This weekend Mama Squirrel has agreed to start teaching some of Crayons' friends how to crochet. (The same girls who usually sew together on Saturdays, only we're doing crochet for awhile instead.) We did something like this two years ago in a homeschool co-op, but the girls there were slightly younger. This time the average age is ten, plus there are a couple of moms who want to hang around and learn as well, so I'm hoping we can do a bit more than we did in the other class.
Want to learn along with us? For the first class, you will need some worsted-weight yarn (not too dark a colour), a few pony beads to go with your yarn, a crochet hook somewhere between 4.5 and 5 mm (that's metric sizing--Americans need an H hook, or something around that size), and a yarn needle for weaving in loose ends. Also some white yarn and a pipe cleaner, plus a cookie cutter for shaping the pipe cleaner into a nicer shape, plus some sparkly fabric paint or other trim of your own choice.
Here are Mama Squirrel's Rules for Crocheting.
1. If you make a mistake, go back and fix it. It’s easier to fix it NOW than to wish you had at the end.
2. Make your hook do the work. Don’t pull the yarn off the hook with your fingers.
3. Don’t work too tight.
4. Don’t let the yarn split.
5. Don’t work too long without a break—do something else and let your muscles relax. Otherwise you can hurt yourself.
6. If you’re following a pattern for something where size matters, make a sample swatch (test piece) first and measure the gauge (the size of your stitches). You might have to change hooks or try another kind of yarn. But if you are making a small item, or making up your own pattern, it’s not so important.
7. If you’re using a new skein of yarn, pull from the inside.
8. Ask for help if you’re not sure of something. If you can’t find someone right there who knows, there are lots of places to find crochet help online.
9. Don’t crochet while eating chocolate-chip cookies.
10. Don’t crochet in the bathtub.
In our first class, we're going to start by learning to chain stitch--what else?--but we're going to jazz it up a bit by stringing pony beads on the yarn first, and incorporating them into the chaining (slide them up as you want them). Instant friendship bracelets. We started doing this last summer at VBS, and the kids really liked it. Some of them chained with hooks, and some just used their fingers--it works either way. Leave a decent-length tail at the beginning (for a wrist tie), then just start chaining--chain a few stitches, slide up a bead, chain a couple more stitches, slide up a bead, and so on until it's long enough. End off (you can find out how to do that online--really simple), and leave a tail of yarn the same length as the other end. Tie around your wrist.
After a break, assuming everybody's caught on to chaining, we're going to single-crochet around pipe-cleaner loops. The advantage to this is that you can concentrate on making the stitches without having to worry about putting them into chain stitches, which can be a bit frustrating for beginniners. If you've ever tried to learn to crochet, you'll know what I mean. Make the pipe cleaner into a circle, attach the yarn with a slip stitch (look this up online if you don't know how--leave a bit of a tail), and start single crocheting around. Keep going until the pipe cleaner is covered. Join the two ends together with a slip stitch and end off, leaving a tail of yarn. Either tie the two ends together in a bow for a hanger, or weave them into the crocheting with the yarn needle.
The pipe-cleaner loops will probably be finished for homework. Next time, or whenever they're done, we'll shape them around a snowflake-shaped cookie cutter, and then paint them a bit with glittery fabric paint. I had planned on using sparkly yarn for this, but couldn't find anything thick enough; so we'll just use plain white yarn and add the sparkles afterward. I used two strands of white cotton yarn, which looked pretty good; but when you're just learning, I think one strand is a better idea.
The nice thing these days about crochet class (or just about anything else) is that if you get home and forget everything you learned, you can easily find an online tutorial. Ehow has good ones for basic crochet stitches.
Let me know if there's something you can't figure out!