I started learning to crochet in September 2017, some 16 months ago.
To many, this would be no big deal. However to me, it is astonishing.
What is crochet?
Crochet is the process of hooking thread or yarn to create fabric. The word crochet is French for hook. Crochet may have started as long ago as 1500 BC, when crochet hooks would have been made from sticks, bone or pieces of metal. It is said that crochet became elevated to an art form in England when Queen Victoria learned to crochet. And even more so when I did. (Not really).
Why didn’t I learn knitting, crochet or dressmaking earlier?
I come from a long line of accomplished knitters, crocheters and sewers. My Mum could, it seemed to me, make anything she put her mind to. In no time flat. Her Mum, my Nan, tended to stick to knitting, but boy could she knit. Her Mum, my Great Grandmother who passed away before I was born, was a keen sewer.
I remember handmade jumpers appearing in my room in my childhood and teens. Some I was keen on, some (to my shame now) not so much. I had literally no concept of how long it must have taken someone to make that for me, I didn’t give it a second thought. Knowing what I know now, that makes me a bit sad.
But it was what it was. I remember the late 70s and early 80s as being a time when homemade wasn’t exactly the coolest thing ever. Not when you were a teenager anyway. Though I do remember asking for one or two garments specifically, and either Mum or Nan being happy to make them for me.
I’ve been trying to work out why I didn’t think about learning to crochet until recently. Without getting too deep about this, I really do think there was an element of believing what I made would never be very good. I was rubbish at sewing in domestic science at school, and I hated it. Meanwhile my Mum’s work was truly extraordinary, she had such talent.
Plus of course, you can factor in inherant laziness. Why bother learning when your Mum can make anything you want at the drop of a hat?
So whilst I attempted to learn to knit and crochet a couple of times, I had no patience. And if I’m honest, my heart definitely wasn’t in it. Mum and Nan threw up their hands and quickly gave up trying to teach me, and I can’t blame them. I would be lying if I didn’t say I would feel relieved to get back to listening to records in my room. Or whatever it was I was doing before the internet had even been thought of.
Why crochet, rather than knitting or sewing?
In recent years, Crochet became the craft that appealed to me the most. I blame Pinterest and Instagram. All those wonderful images of cool, on-trend crocheted accessories and blankets. I yearned to be able to make those beautiful things myself. But as someone who literally had no idea about crafts of any kind, I didn’t know where to start.
To this day, I have no interest in learning to knit. However I suddenly find myself to be the proud owner of an old Singer Treadle Sewing Machine. So you can never say never.
How did I learn to crochet in the end?
I paid for a one day beginner’s crochet course, but I didn’t really ‘get it’. By the time I got home that night, it felt like I didn’t remember anything I’d learned that day.
Then I heard about classes in our local shop: Heathfield Crafts. Instead of trying to get going in one day, it was 2 hour classes spread over a number of weeks. Another Mum from school had gone along and successfully learned (having been taught by one of the teaching assistants in our sons’ primary school!). So I signed up, without much hope that Mrs Wells – as I still insist on calling her – could succeed where others had failed.
But I was wrong.
What have I made?
In just over a year I have made many things. Blankets, scarves, flannels, bags, spa sets, earrings, cowls, christmas decorations, a wall hanging, a cushion, a belly warmer. Then latterly, and to my enormous pride, a proper grown-up cardigan.
Some of these were gifts for other people. Most of them were for me, or for around our home.
The kick I get when I think ‘I could do with a bag for my iPhone’ and then make one myself is enormous. Largely because I never, ever, EVER thought I would be able to do it.
How would I recommend a complete novice to learn crochet?
I know people who have learned from YouTube. There are some fantastic teachers on there, like Sarah Jane at Bella Coco. If you are the sort of person that is good at teaching yourself, YouTube is brilliant.
I did attempt to learn at home to begin with. My patience with myself quickly began wearing thin. I felt I needed to learn from someone face to face. Hence signing up to attend crochet lessons once a week. Check in your area to see whether there is anyone offering crochet classes. If you have no craft shops nearby, try websites like Craftcourses who offer all sorts of classes all around the country.
