A complete guide to crochet for beginners

If you've never even picked up a crochet hook before, we'll take you through the basics in our beginners guide to crochet.

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If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to crochet, but don’t know where to start, then you’ve come to the right place! We’ve got lots of resources on crochet for beginners, but it can be quite difficult for complete novices to know what to look for. Which is why we’ve written this handy beginners guide to crochet – we’ll go through everything you need to know so that you can start hooking as soon as possible! We’ve written this guide in order of things you need to know all in one place, but you can click on the handy links in each section if you want more help on a specific part. You can also use the handy links below to jump to a specific part.

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What is Crochet?

The first place to start in our beginners guide to crochet has to be – what is crochet? Although many people associate crochet with knitting, there are some key differences. Most obviously, crochet is made with just one hook, rather that two needles. Crochet can be thought of as lots of different types of knots, whereas knitting is more like interlocking loops. Because of this, crochet fabrics tend to be more solid which makes them great for creating 3D shapes and motifs, and knitting has an elasticity and stretch to the final fabric which makes it perfect for socks and garments – although this is just a general summary, both crafts have a huge range of possibilities.

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Peter Rabbit & Friends Amigurumi collection, Simply Crochet issue 95

How to start crocheting

Well, the first place to start in our beginners guide to crochet is the tools you’ll need, fortunately it’s just three things – a crochet hook, some yarn, and eventually a pair of scissors (for when you’re finished). If you want to get stuck in straight away, we’d recommend a 4mm crochet hook and light coloured DK (double knit) acrylic yarn for beginners to start with, but if you want to find out more here’s our detailed guide on what you need to start crocheting.

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How to hold a crochet hook and yarn

Finding a comfortable way to hold your crochet hook and yarn can be one of the first stumbling blocks for beginners. Your stitches aren’t going to be perfect on your first attempt – they’ll either be far too tight (which makes it hard to pull loops through stitches) or far too loose (making it generally look a bit messy) – but finding a comfortable way of holding your hook will help with this.

There are two main ways that people hold their hooks – like how you hold a knife – or like how you hold a pen or pencil. It’s all about finding the method that feels most comfortable to you! To find the best method for you, check out our photo guide on how to hold your hook.

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It’s also worth us mentioning that if you’ve previously learnt how to knit, you might find you use neither of the main two methods and instead crochet in a way that resembles knitting, where you end up passing the hook between your two hands and physically wrapping the yarn around the hook. There’s nothing wrong with this method, but for crochet for beginners we’d generally advise to try and stick to the two main methods.

Most importantly, you want to be holding your hook roughly 3-5cm down from the tip of your hook, as this will give you the best level of control and room to put your stitches onto the hook.

How to tie a slip knot

It’s time to put the hook and yarn together. A slipknot is the start of every crochet project – it’s how you attach the yarn to the hook. Below you’ll find our handy video guide on how to make this simple knot, or you can check out our step-by-step photo guide on how to make a slipknot.

P.S. As this is such a fundamental step for starting any crochet project, you’ll never see it written at the start of a crochet pattern to make a slipknot.

How to chain crochet

Ok so you’ve sorted your slipknot – let’s get cracking! First you’re going to make what we call chain stitches. Although it’s not technically a stitch in the traditional sense of the word, it is perhaps one of the most important steps for making a piece of crochet. Chain stitches at their basic level are used for two things:

  1. To set the starting width of a piece of crochet (normally referred to as foundation chains)
  2. To set the height of your actual stitches (these will normally be referred to as turning chains – more on this below)

A chain is essentially made by wrapping the yarn around the hook (referred to as yarn over or YO), then pulling that loop through the loop that is already on your hook (from the slipknot on the first one). Below you’ll find our video on how to make a chain stitch below, but you can find our full step-by-step photo guide on  how to chain stitch and count your stitches.

Also… did you notice how in the video she’s wrapping the yarn around some of her fingers? This is a good technique for giving you more control and get a better tension to your stitches (how tight/loose they are). You can find out how to do this in our guide on how to hold your hook & yarn!

