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|Publisher:||Storey Publishing, LLC|
|Edition description:||Second Edition|
|Product dimensions:||4.30(w) x 6.30(h) x 3.80(d)|
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Get a Grip ... on Hooks and Other Tools
One nice thing about crochet is that you need only two things: a hook and yarn. Of course, there are many other useful tools and accessories that can make your crocheting life more enjoyable. Let's explore some of the many options, beginning with the hook.
All about Hooks
Q: What are the parts of a hook?
A: There are several different hook styles, but each has four parts: a tip or head, a throat, a shank or shaft, and a thumb rest.
Q: What are the differences among hooks?
A: Hooks are made of plastic, metal, wood, nylon, or bone. Some have a thumb rest; others have a straight shank with no thumb rest. The handle may be cushioned or shaped. Some have an inline head, while others have a tapered head with a tapered throat. When you crochet with thread, you use a steel hook that may be so tiny that you can barely see the shape of the head.
And those are just the regular hooks! There are also specialty hooks. Hooks used for Tunisian crochet have a long straight shank that resembles a knitting needle. Double-ended hooks have a hook at each end of a long straight shank. Interchangeable hook sets allow you to connect a range of different size hooks to a long cable for even more flexibility when working Tunisian or double-ended crochet.
Q: With all the choices available, how do I know which hook is best?
A: Choose the style hook that is most comfortable for your hand. It should be of good quality, with no rough spots. Some people prefer to work with a certain brand of hook or with hooks made from a certain material. The length and shape of the hook handle should also be comfortable for the way you hold and manipulate it. And, of course, the size of the hook should be appropriate for the yarn or thread you are using. No matter what type of hook you have, the shank is the major determining factor in the size of the stitch.
You may find that you prefer different types of hooks for different yarn and stitch patterns. Slippery yarns like rayon might be easier to manage with a "sticky" wooden hook, while fuzzy yarns might work up faster when you use a slick aluminum hook. You may have a preference for an inline head rather than a non-inline head.
Q: What's the difference between an inline head and another kind of head?
A: An inline head (often called "Bates" style) is one where the head of the crochet hook is no wider than the area in which the stitch is formed, while a non-inline head (often called "Boye" style) is larger than the shank to one degree or another. While no particular style is best, most crocheters have a strong preference for one type of head over another; it's a matter of personal preference.
Q: How do I hold the hook?
A: Hold the hook in your dominant hand in the way that is most comfortable for you. The most common ways to hold a hook are shown below. If you hold the hook a different way from those shown, and it works for you, then don't feel you must change your technique.
Q: How are hooks sized?
A: Hook sizes are described differently in different countries. Often U.S. terms include both letters and numbers; the UK and Japan each have their own numbering systems. Metric labeling is the most consistent and accurate way of describing hooks, since it is a measurement rather than a numbering system.
In the United States, standard crochet hooks range from U.S. size B/1 (2.25 mm) through jumbo size S (19 mm). But beware! Hook sizes may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. There is no guarantee that one company's size H/8 (5 mm) hook is the same size as another company's, even when both are described in metric terms. In addition, numbering systems have changed over time, even with hooks from the same manufacturer. It is always best to use a hook gauge to determine the size of your hook in metric terms.
The steel hooks used for thread crochet have their own numbering system, from a tiny Japanese size 16 (.4 mm) upward.
Q: What size hook do I need?
A: Published patterns and yarn labels suggest a hook size, but this is only a starting point. You should always stitch a swatch to check your gauge. If you need to change from the suggested hook size in order to get correct gauge, then by all means do so. Having the correct gauge is always more important than using the suggested hook size.
SEE ALSO: Pages 155–69 for working a swatch, Yarn Weights with Recommended Hook Sizes and Gauges.
This chart is a compilation of hook and size ranges from various sources. Keep in mind that the great variation of numbering systems over the years and from brand to brand can greatly confuse things. For example, a comparison of hook charts from a number of sources lists a 4.0 mm hook as either a G/6 or an F/5. If you aren't following a published pattern, match the hook to the yarn or thread you are using: Larger yarns require larger hooks. Most yarn labels suggest an appropriate-sized hook for that yarn.
Q: How do I hold the yarn?
A: The yarn from the ball needs to be tensioned through the fingers of the hand not holding the hook. The end of the yarn attached to the hook goes over your forefinger. The yarn should move freely through your fingers while still being within your control. You may want to wrap it under and over other fingers in addition to your forefinger, or wrap it twice around your forefinger or pinkie. Experiment with ways to tension the yarn so that it is comfortable for you. Don't worry if it feels awkward at first; with practice it will feel more natural.
Some people choose to hold both the yarn and the hook in their dominant hand, and throw the yarn over the hook as if they are knitting. This is not ideal; try to learn another method unless you are efficient and confident with your current method.
