Crochet Tutorial: Chain Stitch

The chain stitch is used to make the foundation chain for most crochet items. There is also a chainless foundation row but we’ll get into that in a later post. Once you can make a basic chain with the crochet hook, you will be well on your way to knowing how to crochet. The chain plus knowing how to do one other stitch. will be enough to make a lot of projects. In fact, all stitches are a variation of only one stitch so you won’t have to learn that much to be crocheting in no time. First, though, we’ve got to get this chain thing down.

These instructions are going to be very detailed (maybe too detailed). When most things get hard to explain, a lot of instructions turn to pictures or illustrations to bridge the gap. This isn’t very helpful for blind people so I’m going to do my best to explain exactly what to do with a crochet hook in as detailed a way as possible.

You will need some yarn and a crochet hook to practice with. You can use whatever size hook you want but larger sizes might be easier to learn with. Also, be sure to use a simple worsted weight yarn.

Holding the Crochet Hook

Most crochet hooks have a flat spot that helps keep the hook pointing in the direction you want it. If your hook doesn’t have one of these, go get one that does. It would be next to impossible for a blind person to learn to crochet without this.

Hold the hook in your right hand. You want to hold it with your whole hand over the top like you would a knife. Not like a pencil or a fork. Hold the crochet hook so that it is parallel with the floor and with the hook end pointing directly to the left. Your right thumb should be on the flat part of the hook with the actual hook part of the crochet hook on the side with your thumb. Now take your right index finger and lay it on top of the crochet hook. It should just barely reach the end of the hook. You will use this finger to control how many loops get worked with each motion of the hook. The flat part of the handle should end up between your thumb and the underside of your middle finger.

Making a Chain Stitch

 

  1. Make a slip knot with a 6 inch tail. Place the slip knot over the crochet hook and pull it until it fits the shaft of your hook very loosely. The loop should be under your right fingertip about half an inch from the end of the hook. Keep the actual knot on the underside of the crochet hook.
  2. Pick up the strand of yarn going from your slip knot to your ball of yarn with your left hand. You can hold this strand with your thumb and fore finger while the other fingers of your left hand push the tail out of the way. Take your left hand and loop the strand of yarn around the needle from the back. You will move the yarn from under the hook, straight back, up behind the hook, over the top and back to the side closest to your body. Now you will have two loops over the crochet hook. Your slip knot will be the right loop and the yarn you just wrapped around the hook will be on the left. Keep both of these loops about half an inch apart and under your right fingertip. Also be sure to keep the knot from the slip knot on the underside of the crochet hook. With your left thumb and fore finger you will hold both the knot and the strand of yarn so they stay snug.
  3. Now we are going to pull the yarn through our slip knot. take your left hand and pull it away from the crochet hook so there is about an inch between your hand and the hook. Be sure to keep the yarn snug. You should have both the tail from your slip knot and the strand of yarn between your thumb and fore finger. Using your hand to keep the yarn snug, take your left forefinger and move it from behind the yarn to the front and then between the tail and the strand of yarn. From the right you should have your thumb, the tail of yarn, your left fingertip and then the long strand of yarn all held together. It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is so hang in there, you’ll be done in a second. You’re ready to pull the strand of yarn on the left through the slip knot on the right so take your crochet hook and pull it slowly to the right. As you pull the hook should grab the strand of yarn that’s on top of your left fingertip. You may need to turn the hook slightly down toward the floor after it grabs the strand of yarn. This will help the loop to stay on the hook as you pull it through the slip knot. Be sure to hold on to the knot of the slip knot and keep pulling the loop through. Holding the knot taught away from the crochet hook and turning the hook so that it’s facing down toward the knot while you pull the loop through will help keep you from getting the hook caught as it goes through the old loop. After you pull the yarn through, you should have one chain stitch on your crochet hook.

 

All of these steps will flow together after you do it a time or two. Keep repeating steps 2 and three, substituting the knot from the slip knot you are holding in your left hand with the base of the loop you just completed. Without all the details the steps are just wrap the yarn around the crochet hook from the back and pull it through. Keep pulling new loops through until you have as many chain stitches as you want.

