Friday, November 11, 2011

Preparation And Chain Stitch

Time for the first real lesson! Aren't you excited? Good.

This is going to be kind of a four-for-one lesson because the first three things all go together and the fourth thing is the thing you need to practice.

Everyone have your worsted weight yarn? If you don't, go find some and come back. Yes, right now. I want you to do this while you read. Your hook? (I would suggest a 5.5mm hook, but you can truthfully use whatever you want as long as it isn't really tiny.) All right, then we're ready to start!

Today you're going to learn these four things:
  1. How to tie a slip-knot
  2. How to hold the yarn
  3. How to hold the hook and yarn together
  4. How to do a chain stitch

First, the slip-knot. 

The slip-knot is probably the most essential part of learning crochet. That's the loop you start with (crochet is really just a series of loops linked together in various ways), and it's the last thing you pull out when you frog your whole project in frustration.

Side point: The correct term for ripping out all your stitches and starting over/giving up is "frogging". I remembered that the other day and just wanted to share.

Really, a slip-knot is quite simple. It might look challenging when it's done really fast, but it basically consists of taking one loop and putting it through a second know what? That's not going to work. Let's have a video, shall we?

How To Tie A Slip-Knot

Now you try. Got it?

If yes, please move on.
If no, please watch the video a few more times, maybe pause in the middle and try to duplicate with your yarn what you see on the video.

Now, controlling the yarn.

It's a little difficult to crochet with yarn running all over the place. Your stitches will be uneven, and you won't be able to work with anything.

The way you get around this is by controlling the yarn with your left hand.

Quick note while I'm thinking about it: Lefties, you're just going to have to reverse all my directions. It might be a little tricky, and if anyone needs help I can try to do a lefty tutorial, but just know I'm truly inept with my left hand, so it might not help much. Sorry; I can only do my best.

Back to lesson. There are as many different ways to control the yarn as there are crocheters. So instead of giving you hard-and-fast rules, I'm just going to give you what are really more like guidelines. Video time!

Controlling Your Yarn

Try them. Yes, right now. Pick one to start with, or make up your own, and experiment as you continue the lesson (and your practice).

Wait, shouldn't I be using my hook, too?

Why yes, yes you should. The hook is held in the right hand (someone told me once "kind of like a pencil" which is entirely wrong but still the first thing that comes to mind). You do not hold the yarn in this hand at all. Got that? Seems a little counter-intuitive, I know, but trust me. You can guide the hook through the yarn with this hand (and in fact, I tend to use my index finger to keep certain loops on my hook during a more-complicated stitch), but you can't hang onto the yarn.

To demonstrate how to position your hands to crochet, I've made yet another video. Wanna see it? Yes, you do.

Holding Hook And Yarn Together

Now try that. Feel comfortable?

If yes, please continue.
If no, adjust your yarn in your left hand and try again.

It might feel a little awkward at first, but trust me. After a few hours or days or weeks of practice, this will be one of the most comfortable positions you find yourself in.

Finally, you get to start crocheting.

You now get to learn the most basic stitch: the chain stitch. In Crochet-Speak we abbreviate this as "ch". The chain is the most basic stitch because this is how you start [almost] any project: by making a row of chain stitches (we just call this a chain). It's also very vital because a chain stitch (or several) is used to move from one row to the next. But I'm getting ahead of myself now. Let's watch the video, shall we?

How To Make A Chain Stitch

Again, try it. Does it look good?

This is a joke. Ha. Your first chain will probably be terrible, and you will probably hate it. You may frog it (rip it out) if you would like, but then you should try again. And again. And again.

The chain stitch is very important. You need to learn this, and you need to learn it well. When your stitches are almost exactly even, then you may move on to the next lesson. I would suggest spending several hours on this. It doesn't have to be all at one time, but whenever you have a few minutes. Maybe keep some yarn and a hook in your jacket pocket or purse.

What if your skein is too big to fit in your jacket pocket or purse? Pull several yards of yarn out of whatever skein you chose to purchase and wrap them around your hand (spread your fingers out first!). You can make a nice little mini-skein or ball or whatever you want to call it, that is the perfect travel size for practicing your chains (if you frog them when you reach the end and start over).

Now please: practice away. If you wish to take pictures of your chains, upload them to somewhere, and post a link in the comments, I'd be happy to look at them. If you need help, don't hesitate to freak out in the comments. I'll do my best to help you out.

Happy chaining!

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