Q: My mother and my friend hold the hook and yarn differently. How do I know which is correct?
A: Neither is the only correct technique. It's okay to hold the hook and the yarn in any way that is comfortable to you, even if it's not one of the ways illustrated here. As long as you are happy with the consistency of the stitches and are comfortable while you are crocheting, you are correct.
Q: When I crochet for more than an hour, my hands and shoulders start to ache. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?
A: Sitting still and being hunched over our crochet (or our computers) for hours at a time is not a good idea. It's really best to crochet in smaller chunks of time, with plenty of break time in between. There are a number of precautions you can take to prevent injuries from cutting into your crocheting time.
* Use a hook that's comfortable for you. You may enjoy using a hook with a cushioned handle or a specially shaped grip. Hold the hook and yarn gently, and try varying the way you hold them. If you normally use the pencil hold, try the knife hold at least some of the time.
* Keep your shoulders relaxed, down away from your ears, and support your shoulders and back. Don't hunch forward or slouch! Allow your work to rest on your lap so that you aren't holding its weight with your hands. You may find it helpful to place pillows under your arms while you stitch.
* Take frequent breaks to rest and stretch. Set a timer to remind yourself to get up and stretch every 30–45 minutes or so. Stretch your fingers out as far as possible for a count of 10, and then make a clenched fist for a count of 10. Repeat this several times. Rotate your wrists clockwise, then counterclockwise. Shrug your shoulders up and down and in circles. Clasp your hands together behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together to open your chest.
* Listen to your body. If you are holding tension anywhere, or if something starts to be uncomfortable, stop! It really is more important to take a break than to finish that granny square right now.
* Fingerless gloves or therapeutic gloves may help by keeping your hands and wrists warm.
* Most important, if you experience tingling or numbness in your hands, or if you have persistent discomfort, stop and consult a healthcare professional. Crocheting should never hurt.
Q Can I crochet left-handed?
A: Certainly. Hold the hook in your left hand and the yarn in your right hand, and stitch from left to right, instead of right to left. If you are learning from a right-handed crocheter, or following a published pattern, you may have to make some adjustments, as most instructions are written for a predominantly right-handed world. If a right-hander is teaching you to crochet, sit opposite and mimic the actions you observe; you'll be crocheting left-handed. Some books contain illustrations for both right- and left-handed stitchers; in this book, we have tried to offer both wherever appropriate.
You can follow illustrations for right-handed crochet by holding a mirror to the side of the illustration, or by scanning the illustration into your computer and flipping it horizontally on a graphics program. Because you are working from left to right, the shaping of some pieces will take place on the "other" side of the garment. In other words, if you follow cardigan instructions for the Right Front, you'll be making the Left Front.
NOTE: To avoid copyright infringement, make copies for your own use only.
Some left-handed crocheters find that they can work just fine holding the hook in their right hand as right-handers do. If you can, just stitch "right-handed," and avoid the hassle of translating your patterns to left-handed crochet.
Filling Your Tool Bag
Q: What other tools do I need?
A: Although a crochet hook is really the only tool you must have, a number of others are useful. You may want to keep a little tool bag handy, filled with some or all of these other practical tools:
* Small, sharp scissors. These come in many styles. Keeping them at hand saves time and frustration.
* Tapestry needles. Also called yarn needles, these blunt-tipped sewing needles have large eyes. They come in several sizes; you'll want at least two sizes to correspond to the size of the yarns and threads you use most often.
* Measuring tools. You'll be less tempted to cheat on measurements if you keep a tape measure and a ruler at hand. A tape measure is good for measuring bodies and large projects; a ruler is best for measuring swatches and flat fabrics.
* Hook gauge. Use a hook gauge to determine the size of unmarked hooks. The hook gauge contains a series of holes in graduated sizes. The holes are numbered in both metric and U.S. terms. Slide the shank of your hook into the smallest hole it fits, then read the corresponding number to determine the size of the hook.
* Stitch markers. Available in a variety of styles, markers work better than pieces of yarn to mark stitches, as yarn can leave unwanted bits of fuzz in your fabric. Avoid the round markers meant only for knitting; you need a type that can be opened so you can hang it on a stitch and easily remove it later.
* Coiless safety pins and/or locking stitch markers. Similar to safety pins, coiless safety pins don't have the yarn-grabbing circle at the far end. These and other types of locking stitch markers are useful for marking stitches, holding pieces together for seaming, or keeping track of increases and decreases.
* "Personal discomfort fixers." Hand lotion, lip balm, and a nail file can prevent annoying interruptions to your stitching sessions.
* A calculator. This is an important tool if you are doing your own designing, or adapting another's design. It can also come in handy for checking the math in a pattern if you run into a problem.