You never stop learning of course. And the wonderful thing about learning something new in 2019 is you have YouTube as back-up. Once I’d grasped some of the basic principles of crochet, I went back to YouTube to remind myself how to do something. And I still do. It is particularly helpful when, say, I want to make a C2C (corner to corner) blanket and, yet again, cannot remember how to start.
I also go along to the shop for a weekly crochet gathering whenever I can, to have a chat and get advice from more experienced crocheters. You might be thinking ‘there’s nowhere around here like that’. Well there might not be. But then again: there might be. Do check.
As someone who had no interest and no clue about crafts until recently, it’s amazing what you suddenly start noticing on your doorstep when you become tuned into a subject in which you had no interest before.
What are the benefits of crochet?
As well as making lovely new things to wear and for around the home, crochet is believed to have health benefits. It has been particularly linked to mindfulness. That, it is said, is because you are focused on a calming, repetitive movement when you crochet which is soothing and relaxing. Meditative, almost. A number of books have been published on the subject, which contain specific projects to aid relaxation. One such book is Crochet Therapy by Betsan Corkhill. Betsan Corkhill is a physiotherapist and well-being coach.
I also love the fact that crochet is so portable.
You can crochet anywhere. Including on a cross-Channel ferry.
I have crocheted all over the place since I learned how to do it. At the beach, on the train.
And when there are delays on long journeys, as there sometimes are, it helps me to zone out and not get anxious about arriving late. I had a mini health scare last year which was nothing to worry about, as it turned out. I took my crochet along and crocheted in the waiting room and it really helped.
What do I need to get started?
You absolutely don’t need to pay for a course to learn to crochet.
If you have access to YouTube, your start-up costs will be minimal. You will need a ball of wool and a crochet hook basically. When I first started, I bought those crochet sets with loads of cheap hooks in a wallet you see everywhere on Ebay. Then when I went to the crochet classes, people were kind enough to share their hooks around so we could try different ones. Because they all feel slightly different.
It was then I realised I preferred working with a particular kind of hook above all the others. They cost a little more, but they don’t feel ‘scratchy’ when I crochet and I love working with them. I then ended up getting rid of all the hooks I’d bought to begin with, which was a bit of a waste.
So I would recommend buying a decent set.
My hooks of choice are Clover Soft Touch Crochet Hooks. I like the way they feel in my hand and I can crochet really smoothly with them . We’re all different, so your chosen hooks may end up being another type in the end. But these are a great start. And you’ll probably use sizes 4 and 4.5 the most to begin with. You will find them in all good craft shops.
In terms of getting started with wool: one ball is all you need to learn. At crochet class we use Special DK (double knit), a brand of yarn which is good quality, well priced and available in a million colours. You can of course buy Special DK online, though it’s difficult to really know how the colours will look and how they go together without seeing them yourself. So do go along to your local craft shop to see the true life colours and feel the textures. That really helps when you’re planning a project, and the shop will be able to help you. When I wanted to make a Dr Who scarf for my Step Mum for Christmas, I popped into Heathfield Crafts. They kindly (and very patiently, I may add!) helped me to match the colours in a Tom Baker scarf photograph to the colours in Special DK.
Oh and by the way. Nobody calls it ‘wool’ anymore like your Mum did. They call it yarn. Who knew?
So grab yourself a crochet hook and a ball of Special DK. I recommend Stylecraft Special DK in Silver Grey, but that’s because I’m obsessed with crocheting grey things. Special DK comes in many other colours. Get a cup of tea, sit yourself in front of YouTube and you too could be making your own clothes very soon.
If you don’t believe it, you have to trust me when I say: I didn’t believe it either. But if you want to learn something enough, you will. I have a friend who is self taught from YouTube and has made all sorts of lovely things.
It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, and the time is right.
[This post may contain links to our webshop and affiliate links to other shops. If you click on them, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Find our disclosure policy here. ]
PIN FOR LATER LINK: http://bit.ly/2EFpka1
for special offers, news, hints & tips for making your own everything [with no spam ever].