Tuesday Tips: Getting Started with Crochet

I am a self-tauTeaCupght crocheter.  Actually, I am a self-taught crafter in general.  I am frequently asked how to get started in crochet and how to learn the various stitches.  I do not use “proper form” when crocheting, so this makes it a bit more difficult for me to teach others the basics of crochet but I can point you in the right direction.

My advice to anyone who is wishing to get into this craft is to drive right in!  Surround yourself with YouTube tutorials. There are several crafters willing to share their techniques with others.  Two of my favourite YouTube crocheters are SimplyDiasy and Naztazia.  Both of these channels have videos on crochet basics for absolute beginners.

The internet is your friend and is an invaluable resource when learning a new craft. There are so many free crochet patterns, anyone just learning will not have to spend money on patterns right away.  New crocheters should join Ravelry.  This website is an amazing community.  In addition to both free and paid patterns (both knit and crochet), you can connect with other crafters (almost similar to Facebook, but for yarn artists).  I have been a part of several groups over the years, including crochet-a-longs, Crochet Swaps and more!  If you are a member of the community, please feel free to friend me (I have been slacking in updating my profile and projects there, but that is on my To Do List today).

Ami4Do not spend a fortune on a craft you are just learning.  Give yourself time to learn the stitches before buying expensive yarns and hooks.  Read some free patterns, check out the YouTube videos.  Crochet can be a very affordable hobby to start.  Dollar stores sell both yarns and hooks.  I suggest that you learn the basics before upgrading to more costly hooks and supplies.

Do not overwhelm yourself with your first project – start small and work up to a more difficult project.  This is advice I did not take – as my first project was an amigurumi cupcake.  I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my crafts and as soon as I learned the basic stitches, I jumped into amigurumi.

What advice would you give someone who is just starting out?  What was your first crochet project?

Next week, we will dive into the stitch basics.

Happy Crocheting!

Tuesday Tips: Finding the Right Crochet Hook

In order to crochet, you need to start with two things: yarn and hooks.  Without the hooks, you would basically be doing  macrame. Even a novice crocheter will quickly learn that all crochet hooks are not created equal.  Over my crochet career I have used many hooks and I will share with you my favourites (and the ones I absolutely hate!!)

Metal Hooks

These will likely be the hooks new crocheters start with, and the ones that are frequently gifted.  On the plus side, if you misplace any of this type of hook, they are inexpensive and can be found at any store – from dollar stores to big craft stores.  It did not take me long to discover that plain metal hooks are my least favourite.  Although they are insanely study and conveniently colour coded, I found holding them for long periods of time caused my hands and fingers to ache.  Eventually, I ended up donating the majority of my metal hooks to the local schools for their crochet clubs.

pippa.pngBamboo Hooks

For the majority of my crochet career, I have used and loved my bamboo hooks.  The bamboo seemingly molds to your fingers.  I found comfort in these hooks.  There are several downsides to using these hooks.  If you have pets, be prepared for your puppy to eat your hooks.  I went through countless numbers of hooks when my Chihuahuas were small.  Because the hooks are carved, certain yarn types my catch on the hook angles.  If you crochet tightly, the hooks may also break during stitches (i had this happen a few times while making small, tight amigurumi stitches).   I have also recently discovered that sizing differs with the Bamboo hooks…  a 3.5mm bamboo hook is not the same as a 3.5mm metal hook.

The Hooks I Currently Use

I was recently gifted with a set of Clover Amour Crochet Hooks.  It really was love at firsthooks use.  These hooks are aluminum with a soft rubber handle.   They are light weight and are the optimal shape for smooth crocheting.  The ergonomic rubber handle (which is colour coded) provides comfort for finger placement during projects.   The only downside that I have discovered is that when I am making amigurumi, I tend to use the back end of my hook to push the extra threads into the center of my project after tying off (most people sew their threads in, this is just a preference of mine).  The rubber coating that I love on these hooks does not allow for me to pop the yarn through the stitches.

 

With so many hooks on the market, it may take time to find a version you love.  I suggest to try as many different hooks as possible to find the right fit for you.  It is important to note the pros and cons of each type of hook when making your decision.

Happy crocheting!

Tuesday Tips: Jogless Stripes

By far, one of my favourite things to crochet lately is Amigurumi.  I love these cute little

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Amigurumi with colour changes, crocheted in the round.

characters!  There are so many patterns and unique creations to make.  As a creator – and perhaps a bit of a perfectionist,  one of the most frustrating things about amigurumi is making stripes that join uniformly.  As you may remember from my first amigurumi post, these characters are created in the round, meaning there is not visible beginning or end to rows.  While this technique makes your creation seamless, it creates a distinct disjoint when changing colours.

The solution to avoid the jagged stripe look is a technique called Jogless Stripes.  Although it does not create a perfectly symmetrical stripe line, it is very close.

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Amigurumi with colour changes, crocheted using the Jogless Stripe Technique.

Simple manipulation of the stitches can create the desired jogless stripe. Crochet Ever After has an excellent instructional video on creating jogless stripes in single crochet.  It is definitely one of the best videos I have seen on the subject: easy to follow and an easy technique to master.

Amigurumi Introduction

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One of the first things I taught myself to crochet was an amigurumi cupcake – I have never been one to start with a simple project, and I thought a cupcake would be fitting to go with the name I was crafting under.  I have come a long way since that little cupcake (please excuse the dust on the top, she has been sitting on a shelf above my desk for almost eight years now).

If you are unfamiliar with Amigurumi, it is simply the term used for the art of the creation of small stuffed crochet or knitted creatures and/or dolls.  The term is derived from two Japanese words: ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll.

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Generally, crochet amigurumi are constructed using a very small crochet hook (usually ranging in size from 2.5mm to 4mm).  The smaller and more complex the creation, the more difficult it is to prefect. Amigurumi are created using a single crochet stitch and are done in the round.  This term refers to the fact that the “rows” are worked into a circle and are not joined with a slip stitch – there is no visual beginning or end to a round so a stitch marker and/or counting stitch method is necessary to keep track of where you are in the pattern.  I promise you, it really is not as confusing as it sounds.  The Crochet Guru on YouTube has an excellent tutorial for crocheting in the round.  We will dive into more amigurumi tips and techniques in future posts.

Embellishments are also an important part of amigurumi.  Safety Eyes (or buttons) are required for facial features.  I purchase mine on Etsy – there are so many bulk crafting shoppes there to chose from.  Embroidery floss is also often used to create facial features or to shape the ami’s face.  Felt is a great media to use for creating clothing for your creations.  Pipecleaners are another item that is frequently used in the creation of amigurumi to produce poseable limbs.

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When using embellishments, you must be sure to keep your target customer in mind.  For example, if you are creating toys for small children, buttons and safety eyes are not the best choice as they may be a choking hazard, alternatively, you will have to stitch facial features on.  Also, the use of felt and pipecleaners makes your ami unable to be washed…  if you are creating toys for small children, parents may request that the toys be washable, so you will need to get creative in how you make your characters.  Washing has never been a concern for my amigurumi as the majority of them are created for collectors and are not used for toys.

There are hundreds of adorable amigurumi patterns available online, both free and for purchase.  Regardless of which patterns you choose, always try to add a modification to make your creation unique… change up the colours or make a small addition.  I frequently add additional facial features or use a sewing technique to shape faces.  But note – regardless of the addition of modifications, this does NOT make a pattern your own, copyright is still maintained by the pattern author.

Have you created amigurumi of your own?  I would love to see them!  Comment below or share them on twitter.

Happy crocheting!