Over years of pleasure, frustration, challenges and lots of trial and error as a crochet designer, I have come to develop a set of what I call The Five Golden Rules of Crochet. While I certainly don’t claim to know everything—to this day and forever after I will always be learning new techniques and skills to expand my toolbox—I have found these core rules-of-thumb work best for me whenever I’m tackling a new project.
1 – Buy the best yarn you can afford
I’m no yarn snob. I don’t crochet with hand dyed Vicuna and Cashmere; in fact, I crochet mostly with acrylic. But even acrylic yarns vary tremendously in quality, and it pays to get the best you can find that will suit your budget. I also work with wool and other natural fibers and blends (natural and acrylic or nylon blended together) and again if you make a little effort you can often find very affordable choices at a quality level that will make a world of difference in your final work.
Here is how I decide on what type of yarn I’m going to use:
Small projects: Natural fibers. You only need a little bit, so it makes it easier to try nicer yarns.
Blankets and Afghans: Acrylic all the way! These items need to be washed often and are large. I’m not hand washing a blanket, no way, Jose! Plus, more expensive natural fiber yarns can get very expensive in these cases.
Shawls: Natural fibers or blends, depending on the situation. Shawls tend to be airy and look better when using finer yarns. The thinner the yarn, the more yardage in a ball. It ends up being a better deal crocheting with lighter weight yarns. My Crocodile Stitch Shawl is an example. Even though the shawl needs a lot of yardage (about 1200 yards) but it uses a fingering weight angora blend with lots of yardage per ball and you only need 3 balls for the shawl.
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2- Buy the best tools you can afford
In crochet, hooks are our tools and my life literally changed when I started trying hooks beyond the regular basic plain plastic hooks.
Money may be tight, but like quality tools we don’t have to buy hooks every day, and also we don’t have to buy all your hooks all at once. You can start developing your crochet toolbox slowly, by with just one or two of your favorite hook sizes.
My favorite hooks are Tulip. They come in a set of eight hooks, and include a nice case, a quality scissors and a measuring tape for about $60. As I said, if that is out of your budget, Tulip also sells individual hooks.
3- Choose the best yarn considering the stitch pattern.
Have you notice how some stitches looks great with a certain yarn, and just a hot mess with another? My rule of thumb is:
- Textured or intricate stitch patterns = solid color yarns or variegated with long transitions.
The Crocodile Stitch is a great example. It is a highly textured stitch and what you want is to showcase its texture not a novelty yarn. Variegated yarns are great and I love them, but you must make sure that it has long transitions of colors. The ones with short transitions do not look good in showing any textured yarn.
- Simple, plain stitch patterns = any type of yarn: solid, any variegated and novelty yarns.
Any yarn goes here. Have fun. It’s especially great for mindless, repetitive projects. Novelty and highly variegated yarns bring a surprise element while you crocheting and can make a simple project look very unique.
4 – These critical five letters: G,A,U,G,E. Pay attention to gauge, know your own when and how to use it.
Yep, I’m a crochet designer and all my patterns include the phrase: “CHECK YOUR GAUGE! Use any size hook to obtain gauge.” Do I like to check gauge? Nope. Never did, never will. When I get a new pattern that I love, I just want to jump in and start crocheting the whole thing, and checking gauge first is tedious and boring and doesn’t immediately make progress on your project in any obvious way.
But, what it does to is make it MUCH more likely that your finished project will be the right size and shape, especially for any kind of clothing! After many gigantic hats and skin-tight sweaters with sleeves two inches too short, I finally learned my lesson. For certain projects, there are just no short cuts.
Basically my gauge rules of thumb are:
Any projects with specific sizing: slippers, hats, clothing, gloves MUST check gauge.
Projects like shawls, blankets, afghans and scarves, gauge is not critical. SKIP it. These types of projects tend to be repetitive and easy to increase or decrease if needed.
If you need to learn more about gauge, here is a great tutorial from New Stitch a Day. A great tool to have in your project bag is a knit and crochet gauge checker.
5- Blocking makes it all look better.
Blocking seems to be underrated in crochet. It is much discussed and pondered in knitting, but I hear little about the importance of blocking among crocheters. It’s yet another extra step (again, not my favorite) but actually it can do wonders for your finished project. Not only will it clean the piece, but it sets the stitches, evens out edges, and sometimes it’s even required to open up stitches and show the real beauty of lace crochet.
What about you? Any golden rules to share?
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