This post is part of a blogged crochet book. Click here to see all posts in this ongoing series.
Let’s really look at how we start crocheting, and why we do it this way. In these next few posts I consider standard (and less so) starting loops and knots for crochet. I’ve met crocheters who are actually not confident about how to start crocheting something. At the end of this post are my four big takeaways about the starting loops we use.
You can start crocheting with one simple loop. The set up is done. Frankly, you don’t even need a crochet hook or a specific kind of yarn. You also don’t need a fancy kind of starting loop (but see the next few posts).
This is one of my favorite things about crochet. Isn’t it remarkable? Musicians need to tune their instrument first, and weavers need to string a loom first. Even knitters need to cast on more than one loop.
About the “yarn”: To start crocheting with a loop implies that you need a length of something that bends into a loop, right? If you’ve never, ever crocheted before, start crocheting right now with a piece of cord that’s at least 36” long (almost 1 meter). Ideally your cord is smooth, limp, and a light enough color to see well. Kind of thick – like craft yarn, cotton clothesline, or rope. Not stiff or wiry, neither bristly nor bumpy, and not as skinny as kite string. From here on I’ll refer to this as “yarn.”
At this point some folks are thinking, “You sure are taking a long time to get to the slip knot!” That’s because a starting loop is not necessarily the same as a slip knot. When a simple loop has crossed ends, you’ve got a starting loop for crochet; see first photo above. (All of crochet is based on loops that have these crossed ends in them.)
The two crossed ends of a loop have different roles in crochet. We’ll get to this important detail in a future post.
A quick and easy way to think of this Crossed Loop is to imagine that you’re writing a cursive letter “e”. You can do it in the air or “write” with the yarn on a table. See how the Crossed Loop in the first photo above could be a cursive “e”?
If you’re right handed, pinch and hold it with the fingers of your left hand where the yarn crosses itself. It now appears that two strands are hanging down from your hand. With your right hand, pick up the strand on the right that crosses in front of the other strand. Bring it around behind your loop. Bend it so that you can pull a new loop through the first loop, from behind. Leave it sort of loose, and set it down.
If you’re left handed, turn it around, and pinch and hold it with the fingers of your right hand where the yarn crosses itself. Or, you could write a cursive “e” backwards. It now appears that two strands are hanging down from your hand. With your left hand, pick up the strand on the left that crosses in front of the other strand. (see below) Bring it around behind your loop. Bend it so that you can pull a new loop through the first loop, from behind. Leave it sort of loose, and set it down.
That’s a stitch. You’re already crocheting. When you pulled the bent or “looped” strand through the initial loop, you finger-crocheted.
Here are the important takeaways from this post:
1. The Crossed Loop is one loop away from being a Slip Knot. Once you pull a new loop through a simple Crossed Loop, just tighten it to reveal that it’s actually a Slip Knot. (To tighten, pinch the loop and tug on the other strand to watch the knot tighten around the loop.) Notice that you can also adjust the loop size of the Slip Knot, and the knot part preserves the size of the loop. By the way, the Slip Knot goes by several names and varied forms; more on this later.
2. The Slip Knot is the standard, official way to start crocheting, especially for beginners. This is probably because beginners also usually start crocheting with a crochet hook in their hand, and the Slip Knot is great for this. You can tighten its loop around a crochet hook and wave it around, and it will stay put. Very handy!
3. You start crocheting once you pull a loop through an initial Crossed Loop. It’s called finger crocheting. A Crossed Loop is a fine start for finger crocheting. You don’t need a relatively “formal” Slip Knot to keep a loop on your finger because you can easily hold it. There’s no crochet hook to maneuver also. Just keep pulling a new loop through the next loop and you’re crocheting.
4. Special to Beginners: There’s a bigger reason why you don’t have to start with a Slip Knot. You don’t even have to worry about whether you’re making it correctly. We’ll see later that after you’ve crocheted a few more chain stitches, they are “self-sealing.” If you undo the initial Slip Knot later, tug on the yarn end near it, and the very next stitch automatically becomes the new starting knot.
This is why some crocheters can leave the initial knot loose and undo it later. Some leave it loose enough to be able to crochet into it later, as if it’s another stitch. And, others start crocheting with something other than a Crossed Loop or a Slip Knot…