This guide aims to help you get to grips with the basics of crochet; looking at which supplies you need to get started, hook size conversions, standard yarn weights, specialist abbreviations and symbols that you can expect to find, how to read crochet pattern instructions, and how to complete a variety of basic crochet stitches!
Your crochet hook is the primary tool in the creation of a crochet piece, allowing you to make loops in yarn to then interlock into stitches. This long tool has a pointed hook on one end for easy insertion through the yarn, with a slanted groove underneath so that you can then easily pull loops through. Crochet hooks can be made from a variety of materials, usually plastic, wood or aluminium, and are available in a range of different sizes to cater for different yarns. For a beginner, it's recommended to start your crochet journey with an aluminium crochet hook of a 'regular' or mid-range size for greater control and ease of use. Check out our Crochet Hook Size Conversion Chart to find out more!
Yarn is a fundamental material needed to crochet together a whole piece. The properties of yarn differs depending on its designated use, but in crochet it's generally constructed from spun organic fibres, such as wool or alpaca fibres, providing elasticity and warmth. Alternatively, synthetic fibres, such as acrylic, can also be used. As a beginner, you want a yarn that's easy to work with, so its colour and weight should both be taken into consideration. Firstly, it's recommended to choose yarn of a light, solid colour, rather than with multi-coloured strands, so that you can distinguish between stitches whilst learning. Secondly, it's best to use a worsted weight yarn. This medium-weight yarn is incredibly easy to work with and very versatile, working perfectly for large afghan blankets and smaller amigurumi toys alike. Check out our Standard Crochet Yarn Weights Chart to find out more!
Once you've learnt the basic crochet stitches, you'll need a crochet pattern to put all that learning to good use. Basically, your pattern is the design you'll create. You'll receive a chart of the crochet design made up of symbols, as well as instructions written up using abbreviations. As a beginner, it's advised to start with a smaller, straight (or, 'row') design, such as a coaster or bookmark. Patterns are usually marked with a difficulty rating - so look out for 'Beginner' ones! They generally only contain a few basic stitches, such as single crochet and chain stitches. If you're looking for an explanation of how to read a crochet pattern, check out our Understanding Crochet Patterns page.
Scissors are a necessity in crochet, used simply to snip yarn or loose threads at the end of your stitching session. There are no specially-designed scissors for crochet per se, but there are certain desirable qualities that you should look for in a pair of them. You may already have several pairs of scissors lying around the house - make sure you avoid the large dressmaking ones! Instead, veer towards a small pair with a sharp point, able to make quick, clean and precise cuts.
Unless crochet hooks sizes are listed in metric millimetres, figuring out what the diameter is can be a little difficult. The hook size you choose should correlate to the thickness of you yarn - thicker yarn requires a thicker hook diameter, while frailer yarn should be worked on with a thinner hook.
So for this reason, we've put together a simple conversion chart comparing metric, UK and US crochet hook sizes, making it easier to pick out the right diameter for your yarn. It's important to note, however, that crochet hook sizes may vary by manufacturer - this is simply a rough guide!
|Metric (millimetres)||UK Size||US Size|
As with crochet hooks, the names of crochet yarns vary from the US to the UK, and even by manufacturer. And, to make matters that little bit more confusing, the term 'yarn weight' doesn't actually refer to the weight of the ball of yarn, but the thickness of its thread. Put simply, the thicker the yarn, the heavier the 'weight' - even if it actually weighs less than a 'lighter weight' yarn in grams. The positive thing about yarn being categorised into these specific weights is that it makes it easier to gain an understanding of what crochet hook to use, and how big your stitches need to be.
|US Yarn Weight Name||UK Yarn Weight Name||Gauge Range ('sts' - stitches) per 4 inches||Crochet Hook Range (millimetres)|
|0 / Lace||2-ply||32 - 42 sts||1.5mm - 2.25mm|
|1 / Super Fine||3-ply / Sport / Baby||21 - 32 sts||2.25mm - 3.5mm|
|2 / Fine||4-ply / Baby||16 - 20 sts||3.5mm - 4.5mm|
|3 / Light||DK / Light Worsted||12 - 17 sts||4.5mm - 5.5mm|
|4 / Medium||Aran / Worsted||11 - 14 sts||5.5mm - 6.5mm|
|5 / Bulky||Chunky / Rug||8 - 11 sts||6.5mm - 9mm|
|6 / Super Bulky||Super Chunky||7 - 9 sts||9mm - 15mm|
To understand this table better, we should explain exactly what each column means. 'US Yarn Weight Name' and 'UK Yarn Weight Name' are, as suggested, what you'd expect the yarn weight to be referred to as in each country. The US keep it simple with numbers or a thickness, while the UK like to make matters a little more difficult. You may have noticed that many weights mention the term 'ply' - but what does that actually mean?
Ply is simply another way to say 'strand', so the number beforehand describes the amount of strands that need to be twisted together to create a thread of the yarn. For example, 2-ply yarn requires two strands to create the yarn, while 4-ply yarn requires four strands. The higher the ply, the stronger it is, with more density, durability and elasticity.
The 'Gauge Range' column describes how many stitches a crocheter is likely to make per four inches of a crochet piece. You'll notice that this is quite a wide estimation - every crocheter stitches in a different way and to a different tightness, so it suggests the range of stitches that that yarn weight can stitch to. So, upon learning the objective of that column, let's look at what 'gauge' means.
Gauge is a term that basically describes the tension you should be working at to ensure that your finished crochet piece will be made to the correct size (directly relating to the Crochet Hook Size column). Put simply, the higher the hook size, the smaller the gauge range (number of stitches) and the higher the yarn weight.
For example, if you wanted to crochet with chunky yarn, due to its thickness, you'd only be able to fit between 8 and 11 stitches in four inches of a piece. And, because this yarn is so thick, you'll need a bigger crochet hook to handle it. This table is simply a guide recommending what size of hook you'll need once you find out what the gauge is on your pattern. It's important to always work to the correct gauge when creating clothing especially - or the finished garment may not fit well!
Yarn companies will list both 'stitches' and 'rows' under their gauge information on yarn labels. So, not only does it suggest how many stitches the yarn will complete in a 4" x 4" section, but also how many rows it'll make using that yarn. Crucially, patterns also provide this information - but it's not so much a recommendation. As an example, you could see something like '16 sts and 14 rows in a 4" square'. As it's important to stitch to the gauge displayed in the pattern, the best course of action before starting a project is to make a 4 inch sample swatch to practise the gauge in its stitch pattern.
To do this, firstly look at the yarn weight, crochet hook size, stitch pattern and gauge information detailed in the pattern. Using the correct materials, try to complete a 4 inch swatch using the specified amount of stitches across and rows down. Afterwards, count the number of stitches and rows in your finished sample - if you're completing too many rows and stitches, you're working too tightly. To resolve this, a bigger hook may be beneficial. Alternatively, if you're not creating enough rows or stitches, you're working too loosely; a smaller hook may help get your quantities under control. Keep practising this until you stitch to the correct gauge on your crochet pattern.