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5 Ways to Improve your Crochet Skills & Finished Projects
Crocheting has taken over my life over the past few years. It started out just wanting to make one arm-knit blanket, then to crochet a few scarves for myself and friends, then took over a room in my new house to have a studio and now turned into a blog and online yarn shop. What can I say? When I find something I love, I love it with my whole heart.
What no one tells you before you get swept away wearing your wool tinted goggles is that like any hobby this requires patience (a lot of patience), money and idle time. Even though you may posses all three of these things it doesn’t guarantee that all your projects will turn out perfect. This is a skill where much like learning a sport, practice makes perfect. Keeping that in mind I decided to write this blog post about what I feel has made me better over the years, and what can just as easily help you with you skills and polishing off your projects. After you get going on your crochet projects, make sure you keep up with your friends with the yarn tracking blog.
#1 – Determination to Learn
Friends and followers ask sometimes where or how I gained my skill set. Did I have a Grandmother who showed me how to crochet as a small child? Actually I wish I had a sweet story like that, but to be honest it was straight-up determination to learn. I saw things I liked online and I wanted to make them.
So how did I go about doing that? The internet – it was my partner in crime throughout this venture. I read blog posts, watched YouTube videos, worked patterns, watched tutorials people had posted on their blogs, etc. No one sat side-by-side with me to teach me a thing. It probably would have been easier that way but that resource wasn’t available to me. If I found a pattern and it listed an abbreviation for a stitch I didn’t know I searched for it on YouTube and watched a video of how to make that stitch. Once I had it I moved nailed I went forward in the pattern until I came upon the next thing I didn’t know. Was it daunting at times? You bet! I have unraveled so many projects and said my fair share of not so clean words. But I have a section of my closet dedicated to beautiful items I have created and love so in the end it was worth it. And with each project I continue to get better.
#2 – Make Patterns from a Variety of Designers
We all gravitate toward certain designers simply because they have a style which speaks to us. There is nothing wrong with that but if you limit yourself to only following one or two designers then you limit your skill set. I went out of my way in the beginning to chose different patterns from different designers to learn new skills. It isn’t just about a style when you are first learning. You need to understand how pieces are constructed. This will help you immensely if you chose to design patterns of your own in the future. And even if you don’t it will help you to understand how alter designs to make them work for you if they need to vary from the written pattern.
For example: I am not a huge fan of designs I have to whip stitch together. Again, with time I have learned how to strengthen and secure the seams but I still prefer something be a solid piece if at all possible. By working various patterns from different designers I came to realize everything doesn’t have to be made in panels and pieced together. Other people must have had the same idea because they created beautiful pieces that didn’t require being whip stitched together.
If I had only followed 2 to 3 people though I would have never known the difference unless I ventured out to try it on my own. And who wants to do that when they are new to a hobby? You’re already kind of slow and this piece has taken up so much of your time. You don’t want to go rogue to find out your brilliant idea didn’t work and have to unravel everything.
Be adventurous and try new things – it will help you grow. Some of my favorite designers for both beginner and more advanced patterns are:
Lilla Bjorn Crochet World – https://www.lillabjorncrochet.com/
Whistle and Wool – https://www.ravelry.com/designers/whistle-and-wool
Mama In A Stitch – https://www.mamainastitch.com/
Meg Made With Love – https://megmadewithlove.com/
Mijo Crochet – https://mijocrochet.se/
The Velvet Acorn – https://www.thevelvetacorn.com/
This is by no means an inclusive list, but offers a variety of different looks and techniques that you may or may not have tried. Two of them are designers from Europe. They offer their designs in English as well as other languages.
#3 – Always Do a Gauge Swatch
If the pattern you are working on gives you a gauge swatch then make one to ensure you are on par with the recommended/required stitch count/measurements. I can’t begin to tell you how much I wished someone was sitting next to me telling me it is a must. One time in the beginning I found a blanket style sweater where you crocheted a large rectangle and then folded it over and seamed the sleeves. I knew I was capable of doing something like that so I ordered the same yarn as used by the designer and jumped in as soon as it arrived to my home. The finished piece, before I tried to assemble it, was 5” too short in one direction and 3” short in the other direction. No way I could use it as a blanket sweater. I knew my count was right so the only explanation was my gauge. I was new to crocheting and crocheted very tightly – hence how it ended up too small.
You know what happened to that piece? It is still folded in a bag and awaiting me to come up with an incredible idea in which I can still use this piece some how. I can’t imagine for what given the pattern of the yarn but I can’t bring myself to unravel it.
#4 – Upgrade your Tools
If you want to make something that has a professional and polished finish then you have to buy the right tools. Having the right tools can really give you an edge on the appearance of your finished product.
Pom poms have become so popular and when I tried to make a pom pom on my own they were pathetic. They weren’t full enough and not evenly rounded. Frustrated with them I used a 50% off coupon at Joann’s to invest in the Clover Pom Pom Maker. After a few attempts of still not making the best looking pom poms I decided to use my friends “the internet” and “YouTube” and found this little gem. I can’t begin to tell you how much better and more polished my pom poms look. And nothing finishes off a hat like a fluffy symmetrical pom pom.
Another tool you may want to consider upgrading is your hook. If you are going to crochet for hours using an ergonomic tool is important. Recently I upgraded to one of Toplyfibertarts interchangeable crochet hooks. Aside from the fact that it is so beautiful it is really light and helps me to maintain my tension. That was an unexpected bonus for me. There are other ergonomic hooks on the market but who has the budget to buy one in every size? This way you get a great piece of craftsmanship and can use it for every size from 2.75 mm – 5 mm. In addition you can purchase additional hook sizes for a small fee.
#5 – Use Quality Yarn
All yarn is far from being created equal. I think most of us want the same thing from our yarns regardless of our budget:
- A yarn that over time will wear well whether it is used to make a pair of gloves, a sweater or a pot holder.
- A yarn as soft when made into a garment as it is when you feel it in the store while in a skein.
What I learned within a few months of starting to crochet is there is nothing more frustrating than finishing a piece you love to have the yarn wear poorly with continued use. We work hard to complete our individual masterpieces and you want them to last as long as you want to use them. Imagine giving one away as a gift and having the yarn pill and look cheap after a month or so. Not only would the recipient be disappointed, you would be embarrassed.
Or, and this typically happens with wool blends, they are soft to the touch in the skein but once you crochet them into a hat, scarf or sweater they itch like crazy!
Buying quality yarn doesn’t mean breaking the bank. Yes, independent yarn shops carry lovely yarn that are more expensive than what you will find at a Hobby Lobby, Michaels or Joann Crafts Store. However, I believe there is quality yarn in every budget. Just like trying a new designers pattern, don’t be afraid to try a new type of yarn. There are so many options out there for us and every project will need that perfect yarn to make it a perfect piece. Keep exploring and keep stepping outside of your comfort zone. Before you know it you will be able to create pieces you never thought possible when you first start.
Life is Created One Stitch at a Time,