maandag 3 september 2012

Learn to Crochet Simple Style Part 2: Crochet hooks and Notions

So, you found a pattern or you Googled and you want to try to learn how to crochet. 

Lovely! Welcome! Please stay! 

I started crocheting three years ago. I had some time on my hands and with a toddler napping twice a day my hands started itching. I come from a very creative family, so I wanted to try something new. I started knitting,but soon added crochet. And when I started crocheting with help from the internet and some books I was absolutely smitten with it. It is so easy, and the stitches are so beautiful and multi purpose!

In this specific part I want to tell you something about the basic tools you can use in crochet. I will not try to “tell” you what to do or what to buy, I will only give you some useful hints and tips. Please use it as a guideline.

Probably you have either some yarn and a hook on hand, or you found a pattern you like and you want to start with it. I will try to post the first three parts as quickly as possible, so you can really get started. Ofcourse, if you want to, just fiddle around. Fiddling is part of the learning process.

On hooks

I could write on and on about hooks but I will try to keep it simple. There are a few varieties of crochet hooks. It is important you check what you have available or have easy access to in your neighbourhood or city.

From left to right: steel hooks, clover (steel and plastic), kollage, Susan bates, addi swing, handturned

The most basic hooks are steel hooks. In the Netherlands have Prym (I think it is callen Pony in the UK and the USA). They have a small head, a flattened middle where you hold your thumb (it also has the size printed in that spot) and a long and thin shaft. These are widely available and are a good starting point to see if you like crocheting. Other brands with steel hooks are for example Addi (not as available/cheap in the US as over here). Addis are a smoother. In the US there are also Boyes and Bates hooks. These are available in steel, aluminum, silvalume and plastic. The thickness of the crochet hook indicates it’s size. If you are using a pattern or a specific yarn you need to find the right size crochet hook. In the metric system we use millimeters to size crochet hooks (e.g  4 mm) but in the US the size is given in either letters or numbers ( e.g. size G for a 4 mm hook, or size 7 for a 4.5 mm hook) Here *click* you can find a overview of the different sizes.

These hooks are a great starting point. I will discuss some more styles of crochet hooks, but I would recommend above hooks as a first buy. After that you can buy other brands and styles to see what you are comfortable with. Each style/brand has its owns pro’s and cons. 

Then there are the “ergonomic” hooks. Lots of brands have a hook with a wider/longer/thicker handle hat lies more easily in your fingers or hand. In this way, you can hold it more easily, and thus lessens the strain after crocheting session. Be careful though. They are not a cure for cramp or tendonitis. As you know, I have tendonitis after crocheting and knitting too enthusiastically in my early hooky days. These ergonomic hooks lessen the strain for me, but I cannot do hooky marathons.
My favorites are Clover Soft Touch crochet hooks. The handle is easy to hold and they are pretty lightweight. I use the metal ones the most since this hook glides easily through stitches.

The Kollage square crochet needles are a bit special. I still do not know if I like them or not. The handle is square so that it is easy to hold. As they say. Their knitting needles are also square to reduce stress on your wrists and fingers while knitting. The head is a bit sticky, so I think they are good with slippery yarns. 

The Susan Bates hooks in the picture are hooks that are covered with a polymer clay on the handle. This will make the hooks lie more relaxed in your hands since it makes the handle thicker. These are easy to use and pretty to look at!

O my. The Addi Swing. I really like Addi knitting needles so when I saw these I knew I had to try these hooks. I bought a 4 mm and a 4.5 mm (I always buy these sizes to try a new hook since I use these sizes the most, I can really recommend this strategy!). I tried them, and I think they are not really for penholders like me. I asked it once at Knotten and the lady of the shop tested for me how to hold them penholder and knifeholder and it seems that they are probably designed for knifeholders. I do like the shape if I hold them like a knife, but really, I have to use them more.

Handturned crochet hooks are so lovely to look at. I bought these (again only in 4 mm and 4.5 mm) in the hope they would feel the same as my hairsticks. Smooth, soft and warm. Alas, this Etsy seller coats them with a lacquer layer, and because of this layer I think they do not glide as easy through the stitches as they should. The seller told me the layer would get smoother, but I despised using them after a few rows. So, they are really lovely to look at but nothing more. If anyone knows another crafter with non-lacquered crochet hooks, please give drop me a note!

How to hold them? Well, as I said earlier, either as a knife or as a pen. Below pictures shows both ways of holding the hook.

Knifehold in the first picture

Penhold in the second picture. This is my preferred hold.
It is up to you to find out which hold is the most comfortable way. Try both ways! Just hold the hook, try to balance it between your fingers and find out what feels right for you.

On notions

For needlework in general, you will need some other small tools to accompany your crochet work. The most basic things you really need to consider are:

Darning needle
Measuring Tape
Stitch Markers

I keep two sets of these around. One is for on-the-go (the one pictured) and one at home which is more elaborate with a needle thickness measure thingy, large stitch holders, small sewing needles etc. I would strongly advice you to do the same as with crochet hooks. Buy as you go. Test and see what you really need. Last, but not least, give your project a nice cozy place such as a cotton project bag.

Well, phew, what a post! It has come out longer than expected. I will post a part on yarn tomorrow, so hopefully see you then!

Have fun reading!

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