This is post #6 of Vashti’s How to Crochet Book, blogged. Click here to see all posts in this ongoing series.
Crochet happens when a simple loop can be pulled through another loop: such creative freedom in this! What follows is not meant to confuse newbies. My goal is to empower, demystify, and inspire. If you find it confusing, just skip this post for now. See next post for some photo tutorials on how to do two handy slip knot variations.
That initial knot and first loop that we use to start crocheting can perform other special functions. I list several below. For now I’ll explain a few of them. The other functions will come up in much later posts as we come to new designs and crochet skills. After today we’ll start crocheting for real!
Traditional Advantages of the Crochet Starting Knot/Loop
The role of the traditional beginner’s slip knot is to be:
1. Invisible (mostly, or completely).
4. Simple and quick to make, remember, adjust, and use to start crocheting the first stitch.
The beginner’s slip knot is a great choice for #1 through #4, with a few minor exceptions. More on this after the rest of the list.
Other Possible Functions of a Crochet Starting Knot/Loop
A 3-loop starting knot. See next blog post for photo tutorial.
The visible starting knot is part of the design.
Add a twist in the loop as you complete the starting slip knot
5. Visible. A clearly visible starting knot could be purely decorative, especially if it looks symmetrical and has a fancy texture. It can also be functional: a dense and bulky one would serve as a stopper for a large-holed bead. (I’ve often needed a good knot for this purpose.) It could also add weight to the ends of fringe for a nicer drape.
6. Temporary. Some crocheters and knitters have a blanket “no knots” policy. A temporary knot is easy. Just make a really loose slip knot so that you can undo it later. This way, the knot makes it easy to start crocheting, but you’re not stuck with it permanently.
7. Start crocheting with more than one starting loop. (See first image above.) I keep discovering more uses for starting with more than one loop. Make a simple slip knot variation that produces two (or more) starting loops, then start crocheting with one of them. The remaining starting loop can be used as a button loop or hanging loop for your finished project.
8. Reinforced strength. Just adding a twist or an extra wrap while making the starting slip knot adds strength and security. I need this reinforcement when using extra slippery or wiry yarns and threads.
9. Change the angle of the yarn ends. “Change the angle of the yarn ends” may sound odd, but for me, it’s a new way of looking at starting knots. When my yarn end is visible as fringe, sometimes it’s noticeable to me that it doesn’t hang straight. This is because the simple slip knot causes the yarn end to hang at an angle. I’m currently looking for starting knots that cause the starting yarn end to hang differently. I like the Buff Slip Knot so far.
10. Join or attach to something else while adding a starting loop. I’ve needed a way to start crocheting while also neatly, elegantly attaching it to something when I’ve made: watchbands, a belt with a buckle, and certain pendants for necklaces. I’m currently looking for new favorite starting knots in this category.
Advantages & Slight Disadvantages of the Traditional Slip Knot
The common slip knot is not 100% invisible (see #1 above). Depending on the yarn and project, it might not even be mostly invisible. The thicker the yarn, the bigger the knot when you start crocheting. A knot in the center of a motif, or flower shape, or nose of a stuffed animal, can also make it more noticeable.
A few things can weaken the slip knot’s strength (#2) and permanence (#3). If you start crocheting with the “adjustable slip knot” described here and the starting yarn end is clipped too short and/or the yarn is slippery, it’s not pretty. It could loosen, and even unravel in certain projects. Beginners: this is why I go into detail about the starting yarn end length, and the two ways to make the starting slip knot.
Ever seen an old lace or granny square afghan with only the centers unraveled? It’s sad how easily this could have been prevented. Just make sure that you use the “locking” slip knot with a long starting yarn end that you weave in securely.
©2013 Reyna Lorele. Only the center of this granny square unraveled. From her “Yarn In Yarn Out” blog, April 2013 post.
Another benefit of the beginner’s slip knot is that once you start crocheting, the slip loop (the starting loop of the slip knot) looks just like the rest of the stitches. This is because a crochet stitch actually has the same structure as the slip loop (see this post for more on that).
Many crochet projects are actually “started” over and over. Here are a few: granny square afghans (each granny square starts in its center), Irish crochet lace (separate shapes are assembled later), and intarsia (patterns of colors with varying lengths of yarn).
Crochet is perfect for everything from delicate lace dresses to sturdy beach totes and slipper soles, super strong pet leashes to artistic jewelry, weightless shawls to heavy coats and afghans, stiff fedoras to draping color work.
Doesn’t it make sense that some of these crochet projects could benefit from specialized ways of starting them?
About that NO KNOTS policy that some crocheters and knitters have: by this they likely mean tight knots. A tight knot can weaken the yarn over time. It’s also unsightly, interrupting a buttery, spongey look and feel. I almost always use knots when I start crocheting, but I don’t pull them into tight hard lumps. I rely on reinforcement from a long woven-in yarn end as well as a knot. I’m especially careful in areas of a project that will have to sustain strain and weight. That would be the shoulders of a sweater, the motif centers and seams of a blanket, the toes and heels of socks, a bag bottom and its handle attachments, etc.
See next post for photo tutorials on how to do two handy slip knot variations.