Monday, 1 July 2013

An absolute beginner tries crochet

A week or two ago, I tried my hand at crochet for the first time ever. My only experience of yarn-based crafts is being taught to knit by my Nanny when I was about seven, which wasn't a great success. The scarf I made ended up with unexplained holes running right through it (ahem) and all these years later I still remember just not feeling it with knitting. As for crochet, it was something I never even bothered to try to learn as my mum was an expert crocheter. She crocheted blankets, hats, and even a dress for me when I was in my early twenties. Here's a crocheted poncho, modelled here by a baby Handmade Jane when she was a mere eight bricks high! 

In case you're wondering, the chihuahua was called Sandy

But the thing I will always remember my mum crocheting and which was brought back to me after reading Scruffy Badger's wonderful recent post about her own crafty mum, was ABBA hats. By an ABBA hat, I mean a crocheted skull cap with a flower on the side, as worn by Agnetha herself. She used to crochet tons of them, then sell them to her colleagues in the hospital where she worked. They were very popular and she could barely make them fast enough - I used to love watching her make them. Ah, happy days!


Ever the optimist, I was hoping that with such expert crochet genes, I might discover my own hidden talent up my sleeve...

So along I went to a three hour crochet workshop with my friends Berni and Chris. There were only five of us in the class, so the teacher - Emma - could give us all quite a bit of attention. We started by learning how to make a chain of stitches. Then we were taught how to do a treble stitch. Then the two skills were put together to make a crochet flower. Chris and Mamta picked it up immediately and their stitches were enviably perfect. 


Berni took a while to pick it up, but she got it eventually and was thrilled with the progress she made. 


However, myself and the fifth attendee - Bekka - sadly just didn't get it at all. I simply couldn't work out what was happening and it took me almost an hour to actually get my hands to hold the crochet hook and yarn the correct way. Like a lot of crafts, I think the more I practice, the better I'll become and maybe crochet won't seem like a complete and utter mystery anymore. Maybe? I don't know, the work I did at the workshop was pretty dreadful. Here's the fruit of my three hour labour - the teeniest tiniest crocheted flower you're ever likely to see, riddled with holes, and not intentional ones either. 


Despite this, I really enjoyed the lesson and it was great seeing my friends discover skills they didn't realise they had. It was also reassuring that I wasn't the only one who just didn't have a clue what was going on (thank you Bekka!) I doubt whether I'll try to conquer crochet by myself though, I just didn't feel the love! I've a gut feeling that for me, crochet will be a bit like using chopsticks - something I've tried to master and still can't get to grips with years later. My brain just doesn't get it! I wonder if that's the experience of anybody else or if I'm just a bit thick where crochet is concerned? Has anybody else struggled to understand how to crochet and suddenly a light of understanding goes on? Does it take years of practice? Or did you all pick it up straight away? And finally, did anybody else's mum crochet ABBA hats in the seventies?! 

Happy Monday everybody. x 



45 comments:

  1. I tried to crochet last year and I just couldn't master it, I am not sure if it was lack of understanding or patience! However in January this year I was more determined than ever I watched countless utube videos and in the end opted to start a granny square, and by jov I got it! Since then I have been slowly teaching myself to crochet other things :) Maybe you just need to have a bash at some thing other than flowers which took me a wee while to get the hang of.

    Now I can crochet people say why not have a go at knitting! The thing is I just don't get it, I cant hold the needles right I drop stiches I add stiches I change stitches! Crochet defo is the one for me! I hope you can master it too at some point, don't loose heart you will get it!

    Dazie
    x

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    1. Thanks for your wonderful advice and encouragement! It's also good to know that other people drop stitches, add stitches and change stitches when knitting as that's exactly what I remember doing! I may just try doing some straight rows of crochet stitches as I really couldn't get my head around all the changes in stitches/chains/god knows what when we were making our flowers. Something more simple (like a straight line!) might be easier for me to grasp. x

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  2. You might just need to keep trying! Try looking at different tutorials in different formats. I learn best from books with diagrams and written instructions, some learn better from videos. I taught myself crochet from the Readers' Digest Complete Guide To Needlework, a book that was my nanna's. The diagrams are very good (simple outline drawings) which helped me see more clearly where the wool is supposed to go and how the stitches are formed, something that can be hard to see in videos or even in real life sometimes. You may just find a tutorial at some point that makes it click for you.