 

Helpful Tips

  1. If your hook gets hung up on the way through the old loop just do what you need to do to get it out. Find your loop and put the hook back in. Then get it all situated and try again.
  2. When crochet directions say to chain 31, for example, you do not count the slip knot or the loop on the hook, so you will actually physically pull the yarn through 32 times. You will have 31 chain stitches between the hook and the slip knot. This will make more sense when you start to crochet your first row.
  3. Chain loosely so it’s easier to do and so your starting chain isn’t tighter than your work.
  4. You will eventually develop a consistent tension so all your chain stitches will be the same size. I learned to do this without wrapping the yarn around my fingers like I do in knitting. It would be a lot easier if I wrapped when I crochet but it’s hard to change old habits. It might be helpful to try wrapping the yarn around your left fingers in whatever way you like to get the best tension. Not too tight and not too loose.

 

I hope these directions are helpful and not confusing. Remember that things make more since with yarn and hook in hand. A tutorial on the single crochet stitch will be coming soon.

Advertisements

Crochet Cast On

The crochet cast on is a starting row that many knitters have trouble with. The barrier is probably psychological as those of us who are monogamous to the knitting needle have trouble finding uses for the crochet hook. Still, this is a good cast on to know as it is attractive, identical to the slip stitch selvage, and handy as a provisional cast on.

For bicrafters and others more skilled than I, the easiest way to do this is to make a crochet chain in the usual way, then to slide the knitting needle under the correct strand. For the rest of us, this process involves much swearing and picking up of the wrong strand.

So the other alternative is to use a conventional knitting needle and a crochet hook of about the same size. Actually, with a little practice, the process can be done with the two ends of a circular needle and a little finger gymnastics, but for this post, I explain the official version, which can be found in many blogs and knitting books.

What’s that? Don’t own a conventional single pointed knitting needle? Use a double pointed needle, and if the thought of one of those foreign objects makes you shiver, try a pencil. Once you get the concept, you’ll figure out how to use a circ.

Note: these instructions assume you’re right-handed.

1. Sit in a nice comfy chair with your knees together.
2. Place the conventional knitting needle between your knees. The needle is held vertically, with the idle end against the seat cushion and the point toward the ceiling.
3. Make a slip knot on the crochet hook. The slip knot is the first loop.
4. Slide the loop up the shaft so that it is about 2 inches (5 cm) from the hook.
5. With your right hand, hold the hook horizontally, and position it against the needle. The hook is in front of the needle, handle to the right and hook to the left. The needle and the hook are perpendicular to each other, like a Christian cross. The loop is to the right of the needle. The hook bends upward, though this really doesn’t matter.
6. With your left hand, wrap the working yarn around the knitting needle. Pull the yarn away from you on the right side of the needle, to the left behind the needle, and toward you on the left side of the needle.
7. Lay the working yarn over the crochet hook. It is between the loop and the hook.
8. Drag the loop to the hook and pull until it drops off. A new loop is formed by the working yarn.
9. Repeat Steps 4 to 8 until you’re 1 stitch short. Be careful that you don’t accidentally wrap the yarn around the hook as you wrap the working yarn around the needle. I use my thumb to guide the yarn under the hook and around the needle.
10. Slip the loop onto the knitting needle.
11. Begin knitting.

The process is slow and tedious at first, but the result is so attractive that it’s worth doing again, and over time, it’s as quick and smooth as other cast ons. A future post covers how to use this as a provisional cast on. For now grab your hook and needle, and cast away.

The Art of Crochet

Crochet is a wonderful way to make fabric for many different uses. It can be used to make blankets, clothes, lace, household items and even toys for children.

I first learned to crochet as a teenager when my mother enlisted my help to finish some baby blankets she was working on at the time. I didn’t do much of it for a while after that, until my cousin got pregnant with her first child and I made him a baby blanket. Since then, along with a few more baby blankets, I have made some full size blankets for family members. It was with crochet blankets that I first experienced the feeling of satisfaction when giving a gift that has been hand made with love.

After spending a lot of time knitting in the past few years I’ve recently become interested in crochet again. Mainly to make some Amigurumi toys for my infant son but for other projects as well. I’m also starting to appreciate crochet more fully for what you can do with it that you can’t do with knitting.

