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Tips & Tricks: Crochet Cheat Sheet
Crochet can be confusing for a newer crocheter. Terminology and techniques vary from pattern to pattern or even designer to designer. Below are a few tips and tricks for common questions I’ve encounter from customers and followers. I hope this will eliminate some confusion and help you out. I know it is a long post, but it is broken down into sections, because my intent is that you bookmark this page and use it as a resource when you have specific questions. At the end of the post I’ve also given you links to some of my favorite resources and a Cheat Sheet PDF you can download for easy reference! Now let’s get started!
Anatomy of a stitch!
There are five basic crochet stitches and the combination of these (or slight variations on these) will create endless texture and design possibilities. Most patterns are written in either US or UK terms and the names of the stitch is usually different (except for chain and slip stitch). Below is a description of each stitch and its common use, for purposes of this post I’m referring to US Terms only, however, the photo and chart above provide both US and UK terms.
The chain stitch (ch) is the start for most crochet worked in rows and often used to create the starting chain (also known as foundation chain) for many projects. It can also be used within a design as a stitch on its own.
To work a chain, start with a slip knot, insert the hook in the loop, working from back to front yarn over the hook and pull through the loop. Repeat as many times as necessary to create a chain in the desired length.
The slip stitch (sl st) is like a chain in a chain and can be used to join crochet, to move to another point in your work without adding a taller (more noticeable) stitch or in combination with other stitches to provide a look of its own.
To work a slip stitch, insert hook from front to back in designated stitch, working from back to front, yarn over the hook and pull a loop through the chain AND the loop on your hook (1 loop left on hook).
The single crochet (sc) is the basic building block for all crochet stitches and the others are created by some variation of this stitch. It produces a dense, sturdy fabric and often used as the main stitch within a project. It it also used to finish an edge, such as a border around a neckline or around a blanket.
To work a single crochet, insert hook from front to back in designated stitch, working from back to front, yarn over the hook and pull a loop through the stitch (2 loops on hook), yarn over again and pull loop through the last two loops on the hook (1 loop left on hook). To move from one row/round to another, chain 1 to get the height and start your next sc in the same stitch as the chain 1.
The half double crochet (hdc) is a solid stitch used on its own or in conjunction with other stitches to develop texture and/or gradual height changes. This stitch has a tendency to lean to one side when worked in the round and generates a diagonal seam line in projects such as hats. This tutorial will help you avoid the slanted seam! To move from one row/round to another, chain 2 to get the height and start your next half double crochet in the next stitch (the chain 2 is equal to a half double crochet).
To work a half double crochet, yarn over hook, insert hook from front to back in designated stitch, working from back to front, yarn over the hook and pull a loop through the stitch (3 loops on hook), yarn over again and pull loop through all loops on the hook (1 loop left on hook). To move from one row/round to another, chain 2 to get the height and start your next half double crochet in the next stitch (the chain 2 is equal to a half double crochet).
The double crochet (dc) is probably the most commonly used stitch. It is tall enough to make it a good choice for many projects and it has a slight textural look when worked in groupings. It can be worked in many different variations to create more interesting looks, such as shells and clusters.
To work a double crochet, yarn over hook, insert hook from front to back in designated stitch, working from back to front, yarn over the hook and pull a loop through the stitch (3 loops on hook), yarn over again and pull loop through two loops (2 loops on hook), yarn over once more and pull through the last two loops on hook (1 loop left on hook). To move from one row/round to another, chain 3 to get the height and start your next double crochet in the next stitch (the chain 3 is equal to a double crochet).
The treble or triple crochet (tr) is the tallest stitch commonly used. It’s similar to the double crochet in look, but has a looser, lanky feel when worked in groupings and can tend to open and create gaps — sometimes this is the desired look and perfect within a design.
To work a treble crochet, yarn over hook twice, insert hook from front to back in designated stitch, working from back to front, yarn over the hook and pull a loop through the stitch (4 loops on hook), yarn over again and pull loop through two loops (3 loops on hook), yarn over again and pull loop through two loops (2 loops on hook), yarn over once more and pull through the last two loops on hook (1 loop left on hook). To move from one row/round to another, chain 4 to get the height and start your next treble crochet in the next stitch (the chain 4 is equal to a treble crochet).
