Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Beginning Crochet - Chain Stitch and Tips

  Welcome to the Beginning Crochet lessons from Crochet is the Way! You're either here because you want to learn to crochet, or you're a return reader wondering why I'm now finally getting to my series for beginners... Either way, you'll find I throw a lot of nonsense into a no-nonsense lesson. Whaaaat? ...Exactly. I want you to know more than just how to make a stitch, I want you to know how to use it and how to make it better, all while making it easier. And I try to throw some fun in when I can, because crochet should be fun! But don't think you'll get away with telling this teacher the dog ate your homework... There won't be any, and I've already used that excuse anyway.

  When learning to crochet, the very first stitch you will need to learn is the chain. This is the stitch you will use to begin your project.* It's the stitch that will start your rows or rounds. The motion of making the stitch - yarn over, pull through a loop - can be found in every crochet stitch. The chain is the easiest stitch to make, but the foundation of crochet itself lies in this simple little loop of yarn.

crochet, how to, beginner, chain stitch, crochet a chain,

  That sounds like too much technical stuff, doesn't it? I just wanted to pay homage to this easy little stitch that often gets under-appreciated. Let's see if I can redeem myself with all those extra tips for your beginning adventures in crochet! This tutorial is so much more than just "how to make a chain stitch". First, I'll show you two different methods for beginning. Then, I'll show the way I prefer to begin my crochet. Follow along and you can decide which method you like best:

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-Many choose to begin with a "slip knot on the hook". Here you see the typical tightened slipknot. This will leave a tiny hard lump at the beginning of your work, but its barely noticeable. Tightening the knot will make your first loop more stable, so it's easier to work into. With this method, the loop will not count as a stitch. Start counting when you make the first chain.

crochet, how to, knot-less beginning chain, chain stitch, crochet for beginners

-Here you can see an example of a knot that hasn't been tightened so that it can be used as a stitch. In this case, the loose knot would be counted as a stitch, but you never count the loop on your hook.

At first it can be hard to work into a "free-floating" stitch without tightening it. I used a tightened slipknot for years after I learned to crochet, just because I was afraid my work would unravel without that knot. (It won't, if you weave your ends in right! Learn to trust that.) Although I highly recommend learning this method from the start, use whatever you're most comfortable with

crochet, knot-less beginning, chain, how to, beginner

-I'm beginning with a really short tail here, so you can see the end of it. You should begin with a tail of at least 6" (15 cm). Starting with the tail in front of the hook, yarn over the hook with the working yarn.

crochet, knot-less beginning, how to, beginners, chain stitch

-To secure the stitch, the tail needs to be trapped inside the loop. Bring the working yarn from the back, around in front of the tail, and to the back again. (An easier way to do/say that is: Flip the tail over the working yarn.)

-Notice how I'm holding the "loop" secure on the hook with my index finger. I'll get my hands out of the way for the next step, then show you how to keep the loop from slipping or tightening.

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-To make a chain, yarn over the hook from back to front. The tail should cross behind the working yarn. This is where you will hold the stitch while you work.

crochet, chain stitch, how to, knot-less beginning, beginners

-Holding the loop secure, grab the working yarn with the hook. Rotate the throat of the hook slightly downwards as you pull the working yarn through the loop on the hook.

crochet, how to, chain, beginners, front and back loops

-As before, the loop on the hook does not count as a stitch. The loop just made counts as your first chain stitch. Highlighted in the picture you can see the front loop, back loop, and base loop (also known as the bottom bar) of the chain.

-Avoid pulling your tail! If you pull the tail the stitch will tighten, creating the slipknot you saw in the first example. Then the loop on your hook will just be a loop on your hook, and you won't have a chain made.

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-To create additional chains, just yarn over, then pull through the loop on the hook. To avoid tightening the first stitch, hold the beginning chain secure as you did when creating the first loop on the hook.

-Now, let's talk tension! Most crocheters think that the way you hold your yarn controls your tension... And it does, to some extent. But what does "tension" mean, really? It's not necessarily how tight the yarn is traveling from your hand to your hook... It's how tight the loop is that you create.

-Holding too much tension on the working yarn can make your stitches too tight, but you can correct that by making sure you pull your loops up higher. Always make sure there is a slight gap between the hook and the "V" (the base) of the stitch before you pull your yarn through. In time, you will find a comfortable medium between your yarn and hook hands.

-I'll never teach you the standard "right" way to hold your yarn or hook, because I don't believe in it. I will teach you to never strain yourself. If your hand tends to cramp or get sore from working a certain way, then find a different method.  

  So, now you know how to make a chain stitch. You'll probably spend some time getting comfortable with how to hold a hook and yarn, correcting your tension, and learning how to count chains... Well, maybe you should, but maybe you're like this crocheter that tried to jump into learning every basic stitch in a day. Anyway, the next step is to learn the slip stitch, then the single crochet. You'll find even more tips and tricks in my next tutorials!

  *I mentioned in the opening that the chain stitch "is the stitch you will use to begin your project", but that's not always true! As a beginner, chances are that you will most likely use the chain stitch as the base of your crochet. But don't forget about alternative methods such as the Magic Circle, also known as the Magic Loop or Ring. You can also begin rows with foundation stitches, a method where an extra loop is pulled up to create the base chain for the next stitch. These can be difficult to work until you're more comfortable with things like tension and finding/counting stitches, but they're great tricks to learn!

Happy Crocheting!

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