Getting Hooked on Crocheting
Your crochet hook is the single most important tool you use when crocheting. To understand how it works, you need to know a bit about how it's made. This article explains, in detail, everything you need to know about hooks, such as why they're shaped the way they are and the function of each distinct part.
The anatomy of a crochet hook
Even though a crochet hook appears to be nothing more than a straight stick with a hook on one end, you notice that it has five distinct and necessary parts, as Figure 1 shows.
Each part of the hook has been designed to perform a specific function.
- Point: This part of the hook is inserted into previously made stitches. It must be sharp enough to slide easily through the stitches, yet blunt enough so that it doesn't split the yarn or stab your finger.
- Throat: The open part underneath the point where the hook catches the yarn must be large enough to hold the yarn size that you're working with but small enough to prevent the previous loop from sliding off.
- Shaft: The shaft holds the loops that you're working with, and for the most part, determines the size of your stitches.
- Thumb rest: The flat part of the hook located on the shaft, the thumb rest, should be sandwiched between your thumb and middle finger when you hold the hook, enabling you to easily rotate the hook to the correct position to perform each stitch. Without the thumb rest, the hook can easily twist in the wrong direction, and you'll find yourself gripping the hook too tightly — leaving you with hookers cramp!
- Handle: The remaining length of the hook below the thumb rest completes the hook; this part is called the handle. Although you don't actually hold the hook by the handle, achieving the proper balance when crocheting is a necessity.
Many different companies manufacture hooks, and each company produces hooks with slightly different shapes. Some hooks have sharp points, while others have more rounded points. Some hooks have distinct flat, cutout throats, while others have smoother, rounded throats. Nowadays, most of the standard size and steel hooks have thumb rests; although the largest of the standard hooks don't. Take some time to experiment with a couple different brands of crochet hooks to find the one that you're most comfortable working with. You'll be glad that you did.
Crochet hooks: Choosing your weapon
Crochet hooks are made in a wide range of sizes and materials, but when you go to choose a hook, don't be overwhelmed by the seemingly endless choices.
- Standard hooksare most often made of aluminum or plastic (and sometimes wood) and are normally used when working with yarn. They measure about 6 inches in length and vary in thickness from 2.5 mm to 19 mm.
- Steel hooks, which are the smallest of all crochet hooks, are used for crocheting with thread and fine yarns. They're made of well, you know, steel, and measure about 5 inches in length and run from .75 mm to 3.5 mm wide.
Due to the nature of crochet, each stitch is worked until only one loop remains on the hook. Space isn't needed to hold many loops (the exceptions being the Afghan stitch and double-ended crochet). Therefore, the hooks can be made to a convenient length.
Hook sizes are denoted using three different systems, U.S. (American), Continental (metric), and U.K. (English), but don't let that fool you. They're quite often labeled with both the U.S. letter-number designation as well as the numeric metric designation. The size of the crochet hook refers to the thickness of the hook, which in turn determines the size of the stitches created. For standard hooks, using the U.S. or metric system, the higher the number or farther the letter is in the alphabet, such as P or Q, the larger the hook. For steel hooks, which use only a number designation, the opposite holds true. The higher the number, the smaller the hook.
When shopping for hooks, don't be afraid to splurge. Hooks are inexpensive, and having extras of the most common sizes doesn't hurt. Even after you've found the style of hook that you're comfortable with, hang on to any other hooks that you may have collected. You never know when you won't be able to find where you put your favorite hook, and that spare one you don't like as well will do as a backup when you absolutely have to get started now!
If you opt to use plastic crochet hooks, keep in mind that with heavy use, they can bend or break. Try using aluminum hooks for the standard sizes, simply because they literally last forever, provided that they don't disappear.
Just for fun: Ten uses for a crochet hook (besides crocheting)
Guess you thought that crochet hooks were good for only crocheting, right? Well, here are some more interesting uses for them:
- Pull a yarn snag to the inside of a sweater.
- Reweave a dropped stitch while knitting.
- Pull a drawstring through its casing.
- Fix a tangled necklace.
- Rescue a ring that dropped down the drain.
- Pull hair through the holes of the cap when highlighting your hair.
- Weave a potholder using a loom.
- Weave anything through anything.
- Stake up a plant.
- Spear the last olive at the bottom of the jar.