Normally we work stitches in the spot just below the two top loops of a stitch (that form a V). A post stitch is simply a regular stitch (usually a double or treble crochet) worked around the post of another stitch instead of the normal spot. This action causes the stitch to stand out from the fabric and is a wonderful way to create texture. Very often this stitch is used to create ribbed fabric, relief designs and for cables.
To work a front post stitch, insert hook around the stitch being worked from front to back and then back to front (the post will be in front of your hook), continue with stitch as normal.
To work a back post stitch, insert hook around the stitch being worked from back to front and then front to back (the post will be in back of your hook), continue with stitch as normal.
When working post stitches the top of the post is skipped since the stitch is worked AROUND the post.
Crochet patterns may be written in long hand language or depicted as a visual representation in a chart with symbols (and sometimes both). In a chart the rows/rounds are shown stitch by stitch using a standard set of symbols to represent the stitches. These symbols are universal and make it easy to read a crochet pattern in any language. In addition, since the symbols are intended to be a rough sketch of each stitch, you can get a visual representation of what the pattern design will look like even before you start crocheting. For a list of standard symbols please refer to The Craft Yarn Council. and Red Heart has a nice guide on how to read them.
Why is gauge important you ask? Well it’s not if you don’t care what size your project ends up being! I was once asked by a new crocheter “Why are there so many different hook sizes, why do you need more than one?”. Well the reason is that different yarns require different hook sizes to work comfortably. The combination of yarn, hook and crocheter tension is what causes the same set of instructions to result in a different size and look in a finished project. Always make a gauge swatch with your specific materials and compare to the gauge stated in the pattern. Make adjustments to yarn, hook to meet it as stated. If you’d like to learn more about gauge, this post on my website might be of interest.
Are you working Flat or in the Round?
Projects that are worked in rows are said to be worked flat – think scarf, most blankets, dishcloths, etc. Projects that are worked from the center or from a long chain that is joined to form a big circle, are said to be worked in the round – hats, ponchos, infinity scarves, etc. Patterns generally start in one of two ways, either with a foundation chain of some sort, in which you will work your stitches or from a center circle.
- Working Into A Center Circle – there are three basic ways you can work from a center circle:
(2) Make a Chain Circle – Chain a foundation chain, this can be as few as 4 for something like a hat or granny square, or many more such as for the bottom of a sweater. Join to the first chain to form a circle. Chain the required number of chains for the height of your pattern stitch and work all of those stitches in the center of the circle. When you are done, join to the first stitch to complete the first round.
(3) Make a Magic Circle – The Magic Circle is a good start if you want a tighter center hole, since it allows you to pull the loose end of the yarn as tightly as you like. You start with a loose circle, pull the yarn through with your hook and make a chain stitch to lock the loop in place. Chain the required number of chains for the height of your pattern stitch and work all of those stitches in the center of the loose circle. When you are done, join to the first stitch to complete the first round and pull the yarn tail tightly to close the loop. Secure in place carefully as this loop can pull out easily!
- Working Into The Foundation Chain
So you start a foundation chain and the pattern calls for a stitch in 2nd chain from the hook. You locate that chain and proceed to insert your hoo…..not so fast! Did you notice that the chain actually has 3 loops in which you can insert your hook? That’s right, there is a top loop, bottom loop and the back loop, often called the back bump. The look of the finished item will change depending upon where you insert your hook for your first row of stitches. Everyone has their favorite of course and mine is the back bump. The reason for this is that it gives a smoother, sturdier more finished looking edge to the first row.
Working Front, Back or Third Loops!
OK, now you are cruising along. You know your stitches, chose a pattern, checked your gauge and decided if you are working into a foundation chain or from the center. You are happily on your way with your project, suddenly, the pattern calls for you to work in the back loop only (BLO), huh? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. You see, normally, stitches are worked under the two loops or (V) of the stitch in the previous row/round, but working into only one of those loops will give you a different look and designers often use the different loops to create a certain look. So just pay attention to where the designer wants you to place your stitches, normal placement, front or back loop.
To confuse matters, sometimes a pattern will call for you to crochet in the “third” loop. Well, what’s that? The third loop is created on taller stitches (not single crochet) and can be seen as a horizontal bar in the back of the stitch, directly below the V formed the top of each stitch. The photo below depicts this using a half double crochet stitch, but it is evident in double crochet and treble as well.
As shown below, the look of the fabric varies based on which loop you work in. Each of these swatches was worked with the same hook. The swatch was worked in the round using half double crochet, simply changing which loop each stitch was placed in.
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