So, you’ve successfully completed a crochet class, taught yourself from Youtube, or maybe a patient friend sat you down and showed you the basics. However you learned to crochet, there are some things that only experience can teach you.
This simple crochet cushion is designed to give you some experience in the basics of crochet, choosing a yarn, making a tension square and following a simple pattern. Think of it as a spring board for your own adventures in crochet. Experiment by working in stripes, change the yarn and make a unique accessory for your home that will have all your friends asking where you bought it. You can find the free pattern here.
Let’s start with a few basics.
Choosing a pattern
This can be a daunting process. There are literally thousands of free patterns available on the internet, but remember you get what you pay for. A free pattern is unlikely to have been tech edited (so it may have mistakes), it may use terminology unique to the designer that can flummox a beginner or it might just be brilliant. Choose with caution by looking at patterns from reputable designers, sign up for free patterns on yarn company websites such as Rowan or ask your friends to recommend great blogs.
You can register on the Rowan website for patterns, tutorials and lots more inspiration. Look out for courses run by Rowan consultants at your local yarn store too.
Check out the free Pattern Tab to find my latest free patterns, many of which were first published in magazines, so have been tech edited and road tested by beginners.
Read the pattern through before you start
It sounds obvious, but reading the pattern allows you to highlight things you may not have come across before (such as the slip stitch seam on this cushion), you can look up techniques online, consult a book or ask a friend. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than settling down to an evening of crochet only to come up against a nasty surprise!
Check your tension
Designers give a tension for a reason. If you work more or fewer stitches than the stated tension, this will affect the size of the finished piece and the amount of yarn you’ll need. For example, this cushion pattern gives a tension of 8 stitches to 10cm, if your tension varies, then your cover may be too big and sag or too tight. As a general rule of thumb, go up a hook size if you have too many stitches and down a hook size if you have too few. A point worth noting here is that in addition to the tension given, you must account for a seam allowances, which is why the cushion cover pattern instructs you to work rows of 26dc – slightly wider than 30cm at stated tension – but you’ll need a stitch on either side for the seams. Making a swatch also allows you to practice techniques, such as the simple button hole on this cushion. You can then take your swatch with you when you choose buttons. That way you’ll get the right size and a great colour match.
Check before you start whether your pattern has been written in UK or American crochet terms. There really is no difference to how the stitches are worked, but they do have different names. A UK double crochet is the same as an American single crochet. Most magazines and books have a conversion chart, it an be useful to keep one in your project bag or stick it in the front of a notebook so you can remind yourself. After a while you’ll find you become fluent in both UK and US terms and can easily convert in your head, but until then always check before you start and be clear on which stitch the designer means. A simple rule of thumb, if a pattern uses “half double crochet”, then it’s definitely written in American terminology – we simply don’t have that stitch name in the UK!
So there you are, a few things you were probably told in class and instantly forgot – you’re not alone – learning a new skill takes time and patience and the humility to admit you don’t know everything. That goes for the teacher too – we’re constantly learning and discovering new techniques – and it’s what makes teaching so rewarding.
You’ll make mistakes, you’ll give up on projects half way through, falling out of love with the yarn or the pattern. You’ll experience the thrill of saying you made it yourself when someone compliments your scarf or jumper. Before you know it, someone at knit group, or work or even a friend will say “Can you show me how you did that?” and you’ll be passing on your skills and enthusiasm to another beginner.
But first you have to make stuff. Go to your library and borrow a book, ask advice at your local yarn store, email your teacher and ask for recommendations or buy one of the great UK magazines that are filled with patterns, hints and tips. Have fun, be brave and let me know how you get on.