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

jogging1

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.

jogging2

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.

Tuesday Tips: Priming Cutting Mats

One of the most important accessories with any Cricut machine, is the cutting mat.  These mats – which are colour coded and have varying degrees of tackiness are used to hold your project material while the machine cuts/scores/writes the designs.

MatsWhen I first opened my Cricut Explore Air 2, I bubbled with excitement.  I didn’t bother to attempt the practice project that came with my bundle.  After all, I had been watching YouTube videos of unboxings, tutorials and projects for weeks.  I wanted to dive right in!  I wanted to make a shirt!  I slapped a relatively design up in the Design Space – but the cautious crafter in me thought it would be best to test the design with cardstock before using my Heat-Transfer Vinyl (Also known as Iron-On).

Turns out my hesitation paid off…  I forgot to mirror my image – a necessary step for using any Heat-Transfer Vinyl.  Rookie mistake.  I also discovered the importance of de-tacking or priming your Cricut mat – especially if you will be doing a lot of paper crafting.  Even though I was using the Standard Grip Mat, the cardstock was difficult to remove and the process actually destroyed my test project.

 

Using the Correct Mat for Your Project

  • Light Grip Blue Mat: This mat is intended for scrapbook paper, vellum, crepe, and tissue paper.  In Other words – thin materials.
  • Standard Grip Green Mat: Depending on your main projects, this will likely be your main mat.  It is used for cardstock, vinyl, heat-transfer vinyl and any other mid-weight materials.
  • Strong Grip Purple Mat: One of the more heavy duty mats that is used for  thick cardstock, glitter cardstock, poster board, leather, felt, backed fabric and any other heavy materials.  I have not yet used this mat for any projects,
  • Fabric Grip Pink Mat: Fabric, felt, leather (do not cut paper or vinyl using this mat). This mat is designed to be used with the new Cricut Maker.

It is important to note that not all Cricut machines will cut all project mediums.  The Cricut Maker is necessary for the most variety in projects, as it has the capability of using various blades.

 

Priming Your Mats Before Use

Learn from my mistakes… prime or detack your mats before using cardstock or making paper crafts.  The process is quite simple – remove the plastic protective sheet from your mat (set this aside, as you will want to reapply it after each project to protect your mat from dust, pet hair and other possible household contaminants that may transfer to your projects).  Using a clean piece of fabric or a shirt, press it onto the mat.  Remove the fabric and repeat the process a few times.  And that’s it – your mat is now primed.  I also suggest using a separate mat for paper crafts that has been primed/detacked more – this is by no means a requirement, it is just my own personal preference.

Tuesday Tips: Colour Changes

One of the most important techniques to master in crochet is colour changes.  Perfecting this technique is especially important when crafting amigurumi.  Ideally you want to make changes without the use of slip knots or tying off of yarns.

Although I will be explaining this technique using a single crochet, the result can be achieved using any stitch.  The important thing to remember is that in order to initiate a colour change you must not fully complete the stitch prior to the change.

Begin your single crochet stitch as you normally would with Colour A.  Insert your hook and pull up a loop.  You will now have 2 loops of Colour A on your hook.  At this point you would normally yarn over to complete your single crochet but in order to switch colours, you must complete the yarn over using Colour B.  Pull the new colour yarn through to complete the stitch.  Your next single crochet will be continued using Colour B.

For those of you that are visual learners, Planet June has a wonderful video tutorial on completing this technique in the round for amigurumi and the Crochet Guru has a tutorial on changing colours at the end of a row.

Colour changes really are one of the simplest but most important techniques to master in the art of crochet.