How to double crochet (in US terms, this is how to single crochet)

A UK double crochet stitch is the simplest and most basic of crochet stitches. It’s a very short, dense and solid stitch, great for things like soft toys and the perfect stitch to get started with!

First things first – why does it have a different name for those in the US than those in the UK? Just to make things more confusing, there are two different terminologies used in crochet – UK and US. This can prove difficult for beginners, but once you’ve got the hang of things you’ll be able to tell the difference straight away. We’ll come back to this later on when we look at abbreviations.

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Now, remember when we were starting with chains, we said we’d come back to tell you more about turning chains. When it comes to ‘actual’ stitches, like the double crochet stitch, you will need to make a turning chain at the start of each row of stitches. By doing this your hook is already at the correct height for your row of stitches, as you hook always starts and finishes as what will be the top of your next stitch (if you don’t do a turning chain your stitches will end up on a slant).

With UK Double crochet stitches, you will always need to make 1 turning chain at the start of each row to be your turning chain… but we’re not onto rows yet! So, if you’re following along, you’ll only have a length of normal foundation chains. To make your first double crochet stitch, skip the first chain that is closest to your hook (this will act as your turning chain), then make your double crochet stitch into the next chain along. The amount of turning chains you need for different stitches varies, but you will always be told how many chains to make in a crochet pattern.

Try following the video below and make a double crochet (dc) stitch, but if you’re struggling take a look at our full guide on how to make a double crochet stitch. In the video we’re working into an already completed row of double crochet stitches. If you’re just starting to work into your foundation chains, you can still look for the ‘V’ in your chains as a guide for where to insert your hook. Just place your hook through a V, so that you have two loops on the top of your hook and one on the bottom, then complete the stitch as instructed.

Top Tip: One of the great things about crochet is that if you make a mistake, it’s easy to undo it! Simply remove your hook from the work, and slowly pull the yarn to undo your stitches. Then once you’ve got past the bit where you made your mistake, you can just put your hook back into the loop and start again.

How to fasten off crochet

Once you’ve got the hang of your double crochet stitches, it’s time to finish – but how? This process if called fastening off – as the name suggests it’s done so that yarn can’t unravel and your stitches won’t come undone. Basically, at the end of a row cut the yarn leaving approx. 15cm, and then with your hook (or you can just loosen your loop and use your hands) pull this through the remaining loop on your hook. Pull this tight and that’s all there is to it – you’ve done your first piece of crochet! If you need any help with this, take a look at our step-by-step picture tutorial on how to fasten off and weave in your crochet ends.

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Crocheting in the round

In this guide we’re focussing on just getting you started, and doing a flat piece of crochet where you go back and forth is the simplest way to understand how crochet works. However, once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll quickly want to learn how to crochet in the round. This is how you make circular shapes, and is essential for lots of different types of projects, from toys to granny squares. If you fancy giving it a go, check out our guide on how to crochet work crochet stitches in the round.

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Types of Crochet Stitches

Now that we’ve got you hooked, there’s plenty more stitches for you to try! Crochet stitches come in a huge range of shapes, sizes and combinations, so here’s some quick definitions of some of the most common crochet stitches.

  • Chain Stitch

Chain stitches are used to set the width of a crochet project, but also used to create turning chains which allow for the height of your stitches. Chains can also be used by themselves for decorative effect in lace projects. Chains are simple to make, simply wrap the yarn around your hook and pull through the loop already on your hook. See above for our guide on how to make chain stitches, or check out the full tutorial on how to chain stitch and count your stitches.

  • Double Crochet Stitch (US Single Crochet Stitch)

Double crochet stitches are simple solid stitches that are the best stitch to start off with for crochet for beginners. See above for our guide on how to make double crochet stitches, or for step-by step photos see our guide on how to make a double crochet stitch.

  • Slip Stitch

Slip stitches are normally use for joining when working in the round in crochet, but can sometimes be used for decorative effect on edgings. To make a slip stitch, you insert your hook into the stitch, yarn round hook, then pull through all loops. For step-by step photos see our guide on how to make a slip stitch.

