Crochet actually gets its name from the tool used to create this needlework: “crochet” means hook in French. Using just one hook and one thread, loops are pulled through and joined to each other, producing different stitches and effects depending on how many loops are pulled through and where they are joined. European nuns did fine crochet work in the 16th century, and crochet was a favorite in Ireland during the early 1800s, where Irish crochet was given its name. Spreading to England, the fad originally was used to make lace (or copies of Venetian or rose point patterns).
Crochet is still used to create crocheted lace for home decor projects or women’s romantic collars, and the delicate openwork or “filet” crochet is popular for table linens and bedspreads. But because the technique produces a sturdy fabric, it became popular in recent years for more utilitarian items such as potholders, wash cloths, and even rugs.
Crochet is a favorite technique for afghans, since it is quick working and creates a warm throw. But don’t underestimate its beauty in garments. By choosing a thin, lightweight yarn, using a comparatively large hook and working fairly loosely, you’ll end up with a garment that moves and flows with the body, and drapes as well as any knitted piece. If you work thick yarns tightly, however, you’re likely to produce a garment that can literally stand up on its own, since the structure becomes stiff and unbending.
Crochet also offers the ability to create many raised textures, such as “bobbles” or “popcorns,” and even cables. It’s all a matter of learning a basic stitch and building on it. And if you really love the look of knitting, try Afghan crochet, which uses a long hook to hold all the loops. The loops are picked up all along, then bound off in the next row. This stitch is thought to be the ancestor of knitting.
The “How To” series of easy-to-read and use needlework instruction booklets is designed with you in mind. Whether you are a beginner looking for basic instruction that will get you stitching quickly with correct techniques, or an experienced needleworker looking for a handy reference guide, you’ll want to keep the “How To” series close at hand. Each volume in the series explores a different type of needlework: needlepoint, embroidery and cross-stitch, knitting, crochet, and much more. You’ll find lots of helpful hints to build your confidence, make your learning experience relaxing and fun, and most important, make your finished project something you’ll be proud of for years to come.