Do you ever struggle with deciding what size hook you should use? Have you ever used the hook size stated in the pattern and your piece has ended up too big or too small?
Many crocheters struggle with finding the right hook to use. I did too, when I was starting out. My trusty 6.5 mm hook was used for almost all my projects! And not always successfully, I might add.
Can I tell you about my epic failure, all because I didn’t understand how hook sizing mattered? It was many years ago. I found a pattern for a sweater I wanted to make. I fell in love with a soft, fuzzy yarn and thought it would be perfect for this sweater. So using my trusty hook, I started to make the back of the sweater. Well, I got about 8 inches of it done and realized that this would not be cuddly. It felt as stiff as cardboard. I felt like a failure. This was my first attempt at a piece of clothing and there was no way that it was going to work. I could crochet beautiful blankets, why couldn’t I make a sweater? My sister was crocheting tops that were perfect – why was mine so awful? So I ended up packing it all up in a bag, and throwing it in the back of a drawer. Years later, I did end up frogging my work, but I still have the yarn, waiting for the perfect idea for it.
Now with much more experience and knowledge about how yarn and hooks interact, this situation would not have happened. Over the next few months, I want to share with you how you can avoid these pitfalls, and crochet perfectly fitting garments.
Let’s start our journey today talking about hooks.
So let me take you through the decision process I use to get the right hook size for a successful project. Now, remember, as with all things crochet, this is what works for me. If you have a different method – GREAT! Use whatever works for you.
1. Are you a tight or loose crocheter? Do you end up with items smaller than they should be? Have you ever made something that seems quite stiffer than the ones others have made?
JOIN THE CLUB! You may be a tighter crocheter – I am one too. So how do we loosen up? We need to go up in size (ie., use a bigger hook) than stated in the pattern.
Are your items bigger than you wnat? Do you find your stitches loose, with bigger holes, than others? No worries! You may be a looser crocheter, so you most likely will need to use a smaller hook than stated in the pattern.
Neither tight or loose? Then the stated hook size might be a good starting point for you,
Now comes the dreaded swatching! YES, you have to do this! If you are going to invest hours into creating a beautiful project, you owe it to yourself to spend a few minutes swatching to make sure the yarn and hook you have selected will give you the desired effect.
2. Which hook to start with? Look at the label of the yarn – Is there a suggested hook size? YES – great. Now you may not want to start with that one. Tight crocheters -> go bigger, 1-2 sizes to start. Loose -> go smaller 1-2 sizes. Neither, then start with the suggested size.
Now stitch up a small piece, just a few inches wide, with the most common basic stitch used in your pattern. For example, shells of double crochet, I will use double crochet for my sample. I like to do a piece about 5 inches square.
3.A. Evaluate the square you made. How do you like the look? Stitches too close together? too loose? just right?
B. How does the piece you made feel? Too stiff? too drapey or limp? just right?
These evaluations are very subjective and do depend on what you are making. For example, if I know the yarn will shrink (eg., some cottons), then I may want a slightly looser stitch to compensate. Another example – compare a shawl with a placemat – you would definitely want the shawl to have more drape than the placemat.
4. If you want tighter stitches and/or a stiffer body to your work, use a smaller hook.
If you want looser stitches and/or a fabric with more drape, use a larger hook.
5. Make another swatch with your new hook and adjust again if needed. I may swatch a few times before I am satisfied that I have the right hook. Is swatching a waste of time? DEFINITELY NOT! – as it can prevent you from ending up with an unsatisfactory item. Have fun experimenting with different stitches, yarns and hook sizes.
Gone are the days when I only use a 6.5 mm hook!
Stay tuned for my upcoming post – Gauge – Why size matters (and read about another of my epic failures!)
May your yarn be knot-free
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