  • Treble Crochet Stitch (US Double Crochet Stitch)

A treble stitch is a tall stitch that is great for creating fabrics with a nice drape (that aren’t too stiff) – perfect for scarves and garments. A treble stitch is much like a double crochet stitch but just with an extra step. To make a treble crochet stitch, yarn around hook, insert hook into stitch, yarn round hook, pull through the stitch, yarn round hook, pull through 2 loops, yarn round hook, pull through remaining two loops. If you want more help with this check our our step-by-step photo tutorial on how to treble crochet

  • Half Treble Crochet Stitch (US Half Double Crochet Stitch)

Half treble stitches are somewhere in between a double crochet and treble crochet stitch. To make a treble crochet stitch, yarn around hook, insert hook into stitch, yarn round hook, pull through the stitch, yarn round hook, pull through all 3 loops on hook. If you want more help with this check our our step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make a half treble crochet stitch

  • Cluster stitches

Cluster stitches refer to groups of stitches worked into the same place, and can have different names depending on their construction and shape (for example, shell stitches or 4tr-clusters). If a crochet pattern requires cluster stitches, it will always tell you how to construct the cluster in the pattern.

  • Puff stitches

Like cluster stitches, puff stitches are all worked into the same place, however, rather than being a group of stitches they are stitches that are combined together to make a special textural stitch. For example, with a puff stitch it’s essentially 3 or 4 treble stitches, but when doing each of the treble stitches you miss off the final pulling through two loops, then once you’ve done all the stitches you pull through all of the remaining loops which joins all of the trebles together into one stitch.

  • Bobble Stitches

Bobble stitches are similar to puff stitches, except that they are used in crochet where the majority of your stitches are double crochet stitches. Because the bobble are created using treble stitches, this means that combined with the double crochet stitches they stick out a lot more to create the bobble effect.

Types of crochet yarn

Crochet and knitting yarns are essentially the same, but there are a few things for beginners to keep in mind when choosing a yarn. You will often see yarns referred to by weight, but this doesn’t mean how heavy they yarn is – it refers to the thickness of the yarn!

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Sock yarns or 4ply yarns are very popular with knitters, but for beginner crocheters they can be a little bit too fine. It’s better to start off with a double knitting (DK) or Aran weight yarn as these are of a medium thickness that will help you to see your stitches a bit more clearly. If you don’t have perfect eyesight or are trying to teach kids how to crochet, then you could try using a chunky yarn as your stitches will be nice and big, but just remember you’ll need to use a larger hook for these (normally around 5-6mm).

Yarns also come in a wide range of different fibres, and this some can prove particularly tricky for beginners. Our post on What are yarn weights and which yarn should I use goes into this in more detail, but here are some suggestions of good yarns to try if you’re just starting out.

Crochet essentials for beginners

As well as your yarn and hook, you’ll also need a good pair of scissors and a yarn needle (often called a tapestry needle). If you’ve really got the crochet bug, then there’s a few extra things you’ll want to add to your crochet kit. A tape measure is a must-have if you’re thinking about tackling a garment (not only to choose the right size but also for checking your tension). Once you start getting into more luxury yarns, you’ll find a swift and wool winder is essential to unwind your skeins of yarn (a skein is a essentially where the yarn is wound into big loops and then twisted, but if you try using it without unwinding it properly it won’t be long until you find yourself with a massive mess of knots).

You can find further information on the essential kit you need in our what do you need to start crochet beginners guide and you can also read our round-up of the best crochet hooks.

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And if you’ve well and truly fell in love with crochet, then you’ll also need quite a few different hook sizes! Buying a hook set is often the best solution for this, there’s a huge range of hook sets available and they normally include the most common sizes that you’ll ever need. If you fancy treating yourself to some new hooks and need a bit of inspiration, check out our guide to the top 10 luxury crochet hooks

How to read crochet patterns

At first glance a crochet pattern can seem pretty complicated, but if you break it down into chunks then you’ll realise it’s simpler than it looks. You can take a look at our full guide on how to read a crochet pattern, but for now let’s have a quick look at the common parts of a pattern:

You will need/material list

Here you’ll find the details of everything you need to make the project. As well as which size hook and yarn you need to use, this will also list any extra materials needed such as buttons/safety eyes, etc. Some things may not always be listed but taken for granted, such as a yarn needle or scissors.

