For today's second installment of our new How to Crochet series we are learning basic techniques and crochet stitches for getting started.  If you love the look of crochet (how could you not?) and are either a bit intimidated or intrigued by the concepts of yarn categories, pattern gauge and hook sizes we spoke of last week, I think it's best to learn by picking up some yarn and actually getting started! We’re going to talk about everything you need to begin: slip knots, chain stitches, single crochet, a turning chain and fastening off, which is the way you finish. I am also going to throw in a bonus of an easy pattern for a Sashay ruffled scarf that uses these basic techniques. **  Also, we are hosting a Red Heart Boutique ~ Sashay Crochet Giveaway! {squeal}  The Sashay is a brand new yarn that's so beautiful and fun to work with.

How to Crochet

I started crocheting as an adult, just seven years ago, and when I was trying to learn I just could not keep a straight face! I keep laughing at the awkwardness of my movements, the irregularity of my stitches and the lopsidedness of the hats I was trying to make! A fourteen year old was trying to teach me and I think she was trying not to laugh herself. It was fun and frustrating and I think it was also really good for my brain. How often do we try to learn something new? Seems we do a lot of that as children and then we stick to what we know. Don’t miss out! Give crochet a try and be patient with it if you feel frustrated. In time you will relax, your hands will develop muscle memory and make the repetitive movements without you thinking about it, and your stitches will become even and predictable.
When you are starting out it’s best to plan on doing a lot of practice. Pick a medium weight yarn (cat 4 or worsted weight) and medium sized hook (an “H” “I” or “J”) to play with. I would recommend yards and yards of chain stitches, which you can pull out and remake, and inches of single crochet rows. I wouldn’t recommend picking out a pattern and starting there. However, if you are like I am, in that you aren’t very fond of pure practice and instead need something to show for all the work, then think “washcloths.” Washcloths are a perfect practice project. You can work on the basic techniques we’ll review and end up with something for scrubbing dishes, or exfoliating your face. Cotton crochet washcloths are fantastic, a bit of a luxury actually, but they don’t need to be a specific size, gauge or perfectly square.
The ideal way to learn this craft is to sit down with someone who can teach you. The next best way to learn is to study videos and illustrations and try to imitate what you are seeing. There are some amazing video tutorials out there and it seems most crochet books and magazines include a good how-to section. I will illustrate a few things here, but to avoid having this installment go on and on, I’m going to point you towards more in-depth help. For starters, here is a great video tutorial from Red Heart that starts with a slip knot and walks you through the five basic stitches of crochet.

Basic Crochet Stitches

How To Crochet The Slip Knot

The Slip Knot

This is the way you secure your yarn to your hook to begin work. It also keeps the work you’re about to do from unraveling, which is important. There are a number of ways of fashioning the slip knot, it’s the same for knitting and crochet, and you will find the method that works best for you. I like to make a loop with the yarn in my right hand by lifting it with two fingers and twisting my fingers so the ends cross, then reaching through the loop I’ve got around my fingers to pinch one of the ends of the yarn and pull it through forming something like a noose. This video shows how. You can do the same thing with a crochet hook, shown here. You will place your crochet hook in the loop, or knot, you’ve formed and then pull the ends to tighten. You will form a slip knot over your hook to begin anything in crochet, and you will also use it when attaching a new skein of yarn in the middle of a project.

Holding The Yarn

If you are right handed, you will be holding the “working yarn” (as opposed to the short tail opposite) in your left hand, letting it pass through your fingers smoothly as you yarn over and pull it through the loops forming your stitches. Here are some illustrations for how to wrap the yarn around your fingers to control the tension, which will affect the gauge of your work. When you are beginning this craft the exact way you hold the yarn isn’t as crucial as getting comfortable with the actions; you will eventually find the way that works best for you.
how to crochet The Chain Stitch

The Chain Stitch

The chain stitch (abbreviated "ch") is the foundation all other stitches build on. At the beginning of every project you will form a chain of a specific length. The chain will either remain linear or be joined to form a loop for working in the round (something we’ll discuss in a couple weeks). It is simple to do and the hooking, turning and pulling-through actions you make are the fundamental movements of crochet. So practicing chain stitches is good exercise! Working with your slip knot around the neck of your hook, you bring the working yarn to the back of the hook, hook it or “yarn over,” and pull the yarn through the working loop on your hook. One chain completed! Click here for step by step photos. Before moving on to the crochet stitches, we need to talk about where you work into the chain stitch. It can be done a couple ways. When you are working into crochet stitches typically you insert your hook through both sides of the “v” formed at the top of the stitch. However, to create a specific pattern you will sometimes work into either the front loop or the back loop of this stitch. When you are working into a chain stitch you’ll have less to work with. You can insert your hook through one loop (I usually work into the back or top loop of the “v,” which is marked with the red pin in the photo below) or two (which is a bit more difficult). The important thing is to do it consistently.
One more thing (I know you are anxious to start crocheting but this will payoff, I promise!): patterns will direct you to insert your hook in the second or third chain from the hook. Here’s how to properly count those chain stitches: the loop on your hook doesn’t count, it’s the working stitch, and neither by the way does your slip knot at the beginning of the chain. The “v” next to your hook is the first chain from your hook. This illustration shows how you would insert your hook into the second chain from the hook.