    I have to ask; the way Mamta is holding her hook- is that how you were taught to hold the hook in the workshop, or were you shown different ways? Because there is NO way I could crochet holding a hook like that!

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    1. Thanks Ginny. I might give Youtube videos a go, it's definitely things like where to put the wool that were foxing me so it might become clearer seeing it visually.
      As for Mamta, I've got a sneaking suspicion that she was so good at crochet and finished her flower so early, that she started knitting herself a mini scarf using crochet hooks, which is what she might be doing in the photo! I'll check though! x

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  3. It took me ages to learn crochet. I've been knitting for 30+ years, so you'd think I'd be OK with another yarn-based craft, but no. It took hours and hours of practice for me to learn the basics of crochet. I have cracked it now, but actually I don't enjoy crochet that much, so I never do it. I much prefer the rhythm of knitting. I'm sure you could pick it up with practice if you wanted to :-)

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    1. I find it really interesting that an experienced knitter would take a while to pick up crochet. Thanks for the encouragement. x

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  4. I am a fairly recent convert to crochet too. May I recommend the following that you absolutely need to have :) a)A copy of Crochet Unravelled - unsurpassed guide to crochet in my opinion including any demonstration you might find online or any other guide to crochet. b) A Clover soft-grip crochet hook, c) Acrylic or wool but not cotton yarn. Cotton is hard to work with, it's stiff and unforgiving and doesn't bounce through the stitches like wool/acrylic yarn. For me the biggest turning point was finding crochet unravelled, and also learning how to do stitches into the foundation chain - it took a while to learn how to go "through" the chain picking up two links on the hook, instead of skimming the top of the foundation chain and picking up just one hook. I also made my foundation chains too tight so it got near impossible to enter a chain link at times - I found easing apart the chain with a toothpick helped de-tighten the work and let me see more clearly where to poke the hook through. Good luck - it's addictive, and a very portable skill! Have a look at Attic24's crochet blog if you don't already - plenty of inspiration and tips - Lucy is amazing, as is Heather of littletinbird.

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    1. Right, I've decided to give it another go and have just ordered Crochet Unravelled! I also made my chain stitches really tight but I think the yarn I used didn't help, will take your advice (and Tegan's!) re wool. Thanks for such great advice Lulu, wish me luck! x

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  5. Ha -- that's the way -I- hold my hook too!

    I'm actually really surprised that you were taught chain stitch and then jumped to treble. I've been crocheting for (oh gods) 20 years now (I'm 26 -- I shouldn't be able to say that kind of thing) and I STILL have problems with the tension on treble.

    I'm going to second Lulu about yarn and say to make sure to always use yarn that feels nice in the hand (acrylic will rip your hands apart, so stick to wool -- you can find cheap wool) and nothing that is complicated texture wise. It looks like the consistency of your yarn is fine, but perhaps a little small? Try something closer to bulky or at least DK weight. Also, make sure you have a decently large hook and always. use. it.

    For years, I only ever used an H hook, and made everything with it. I don't have to think when I use an H hook -- it'll look right and feel right and I know how fast the yarn will move through my fingers.

    This is going to sound stupid, and way less fun than flowers -- but make swatches. And then unravel them, and make swatches. I became proficient at crochet making oodles of blankets. Baby blankets, throw blankets, "feel like crocheting for no reason at all" blankets, etc. They are big rectangles, and easy to do.

