da Vinci's Ashtray (Crochet Advice #1)

When I started this, I thought it would be a quick post about the first steps to crochet. Now I can see that this will indeed, need to be a series. There are so many resources available for the self-learner and I would like to create a resource section here for those folks. This is just the beginning.

I truly enjoy crochet and the magical sensation of creating something out of nothing is amazing. Well, it’s not quite “nothing” but when you look at a pile of yarn and a hook, it’s hard, at first, to imagine that it can turn into a hat, a scarf, a purse or a toy. Learning any new skill can be overwhelming and knowing what the first steps are will lead you down the right path. So when I teach folks to crochet, this is where I tell them to start:

  • Browse Online and Build a Wish List: Go online, and create an archive of things you really like (Pinterest is the perfect tool for this because you can keep all those links, tutorials and ideas organized), don’t worry yet if you can’t tell if they are crocheted or knitted, just find stuff made out of yarn that you would own, or love to get as a gift. This will help you determine what kind of yarns and patterns to buy when you go to the store. You need to start a project that is worthwhile to you or you will never finish it!
  • Start Simple! : Before we move on, I encourage you to find a manageable first project; hat, scarf, ornament, or something that can be finished in less than a couple of hours. Do not start off discouraging yourself, especially if you are teaching yourself and don’t have anyone to bounce things off of, like your ball of yarn (yarn balls are amazingly fun to throw at people, especially children).
  • Get a Stitch Guide and/or Simple Pattern Book: In book form or online, you will want to have a stitch guide. At first we are all amazed at what the simple links of basic crochet can create but you will want to know more than one stitch in the long run. And the stitch guides tell you more than just how to make it. They tell you how to start a row, turn, join, finish and change colors. Any good pattern book is going to include a stitch guide. At first, you will need to make something that you can see, so you know what to expect. A book, or photo patterns online will be very helpful.
  • Get a Set of Hooks: Hooks come in sizes marked by letters (USA), mm’s (Metric) and sometime #’s (UK) as well. The patterns and yarn you work with will determine the size hook you need for a given project. Hooks also come in different materials: metal, wood, bamboo, and plastic. The material you use is up to you. I don’t like the plastic ones, but a lot of folks do. I prefer metal or bamboo. Get a starter set that has a range somewhere from F-K (3.75mm – 6.5mm). This range will allow you to make a variety of fabrics, from tightly stitched hats to loosely stitched scarves.
  • Get a Tapestry Needle or Yarn Needle: At the end of your project, you will have “tails” that need to be “sewn” or “woven” into the fabric to hide it and secure it. Many folks just use a smaller size crochet hook to pull the tails into the fabric but I find this increases the risk of damaging the fabric and it does not allow you to lock the tail in place by leading it in at least two directions.
  • Buy Yarn: Pick your project, make sure you have the prescribed hook and buy yarn within your pattern guidelines. It’s easy to get side tracked at a yarn store (I’m a pro at this) and decide to buy yarn that is “so pretty” that you just can’t resist it, but when you get it home it might be too thin, or thick, or wooly to work with the pattern you have chosen. One day, you’ll be able to go buy your yarn first and whip up a project out of it but for now, it serves you better to pick a pattern and follow it! Think of it like trying a new recipe; the first time you make it, you want to follow the recipe exactly to see what it really tastes like, then the next time you make it you can experiment with the ingredients.
  • FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS: It seems like there’s an echo in here but I cannot stress enough the importance of a beginner learning to follow the directions. Us creative types have a tendency to get too creative too quickly and we end up in our own muddy messes. I was taking a craft class once and I completely strayed from the instructor, to the point of becoming a distraction to the students around me, and the teacher came over and held up my clay work and pointed out how I had “the spirit of complication” (she was very good natured, but I thought it was funny).  Later, this came to mind many times as I coached people through the beginning stages of various crafts, we all want to jump ahead in the book. But I imagine even da Vinci made a few ashtrays for his mom before he got the hang of things.
  • Begin

The next installment will be specifically naming books and online resources for the beginning crocheter. Thanks for visiting.

9 comment on “da Vinci’s Ashtray (Crochet Advice #1)”

  1. Lori,

    I”M SO EXCITED!!!! For the life of me I have NOT been able to teach myself how to crochet!! I finally put down my needles last spring. I can’t wait to pick them up again! For years I have wanted to create some blankets with granny squares!! 🙂

  2. Crissy,

    I keep telling my friends that learning isn’t that difficult when there’s a ton of resources online! They expect to make beanies/amigurumi within one a day and when it gets confusing gives up

    This is the best list!

    1. Comment author madme,

      So glad to see you came back! I always wonder if folks return once they’ve been here…

      My mom and I were talking about this same thing you mentioned, just today. I think folks don’t have the confidence to fail. You know what I mean? I’m completely ok with failing miserably at something as part of the process of learning but I’m don’t personally know many people that are ok with that. I’ve frogged as many miles of yarn as I have stitched correctly. It takes a brave soul to face failure and welcome it!

  3. Julia,

    I am sooooo excited for this series. I took a knitting class right after my second son was born, but I have forgotton most of it by now. I look forward to seeing your recommendations on books, youtube videos etc. This is going to be so much fun!

    1. Comment author madme,

      I hope it is fun! I’m already writing the resources post and I’m completely floored by the response to this series. I can’t wait to see what happens with it.

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