Beginner Crochet Series: Slip Knot & Chain Stitch

Yay!Yarn Beginner Crochet Series: Slip Knot & Chain Stitch Main Photo

Ready to learn crochet, but don't know where to start?  I see you!  I've created a series that gets you from never-touched-a-hook to Look!-I-made-a-blanket in 3 short lessons.  Welcome to LESSON ONE.

(Lesson Two and Lesson Three)



Grab Some Yarn

Time to pick out some yarn.  I love this part!   I recommend starting with a basic yarn - what's called a medium-weight yarn. Nothing too thin, nothing too thick. The standard acrylic yarn that you see all over the craft stores?  That's a perfect one to start with and the label will tell you what size hook you'll need.


Grab A Hook

On most labels, you'll find the knitting needles size and the crochet hook size. The yarn I'm using here says that it recommends a five-millimeter (5mm) crochet hook. My label also says U.S. H/8. Most hooks will have their size printed right on them.  And some will use the millimeter size or the letter/number designation.  Some hooks will have both.  I have a hook here that is marked 5mm.

How to read a yarn label


Hook size is not a hard and fast rule. It's just a general recommendation.  The thicker the yarn, the larger the crochet hook you'll want to use.  Ultimately, you'll want to use whatever hook makes it easiest for you to work with that yarn, especially when you're just starting. Make it easy on yourself.

What size crochet hook do I need?


Hooks come in different materials: aluminum, wood, acrylic, etc. Some have more ergonomic shapes than others and some have added padding for gripping and comfort.  Choose one that appeals to you and your budget for now.



Make A Slip Knot

A slipknot is a knot with a loop that is adjustable, as needed, to fit your hook.  This is the thing that you need to know to start every crochet project.

There are a lot of ways to make a slipknot. I'm going to show you one way to get you started quickly and easily.

The idea is to make a loop with your yarn and pull a new loop through the old loop, like this: 

 Hold two fingers together and wrap the yarn once around your fingers, so that you have a loop. 

How to make a slip knot - step 1
How to make a slip knot - step 2


 Then reach through the loop to pinch a bit of yarn and pull it through the loop enough to make a new loop.  Tighten it by pulling on the long yarn tail.  

How to make a slip knot - step 3
How to make a slip knot - step 4


Your hook goes in this loop. Adjust the loop so that it's not tight around your hook.  Ideally, the loop should be large enough that the top of the hook easily slides in and out of the loop, but no larger.

How to make a slip knot - step 5
How to make a slip knot - step 6



Hold Your Hook

The way you hold your hook is a matter of personal preference and comfort.  Typically, your hook goes in your dominant hand.

Some crocheters hold their hook overhand.  Referred to as the Knife Hold, it's the same way you'd hold a knife when you're cutting.

Holding a crochet hook like a knife

Some crocheters hold it as if they are holding a pencil.  Hence, the name: Pencil Hold.

Holding a crochet hook like a pencil



Personally, I'm a knife-holder.  I've been crocheting for decades. And I very rarely use the pencil hold, simply because that's how I learned and it's comfortable for me.

You may discover an entirely different way of holding the hook that works well for you.

The point is, there's no right way or wrong way to hold your hook. Do whatever is best for you - whatever feels comfortable and natural to you. And when you're first learning, nothing will feel natural, and that's OK. But you'll eventually get to a place that does feel right and comfortable for you.



Speaking of Comfort

Make sure you're not gripping your hook. Make sure you're being good to your hands because if you're not relaxed and your hands are not comfortable, they'll tire out easily. They'll cramp, and they'll hurt.  Do that long enough, and you can injure your hands.

So, just relax. Do whatever is relaxing to you. Same thing with the yarn...



Hold Your Yarn

The way that you hold your yarn is also a personal preference.  Again, there's no right way or wrong way, but you'll find what works for you and what creates the best tension. Proper tension is important because it's what makes your stitches even - or not.

