When I was little I hated crocheted afghans. There, I said it, I'm so glad I could get that off my chest! The problem I had with afghans was that they were rough and stiff and made out of the most garish colors -- Orange, Army Green, rust, and brown. They weren't something I ever wanted to snuggle up with, in fact I remember refusing to use the afghan that was draped on the back of our couch for as long as I can remember. My mom crocheted most of my life and later I learned that my grandmother and great-grandmother and so-on crocheted. And while I grew up around the craft, I never had an appreciation for it. I learned every other craft my mom taught me, but there was just something in my mind (those awful afghans) that turned me off of crochet. Sure I tried to learn crochet, but I never got past the chain stitch because I didn't have the drive to learn more and I couldn't figure out where to put the stinking hook.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college. Knitting was coming back and I had to learn it. During my winter break my mom begrudgingly agreed to teach me how to knit even though she hadn't held needles since the 70s. I caught on extremely fast. Knitting was so much easier than crochet! All the stitches were laid out, I didn't have to figure out where the next stitch went or where to stick my hook. It just worked. For about 4 years, knitting was my thing. I made scarves for all of my friends, I learned how to knit my own socks, I even made a sweater! But this class isn't about knitting, it's about crochet...
Somewhere along the line I realized that yarn wasn't scratchy like the afghans of my past (acrylic yarn has come a long way since the 70s), knitted fabric wasn't stiff like the afghans were, and there were definitely more color choices available to me that didn't involve army green or rust. I decided I could probably learn how to crochet and would make way cuter things than an old afghan. So I picked up a book and taught myself how to crochet. Seriously, it was that easy. It was combo of the lessons my mom had taught me when I was little and my knowledge of knitting that made it click. Suddenly I knew how to hold my yarn, I knew where to put the hook(!), and I could read the stitches. I learned how to make the granny squares that would become a year long fixture in my life and I learned to appreciate the beauty in those ugly afghans I grew up with. I've even bought some "ugly" afghans at thrift stores just becuase I felt bad for them being cast off by some crochet hater. I finally feel like I can connect with my mom and other female ancestors with crochet.
I realize not everyone can pick up a book and learn something new (I thank my dad for passing this gene on to me) and I realize not everyone can afford $30 or more to take a crochet class. So here I am, trying to make crochet as painless and approachable as I can. Learning something new isn't easy and I don't think it's supposed to be, but I hope I can teach you. If I fail, hey at least we tried right? So lets talk about crochet!
At the very core, crochet is the act of pulling loops of yarn through other loops of yarn. You could crochet with your fingers if you wanted to and that's how crochet was done long before hooks were created. I'm not going to dazzle you all with my amazing ability to recall history so I would like to direct you to a really great (and brief!) article on the history of crochet.
Assigned Reading: History of Crochet by Ruthie Marks
Crochet has many great qualities -- it's fairly easy once you learn the basics, basic materials are inexpensive, and it is way more flexible in it's technique than say knitting or weaving. Since each stitch is worked separately, you really have the control to do whatever you want. In theory, after you learn the basic stitches, you could crochet a cozy for anything without a pattern. I know you're really excited about this!
There are also a couple of drawbacks to crochet. Like I talked about in my story, the fabric can be stiff if not done at the proper gauge, it's definitely more rigid than knitting in that sense and I wouldn't really want to make a lot of clothing out of crochet (even though there are plenty of patterns out there). Crochet uses more yarn than knitting or weaving. All the wrapping and loops to make one stitch is what uses up more yarn. I think this is why crocheters are more likely to use acrylic yarn than knitters. I'll admit that I was a yarn snob when I was purely a knitter, now I'm all about the acrylic!
I'm not one of those knitting-hater crocheters. There are some, in fact Debbie Stoller goes into a big Sharks vs. Jets West Side Story reference in The Happy Hooker. I'm not going to tell you that you should learn how to crochet because it is so much better than knitting. I think you should learn both -- especially if you're like me and just don't understand crochet at first. They both have their positives and negatives. Try knitting and come back and it will probably make more sense. Hey, maybe I'll even do Knitting School next fall. ;)
I've already touched on this a little, but the big difference between knitting and crochet is that knitting is done with two needles and crochet is done with one hook. They both use methods of drawing yarn through loops of yarn, but with knitting all the stitches are placed on one needle and you work across the needle. There are only two basic stitches in knitting - knit and purl. There are many variations in order to make the fabric look certain ways, but those two stitches make up all knitted pieces and every row and stitch is the same height.
In crochet, each stitch is worked individually with the hook and there are six basic stitches, (sl, sc, hdc, dc, tr, and dtr) all of varying heights. Since you have the freedom to do one stitch at a time, you have the ability to make every stitch or row a different height. This means you can decide to make something really quick and loose by using taller stitches or tight and slow by using a shorter stitch. The patterns you can create with crochet are really unlike any other fiber-art. You'll understand this more as we go.
Now weaving is often lumped in with knitting and crochet because it is also a fiber-art but it's very different from the two. Weaving uses the warp and weft to interlace the yarns together. It doesn't use loops like knitting and crochet. While all three create fabric, weaving is kind of in it's own league.
Are you ready to turn around from all this writing yet? Don't worry, I promise this is probably going to be the most wordy of the lessons. One of the greatest things about crochet is that it doesn't require a lot of supplies and the supplies you do need are fairly inexpensive. Depending on what you buy and where you buy it, you can get started for around $10 - $20 even cheaper if you scour the thrift store or free if you steal them from your mom or grandma (ok don't steal them but I'm sure they would be more than happy to hand them over for the sake of the craft). And while every crocheter will tell you with time that you will start to collect (read: hoard) more yarn and supplies getting started doesn't require a huge investment.
So here's what you'll need : a crochet hook and some yarn. (I suggest an H or I hook and worsted weight acrylic for this class) Ok ok, you could throw in some scissors and a blunt yarn needle, but most of us already have those laying around.
The next two lessons will be in-depth conversations about picking out a crochet hook and picking out yarn so if you haven't purchased supplies yet, don't worry! We won't even start playing with hooks or yarn until October 5th. Throughout the class I'll share other supplies you may need, but most of these can be made at home if you don't want to buy them.
So the assignments are just for fun, but they will greatly enhance your experience in this class.
- Read the Syllabus if you haven't already. This has more info about the class plus a posting schedule. Print it out, save it to your computer whatever, just read it.
- Subscribe to the blog if you don't want to miss a lesson. If you'd rather subscribe to just the crochet school posts do that here. And if you want an e-mail subscription use this link (this will send all new craftyminx posts to your e-mail).
- Leave a comment on this post introducing yourself to the class and tell us about any crochet experience you might have. Link to your blog if you have one so we can all get to know each other.
- Join the flickr group.
- If you have a blog, let people know you're a student by adding a student button to your sidebar. (I'll try to help if you need a different size, just let me know)
* Note: Not all of the posts will go up at midnight. I just wanted to give you night owls a little treat :)