Thursday, November 24, 2016

Some beginner crocheting is easier than others (Do-Vember #24)

Today's Do-Vember post is inspired by a roundup article I found on Pinterest: The 5 Best Patterns for Crochet Beginners at

In my mind there's more than one kind of crochet beginner. There's the person who is in the midst of learning to crochet, and, like a beginning reader, needs practice material that is do-able, doesn't use words he hasn't learned yet, and is also short. For absolute beginning crocheters, especially children, something about the size of a bookmark or a friendship bracelet is what you should be looking for; or possibly something crocheted over an elastic ring or pipe cleaner that doesn't involve having to make stitches into other stitches. Potholders are pretty boring and sometimes not that practical unless you line them with something heatproof; dishcloths are not hard to make, but you need the right kind of yarn. As I've said before, my first crocheting experience was with a hat, crocheted in the round, which probably seemed simple to the person teaching us but which was too longwinded for ten-year-olds, and required too much stitch counting. (But I did finish mine. I did wear it. And I did keep crocheting.) Making a small project is a good idea even for advanced crocheters, if you're trying out a new technique. A dishcloth in a fancy stitch is a lot less work than a whole afghan.

The other kind of beginner is someone who knows enough simple crochet stitches to make something square or maybe round; who may have been doing those simple stitches for years, and who has no real interest in doing anything fancier. (Someone who crochets on about the same level as the way I play chess.) This person is probably an adult, or an older student, and he/she has enough stamina to stick with a scarf or an afghan.

So how do the 5 Best Patterns rank?

The first one is actually a bit misleading. It's called a Chain Stitch Ear Warmer, which I assumed would be something magically made of nothing but chain stitches (wouldn't kids who only like to chain love that?). It's not that hard to make, but it does include single crochet and half-double crochet as well. On the plus side, it would work up quickly. A headband or ear warmer would have been great for our school crochet class, for example, instead of a whole hat.

The second pattern is a Chunky Blanket, made with thick yarn and single-crochet stitches. This would be great for the adult or older child with limited crochet knowledge, but with enough patience to make a whole blanket. For advanced crocheters, making a whole afghan with only single-crochet stitches would probably become tedious, but for the right person, it would be something to be justly proud of.

Pattern #3, striped bookmarks, looks like an easy one. However, as the designer admits, all those stripes are going to make a lot of loose ends that need to be woven in. Also, the material suggested, embroidery floss, is probably not a top choice for real beginners. The upside is that, as I mentioned before, bookmarks are a small, easily-finished project. For real beginners, I would have them use lightweight yarn, in just one colour; or if they wanted stripes, I would probably have them work lengthwise so that there would be fewer colour changes. Too many messy ends aren't a fun way to finish any project.

Pattern #4, a mini basket, requires that you know how to increase and work in the round. It's at about the same level of difficulty as the doll hats we made here. Before starting something like this, I'd get beginners to make round coasters, which are similar to the shape of a basket base. Once you've made something like this basket, you can use the same techniques to make amigurumi animals...or hats.

The fifth pattern is a baby afghan, made with a large hook and Bernat Blanket Yarn, again using half-double crochet (a stitch that does have some quirks, not always the easiest for beginners). Bernat Blanket Yarn sounds like it would be ideal for a soft little baby blanket, but actually it's a very chunky chenille, and as you can see from the photo (if you click on the pattern), that's exactly what the blanket looks like. I agree that it would work up quickly, but whether this would be a good choice for a baby blanket is another question. My two cents: buy more yarn and make it one of those so-stylish regular-sized chunky afghans, instead of making it for a baby.

Sorry if I'm sounding too critical about these, but there's one lesson to take away: if you're trying to teach a new skill to someone else: see what they know, and start from there. Don't make somebody swim laps who's just learning to stay afloat. Also, think about the practicality or suitability of the project you're proposing, or the material you're making it from, or the colour of yarn you have to work with. If all you have is black or brown yarn, and you hate wearing black or brown, don't make yourself a hat out of it (besides, black is not a beginner-friendly colour to work with--too hard to see the stitches). Use it for something fun like...maybe a bat?
mini wreath ornament crochet pattern by planetjune
Image from Planet June website

Finally, here's a pattern suggestion for crocheters of any skill level: Planet June's Mini Wreath Ornament. Fun to make, and very simple. Enjoy crocheting!

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