Tension

Tension is the word we use for how loose or tight a piece of crochet is, and if you’re making anything like a garment then obviously this is very important to ensure that your crochet garment comes out the same size as the designers. If tension is important for the project, you will be given an instruction that reads something like this – “21 sts and 9 rows measure 10x10cm”. This gives you a guide for how big you need your crochet to be, if you follow the instructions and it’s smaller than 10x10cm, then you’d need to increase the size of hook that you’re using, and vice versa if it’s too big. Beginners don’t need to worry about this too much to start off with, but if you want to find out more take a look at our guide on how to get your tension right in crochet

Measurements

The measurements section will tell you the measurements for the completed project

Abbreviations

Crochet patterns use a huge range of abbreviations, some of which are obvious (stitches is shortened to sts), others may require some specific crochet knowledge (double crochet is shortened to dc, treble crochet is shortened to tr). If the pattern uses a special stitch the instructions will usually be included in the abbreviations section, and most good patterns will also include a list or link to a full list of abbreviations to help you out. You can find out more about abbreviations below.

Notes

Most patterns will start with a notes section, and it is VERY important that you read this carefully before starting on the project. The notes will tell you important details about how the pattern is made, for example, if it involves any construction, refers to any charts, if there’s different instructions for different sizes, specifics about how to read that particular pattern, etc.

Charts/Schematics

Depending on the project your pattern may also include one or more of the following charts:

Size chart – where you will be given the measurements of the completed project, then by choosing your size you will be told what instructions to follow). This will normally also be accompanies by a schematic showing you what area the measurements apply to

Colour chart – for if the project involves changing colours midway through a row

Stitch Diagram – These are used for particularly complicated patterns, and show you where exactly to place your stitches.

All of these different chart types are explained in our guide on how to read crochet charts

The Actual Pattern

The actual pattern is likely to be split into parts (unless it’s just one continuous piece of crochet that doesn’t require any piecing together of parts, for example a scarf). After reading the notes work through the pattern in order, making sure to pay attention to if you’re told to make a particular part multiple times. Some people like to keep some paper and pencil to hand to keep track of where they are in the pattern. It’s important to be aware that round brackets and asterisks are often used in patterns to indicate repeated sections, whereas square brackets are used for final stitch counts to know how many stitches you have made in total.

Understanding crochet abbreviations

Almost every crochet pattern uses abbreviations, as if they didn’t a simple pattern would end up being an awfully long piece of text. Many words are just shortened versions, for example, previous is prev, beginning is beg. But other abbreviations are more specific, for example, BPhtr means a Back Post half treble crochet stitch. For this reason, you’ll normally be provided with a list of abbreviations used – you can find all of ours here – Simply Crochet abbreviations and conversions.

It’s also quite common for crocheters to use terms that you may not be familiar with, for example, C2C (means corner to corner), or WS/RS (which means wrong side/right side, referring to which side of the crochet fabric you’re facing). You can find all of the most common ones in our glossary of crochet stitches and terms.

Crochet abbreviations, Uk to US crochet conversions and crochet symbols

Crochet patterns for beginners

Once you’ve learnt the basic stitches, it’s time to get started on some patterns. It might be tempting to throw yourself into a big project, but if you take on too much too soon it’s easy to get frustrated – better to start with some simple projects and progress gradually!

We’ve got loads of free crochet patterns for you to try (here’s a link to all of our free crochet patterns), but we’d recommend giving these one’s a go if you’re completely new to crochet as they’re relatively simple and only use the stitches we’ve covered in this guide.

Free Crochet Rainbow Flag Pencil Topper Pattern

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Free Super-Sweet Crochet Bow Pattern

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Free Friendship Bracelet Crochet Pattern

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We hope this guide has helped you to get started crocheting, and remember you can find all of our tutorials on our how to crochet page, as well as checking out the rest of our free crochet patterns.