Crochet is like knitting in that it uses yarn and makes a fabric. That’s just about where the similarities end. . It uses one needle with a hook on the end instead of two straight needles. It makes a thicker fabric than knitting and uses more yarn. For me, crochet seems faster but I don’t know if this is generally true for everyone or only particular to me. Someone who has been knitting for twenty years and only crocheting for one may not agree. The most obvious difference is that with crochet, you only work with one stitch on your hook at a time while with knitting you have all the stitches for an entire row on the needles at once. This is the reason why some things are a lot easier with a crochet hook than knitting needles.

Overall, I like to crochet and I still turn to it when I want to do something a little different. It’s not any better or worse than knitting; it’s just different. They both have their own place in my heart. I can’t wait to learn more about crochet and expand my knowledge of this wonderful craft.

Short History of Crochet

 

The word crochet comes from a French word that actually means hook. Very appropriate for the craft, I think. As far as anyone can tell, crochet didn’t become popular in Europe until the early 1800’s. It may have existed before that in various countries but there isn’t really any definitive proof. It is theorized that crochet became popular when it did because if the invention of two things. The cotton gin revolutionized the picking of cotton while the Spinning Jenny did the same for the industrialization of spun fiber. By the early 1800’s cotton yarn was much more affordable than at any time in the past. Since crochet uses more yarn than other textiles, this was a very good thing for its advancement.

Women made a cottage industry of crochet in Ireland during the potato famine. Their work became known as Irish lace and became very popular. During more prosperous times, young women used crochet to make things for their hope chests. Among other things, they would make fancy lace trims to sew on to their household linens when they married. Crochet has seen its ups and downs in popularity over the years. One of the down turns was during World War II when women had to go to work in the factories and presumably didn’t have time for needle arts. However, crochet has been on the upswing in the past few years. Many people are enjoying being crafty and making things for themselves.

Where to Find More

 

Here are some places to find out more about crochet. They are also my sources for this post. The Wikipedia article on the Spinning Jenny also has some very interesting history of the textile industry. If you are interested in learning to crochet, I’ll be writing some tutorials especially for blind people. Until then, you can check out the Lion Brand link below.

Wikipedia Crochet Entry

Wikipedia Spinning Jenny Entry

History of Crochet

 Crochet Guild of America

Learn to Crochet from Lion Brand

Learning to Love the Loom

Contributed by Renee Van Hoy

Why would you want to try loom knitting?

Well, it is fun, but that’s not the only reason. People who are challenged by reading patterns for crochet or knitting often find they can loom knit without difficulty. People who have trouble with their fingers, hands, and wrists often find loom knitting causes less pain, which is a huge plus. People who want simple and fast can find projects that suit them and so can people who like projects that are detailed and complicated.

How can you start?

Looms come in a wide variety of sizes and materials. They also come in different gauges just like knitting needles and crochet hooks. Most loom knitters start with the Knifty Knitter, a set of 4 round rings found at local craft stores. This basic set is a good way to try loom knitting for a small investment. When you find that you love to loom, you can expand your loom collection dramatically.

Where can you find patterns?

Although there are not nearly as many patterns and tutorials available for loom knitting as for other needle arts, there are enough to keep you busy for a very long time.

For books about loom knitting, Bookshare is a great resource. Here are some titles to start with:

• The Loom Knitting Primer
• Learn New Stitches On Circle Looms
• Learn to Knit Cables On Looms
• Round Loom Knitting Patterns
• Loom Knitting Pattern Book
• Learn to Knit On Circle Looms
• Knifty Knitter Booklet 2
• Knitting With The Knifty Knitter

For contact with other loomers, there is a very active on-line community ready to help the new loomer. The Knifty Knitter Loom Group at Yahoo Groups is hosted by a talented blind loom knitter from the UK, Helen Jacobs-Grant. Helen spins her own yarn, dyes it in natural dyes, and looms it into wonderful creations. She also writes and shares many of her patterns, and gives freely of her loom knowledge.

For an online looming reference, go to Loom Knitting Help. While there are many other tutorials for loom knitters on the internet, most of them use video clips or PDF files. Loom Knitting Help has tutorials that can be accessed with a screen reader. There is so much information that the site can be overwhelming at first, but it’s worth getting to know as it’s a great place to find looming tips and instructions.