Typically, yarn is held with your non-dominant hand.

The best way to hold your yarn is the way that allows you to maintain comfort, tension, and speed.   Here's my method for most yarn (very thick or very thin yarns, notwithstanding):


1. With your palm facing you, lay the yarn between your pinky and ring finger. 

2. Wrap the yarn behind your pinky and all the way around it.  

3. Now bring the yarn up, in front of your other fingers and back behind your index finger.

How to hold yarn when crocheting - step 1
How to hold yarn when crocheting - step 2
How to hold yarn when crocheting - step 3
How to hold yarn when crocheting - step 4
Your index finger becomes a lever, and along with your pinky, controls how well yarn moves into place for the next stitch. 

I tend to crochet a bit on the tight side, tension-wise.  I have to make a conscious effort to loosen things up a bit.  You may be the opposite.  But, the most important thing is comfort.  

Make sure your hands are relaxed. Please don't grip the yarn with your fist.  Not because it's wrong, but because it isn't good for your muscles or joints. And they're going to get tired really fast. I want you to enjoy it. I want you to love crochet as much as I do!



Make A Chain

Place your hook through your slipknot.  

With your hook in one hand and your yarn in the other, it's time to learn the Chain Stitch.  

In simplest terms:  Yarn Over and Pull up a Loop

Wrap your yarn behind and then in front of your hook and pull your hook through the loop. Now you have a new loop and you've made one chain.

How to crochet a chain - step 1
How to crochet a chain - step 2 
How to crochet a chain - step 3
How to crochet a chain - step 4


Let's do it again.  Wrap behind your hook, around the front, and pull through.

And if you're finding that you're having trouble pulling it through, relax a little bit.
Relax your non-dominant hand - the hand that your yarn is in - and loosen the yarn a little so that you can pull and make sure that you've got movement here.

Again, we're going to go behind with the hook and just gently pull the yarn through. And that's a chain stitch. And between every few stitches, you may need to readjust your yarn hand.


Now, it's time to keep practicing. Make a really long chain. Make a chain as long as you need to to feel comfortable with this motion.

Practice crocheting a long chain


As you're moving along, you may find that after you've done it for a while, it may be easier/faster to move your hook around your yarn, rather than moving your yarn around your hook.  It's just a matter of which hand is moving.  Either one is fine. It gets the same results.   But, as you're getting more familiar with the chain stitch, I recommend holding your yarn hand still and having your hook hand do the work.  Because comfort.

So here we are. We're just chaining and chaining and chaining. Relax your hands. Don't fight it. If things are too tight and you're fighting it... Relax. Let go of the yarn a little bit.

It should be a relaxed movement. You should be able to do this for hours on end without any cramping.

This is something of course, that you can do while having a conversation, watching TV, or listening to music. Heck, reading a book after you get good at it!

Make that chain as long as you need it to be to practice. And what you may find is that your stitches may be a little uneven. And that's normal when you're starting out, for sure.  If you just pull on your chain a few times to stretch it and smooth it out, that'll go a long way toward making your chain just look more even.

How to fix an uneven crochet chain





If you're not liking your first attempt at the chain stitch, just pull it out. Who cares? Start over.  It's called Frogging and you're gonna do it - a lot! 

Undoing a crochet chain

Don't be afraid to start over. This is the most important lesson that I teach new crocheters - it's no big deal to pull out your work and start over.  

Get comfortable with undoing your work and redoing it over and over.  It's how we learn. It's how we get practice. 

Now, just keep going with your chain.   Practice, practice, practice. Relax. Enjoy!


What's Next?

When you're ready, Lesson 2 is the Single Crochet stitch.  This is where you can actually make something - yay! By the end of Lesson 2, you'll be able to make a basic coaster, pot holder, scarf, blanket - anything square or rectangle. 

Lesson 3 is the Double Crochet stitch.  Any basic item you can make with Single Crochet, you can also make with Double Crochet.

See you there!


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