    When you're crocheting in rectangles, it's easy to see when something is going wrong. It's a really common beginner mistake to not know which little holes are the ones to crochet into -- and often you'll start adding stitches. So as you get more proficient in the basic stitches (stick to single crochet), you'll be able to look at your stitch and see what makes it up. Undo one stitch, redo that stitch. Look at the difference, look at how far you've traveled along your fabric.

    Learning WHAT to look for and HOW to look for it will take you incredibly far. With a close-up view of any given crocheted object, I can recreate it. Although I've been knitting for 10 years now, I can't do that with knitting.

    I think crochet is MUCH MUCH MUCH easier than knitting, and would recommend it for any beginner.

    OH! One thing that my grandma did when she was teaching me: she would crochet the first couple of chains or chain a whole foundation for me, just so that I could practice my stitches. Perhaps a crochet buddy would do wonders!

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    1. Oh wow, thanks for such a comprehensive and helpful comment Tegan. I also thought jumping straight in to treble stitch was a bit ambitious, especially as I hadn't quite worked out how to chain at that point! I'll definitely give rectangles a go with some decent wool. And I think my mum would make a good crochet buddy! Thanks again. x

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  6. Honestly, whenever I hear or see someone struggling with crochet I just wish that I was there to help! Too bad you don't live in Boston! :-P

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  7. Hi Jane
    I did a couple of crochet workshops earlier in the year with a friend and picked it up failry quickly as my nan had taught me as a child but I'd just never picked it up as an adult. I did smile at your poncho photo - took me back to my summer holidays when my dolls and I would return from spending about 4 weeks at my nan and grandads with beautiful knitted and crocheted wardrobes ready for the new school year!!!!
    Anyway back to the crochet experience, so I picked it up fairly quickly and have been producing granny squares for a blanket, my friend however who is a very competent knitter just did not get it and got quite frustrated with it. Other readers are right there are some great tutorials on you tube, just be mindful when looking at books as the US crochet langauge is a bit different - our trebles are doubles in the US and our doubles are half doubles so it can be a bit confusing.
    Keep trying and I thought your little flower with button centre looked really cute.
    Tracie

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    1. Actually the two women who picked it up really quickly had both been taught as children so maybe that does have something to do with it. Thanks for the tip off re US and UK terms and for your encouragement, it really helps! x

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  8. Youtube rules, honestly, it helped me understand "foreign" knitting patterns and crocheting borders on the knitting work.
    Oh.... Abba, my mum didn't make me hat like that, but other stuff for sure. These crocheted squares cushions! I can't really like them, I even remember slipovers like that, LOL. But there are great scarf patterns around.

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    1. Oh god yes, I remember those crocheted cushions!
      I think a few Youtube sessions are definitely in orders! x

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  9. I've really struggled with crochet too, so it's great to read all the words of advice. I had given up, but a new baby niece has made me think again -there are some sweet patterns out there! I think repetition is probably the key. Bring on the granny squares!

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    1. Yup, I think I'll have to do a lot of practising to make any kind of progress! x

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  10. Your flower is really cute! Don't despair; remember different people learn in different ways. I echo superheidi - youtube is great - just watch cos UK and US terminology is a bit different. I taught myself from this PDF: http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/supplyimages/WF1002/How-To-Crochet.pdf
    xx

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    1. That's fab, thanks so much. x

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  11. Hi Jane, I've been reading your blog for a while now, so 'hello'! I remember wearing a peach coloured crochet'd 'Abba' hat as a bridesmaid in the '70s - which went well with the long flowing dress I had complete with 'leg o'mutton' sleeves - which I loved at the time and wish I still had. Back to the crochet: I've recently learnt to crochet myself after several years of knitting - I struggled too in the beginning but I think I have the hang of it now. I'm so pleased that I persevered because it opens up a whole new world. My advice would be as above i.e. get really comfortable with chain stitch before you move on to trebles etc. Good luck!