For individual patterns, check loom knitting blogs or Ravelry. The majority are free, with some of the more complex offered for sale. The patterns often come as PDF files. Some of these files are accessible as is, but if my screen reader cannot work with them, I can often access them by using the “read aloud” function in Acrobat Reader. If I still can’t access the content, I have found that the pattern authors are usually happy to send me a plain text file on request.

These are some of my favorite pattern writers:

The Loom Lady: Brenda specializes in patterns for small toys and decorations, and has created “loomchet” a loomed version of crochet.

Kelly Knits: Kelly has written wonderful patterns focusing on Intarsia and designs within the loomed fabric.

Bev’s Country Cottage Loom Page: Bev has put together some great lists of loom patterns, and has an especially nice collection of baby patterns and patterns for the beginning loom knitter.

Invisible Loom and Craft: Well, this is my own blog. I focus on loom knitting for the visually impaired and blind, and offer over 30 patterns. The patterns come as large print PDF files, but just contact me and I will send a plain text version. My goal has been to push the boundaries of loom knitting, and I have focused on lace patterns for the past year.

As with other stitch arts, loom knitting can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be. There are many reasons to try it, inexpensive looms to start with, and lots of resources to get yourself going. So why not give it a try?

Picot Cast on

The picot cast on is a decorative way to start a piece of knitting. The word picot is French for little peaks, which is exactly what you make as you cast on, and it is pronounced peak-oh, which is more or less what I said when I learned to say it correctly.

The picot cast on gives a nice feminine touch to the cuffs of sleeves, socks, and gloves; the brims of hats; the ends of scarves; and the edges of collars and shawls.

There are two ways to do it. One produces soft peaks while the other makes bold points. Both build on other cast on methods, and both allow you to space the peaks as close together or as far apart as you want. Most of the tutorials I’ve read put them pretty close together. In this post, I space them as I usually do in my own work.

Decreasing to Make Subtle Picots

The simplest way to make a picot cast on is to cast on extra stitches, then to work decreases in the first row of knitting. This makes soft peaks. You can use any cast on method you like; I usually use the simple cast on. You can also use any decrease; I usually knit 3 together.

Here’s the basic technique:

Using any method, cast on a multiple of 6 + 3.
Row 1: K3tog, * k3, k3tog *.

For the stitch count to work out, you need to cast on more stitches than the pattern calls for. For projects worked in the round, cast on one and a half times the number of stitches. If your socks are 48 stitches around, cast on 72 (48 + half of 48). For projects worked back and forth, do the same only add 3 more stitches when you’re done with the math. If your scarf is 24 stitches across, cast on 39 (24 + half of 24 + 3). That actually leaves you with 25 stitches after the decreases. You can always decrease an extra stitch over one of the peaks as you work the following row.

Binding off to Make Bold Peaks

The more common way to work a picot cast on is to * cast on (co) a few stitches, then bind off (bo) a couple * until the right number of stitches has been cast on. This makes bold points. You can use any cast on method you like; the knit-on cast on and the cable cast on work best. You can also use any bind off; the standard bind off works nicely.

Here’s the basic technique:

Using any method, co 4 sts, bo 2 sts, * co 6 sts, bo 2 sts *.

This cast on is a little discouraging when it’s just hanging on the needle. The points are fine, but above each is a gap in the row of stitches, which suggests an unattractive hole in the scarf your skein longs to be. Don’t worry. If you give the working yarn an extra tug after you work the stitches before and after each gap, the work pulls together nicely, and there are no holes.

The picot cast on is that simple. Whether you make your picots by casting on extra stitches and working decreases on the following row or by alternately casting on and binding off, this cast on spices up an ordinary piece of knitting with soft peaks or bold peaks along the starting edge. Nonknitters are impressed by it, and knitters use it to accent a variety of projects.

Discovering Amigurumi

My 5-Month old baby has started holding on to and playing with his toys. It’s ever so precious and all I want to do is give him more things to look at and explore. Combine this with the continuous urge to buy more yarn (Don’t worry about how I told my husband yesterday that I shouldn’t buy anymore yarn until I used some; that’s yesterday.), the 20% off e-mail I received from Red Heart and my discovery of Amigurumi and you get me buying more yarn. What else could possibly result from crafty brainstorming? I mean, other than actual craftiness.

