Learn the Basics of This Time-Honored Handicraft
Did you know that a handicraft like crochet is a proven stress reliever as well as a positive creative outlet? With the recent resurgence of interest in crafting, more and more people are discovering the versatility of crocheting. No longer viewed as your grandma's hobby, amateur and professional textile artists continue to explore crochet's creative possibilities.
Luckily, it's not too difficult for beginners to get started. With so many techniques and stitches to choose from, it's possible to start out slow and pick up skills over time. With just a few basic techniques and stitches, you can be well on your way. So what exactly is crochet? This textile art requires the use of a long stick with a hook at the end, known as a crochet hook, which is used to make loops of yarn, thread, or cord to produce a fabric.
As crochet hooks come in all sizes, you can work with fine thread all the way up to thick rope to produce items like socks, blankets, mittens, shoulder bags, hats, sweaters, and much more. Most projects follow a crochet pattern that will help you achieve the look you're after, though some artistic techniques like freeform crochet are perfect for those who love to freestyle. Crochet is so versatile that you can even get away with ditching the hook and simply use your fingers in a technique aptly called finger crochet!
Essential Crochet Supplies
To get started, the most important supplies you'll need are a crochet hook and yarn, thread, or cord to create your fabric.
- Crochet hooks — These metal or plastic utensils (we'd recommend metal) come in different gauges depending on the thickness of the material to be looped.
- Yarn and crochet threads — This is the fun part of crocheting—picking your fibers! Again, depending on what you're making will determine what kind of yarn or thread you'll need to use.
- Scissors — Fiskars makes some of our favorite craft scissors.
- Stitch markers — These little locket-shaped pieces will help you keep track of where you are in your patterns.
There are a wide variety of crochet stitches, but most projects start with you needing to know how to make a slip knot in order to get your yarn on the hook and a chain stitch in order to make a solid row to anchor your entire piece.
A (Brief) History of Crochet
In terms of modern crochet, we can look to 19th-century Europe as a starting point. The word itself comes from the Middle French word for hook—croche. Originally used as a cheaper substitute for lace, it gained popularity when Queen Victoria purchased Irish lace made with the crochet technique. Subsequently, thanks to the work of Riego de la Branchardiere, who began publishing early crochet pattern books, the skill spread across many different countries.
Early examples of crochet can be found far and wide, from Asia to South America, but certainly, Europe was a hub and as mass immigration to the United States began, many women brought their crochet skills with them. The earliest items created were more decorative in nature, moving forward to the 1920s and 1930s when crochet began being used to create entire garments.
Throughout World War II, crochet was seen as a way that women could contribute to the war effort by saving on clothing and decorative items and boosting morale by creating decorative elements for the troops at a low cost. In the 1970s, crochet—along with macramé—became a chic technique for clothing and accessories.
Though crochet's popularity began to wane after the 1970s, it never completely went away. Fashion houses continued to employ the technique and thanks to a recent boom in handiwork, the craft is seeing a revival.