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    1. Hello! Thanks for your encouragement, patience isn't my strong point so it might be a long, slow process for me to get the hang of it! I'm going to try though! x

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  12. I really struggled to pick up crochet. I thought as a knitter I should be able to learn it easily, but no amount of youtube videos helped. So I took a course at the Make Lounge, and that really helped me with the basics. The teacher - Catherine Hirst - has some great videos on her website (http://www.catherinehirst.com/) that I still refer back to.

    I found granny squares useful to practice on - the repetition helps (although watch your tension - I had to redo quite a few when I was making a blanket!). I still haven't quite mastered crocheting in a line/rectangle - I can't quite grasp the turning chains and figuring out which one is actually the last one to crochet into before turning. More practice for me, I think!

    The major plus point compared to knitting for me is pulling it out if you make a mistake - it is sooooo much easier!

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    1. Great great advice, thank you! Glad to hear you got there in the end! x

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  13. I actually just learned how to crochet eight days ago. Like you, I didn't connect with knitting, and when I started learning, I pulled apart my creation time and time again. Then I discovered something magical: Youtube! They have hundreds of crochet tutorials, ones you can stop and rewind, and have closeups of what exactly you're supposed to be doing! In the last eight days I've made a beret and a scarf (never mind that I live in California and we're having a heat wave), and have been so happy with them I've ordered more yarn for more projects. So, try Youtube, it's been amazing for me!

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    1. Oh my god, that's amazing! A beret and a scarf in eight days! So pleased you've been bitten by the crochet bug, you're a real inspiration. x

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  14. My friend bought me a lesson at a john lewis store, i was the worst in the class and didnt progress off the first project a simple square. I felt like a real dunce especially when every one else was on their second or third different item. I went home feeling really rubbish but i said to myself i must practise. And thats exactly what i did i didnt stop until eventually it just clicked and now there is no stopping me, well apart from carpal tunnel in my wrist... But thats just it practise makes perfect. Sarah x

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    1. Aw, love that it clicked for you eventually Sarah. Yes, I felt like the idiot of the class as well, the whizz kids in my group were also making multiple flowers (and mini scarves!) too! x

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  15. Going back a bit! my nemesis was macrame - I so wanted to make a hanging pot plant holder for the stairwell - but the square knot eluded me! I had to read the instructions for every single one, it just would not sink in. But being of an obstinate nature, I persevered - propped the book in front of me and went for it - never made another one at the time but later wanted a strap for a bag, and hey presto, muscle memory took over and I sailed through. Good luck. Regards from New Zealand

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    1. I think we made macramé plant holders at school! Thanks for your encouragement. x

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  16. You're so not alone Jane! After learning and enjoying knitting last year, I thought I'd give crochet a go too. BIG mistake! I went to 4 x 1.5 lessons and after the first 30min I had no clue what was going on and struggled to keep up. I felt pretty useless really, which wasn't nice, but I'm glad I gave it a go though...as I'm sure you are too! The crazy thing for me was that at one point I actually managed to make an entire (and quite nice) granny square...only to completely forget how to do it the next week - I'm talking complete memory loss here...as if someone else inhabited my body to make one granny square and then left for good!

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    1. You've just described exactly how I felt Marie, I honestly didn't have a clue what I was supposed to be doing, I felt like a total half wit! The granny square memory loss really made me laugh! x

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  17. Um, I crocheted granny squares for YEARS before I did anything else. They are easier since you don't have to look for the individual stitches to crochet in and you can focus on tension and stitches and all that jazz. Eventually I transitioned into patterns and had no problems other than figuring out what the terms meant.
    I hope it works out for you!

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    1. Thank you! I like the sound of granny squares, maybe I'll build up to them! x

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  18. Jane, I love the pic of you and the giant chihuahua !! So cool to give your mum a shout for her crochet home industry and inspiration! The comments are really useful,that others have left! I've found crochet hard to keep track of which hole I should be crocheting into, and end up with many mistake, but, here's a bonus, it's way easier to unravel crochet than it is knitting!!! I might pick I've up again as a result of this as my next wool project. I believe that I could improve with all the advice here! I have managed basic granny squares and even made a beret a couple of years ago...

