Self-taught crochet artist. I've made things from beanies to change purses to sweaters.
I work at Joann Fabrics, so I get the privilege to talk to a lot of crafty people, oh, and also people who make cool stuff. And so often when I mention that I crochet people tell me they can’t crochet. When I ask the usual reason is that they couldn’t figure out the chain stitch.
The chain stitch... the very first stitch you learn.
This hurts my little amigurumi heart. Not because I don’t understand, the chain stitch itself is easy, it’s the row after that’s probably what got them. It’s confusing and weird and plenty frustrating. What bothers me is that everything else in crochet is so much easier by comparison. The first part is the hardest thing you’ll learn until you start getting into the advanced stuff, like crocheting circles and fancy stitches.
So to help prevent all those incredible crafters from giving up in the very beginning, here’s a simple guide to the hardest part crochet.
Step 1: Getting that piece of string on your crochet hook... somehow.
The ‘slip knot’ is the very first skill you’ll learn. It isn’t a stitch, just a method for tying your yarn onto your hook without it looking weird. It’s an adjustable knot and later on, it’s repurposed into a magic circle if you do it the right way. So it’s flexible, and just super useful.
Wrap the end of the yarn around your hand one time crossing it and holding it down with your thumb.
Slide the crochet hook under the rightmost thread to grab the left with the hooky bit: pull the left thread under the right. This creates a loop.
Make the loop pretty big before you take your hand out and then pull the loop and the two dangling threads to tighten the knot. To adjust the size of your knot just pull the two dangling strings. You’ll want it tight around your hook to begin the next step. But for now, go ahead and pull it all the way to remove the knot entirely and try again. Repetition is the best way to learn so make a few more slipknots until you no longer need to look at the pictures and the motion feels more natural.
Here’s a video in case the pictures aren’t clear enough.
Step 2: The deceptively easy chain.
Now that you’ve got a knot on your hook it’s time to chain. If you’re just practicing you’ll only need a few chains, but you’re probably looking to make something awesome, so your pattern will tell you how many to make. The chain itself is super easy. But the next part is rough so for your first few projects make sure your chain is loose. Don’t pull it tight at any point, maybe even make your loops a little extra loose by pulling on them, trust me it’ll make things easier later. Sometimes, if I’m working with a difficult yarn, I’ll even go up a hook size, just for the chain, to make things easier on me later.
First, wrap your yarn (make sure you’re not grabbing the tail end) around the hook from back to front.
Then you grab the yarn with the hook and pull it through your loop.
TADA you’ve made a chain. The rest of the chain is the exact same thing over and over. Here’s a video.
Step 3: The truly hard part, but we'll make it not so bad.
Depending on the stitch you’re doing in the next row you will have to chan a few extra links. Your pattern should tell you how many but the general consensus is one for a single crochet row, 3 for a double which are the two most common stitches you’ll be using. Right now we’ll be doing a double since I find it’s more common.
So what you’re going to do is go back to the technical end of the chain, ignoring the extra stitches. Since this is a double crochet pattern we’re going to the fourth chain from the hook. Do not count the loop currently on your hook, you count only the already chained loops.
Technically we’re supposed to go through both loops on the chain, but this is your first chain, and we want to make this as easy as possible so we’re just going to grab one loop. This is called a back post stitch, and it’s only really noticeable if it’s done in the middle of your work.
Keeping that in the back of our mind, yarn over one more time (back to front again) push your hook through one loop in the fourth chain back.
Grab your yarn again wrapping it around from front to back and pulling it through the loop.
Turn your hook so the hook part faces down and slide it through the first two loops.
Yarn over again so there are three loops on the hook again. Angle the hook down and pull it through the last two loops. We’re back to one lonely loop on your hook. And we’ve done our first double crochet. You’ll yarn over for the next one and keep going until you get to the end and I’ll meet you there after this summary video.
Step 4: Knowing where to stop.
I feel like all but the most experienced crocheters have trouble figuring out where to stop... or maybe I’m just projecting because it’s a pain in the butt to get seven rows in and realize you’ve dropped a stitch at the end of row two. The best way to know where to stop is to count the stitches. If your project said to chain ten then you should have ten double crochets here and if you have nine you know you need to stop in the next chain. Do not crochet in your beginning slip knot, it doesn’t count. You’ll be able to tell your slip knot from your chain real easily by pulling on your tail, it’ll tighten right up and your chains will be unaffected.
Final step: Continuing forever and ever and ever.
The worst of it is now behind us so it's all things we've already done from here. To start the next row we’ll chain 3 just like we did in step 2 and flip the project around so we’re working right to left again.
Then we continue with step 3 except this time we are going through both top loops since now we can grab both easily. Don’t crochet the base of your chain 3, make sure you’re starting at the next full loop.
When ending future rows a good thing to know is whether or not your beginning chain (the chain 3 that starts a new row) counts as a stitch in your pattern. I always count the beginning chain, and that sometimes causes problems if the pattern I’m reading doesn’t. So check if the pattern counts the chain or not. If it doesn’t say then great, decide for yourself and stick with it.
If the beginning chain counts then you stop at the top loop of that chain.
If it doesn’t you stop at the stitch on top of that double crochet.
And there it is, the hardest part of learning to crochet made as easy as I can make it. If you’re still confused, or if you can think of a way to make this even simpler let me know in the comments below. Or if you want a tutorial for any other crochet technique, beginner or otherwise let me know in the comments also. I’ll see what I can do.