Crochet lesson #2, coming right up! How are we doing so far? Are things making sense? On Monday, we covered the chain stitch and single crochet, and we're moving along today to the next two basic stitches, the half double crochet and double crochet, and a quickie lesson on increasing and decreasing your stitches.
(As a side note, the same stitches go by different terms in the US than they do in the UK, just to make things a little more confusing for you. I'll be using American terminology today and, well, every time I ever talk about crochet. If you're already familiar with or think you'll encounter British terminology more, you can reference this handy little chart for a translation.)
If you're feeling pretty comfortable with the single crochet from our last lesson (click here if you need a review), you should be able to pick up these new stitches pretty easily, since they're just a variation on the single crochet stitch!
As usual, please feel free to ask any questions you run into as you work--either leave them in the comments (I'll come back and answer them in the comments, so check back for a response!), or email me, and if you still haven't signed up for the crochet along, do so right here!
Half Double Crochet
I mentioned in our last crochet lesson that it's necessary to make a chain at the end of each row in order to be "tall enough," so to speak, to work into the previous row. A single crochet is a rather short stitch (it feels weird to be talking about crochet in terms of height, but I can't think of a better way to put it), so you only need a chain of one to be tall enough to make more single crochets. A half double crochet is taller than a single (and a double, as I'm sure you can imagine, is even taller still!), so we need a chain of 2 at the end of a row instead of just a chain of 1 in order to be tall enough to make half double crochet stitches. I'll be working on the same practice piece I made for the last post; if you prefer, you can make a new chain and start from scratch--if so, just make a chain and work your first half double crochet stitch into the third chain from the hook instead of the second, as you did with single crochets.
Start by making two chain stitches, and turn your work so your single crochet stitches are on the left and the little chain of two on the right:
(Do the pictures look different this time around? I apologize if they're awful, but my husband has been so busy this week and I had to take these myself. I'm blaming any picture deficiencies on the difficulty of trying to crochet and pose with just one hand, and using the other hand to hold the camera.)
Yarn over before inserting your hook anywhere (I find it helpful to place the index finger of my right hand on top of this yarn over to hold it in place for the next step):
Now insert your hook under both loops of the first stitch, then yarn over again:
Pull this yarn-over loop through the stitch of the previous row, just as you did when making a single crochet (you should now have three loops on your hook):
Yarn over again:
Pull this yarn-over loop through all three loops on your hook:
Done! That's all it takes to make a half double crochet stitch. (If you care for further enlightenment, here's a video demonstrating the half double crochet, and here are some more pictures, in which the half double crochet is heartlessly called "an oddball stitch," which sort of makes me feel sad for it. Poor little half double crochet.) It's essentially the same as a single crochet stitch, with the addition of a yarn over at the start. Continue working half double crochets through the end of this row, then chain 2 and turn to keep practicing on the next row. You can see in this picture the difference in height and appearance between the single crochet stitches at the bottom of my little rectangle as compared to the taller, sort of twisty-looking half double crochet stitches nearer to the top:
Once you've practiced and feel comfortable with the half double crochet, move along to the double!
I don't mean to get all sentimental on you, but I think the double crochet might be my favorite stitch. I also don't mean to get all dorky on you, but I think I may have just taken crochet nerdiness to an entirely new realm in admitting to having a favorite stitch.
Again, we'll have to make a chain greater than just one stitch at the end of our previous row to be tall enough to work double crochets. Some patterns recommend chaining two, and some recommend chaining three when you're going to be working double crochets. Personally, I feel a chain of two is sufficient, but feel free to try both and see if you have a preference! (Or just mindlessly do what the pattern tells you to do, once you get to that point. Surely they know what they're talking about.)
So, if you haven't already, chain 2 (or 3) at the end of your previous row and turn your work so the stitches are on the left and the chain is on the right, then yarn over (again, I couldn't show you this since I was the one taking these pictures, but I like to pinch down that yarn-over loop with the index finger of my right hand to hold it still while I go on to the next step):
Insert your hook into the first stitch of the previous row and yarn over again:
Pull your yarn over loop through; you should now have three loops on your hook (so far, this has been just like the half double crochet, but it's about to get different):
Yarn over again:
Pull this yarn-over loop through only the first two loops on your hook--this should leave two loops on your hook: the one that you just pulled through (your yarn over), and the one loop that you didn't pull your yarn through, left over from earlier (I find it helpful when pulling the yarn-over through just 2 of the loops to place my index finger on the third loop to hold it down and keep it separate from the others--that way you won't accidentally get overexcited and just do a half double crochet by pulling through all three). So remember, with a half double, you pulled the yarn-over through all three loops; with a double, you're just pulling it through two of the three loops (double = two . . . might there be a method behind the madness of naming crochet stitches? I don't know. I just. don't. know.) This is what your work should look like at this point--you'll now have two loops remaining on the hook:
Yarn over again:
And pull your yarn-over through both of the remaining loops on your hook:
Bam! Double crocheted! (For your viewing pleasure: here's a double crochet video, and some more pictures.) Here's another handy dandy comparison for you--the double crochet stitches at the top are the tallest (and, might I add, noblest), the half doubles are medium-tall and have a cute sort of twistiness to them, and the singles are bringing up the rear with a simple, compact, almost starry look. Isn't it pretty?
There is also a triple (also absurdly called the treble) crochet stitch that I didn't take my own pictures for because, seriously, you'll almost never use it. I think I've only ever seen it in a pattern a handful of times, so I'll just send you elsewhere if you'd like to learn it, too: here's a video, and here are some pictures. It's good to have in your arsenal, but you probably won't be whipping that one out very often.
Increasing and Decreasing
I'm going to give you a quick little mini-class on increasing and decreasing--I won't go into too much depth because, well, this was the point that Jeff got home and offered to take pictures for me, but he was doing a rather horrid job (poor man; artistry and creativeness are not his strongest points) so I rushed through and probably didn't get enough pictures to really do it justice, so if you're interested, you can find a more comprehensive lesson from Lion Brand Yarn here.
So far we've made a pretty little rectangle . . . but what do you do if you need your work to grow wider? Or smaller? This is where increasing and decreasing come in--you'll definitely use these skills if you start making hats (or anything circular, really) or clothing. I'll demonstrate this in the pictures with double crochet, but the same principles apply no matter what stitch you're using.
To increase in double crochet, you'll work one double crochet as normal:
Then, instead of moving on to the next stitch for your next double crochet, you'll make another double crochet in the same stitch as the first:
Do you see? There are now two double crochet stitches worked into the same opening (the turning chain is just to the right). I worked an increase into the first and last stitches of the row:
And you can see that after two rows of increasing in the first and last stitches, my work is growing!
To decrease, you'll essentially do the opposite--you'll combine two stitches into one. You begin your stitch as normal, but stop just before the last step--stop before pulling the final loop through:
Then begin your stitch in the next space, and stop before finishing it, too:
Now complete your stitch, pulling the loop through all the loops on your hook:
This basically combines the two stitches into one! After two rows of decreasing the first and last stitches, my work looked like this:
First it grew with my increases, then it shrank again with my decreases. A pattern will always tell you when you need to increase or decrease, so you don't have to worry too much about getting it down pat right now, or knowing when to do it . . . your pattern will let you know.
I'll meet you here Friday for a lesson on deciphering crochet patterns, and we'll start our cowls on Monday!
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