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    1. YES! I kept crocheting into the wrong hole too! The advice in the comments is just wonderful isn't it? I found out today that my friend Berni has been watching Youtube videos and really improved, helped by lots of practicing on a long train journey. That's also inspired me to give it another go. x

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    1. Ha ha, the chubby cheeks help, and the poncho of course! x

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  20. I am far below the curve when it comes to learning crochet, I'm not sure why I can't wrap my mind around it. It's really pretty silly (and frustrating) when I consider how successful and adventurous I am with knitting. I hoope the crochet sticks! It's great to have lots of tools in the craft arsenal.

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    1. Yes, I just presume knitters will automatically be good at crochet too, but that's obviously not the case! x

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  21. Oh Jane, please don't worry and definitely do not be dispondent!!! My friend taught me to crochet just over a year ago.....I remember it well....sitting there with her telling me to let go of the yarn or yarn over and my hands and fingers just seemed to freeze!! Let go, no let go of that loop, she'd say, and would I be able to let go?? Nope! It was so funny...I literally felt as though my hands had frozen. We laughed so much! I started on a granny square...my tension was either too tight or too loose!

    My first granny square was LARGE! Much bigger than it was meant to be! But the granny squares are ideal because there are some pretty simple ones out there and ideal for a beginner. Like lots of other people have mentioned, do try Attic24 because Lucy uses brilliant picture tutorials that are very well written and easy to follow. Something like her jar cover is a good start as its just straight lines of double crochet.

    I'm sure with a little patience and practice and lots of desire, you will get it! I just practiced lots. It did just 'click' Often things I'd start and not necessarily finish a load of them but enough to keep the practice up, and my large granny squares quickly became smaller and much neater. I've even recently help teach a friend to crochet and she's just made the diddiest of bows for a headband for her daughter!
    One of the reasons I started my own blog up recently was to help me see how far I'd progressed. Following patterns has become much easier and it is often dependent on how they're written as to how easy they can be to follow! You'll get there and pick up the terminology and technique! Now I've just got to feel as confident with my sewing!!! I shall look forward to seeing your progress very much! Kate x
    http://www.thepolkadotroom.wordpress.com

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  22. And do not let yourself be told that you're holding the crochet hook wrongly, I add. There's no right or wrong way, just a way that gets the results (I say this with a burningly bitter memory of being told my absolutely-was-crocheted granny square couldn't possibly be crocheted because I didn't hold the hook the same way as the person making the criticism). Big deal. End result was the same, and yours probably will be too after you've practised enough. And, yeah, you know, practising is what makes it easier. I knit well and I *can* crochet but it's much, much more difficult for me. Still, the more I do it, the better the results are and, along with everyone else, I can only repeat that. For most of us, our first attempts at any new craft (or activity) are usually rubbish. But don't be downhearted. Keep up the good work.

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  23. I have crocheted for nearly 4 years now and it was definitely a penny dropping moment after a lot of confusion when I finally figured out what I was doing. I wouldn't worry too much about how you hold the hook and yarn, just go with what is comfortable/easy for you. Once the penny drops, there'll be no stopping you. x

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  24. HI Jane

    I loved reading about your mum and the 'Abba hats' I was a knitter for many years and taught myself crochet 5 years ago, at first I was awful and gave up! Then I read a nice tutorial on a blog about granny squares and slowly the penny dropped.

    I really came into my own when I discovered Lucy's blog (Attic24) and her fabulous ripple pattern, I think I just understood the anatomy of a stitch much easier. I think I hold the yarn and hook wrong but who cares! I love crochet now and can even read patterns so we can all get there :)

    I think these days with youtube and the internet there is so much more help out there - good luck x x

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  25. Oh Jane thank goodness I am not alone! Crochet to me is like suduku, I struggle to make sense of what everyone else loves to do, then the penny drops and I'm elated only to come back to it the next day with no understanding of it whatsoever! I will not be defeated but will wait until winter to try again! You cutie pie!

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