Maybe Matilda: What I Wish I'd Known When I Learned to Crochet

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What I Wish I'd Known When I Learned to Crochet

(This post was on my friend Lindsay's blog, Southern Lovely, a few weeks ago. In case you missed it there, here you go!)

 It seems that every time I post about crochet--whether it's a project I've recently finished or news about my etsy shop--I inevitably get a few comments that say, "I wish I could crochet, " or "I could never make that."

Well, I have some news for you, people . . . you can. What's stopping you? Almost 200 people wielded their crochet hooks during our crochet along earlier this fall, many of whom had never crocheted before. But they learned and now they love it!

You can learn to crochet and I'd love to share some advice for the newbie crocheter . . . what I wish I'd known when I was learning to crochet.

Make a friend
Chances are, whether you know it yet or not, you probably already know a crocheter! Maybe a neighbor or a coworker or the sweet old lady down the street . . . whoever it is, this is the time to cozy up and make a new friend, because you'll definitely benefit from having a crochet buddy to sit down next to you and show you some stitches, point out any mistakes, and approach with questions about patterns. It can be easier (and more fun!) to learn when you have a friend there to help you!

Get online
If you can't find someone to show you the ropes, the internet is your new best friend (if it wasn't already)! There are a bazillion crochet tutorials and videos online that will guide you through every step of the way. Anytime you hit a road block, just hop on youtube or google and you'll be amazed at all the resources you'll find to help you out! I wrote quite a few basic crochet tutorials as part of my crochet along, and you can find them all here on my blog. And I recently found an awesome crocheter who is hosting a wonderful, really in-depth crochet school on her blog, Craftyminx. Don't think that you can't learn if you don't have a friend there to help! There is so much great information online, and with the exception of one lesson with a friend, this is how I learned to crochet!

Get on Ravelry

If you are at all interested in crochet or knitting, you've got to join Ravelry. It's completely free to join and is an incredible resource with thousands and thousands of patterns (many for free, and some for purchase), forums where you can meet crochet buddies and ask questions if you need help, and a profile where you can show off your finished projects. My favorite part of Ravelry is the opportunity to look at people's finished versions of a pattern . . . I often find patterns that I think I might be interested in making, but I'm not sure if it will really turn out like the picture. Problem solved--on Ravelry, you can view people's finished projects right on the pattern page, so you'll know the difficulty level of the pattern, other crocheters' comments and thoughts on it, and get ideas of adaptations you can make to suit it to your tastes. And when you join, let's be friends, okay?

Start small . . . but start good
When I first expressed an interest in learning to crochet, my mother-in-law suggested starting with a hot pad pattern that she's used for years to stock her kitchen--she said it was a quick, easy project to practice on. That's probably true, and I'm sure it's a great pattern to learn with, but I knew if I didn't start making something I loved, I'd never finish it and never want to crochet anything else, either. But it would have been just as awful to start with a pattern I loved that was waaay beyond my skill level.

So yes, do start small with a pattern that is simple and beginner-friendly and won't  leave you frustrated, but make sure it's a pattern that you're excited about! Something like the adorable infinity scarf pictured above. Or a simple baby blanket:
Whatever pattern you choose for your first project, just make sure it's simple enough that you won't want to give up, but is still something you're excited to make! (And if the thought of tackling your first-ever project frightens you, check out this crochet along post where I walked through the pattern, one step at a time, and crochet along with me as you read!)