Amigurumi is a Japanese word that means to knit or crochet stuffed toys. These toys aren’t very big. I think the largest I’ve seen so far is 24 inches and that’s an anomaly. Most of them have been about 7 or 8 inches tall. They don’t take much yarn and you can use them to get rid of leftover yarn that’s just lying around. You also don’t need to use expensive yarn. I’m planning to use Red Heart Super Saver because of the price and the number of colors available. Not to mention the 20% off sale. I think I can do an order of about a dozen different colors and I’ll have enough to make at least twice that many toys. I’ll probably never need to buy more yarn for Amigurumi projects but who knows.

Amigurumi can be knit or crochet but they are usually crocheted. There construction is a little different in that you don’t turn your work. You just keep working in a spiral. Add some eyes and some stuffing and you have a cute little toy. A lot of Amigurumi is made for looks but I like the practical application of making them as toys. Also, I’ve learned that you can use black yarn for the eyes instead of buttons to make them safer for that toddler and younger age group.

Here are some toys I’m thinking of crocheting.

Learn Your Colors Fish Counting Toy

Adorable Aliens

Amigurumi Dinosaur

Other Amigurumi Links:

Crochet Pattern Central’s Amigurumi Page

Knitting pattern Central’s Amigurumi Page

Wikipedia Amigurumi

Red Heart Super Saver yarn

The Simple or Half Hitch Cast On

Probably the easiest cast on is the method called the simple or half hitch cast on. It produces a row of loose stitches and works up so quickly that it’s my preferred method for swatches and other obscenities. If you know the long-tail cast on, the half hitch is the first part of that, and no long tail is needed.

Here’s how it’s done:

Note: these instructions assume you’re right-handed.

1. Tie a slip knot around the needle, and hold the needle in your right hand. For this cast on, there is only one needle, and it is always in your right hand.
2. Position your left hand as if you were holding a glass of water. The thumb and index finger form an open circle, and the side of your hand (your pinky) is what would rest on the table if one were in front of you.
3. Lay the yarn over your thumb and index finger. The ball end goes over your index finger. The tail goes over your thumb. The needle is pointing left and resting on the side of your hand, roughly where the thumb and index finger meet.
4. Curl the middle, ring, and pinky fingers of your left hand into the palm, tucking the two hanging strands of yarn into them. When you do, the yarn in your left hand forms a down-pointing triangle. There’s a horizontal line between your thumb and index finger, a diagonal line from index to middle finger, and another diagonal line from thumb to middle finger. The needle is on top of the horizontal line, resting both on the yarn and on the side of your left hand. Use the curled fingers to put a little tension on the yarn as you work the remaining steps.
5. Rotate the needle so that it is pointing at you. It passes over the horizontal line, so the triangle is still fairly in tact.
6. Bring the tip of the needle down, stopping when it touches the fleshy part of your palm at the base of your thumb. The needle is between you and the yarn.
7. Slide the tip of the needle up your thumb, stopping when the tip of the needle is on the tip of your thumb. The needle tip has slid behind the leg of the triangle that goes from thumb to middle finger. By the time the tip of the needle reaches the tip of the thumb, it is inside a loop that surrounds the thumb.
8. Pull your thumb out of the loop, and in the same movement, use your thumb to catch and tug on the yarn that is between the needle and your middle finger. The gesture is like opening a pair of scissors to cut. This tug tightens the loop on the needle.
9. Move the needle back to the starting position, on top of the horizontal line of the inverted triangle, and repeat Steps 5 to 8.
10. Knit across the cast-on stitches.

Step 10 is important. The cast-on stitches themselves are so loose that they don’t really keep their shape when you divide them over several needles or even drop them in a bag to return to later, so working the first row, preferably with knit stitches firms them up.

I often use this cast on when I need to add stitches to the middle or end of a row because the point where the cast on meets the rest of the work is tidier than with other methods.

Another plus is that this cast on can easily become a provisional cast on (a topic to be covered in detail later). In a nutshell, after Step 9, you would run a second needle between the stitches that have been cast on and leave it there until it’s time to knit from that needle.

With this cast on in your bag of tricks, you have a simple and serviceable method for starting ordinary work and a secret weapon for doing more complex knitting.

Previous Older Entries