written by: Genevieve Van Wyden•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 1/11/2011
You’ll learn what the basic crochet stitches are and how they’re made. You’ll also find out which stitches are best for different kinds of items you’re planning to make, such as rugs, mug cozies, shawls, afghans, beanies, fingerless gloves or rugs.
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Crochet is an intricate pattern of knots that you create, using a crochet hook to assist in making the knots. Because of the large variety of items that can be made from crochet, you can draw from a wide range of hook sizes, allowing you to make the most fragile, lacy baby’s christening blanket, a doily or a romantic shawl. At the other end of the size spectrum, you have crochet hooks that allow you to make the bulky, warm blankets and sweaters.
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Start With a Slipknot
Begin by wrapping your yarn around your middle and pointer fingers on your left hand. Leave a short tail approximately six inches long lying crosswise on your palm. Make sure the ball end of your yarn is hanging just a little bit behind the point where it crosses the top of your loop.
Put your thumb and pointer finger of your right hand through the loop and pull the ball end of yarn trough the loop. Take the loop off your fingers and pull gently on the tail end. Don’t pull it all the way or you’ll pull the slipknot out.
Slide the knot over your crochet hook and pull slowly on the ball end of your yarn until the loop has closed around the neck of your hook. Don’t pull the loop too tightly because you need room to maneuver the hook while starting your chain stitch foundation.
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You need to find the most comfortable way to hold your crochet hook. For some, this is the “knife" hold and for others, the “pencil" hold. Both of these are self-explanatory, but for the knife hold, position the crochet hook so the mouth--indented portion just behind the hook--faces you. Place your pointer finger on top of the yarn loop and put your thumb and middle finger on either side of the thumb rest, which is the flat part of your hook. Clasp your final two fingers around the shaft of the hook.
The pencil hold means that you grasp the crochet hook between your pointer finger and thumb, on either side of the thumb rest. The hook rests on your middle finger and the side of your hand just under your pointer finger.
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Holding and Feeding the Yarn
Wrap your yarn around your pinky finger on your left hand if you’re right handed. Wrap your two middle fingers around the yarn and position your pointer finger under the strand of yarn--make sure it is positioned over the top of your second knuckle.
Use your left thumb and middle finger to hold the yarn just under the slipknot, which is on the crochet hook. Make sure your hands, yarn and hook have assumed the shape of a triangle.
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All crochet projects start with the chain stitch since it creates the foundation for the first true row of stitches. With the hook inserted into the slipknot you made earlier, slide the crochet hook up so that the slipknot is now lying on the grip of the hook. Move your hook from left to right (counter clockwise) so you now have the strand of yarn lying across the throat of your hook. The throat is the region of your hook under the mouth of the hook. This maneuver is called “yarn over".
Turn your hook toward you and pull it down so the hook portion grabs and pulls the strand in the mouth. Pull the strand through the loop on your hook -- you have just made your first chain stitch. Continue by sliding your hook back up and grabbing another strand of yarn, making a row of chain stitches. Practice this move until you’re comfortable with it. Make sure your chain stitches are loose.
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Figure out what makes each stitch different and how to make these stitches.
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Beginning to work into the foundation chain you just made, slip your hook under both strands of the “V" in the second stitch away from your hook. (You will never, ever count the stitch right next to your hook since that’s the “turning chain".) Use your thumb and pointer finger to hold each chain stitch slightly open so you can slide the hook in more easily.
Move the hook from left to right (counter clockwise again) around the ball end of your yarn so the strand is positioned across the throat and turn the top of the hook so it grabs and pulls the yarn through the loop. You should now have two loops on your hook. Push the hook back up through both of the loops (approximately one inch) and move your hook around the ball end of yarn. Pull this strand of yarn through both loops on your hook and you’ve just completed a single crochet stitch.
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The purpose of this stitch is to get from one point in your work to another so you don’t have to cut the yarn and weave that end in, then start with a new strand in the new location.
Slip your hook under the “V" in the first stitch of your row, move the hook to grab a strand of the ball end of yarn and pull that strand through both the “V" and the loop on your hook. The slip stitch is done.
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Make a “turning chain" of two stitches, then slide your hook into the third chain away from your hook. (If you’re working into a row of existing stitches, slide your hook under both strands of the “V" three stitches away from your hook.) Wind your hook around the ball end of yarn and pull that strand through. You should now have three loops on your hook.
Wind your hook one more time, grabbing the ball end of yarn and pull it through all three loops on your hook. You’ve just made your first half-double crochet stitch.
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The double crochet stitch is noticeably taller than the single crochet stitch because of the number of times you wrap your ball end of yarn around the hook. Start by making a turning chain of three stitches, and insert your hook into the fourth chain from your hook. (If you’re working into a row of existing stitches, slip your hook under both strands of the “V" at the top of the second stitch from your hook.)
Move your hook around the ball end of yarn again and pull a loop up. You should have three loops on your hook. Move your hook around the ball end of yarn again and pull the strand through only two loops on your hook.
You have two loops left on your hook. Move your hook and grab a strand of yarn from the ball end of yarn and pull it through both of the loops left on your hook. You’ve just made a double crochet stitch.
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Look at the project you want to make, who it's intended for and learn how to figure out which stitch or stitches would be best suited for that project.
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This is one of the tallest stitches that is routinely used in crochet. To make this stitch, begin with a turning chain four stitches tall. Move your hook and wrap your yarn from the ball end twice. Insert your hook into the fifth chain away from your hook. (If you’re crocheting into an existing row, slip your hook into the “V" at the top of the second stitch from your hook.)
Move your hook around your ball end of yarn and pull a strand through the first loop on your hook. You should have four loops on your hook. Move your hook around the yarn again and pull a strand through two loops on your hook.
You should have three loops left on your hook. Move your hook around your yarn, hook a strand and pull it through two loops. Move your hook around your yarn one more time and pull it through the two remaining loops on your hook.
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Suitability of Stitches for Different Projects
The single stitch is the shortest stitch you’ll make. Because of this, the stitching is tighter and the resulting fabric is more dense than for the other stitches. This stitch is suitable for rugs, coasters and baby clothing.
The half-double crochet is just a little taller than the single crochet and, while the fabric is still dense, it is just a little bit “airier" than the single crochet fabric. Half-double crochet is suitable for rugs, baby clothing and blankets.
The double crochet is noticeably taller than both the single and half-double crochet. It is lacier than both previous stitches, making it suitable for afghans, shrugs and shawls.
Triple crochet creates a very lacy stitch, with little density to it. For this reason, reserve this stitch for items where you want a higher degree of drape, such as wraps, shawls and light sweaters.