* Note-taking tools. Keep a pen or pencil and paper handy to remind yourself where you are and what you have done. Get into the habit of making notes to yourself as you work. You may need to repeat something (or avoid it) later.
* A row counter. This comes in handy when row counts are important and you are working a stitch pattern that is difficult to keep track of, or when you are using a fuzzy yarn that just defies counting. You may also want to use it when working sleeve shaping, or to ensure you have the same number of rows on the left and right fronts of a cardigan. There are row-counting apps available for your electronic devices.
* A variety of crochet hooks in different sizes. If you have alternatives near at hand, you are more likely to keep swatching until you get the right gauge.
SEE ALSO: Pages 155–69 for swatching.
* A latch hook. Use this great little tool for weaving in ends too short or too bulky to fit into a yarn needle.
* Smartphone or other electronic helper. A smartphone can act as your calculator, as well as a note-taking tool and row counter. There are all kinds of helpful apps and features that make your phone a useful crochet tool.
Q: I'm really into crochet. Are there any other tools that make the work easier and even more fun?
A: There's always something more! Ask for these great tools for your next birthday.
* Magnifying glasses/reading glasses. If you are a certain age, and haven't yet discovered the joy of reading glasses for close work and small print, give these a try. Yarn and craft stores also carry magnifying glasses on a stand, or ones that hang around your neck and rest against your chest.
* Blocking wires and a blocking board. Tools used in the final finishing stages of crochet, blocking wires are sturdy thin wires than can be threaded through the edges of a crocheted fabric to keep the edges straight. A blocking board is a type of surface that is used in the blocking process.
SEE ALSO: Crocheter's Block for blocking.
* A ball winder and yarn swift. These tools, used together or separately, are wonderful time savers for winding hanks of yarn into flat, center-pull balls. You can also use the ball winder to rewind your yarn if you have to rip out a large expanse of stitching.
* Daylight lamp. This is a special light bulb that emits full spectrum light. These bulbs can help you choose colors and make it easier to see dark stitches in the evening. Some companies make a combination lamp and magnifying glass.
* Hook cases. Use these to corral and organize your hooks. Unfortunately, it's still up to you to put them away when you are finished!
* Pompom maker. Pompom makers are an inexpensive luxury. You can certainly make pompoms using cardboard circles, but if you are going to make a lot of them, pompom makers are a treat.
A Good Yarn
Luckily for us, there is a seemingly endless variety of yarns on today's market. However, with this diversity comes the matter of choice. Which yarn is best for which types of projects? Understanding the characteristics of various yarns will help you determine the answer.
Kinds of Yarn
Q: What is yarn made of?
A: Animal, plant, and synthetic fibers are all used to make yarn. Animal fibers include silk produced by silkworms, wool from sheep, alpaca from alpacas, qiviut from the musk ox, angora from rabbits, and mohair from angora goats (go figure!). Plant fibers include cotton from cotton bolls, linen from the flax plant, and ramie from an Asian shrub. There are also yarns made from soy, bamboo, pine, corn, and other plants. Acrylic, nylon, polyester, and other synthetic fibers are man-made, in some cases from recycled materials. Lyocell (Tencel) and rayon are man-made fibers produced from cellulose, which is a natural material. "Metallic" yarns are usually a synthetic, metallic-looking fiber spun with another fiber.
Q: What are some of the common terms used to describe fiber characteristics?
A: All of the following terms will help you understand and describe the fibers you work with:
* Absorbency. The ability of the fiber to take in water
* Breathability. The ability of the fiber to allow air to pass through it
* Dyeability. The ability of the fiber to accept and hold dye
* Hand/handle. The way a fiber feels, a tactile description that may include words like soft, fine, harsh, stiff, resilient. The hand of a fiber influences the hand of the fabric that it is made into; the fabric might additionally be described by its "drape."
SEE ALSO: What is drape?
* Loft. The amount of air between the fibers; lofty yarn is usually lighter in weight than its thickness implies. "Fuzzy" yarn is lofty.
* Resiliency (elasticity). The ability of a fiber to return to its original shape after being stretched or pulled
* Thickness. The diameter of the fiber, measured in tiny units called microns
Q: Why does fiber content matter?
A: A yarn's characteristics, such as its resiliency, hand, loft, absorbency, and dyeability, are largely determined by the fibers that make up that yarn. Being familiar with the features of different fibers helps you make appropriate selections when you choose yarn for a project. You might decide, for instance, that while a luxurious alpaca throw is an excellent choice for your mother, a washable acrylic-blend yarn is a more suitable choice for your four-year-old son's afghan. Knowing the fiber content of a yarn is also important when it comes time to launder your finished project.
Excerpted from "The Crochet Answer Book"
Copyright © 2015 Edie Eckman.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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