The word crochet comes from krokr, the Old Norse word for hook and from croc or croche, the Middle French word for hook. It is thought that the version of crochet we practise today began in the 16th century but that it originally stemmed from an ancient form of embroidery called tambouring, practised in Turkey, India and North Africa. A hook was used to pull thread up through fabric, stretched over a frame, to form a chain of threads on the fabric’s surface that looked a little like a series of interlocking lazy daisy loops.
Modern crochet allows yarn to be hooked into looped stitches to make beautiful fabric. The three basic stitches: foundation chain, double crochet (UK, in the US single crochet) and treble crochet (UK, in the US called double crochet) are the first and most important letters you will need to learn a loopy, stitched language. Each stitch consists of a series of simple steps: wrapping yarn round your hook, inserting the hook into a loop, pulling yarn through…The small movements of your hands and your eyes as you perform these steps, complete your stitches stitches and then perhaps embark on a wrist warmer, lace necklace or Pantile shawl can shift your neurotransmitter balance towards calm. Yarncraft can alleviate stress, lift mood and benefit mental health. Indeed, some NHS trusts recommend joining a yarncraft group to help ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression. I often turn to crochet on days when my mind is overfull, I feel low or long term stress has been looming. The repetitive nature of this craft is what makes it so soothing and if you choose a beautiful soft yarn that changes colour as you go the subtle hue shifts as you make your stitches can provide gentle solace. I speak from experience.
Click on the links below to learn the three basic stitches you will need to make a huge variety of crochet patterns. DO take them in order though – start with learning how to make a foundation chain. I have provided detailed step-by-step instructions and lots of photos for you for each stitch. There are other, more complex, stitches that create more ‘height’ or three dimensional structure in your work (and I plan to share these eventually) but these three are a truly excellent beginning.
I recommend using a chunky yarn and a 6/7 mm hook to begin. A thicker yarn allows you to see the strands that form your stitches more easily. My favourite yarn shop, Loop in London, has a sumptuous array of chunky yarns chosen by the goddess of yarn herself, Susan Cropper.