What is Crochet?

Let's start with the basics - Find out all about crochet and how to get started!

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Crochet is a fab way to create your own clothes, accessories, toys, gifts and homewares. Unlike knitting which uses two needles, crochet requires just one hook, which is part of the reason it’s a fab craft to do while you’re on the go!

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Although knitting and crochet can be seen as craft sisters, there are big differences between the two! Crochet is particularly good for making 3D shapes, meaning making hats and toys is a lot simpler than knitting, where you would normally have to join pieces together or use more complicated techniques. Crocheted toys may also be referred to as amigurumi – if you want to know more check out our ‘What is Amigurumi’ guide.

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Crochet is fundamentally a knot-based craft, which makes it a bit more solid than knitted fabrics. Knitting stitches are more loop-based so you get a much more elasticated and stretchy fabric than crochet, but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other, they just have different qualities.

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The range of hook and yarn available to crocheters is now bigger than ever. Hooks come in metal, wood, bamboo and plastic, and people generally find they prefer one over the other. Crochet can be used with a wide range of yarns too, from delicate lace projects with incredibly fine threads, to super-chunky projects using 20mm hook and larger!

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Crochet has seen its popularity surge at various points in history, most notable after World War II when a focus on handicrafts and making your own clothes led to many people picking up the hook. It had another resurgence in the 60’s and 70’s with crocheters using bright colours and combining it with latest fashion trends, and then again in the early part of this century.

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Image ©https://www.etsy.com/shop/wonkyzebra/

It gets its name for the French word ‘crochet’ – literally meaning hook. Both crochet and knitting have a rich history, and although the stories and ancestry differ there is one common connection – fishing! Knitting has a well-known connection with sea-faring people, most notably in their thick fisherman jumpers (or gansey jumpers as they’re known). The patterns and stitches used in these jumpers were often customised by the maker, and served as a way of identifying sailors that may have lost their lives at sea. Crochet also has connections with the fishing industry, as it is believed that many a sailor would use the technique for repairing broken nets and making traps. Although this is a common story among the crochet community, defining a true origin of the craft is somewhat more difficult. There are various theories about where crochet was originated, from Arabia to China to South America, however we do know that the first known crochet pattern comes from a Dutch publication form 1823.

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Image ©Sheringham Museum.

If you’re interested in learning how to crochet but don’t know where to start, there’s plenty of ways for you to learn. You can check our our tutorials here, and we take you step-by-step with clear pictures and videos of how to do most basic stitches. There is also a huge crochet community online, and you can easily find many tutorial videos on youtube.

Another option is learning from books or magazines. Every issue of Simply Crochet comes with a crochet guide in the back of the magazine, and there are many books available specifically catering to beginners.

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But one of the best ways of learning is by going to a class or group, or getting a friend to show you. One of the trickiest parts for a new crocheter is understanding where to insert your hook, and it’s these sort of things that can deter a beginner – but you’ll find it so much easier if someone can show you! Most local yarn stores host classes or groups, or you can find a local group online (Ravelry is a great resource for this, you can sign up for free and search their forums for local groups and activity).