5. Join a Crochet Community:
Free crochet patterns
There are a few websites with free patterns - beginners could start with easycrochet while the more advanced might try crochetpedia for scarves, snowflakes, shawls, toys and a pull-string bag, or lovecrafts and yarninspirations for pretty much everything from pastel pumpkins to sweaters.
Allfreecrochet may have the largest selection (2770 patterns), with something for everyone, including beginners and even boasts a 'whats trending' section!
Where can I buy handmade crochet items?
In recent years, crochet has experienced a resurgence in popularity. This age-old craft has captured the hearts of both beginners and experienced crafters alike.
But if you don't have the time or patience or simply can't be bothered Laurine at Laine & Lau handmakes cute little Amigurumi crochet creations which make sweet affordable gifts with the handmade touch.
Why Is Crochet Becoming Increasingly Popular?
- Creative Expression: Crochet offers an incredible avenue for creative expression. From intricate lace doilies to adorable amigurumi toys, the possibilities are endless. Crafters can personalize their creations with unique color combinations and stitch patterns.
- Stress Relief and Mindfulness: Crocheting is a soothing and meditative activity. The repetitive motion of creating stitches can reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus, and promote mindfulness.
- Portability: Crochet is highly portable. You can take your project with you anywhere, whether it's a long commute, a weekend getaway, or a cozy evening by the fireplace. It's a craft that fits seamlessly into busy lives.
- Handmade and Local Appeal: In an era dominated by mass-produced goods, there's a growing appreciation for handmade and locally produced items. Crocheted pieces, made with care and attention to detail, offer a unique alternative to factory-produced products.
- Sustainability: Crocheting promotes sustainability. Crafters can choose eco-friendly yarns and create long-lasting items, reducing the environmental impact of disposable goods.
- Therapeutic Benefits: Many people turn to crochet for its therapeutic benefits. The repetitive, rhythmic motion of crocheting has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
- Generational Tradition: Crochet often has a rich history within families. Many crafters learned to crochet from their grandmothers or mothers, fostering a sense of tradition and connection.
- DIY Culture: The do-it-yourself (DIY) culture is thriving. Crochet allows individuals to make their own fashion, home décor, and gifts, adding a personal touch to every creation.
- Online Resources: The digital age has made learning to crochet easier than ever. There are countless online tutorials, videos, and forums where crafters can seek guidance, share tips, and showcase their work.
- Social Connection: Crochet fosters a sense of community. Crafters often come together at local yarn stores or join online crochet communities to share their passion and connect with like-minded individuals.