Friday, April 22, 2016

The Basics of the Basics

It doesn't matter if you've been crocheting for fifteen years or fifteen minutes - the basics are the foundation to every project and no one is immune to using them.

Today I am going to demonstrate how to do the following:


How to Chain:

First, make a loop out of the yarn where you want to start crocheting.
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Next, pull one strand of the yarn through the loop and pull so it creates a closed loop. This is called a "slip knot." No masks or heavy music required.
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Now comes to crochet hook. Insert the hook into the loop and pull on the strands so the loop tightens around it - pull it until the loop is tight enough so it doesn't slip off easily but it can still slide along the shank of the hook.
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This is where the actual crocheting begins. Are you ready? You "grab" the yarn with the hook and pull it through the loop. This pushes the former stitch down with the newest one now being the only loop on the hook.
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And that is it! That is seriously all there is to chaining as far as steps.

You can just keep going... and going... and going... and going...
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It is important to note, however, that how loose or tight you pull the yarn through - how big the loop is around your crochet hook determines the tension of your project. The more yarn in your loop, the larger the gaps in between stitches. The less yarn, the tighter. Each person finds their own natural tension, which is entirely normal. It is key, however, to strive for a balance between too tight and too loose - the former can make it difficult to insert the hook into stitches, putting unnecessary stress on the yarn, your hook, and most importantly, your own body. The latter creates limp work where patterns are not easily visible, the stitches have large gaps in between, the individual threads snag easily, and can eat your yarn stash up. There are more drawbacks to the extreme ends of the tension spectrum, but I won't continue ranting. Find a natural flow in your body when you chain and work from there - once you make a few rows, you'll find out which side you lean towards the most.

As someone who originated as a knitter and became a crocheter, working on my tension was by far the most difficult aspect of crocheting. I finished simple scarf as my first project and by my second project, I had found my rhythm. So while this cornerstone is most often deemed the toughest part of learning to crochet, do not let it intimidate you!

How to Turn:

The blue Vs (or "y") are stitches - each pair is one stitch, as noted by the yellow circle around one pair.

So when you are counting your stitches, no matter the row, if you look at your work from the "top" of the row you just completed, these Vs will always show up. Think of the blue v pairs, and count them to know how many stitches are in the row.

Pop quiz: Looking at the picture above, how many stitches are in that chain?

**"Jeopardy" theme plays softly in background**

The correct answer should be ten! If you got eleven, make sure you do not count the loop at that is currently on the hook. That is not a stitch. That is a loop. That is a little child hoping to grow into a stitch one day, should you deem it worthy.

When turning, you need to know what stitch you're going to start with in the next row. This is because, when you "turn" your work so you can go back the way you just came, you will have all sorts of wonky-looking sides that are not in a straight line unless you chain before starting the new row. So if you want a scarf to not be a super skinny long rectangle and instead a wibbly-wobbly mess, then do not chain. You're weird.

The stitch you will do in the next row dictates how many extra chains you need to do in the foundation or how many you need to tack on the row below before turning your work around.

In US terms:

Single Crochet - one chain
Half-Double Crochet - two chains
Double Crochet - three chains (or two, if you prefer)
Treble Crochet - four chains (or three, if you prefer)

Am I confusing you yet? Let's set up an example:

Let's say I have just finished chaining how many stitches wide I want it to be. Twenty stitches. No more, no less, so I chained twenty.

The pattern calls for the first row to be done in single crochet. 
What do I do?

I chain one more before starting the first row. That makes the foundation have twenty-one stitches but one of those is going to roll up to create the side of the work. So, my work will still be, when all is said and done, twenty-stitches.

Okay, now let's change it up. I chained once, single-crocheted into each stitch for the first row and now I'm at the end of it. The pattern says I am to double crochet in the next row.
What do I do?

I chain three times (or just twice) at the end of the second row, turn my work, and begin double crocheting.

When you turn the work and make the first stitch of the next row, do NOT stitch into the chains you just created unless your pattern expressly tells you so. When you crochet, you crochet from the top - you pull the yarn through the top of the row below and bring it up back to the hook. The chains at the end of each row form a bond between the two rows so you can always start at an appropriate distance away from the row below. You only want to stitch into the actual stitches of the work - the chains on the sides are there for support only.

And that's all there is to chaining and turning! Those are the first two steps used in crocheting. My next post will cover the single crochet step and how to end a row. I hope this helps and please let me know if you have any questions!

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