ONLINE TUTORIALS AREN'T EVERYTHING!
Spend a little time with someone who can crochet. Learn the basics from them and THEN watch online tutorials to learn the more complicated stuff.
I spent years (seriously, about 10 years!) trying to teach myself to crochet and gave up trying numerous times. I spent endless hours watching online tutorial videos, but frustratingly I still couldn’t pick it up. The videos moved so quickly and the terminology was completely foreign to me (we’ll come back to that later). Eventually I spent a little time with someone who could crochet and WITHIN FIVE MINUTES something clicked and I was away.
Find a comfortable way to hold your hook and your yarn.
Once I’d learned the basics from someone who could crochet, I found I wanted to crochet every spare minute of every day! However cramp seriously messed with my crochet mojo, particularly in my yarn holding hand, making it impossible for me to crochet for more than about 20 minutes at a time. Frustrated I searched online for videos on how to hold crochet yarn. I watched a few and found one that worked for me. The difference this made was really significant, I found that my crochet stamina had increased from about 20 minutes to literally hours. In addition the rate at which my work grew and my tension improved massively. I spend time with lots of other crocheters and every one of them holds both their hook and their yarn differently. There is no right or wrong way to hold either, so long as it works for you.
KNOW YOUR YARN!
There are lots of yarns out there, taking the time to get to know them can mean the difference between success and failure.
I helped a friend learn to crochet. She picked it up pretty quickly, I was both proud and impressed. Off she went to the yarn store and bought oodles of lovely yarn. What she didn’t understand at that point was that different yarns have broadly different uses and that as well as different colours they also come in different weights / gauges and materials. My friend had bought yarn based solely on their colours and not on their other properties. She set about her project and on switching colours also unwittingly switched weight and material. The colours went beautifully together, but the different gauges and textures meant that the finished piece was misshapen and held different properties throughout. It’s well worth remembering that most yarn ball bands contain lots of useful information on weight, tension, yardage, recommended hook size etc. Some even have free knitting / crochet patterns on the inside! Once you’ve learned the basics, try experimenting with different weights, materials, hook sizes etc and learn how the differences might affect your work.
READ YOUR PATTERN!
As well as getting to know your yarn, you must also learn how to follow a pattern. Even a slight deviation from the pattern can lead to you having to pull back row after row of crochet which is soul destroying.
My friend, having picked up the basics and made the obligatory afghan (which all my friends seem to have done on learning to crochet) tried her hand at amigurumi, a form of crochet which has yet to capture my imagination. She crocheted an amigurumi Christmas bauble using a pattern she had found online. It turned out great and so she decided to replicate it and make a few for her family. Her second one, despite using the same hook and same yarn came out less shaped like a ball and more like a squashed doughnut. For some reason, even on the decrease stitches it just kept growing and growing. The same thing happened with the third one and then I took a look. Turns out she had misread a vital part of the pattern, just one term, misunderstanding the abbreviation. As such her ball had become a saucer. A little bit of guidance from someone else in the know solved the problem. The moral of this story is to properly read your patterns and understand common abbreviations.
BEWARE OF REGIONAL TERMS!
Just to complicate things further, there are regional differences affecting almost every aspect of crochet.
A single crochet in the US is a double crochet in the UK. A treble crochet in the UK is a double crochet in the US. The tools of the trade have differing labels also. A 4mm hook is also known as a No.8 in the UK and Canada, the same hook is a known as a No.6 or a G in the US. Even yarn weights have different names. 4 ply in the UK is known as sport weight in the US and 5 ply in Australia! A simple conversion chart is all you need. You can find my UK / US terms conversion chart here, my hook size conversion chart here and my yarn weight conversion chart here.
JOIN A GROUP!
Meeting other people with similar interests can help widen your social circle and improve your crochet skills.
Myself and a few work friends decided to get together and share our crochet and knitting knowledge, show off our successes, swap yarn, share patterns, listen to music and have a good old chat (and maybe a glass or two of wine). And with that Stitch & Bitch was born. Now Stitch & Bitch runs every other Wednesday from my home and I have made lifelong friends. Stitch & Bitch has led to a second group called Knit & Natter which doesn’t run quite as often, but I’m proud to say that I have taught a couple of folks to crochet from scratch during these sessions. The best way to solve a crochet problem is by asking a fellow crocheter to have a look at it. Chances are they’ll have overcome similar problems in the past.