By Haley Pierson-Cox
Welcome to Crochet 101! In this post, I’ll introduce you to the basics of crochet and give you all of the information that you’ll need to select your tools and get started. In the video above, I’ll show you how to attach the yarn to the hook and make your foundation chain, then I’ll teach you three basic stitches: single crochet, double crochet, and slip stitch. After that, I’ll show you how to fix mistakes and finish off your work. Below, you’ll also find a glossary of the crochet vocabulary words that I use in the video, plus brief overview of how hook sizes and yarn weights work so you’ll know what you’re looking for when you first visit the yarn store. When you’re done, you’ll have the skills that you need to complete your own basic square or rectangular projects, and a solid background that you can take with you as you move on to more complex stitches and patterns.
Crochet hook, size H or I (5.0 or 5.5 mm)
Cotton yarn, 1 skein worsted weight
Stitch markers, optional, but very handy
Tape measure, you won’t need it to learn the basics, but you’ll want one for later projects
A note on yarn: You can use any kind of yarn for crochet, but cotton is sturdy, easy to work with, and shows off the detail of your stitches well. It’s the go-to fiber for basic crochet, so it’s what I’ll be using in this post.
Know Your Crochet Vocabulary:
The vocabulary words associated with any new craft can make starting out more confusing than it needs to be. To help you along, here is a short explanation of the basic crochet terms that I use in the video.
Chain Stitch: The chain stitch is one of the most versatile stitches in crochet–it’s used to start a project, add spaces within a project, and can help you move from row to row as you work. The top side of each chain stitch is made up of two strands of yarn in a V-shape (these strands are sometimes referred to individually as the “legs of the V”), and on the back side of each chain stitch, you’ll see a third strand of yarn that creates a bump that runs through the center of each V. If you make several chain stitches in a row, the top side of the chain will look like a bunch of Vs stacked on top of each other, and on the back you will see a straight line of bumps going down the center of the chain.
Tip: When counting chain stitches (or any other crochet stitch), never count the loop attached to the hook or the knot at the end of the chain.
Foundation Chain: A foundation chain is the starting row of stitches in a crochet project, and all other rows are built on top of it. Almost all crochet projects start with this row of chain stitches, and the stitches in your next row will be worked (“work” is crochet speak for “make stitches”) into the foundation chain.
Turning Chain: For the purposes of this tutorial, each row in your crochet project is worked from right to left. When you finish a row, you will make a turning chain by chaining either once or twice after the last stitch in the row. A turning chain allows you to flip your work so that you can start the next row from the right side, and it also gives you the room to start the next row. Depending on which stitch you’re using, your turning chain might be zero chains (slip stitch), one chain (single crochet), or two chains (double crochet). Once you move along to more advanced projects and stitches, your turning chains might be even longer.
Single Crochet: Single crochet is the most basic crochet stitch, and will start adding height to your work. When worked in a row, it looks like a neat row of stacked Vs.
Double Crochet: Double crochet is similar to single crochet, but it’s twice as tall. Double crochet stitches are made just like single crochet stitches, but you wrap the yarn around the hook once before starting each stitch. When worked in a row, double crochet stitches will also look like a neat row of stacked Vs.
Slip Stitch: Slip stitch is a crochet stitch that doesn’t add height to your project. It’s perfect for making a neat edge around your finished work and for moving your crochet hook to a new place in a row. When worked in a row, slip stitches resemble a flat braided line across the front of your project.
Finishing Off Your Work: When you reach the end of your last row on a crochet project, you’ll finish off your work. Basically, this is just a neat, attractive method for knotting off your yarn.
Weaving in the Ends: Once you’ve finished off your project, hide any yarn ends that are sticking out of your work by using a yarn needle to weave them into your stitches.
Hook and Yarn Basics:
Hook size: In the US, standard crochet hooks are identified by both letters and numbers from B to S and 1 to 15. (There are also smaller steel crochet hooks for lace projects that are identified by number.) Outside the US, crochet hooks are identified by their diameter in millimeters. Because the US letter or number can vary slightly between brands, I find it to be more helpful to rely on the millimeter measurement when selecting a hook for my projects. Generally speaking, a hook’s packaging will either be labeled with both the US and millimeter sizes, or just the millimeter size.
To see a full hook size chart, check out this table from The Craft Yarn Council of America.
Hook shape: There are many different kinds of crochet hooks made from many different materials, including plastic, steel, aluminum, wood, and bamboo. Some even come with fancy textured grips or ergonomically shaped handles. When I crochet, I generally use a plain aluminum Susan Bates crochet hook with a pointed head and deep, sharp hook, because I think the pointed shape makes it easiest to insert the hook under stitches, and that a deep, sharp hook makes it easiest to grab and hold onto a wide variety of yarns. But, when it comes right down to it, the kind of crochet hook that works best for you is dictated entirely by personal preference. If you’re not sure, try out a couple of different shapes and see which hooks are easiest for you to use.
Yarn Type: Many people crochet with cotton, as it’s easy to use and shows off the details of crochet stitches very nicely, but you can crochet with any kind of yarn. Depending on what kind of project you’re working on, wool, alpaca, silk, or even acrylic – just to name a few – might be best. If you don’t know which yarn to choose, you can always ask for advice at your local yarn shop.
Skeins, Balls, and Hanks: Yarn generally comes in balls, skeins, or hanks. If the yarn is already in a ball, you’re good to go. If not, most yarn stores have ball winders, and are more than happy to wind purchased yarn into a ball for free – just ask! If you need to wind your own ball of yarn, check out this tutorial.
Yarn Weight: Yarns generally come in one of five common weights, listed thinnest to thickest: fingering, sport, worsted, chunky, and extra-bulky. Worsted weight is probably the most common yarn weight, and I use it for most of my projects.
When picking out yarn, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll need to work with the right size hook for your yarn weight. Make sure you always check your pattern or the yarn label to make sure that you have the right hook on hand.
For more details on choosing the right yarn weight, the Craft Yarn Council of America has created this handy guide.
More Crochet Resources:
Stitch ‘N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker
The Crochet Answer Book
The Craft Yarn Council of America
About the Author:
Haley Pierson-Cox is a Brooklyn-based craft writer who loves granny glasses and loathes extraneous apostrophes. She blogs about crafts, cats, domestic bliss, and DIY goodness at The Zen of Making.