Single Crochet

The great thing about crochet is that every stitch you make is based on the same actions you did when forming a chain stitch. so if you are feeling comfortable with the chain stitch you are most of the way there! Truly! The rest is just a matter of keeping track of the number of times you "yarn over" and pull the yarn through the working loop (or loops). The single crochet stitch (abbreviated “sc”) is worked by inserting your hook into your chain stitch, yarning over (by hooking the working yarn) and pulling it through, creating two loops on your hook, yarning over again and pulling it through both loops. You’ve just completed one single crochet. To work some more, insert your hook into the next chain stitch and repeat. You can find step by step illustrations here.

Turning Chain

When you come to the end of a row you are crocheting you typically turn your work and crochet back the opposite direction. As you turn, a “turning chain” lifts your first stitch so that the ends of the rows don’t start to get squished. A turning chain is simply a chain stitch that you work at the end of the row before turning. The number of chain stitches varies depending on the type of crochet stitch (single, double, half-double, or triple) you are working. A pattern will usually specify “chain 1” (abbreviated ch1) or “chain 2” (ch2) or whatever number is appropriate. It is typical to make a 1-chain turning chain when working single crochet.

Fastening Off

When you finish your work then comes the finishing! Knitting is “bound off” to finish it and keep it from unraveling. It’s a fun knit-like or purl-like action involving lifting and sliding off stitches. With crochet it’s simpler than that. You simply cut your working yarn a few inches long (enough to weave in easily), hook it, and pull it through you last loop. Remove your hook and pull the end of the yarn a bit to cinch. You’re essentially forming a knot at the end.

Weaving In

After fastening off you will have a tail of yarn hanging from the end of your work and one at the beginning where you formed your slip knot. You may have more yarn dangling in the middle of the work too if you joined a new skein or color of yarn. “Weaving in” these ends with a tapestry needle (a large needle with a more blunt point and large eye) will hide them in the work for a neater finish than knotting and clipping. Here is a great video illustrating the technique.
There you have it! These are the basics for getting started with crochet. With a little practice you'll be hooked and can easily make one of the inspiring projects pictured in this article, or even attempt a ruffled scarf with Sashay yarn. See my tutorial for that below and stay tuned for next week’s installment, which will cover more stitches: double crochet, half double crochet and triple crochet.

How to Crochet with the New Sashay Yarn

This is such a pretty lightweight scarf. I love all the ruffles. It's the perfect accessory thrown over a t-shirt in warmer months or worn with a jacket when it’s cooler. It is really simple to make too!
Materials: • 1 skein Red Heart Sashay yarn • J crochet hook • Needle and thread for finishing This specialty yarn creates ruffles with very little work. If you are comfortable making chain stitches and single crochet stitches you can use them to quickly create a scarf, just be aware that you’ll work with the yarn a bit differently. With a specialty yarn such as this your work is less about the look of the stitches—it is about using crochet to gather the yarn, forming ruffles, and securing them so they maintain their ruffled shape.
You’ll notice that this unique yarn looks like ribbon on the skein but is actually constructed similar to webbing. Before beginning take a good length of yarn off the skein and spread it out from the end about four inches. You’ll leave this “tail” for hand stitching down to your work later (a unique way of finishing rather than weaving in your ends). Place the part of the yarn with the metallic thread at the bottom and identify the first row of holes or loops across the top. This is where you’ll be working. Insert your hook in one of these holes about four inches from the end. This simple action takes the place of creating a slip knot.
Now you’ll skip the next hole/loop and insert your hook in the hole after that.
Pull this loop through the initial loop on your hook. You have just completed one chain stitch.
*Skip the next hole and insert your hook in the hole after that. Pull this loop through the loop on your hook.**
Repeat from * to ** until your work measures 80”.
Turn. You are going to work in single crochet on the opposite side, creating another set of ruffles. Keep the ruffles hanging down out of the way of your work.
To work your first single crochet insert your hook back into the first “hole” at the top of your work. (It’s difficult to see these little holes. They are at the top and you can see that the threads are more twisted than the ones below. The important thing is to work consistently to create the ruffles and don’t worry too much about it as your actual stitches won’t be visible.).
As you are hooking the working yarn continue skipping holes as you did with the beginning chain.
Repeat single crochet stitches until you reach the end of the chain and the beginning tail. Cut the yarn creating another 4” tail. Place a stitch holder or safety pin in the loop left on your hook so it doesn’t slip off and begin to unravel.
Lay the yarn ends on top of each other and knot them together with needle and thread in one of the holes close to the raw edge.
Now weave the thread through holes along this raw edge and cinch the thread to gather a bit.
Take the thread and insert it through the last loop of your work, removing the safety pin/stitcholder. Make a few stitches securing the raw edges to the end of your work. Tie off off your thread and you are finished! Throw it around your neck and enjoy the light weight ruffles!
Step 1: How To Crochet: Introduction to this Fabulous Craft Step 2:  Basic Crochet Stitches and a Ruffled Scarf Pattern
Annelise Anneliese shares her creative, authentic, and inspiring creations at Aesthetic Nest.  She is driven to beautify the space around her, and has a knack for creating gorgeous, original items that enhance her space.  At Aesthetic Nest, you'll find a creative journal where Anneliese showcases things she makes including sewingknittingcrochetcookingpainting (not often enough), room decorating, and party designing.
?I'm so honored that Coats & Clark ~ Red Heart Yarn is sponsoring this post as well as the Sashay Yarn giveaway. If you would like more information about the Sashay yarn, check out this video Learn how to knit With Sashay from Red Heart Yarns.