Crochet Lyceum: Crochet 101 – Week 1/6: Materials and Project Planning

Welcome to Week 1 of Crochet 101, the first CAL/class in the Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter series. Visit this post for the full course outline and more information about how to participate.

Week 1: Materials and Project Planning

This week, we will focus on the basic crochet tools – specifically, the materials you will need for this six week CAL/class.  We will also discuss different beginner projects.

This week is more text heavy than future weeks :). Feel free to “skim” to pick up the information that you need.  Our outline for today’s post:

  • Yarn
  • Hooks
  • Notions
  • Choosing a project for the CAL
  • Making a supply list
  • Homework

Yarn

There are two main ways to categorize yarn: by fiber content and weight.

In recent years, yarns made with many different types of fiber have been introduced in the marketplace.  Rather than overwhelm you with every type of yarn that can exist in the world :), I will focus on fibers that are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and otherwise “beginner friendly.”

Some yarns are made with natural fibers while others are made with synthetic fibers.  In general,

  • Natural fibers create projects that are more breathable.
  • Natural fibers are biodegradable and are frequently more eco-friendly than synthetic fibers.
  • Synthetic fibers are often inexpensively priced and more readily available in “big box” stores and large retail outlets.

The fibers that I would generally recommend to beginners are (in alphabetical, not preferential, order): acrylic, alpaca, bamboo, cotton, and wool.  This chart has more information about the properties of different fibers.

In the U.S., we use a weight numbering system standardized by the Craft Yarn Council (CYC).  In this context, weight refers to the thickness of the yarn.  The numbering system ranges from 0 to 6, with 0 being the thinnest and 6 being the thickest yarn.

When the manufacturer is dyeing the yarn, there might be slight variations in color between batches of dye.  The dye lot number allows you to identify yarn dyed from the same mixture so you know colors will be consistent across multiple balls of yarn.

Dye lot

Hooks

There are many varieties of crochet hooks.  The most common materials are bamboo, metal, plastic, wood, and steel.

Bamboo hooks come in a wide range of sizes. They are generally easier on the hands than metal hooks. Often they are unfinished and, as a result, the yarn may not "glide" as easily off the hook.

Metal hooks are typically made from aluminum. They are sturdy and inexpensive. Because metal is thermally conductive, these hooks become sticky from sweat in warm weather and feel icy in cold temperatures. For people with arthritis and other hand conditions, metal hooks can be uncomfortable to use.

Plastic hooks are relatively inexpensive and are usually cleared for airline use. When they are cheaply made, seams will snag on your yarn or the hooks will break from frequent use. They also tend to get sweaty in warm weather. In larger sizes, plastic hooks may be the easiest to use because they can be lighter weight.

Steel hooks are available in small sizes and are used for working with thread and very light weight yarn. Expect the same thermal conductivity issues you would experience with aluminum hooks.

Wooden hooks are often more expensive and less readily available. They are gentle on the hands and are usually finished and smooth.

There are also specialty hooks.  I don’t recommend that beginners run out and spend a lot of money on supplies :), but you may find these hooks useful as you start to crochet more.

Comfort hooks generally use an ergonomic design and/or rubberized material around the center of the hook to reduce strain on your hand and elbow when you grip the hook. These can be fairly costly, but can be well worth the price if you have a hand condition or need to use a tight tension with a small hook (e.g., for amigurumi).

Decorative hooks include functional or non-functional ornamentation. This hook has floral decorations on the polymer clay handle.

Interchangeable hook sets are wonderful if you crochet frequently and use a variety of yarn weights and crochet techniques. These sets include a range of sizes and can be adjusted for Tunisian or double-ended crochet. The hooks in this Denise Interchangeable Kit can also be used for knooking.

Like yarn, hooks come in a range of sizes.  The millimeter size refers to the circumference of the hooks.  In the U.S., hooks are also lettered and numbered.  As the numbers increase and the letters move further into the alphabet, the circumference is getting larger.  (The opposite is true of the U.K. sizing.)

For each yarn weight, there is a recommended hook size.  This chart has more information and includes U.S. and U.K. hook sizing.

Notions

In addition to the yarn and hooks, there are some other tools which crocheters use regularly.

Measurement tools are critical to the success of most crochet projects.  You can use a standard ruler or tailor’s tape.  If you want to get fancy, the Knit Picks View Sizer or the Susan Bates Knit Chek can assist with both measuring gauge and figuring out the sizes of those mystery hooks in your collection.

We will start talking about gauge and measurement in Week 3.

A decent pair of scissors is invaluable.  You can use full size, child size, or embroidery scissors.  I prefer the portability of child size scissors because I do a lot of crocheting on the go.

Yarn needles are generally considered optional for crochet.  However… when I compared the look of my finished crochet projects before and after I began using yarn needles, I decided to make them mandatory for myself :).  Yarn needles come in metal and plastic varieties.  I personally prefer 2 inch steel yarn needles, like Susan Bates 14081.

We will use yarn needles in Week 6. (The Susan Bates 14081 2 inch steel yarn needle is pictured at the top. It looks much less threatening than the other needle, doesn't it?)

Choosing a project for the CAL

Next week, we will start crocheting!  You will get to choose what type of project(s) you would like to work on.  I will post a tutorial and/or video each week and will also be sharing some stitch patterns.  Since we are focusing on the basics, most of what you make will be rectangular or square.

Some project ideas:

  • One small project each week, such as a washcloth, a short scarf, or small, decorative pillow, or
  • A larger sampler project for the whole 6 weeks, such as a pillow form cover, blanket, rug, or multi-stitch scarf.  Each of these projects could be worked in one large piece with color changes or in squares/rectangles which could then be joined together.  (Week 6 will focus on joining.)

Your choice of project(s) will influence your selection of yarn.

Making a supply list

Now that you have an awareness of the different supplies used for basic crocheting, you should get together a supply list.

Yarn: If you have a really defined project in your mind, review the Yarn Comparison Chart to see what type of yarn fiber would be best for such a project.  Remember, you can post a message here, on Flickr, or my Ravelry group if you aren’t sure what type of yarn fiber would be suitable for your chosen project.

I recommend #4 medium weight (also known as worsted, afghan, or aran weight) yarn with a straight texture for our CAL.  (In other words, no boucle or novelty yarn.)  This type of yarn is readily available and easy for beginners to use.  You should expect to use at least two colors for this CAL.  If you are a beginner, light colored yarns will be best because it is easier to see your stitches.

Hooks: You will want to get at least two hooks in different sizes.  If you get #4 medium weight yarn, what are some hook sizes you might want to buy? (Hint: review the Recommended Hook Sizes chart.)

Notions: Your notions purchases could be spaced out during the CAL.  You will need a scissor starting in week 2, a measurement tool starting in week 3, and a yarn needle is optional for week 6.

Will you be collecting all of your supplies now, or week by week?

Homework

Your assignment for next week is to get your hands on some yarn, hooks, and scissors.

Remember that yarn labels often contain a lot of helpful information.

Fiber content

Yarn weight

Recommended hook size

If you are already a knitter, you are welcome to search your stash for an appropriate yarn.  If you are a new crocheter, your crafty friends might be willing to donate some yarn to your swatching fund :).  Unless you have a very specific, large, beginner project in mind, or live very far from a store that sells yarn, I don’t recommend running out to buy tons of yarn.  You may discover that you don’t love crocheting with a particular type of yarn or that you don’t need as much as you expected.  Also, when we learn about gauge in week 3, we will talk about ways to estimate the amount of yarn you might need for a specific project.

You can post a reply here, on Flickr, or my Ravelry group if you have any questions or want to share your project ideas or supply finds.

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