Crochet is officially cool. Get to know your slip stitch from your chain stitch with this beginner’s guide to the textile craft from knitwear technologist, Laura Hall.
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No longer the stuff of Woman’s Institute meetings, crochet is one of the coolest textiles around. Thanks to cottagecore social media trends, old-time crafts like crochet have been weaving their way across our feeds – 2.5 billion people have watched crochet videos on TikTok – while avant-garde fashion designers and brands, like Ella Emhoff and 2 Much Pressure, are incorporating crochet into everything from bandeau tops to bucket hats.
Over the pandemic, people have turned to lulling, repetitive crafts like crochet to beat the boredom of being at home and give their hands something to do other than tapping their smartphone. “Crocheting was like therapy over the pandemic,” says Laura Hall, a knitwear technologist who runs Instagram page Hook and Chains. “I used to go to the gym to clear my mind. So when gyms were shut, crochet gave me something to focus on.”
Unlike regular knitting, which uses two knitting needles, crochet involves one hook. The stitches are created by looping and threading yarn over the hook. Laura, who has a degree in fashion knitwear and knitted textiles, taught herself to crochet at the end of her university course. She began by making baby blankets for her nieces and nephews, eventually going on to make bags, intricate Christmas baubles and now crochet commissions.
“Knitting is in my bones, but crochet still takes a long time to master,” says Laura. “If you’re patient and start off slowly, once you know the basic stitches you can pick up a lot.” It can take hours to craft things from crochet, but the results are worth it. “A lot of effort goes into it, but people appreciate the results a lot more. The blankets I’ve made for my family are something they’ll be able to treasure forever.”
If you want to try your hand at hooking yarn, Laura has shared her tips on everything you need to know when you’re starting out, as well as a step-by-step guide to creating your very own crochet blanket using intricate granny squares.
Get to know the basic crochet stitches
Chain stitch (ch)
- Wrap the yarn over the hook from back to front.
- Pull the hook carrying the yarn through the loop already on the hook.
- One chain stitch completed.
Slip stitch (sl st)
- A slip stitch is used to move across a stitch or finish a round.
- Insert hook in stitch, wrap the yarn over the hook and draw through both loops at once.
Double crochet (dc)
- Bring the yarn over the hook from back to front before placing the hook in the stitch or space.
- Wrap the yarn over the hook and draw the yarn through the stitch.
- You now have 3 loops on the hook.
- Wrap the yarn over the hook again and pull through the first two loops on the hook.
- You now have two loops on the hook.
- Wrap the yarn over the hook for the last time and pull through both loops on the hook.
- One double crochet completed.
How to make a crochet granny square
What materials you’ll need:
- Double knit weight 100% cotton yarn
- 4mm crochet hook (or a hook that suits your yarn weight)
- Tapestry needle
1. Make the base chain
- Attach your yarn to the crochet hook with a slip knot.
- Then create the base ring with four chain stitches, join with a slip stitch.
2. Make the first round
- Start off the first round with five chain stitches. Count as one dc and two ch.
- Make three double crochets (dc) into the ring.
- Then create three lots of two chain stitches.
- Make two double crochets into the ring.
- Slip stitch the third of your five chain stitches to move onto the second round.
Instructions for first-round using crochet abbreviations:
5ch (count as 1dc and 2ch), 3dc into the ring, 2ch 3 times, 2dc into ring, sl st into 3rd of 5ch.
3. Make the second round
- Slip stitch into the next chain stitch.
- The second round begins with five chain stitches. Count as one dc and two ch.
- a) Create two double crochets into the same chain stitch space.
- b) Make one double crochet into each double crochet.
- c) Then two double crochets, then two chain stitches into the next chain space.
- Repeat steps a to c.
- One double crochet into the same chain stitch space as your five double crochet.
- Then slip stitch into the third of your five chain stitches. This will give you four rounds of seven double chain stitches.
Instructions for second-round using crochet abbreviations:
sl st into next ch, 5ch (count as 1dc and 2ch), *2dc into same ch space, 1dc into each dc, 2dc, 2ch into next chain space**. Repeat twice from * to ** 1dc into same ch space as 5dc, sl st into 3rd of 5ch (4 groups of 7dc).
4. Make the third round
- Use the same method as the second round to make four groups of 11 double crochets.
Instructions for third-round using crochet abbreviations:
As 2nd round. (4 groups of 11dc).
5. Make the fourth round
- Use the same method as the second round to give four groups of 15 double crochets.
Instructions for fourth-round using crochet abbreviations:
As 2nd round. (4 groups of 15dc).
6. Sew in the yarn ends
- Fasten off the yarn. You will be left with a spare strand of yarn.
- Sew this yarn end into the granny square using a needle to give a neat finish.
7. Granny square stages
This is what each stage of your granny square should look like.
Laura has used a different colour to see each round more clearly. As a beginner, she suggests keeping the same colour for the entire granny square.
8. Make multiple granny squares
Once you can make a granny square you can make almost anything. By joining multiple granny squares together you can make everything from blankets to bags.
9. Joining the squares
- Use the same yarn used for the fourth round.
- Place the two top sides of the squares (the sides you’ll want to see when it’s finished) together.
- Using a tapestry needle align the stitches and sew through the entire stitch, working from right to left. This method creates a flat seam.
10. The finished granny squares
Once you’ve joined together your sqaures you should end up with a design like the picture above.
This is can be the start of a huge range of croched items from a blanket to a cushion cover.
Laura’s expert tips for crochet beginners
Choose the right yarn
If you’re a beginner, Laura suggests choosing a basic yarn to start with like cotton or wool. “I wouldn’t go for anything that’s shiny or fancy because it will be slippery and tougher to handle.” You can buy yarn at most craft shops.
The size of the yarn is also important. Laura advises using a thicker yarn to start off with: “That way you can see what stitches you’re making and it will mean your yarn moves quickly so you feel like you’re progressing.”
The yarn size will also determine what hook you use. A basic yarn for beginners will usually take a 4mm hook. When you buy yarn it should say what size hook will work best with it, so it’s worth having a number of different sized hooks at home.
Master your tension
In crochet, tension is the amount of stress you apply to your yarn as you use it. It affects the size of the stitches you make. Learning to master tension is important for making your stitches look consistent and neat.
“Tension is all about holding your yarn in the right way so when you’re crocheting it flows to the hook evenly and your stitch stays the same throughout,” says Laura. “I usually twist the yarn around my finger to control it. People have different tensions, which is what makes people’s projects look unique.”
“Stick with it and don’t be defeated,” says Laura, stressing that crochet is learned through practice and definitely doesn’t come instantly. “It didn’t for me,” she adds. “My mum tried to teach me when I was younger and I could not get the hang of it. Later, I taught myself and it just clicked. Go really slow and take your time. Once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s a skill you’ll have forever.”
Use books and online tools
Laura taught herself to crochet using a guidebook. She recommends The Ultimate Granny Square Sourcebook: 100 Contemporary Motifs to Mix and Match and 300 Crochet Stitches by Collins and Brown.
“Social media is also good for picking up tips and tricks,” Laura says. “Tutorials on Pinterest and YouTube are a good place to start learning.”
Images: Laura Hall
Laura Hall, knitwear technologist
Laura Hall is a London-based knitwear technologist with a BA Hons in Fashion Knitwear and Knitted Textiles. She runs the Instagram account @hook_and_chains where she posts her latest crochet projects. She also takes crochet commissions.