Take care of those hands
Depending on how fiercely you jump into the world of crochet, you might end up dealing with a little soreness and stiffness in the ol' fingers. Luckily for me, my husband's a chiropractor (I would highly recommend marrying a chiropractor, if you haven't done so already), so here are his tips on keeping your hands feeling good and functioning well as a crocheter (doctor's orders!):
- Consider using an ergonomic handle when you crochet (such as this one, or this). The tighter you have to clasp your hand to hold a small hook, the more stress you're putting on your joints and muscles. (Confession time: I haven't bought myself ergonomics hooks or handles yet. My excuse is having a live-in chiro, but these are on my shopping list!)
- Put a time cap on your crochet sessions. Any repetitive activity can lead to joint degeneration, so don't crochet for more than about an hour or two at a time, and less if it's making you sore!
- If you have pain or soreness, use ice (not heat!). Soreness is usually caused by inflammation, which heat will worsen, so ice those hands if they're giving you trouble!
- Having your hands massaged after doing a lot of crocheting is so soothing and really helps decrease soreness and pain. If you can talk someone else into doing it for you, awesome! (And send them to my place when they're done!) And if not, it even helps to do this yourself.

Be patient and have fun!
You won't learn to crochet in a day, so take your time and have fun! There's very little I love more than sitting in a comfy chair with a crochet project in hand--I find it so relaxing and peaceful, and it's incredibly satisfying to make something beautiful out of a simple ball of yarn. I bet you'll love it, too . . . as long as you're patient and don't beat yourself up for not being an expert crocheter after 20 minutes of practicing. Enjoy the journey and be proud of your work . . . even if it's just a hot pad.

Anything else you wished you'd known when you learned to crochet?


  1. I loved it then, and I love it now! Such great info for the rest of us beginners. :)

  2. I love to crochet and am so glad I learned from my mom and grandmother. I did teach myself how to read patterns much later but had the foundation stitches to help.

    I was wondering if you had received my package.


  3. Love this advice!!!!
    Thanks so much for sharing it

  4. I tell my friends to pick something smallish that they really want for themselves. and when appropriate I encourage fatter hooks and yarns. My oldest made scarves for her teachers we picked out nice chunky yarn and a big chunky hook, now less than a year latter she has a tiny hook and supper thin yarn. Previous attemps at "normal" yarn and average hook just didn't click.

  5. You are so encouraging. If I didn't crochet already, this post would have been just the kick in the pants I needed to get me started! :0)

    I JUST joined Raverly... I didn't know you could have "friends" on there! yay!

  6. Thank you for the advice (as usual). This is really helpful.
    And I just joined ravelry today, thanks to you!

    <3 Jenn

  7. Thank you, I will follow your advices as much as I could :)

  8. "Marry a chiropractor" <--Why didn't I think of that? lol. Seriously, I have had to give up crocheting because my hands can't take it, which makes me sad. It's a lot easier to take a crochet hook and some yarn with you on a trip than your sewing machine! I especially love the baby soft yarns in deep jewel colors. There are some really gorgeous fibers available these days! **drools** Keep it up, you make beautiful work.

  9. This is an excellent post. I learned to crochet when I was 12 from my grandmother. I made a few scarves, pot holders and baby blankets at the time but, alas, as a teenage girl I wasn't interested. Now that I have my own daughter, I have been looking to start crocheting again. This post left me feeling inspired, I joined ravelry and as soon as I remember to pick up a needle I plan on starting a project. Thanks for the inspiration!!! :)

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  11. I get more pain in my left thumb from holding the piece as I stitch than I do from holding the needle. Does your chiro-hubby have any suggestions for that?

  12. Dana--he says the same advice that goes for the crocheting hand goes for the opposite hand . . . try not to use a "pincer" grasp to hold tightly onto your work (if you can, try to hold it more loosely so you won't have a tight, cramp-y grip), ice it when you're finished crocheting, take breaks and don't work for too long if it's hurting you. Good luck!

  13. He also added, after I typed up that comment, that this is all just really general advice--everyone crochets differently (not to mention that anybody reading this advice could have some sort of underlying issue causing pain that he obviously wouldn't know about) so it's tough to say specifically, without seeing someone and giving them an exam, what is causing pain and what they could do to fix it. So if you're concerned (or if these very general ideas don't help), you ought to go see a chiropractor and get an exam (and maybe some x-rays) to get more specific advice and treatment :-)


Thanks for commenting!

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