A crocheter without a hook is like… Batman without Robin; Belle without the Beast; Timon without Pumba; Sherlock Holmes without John Watson; Charlie Brown without Snoopy; Homer Simpson without Duff Beer; The Doctor without the TARDIS; Link without Zelda; Ash without Pikachu; Elton John without crazy glasses; bread without Vegemite… Ok, so that last one may just be an Aussie thing – but you get my drift. Although it’s not impossible to crochet without a hook, it’s certainly not the same…
So one of the most important things for a crochet beginner to do first is to get to know their weapon of choice:
The anatomy of the crochet hook
“But isn’t a crochet hook just a long stick with a curved, hook bit on the end?” you might ask… Well, yes and no. That’s certainly what it looks like, but there’s actually more to the design of a crochet hook than that:
The descriptions below have been taken from the Crochet for Dummies website:
- The head / hook / point: This part of the hook is inserted into previously made stitches. It must be sharp enough to slide easily through the stitches, yet blunt enough so that it doesn’t split the yarn or stab your finger.
- The throat: The open part underneath the point where the hook catches the yarn must be large enough to hold the yarn size that you’re working with but small enough to prevent the previous loop from sliding off.
- The shaft: (I’ll wait for you to stop giggling…) The shaft holds the loops that you’re working with, and for the most part, determines the size of your stitches.
- The grip / thumb rest: The flat part of the hook located on the shaft, the thumb rest, should be sandwiched between your thumb and middle finger when you hold the hook, enabling you to easily rotate the hook to the correct position to perform each stitch. Without the thumb rest, the hook can easily twist in the wrong direction, and you’ll find yourself gripping the hook too tightly — leaving you with hookers cramp!
- The handle: The remaining length of the hook below the thumb rest completes the hook; this part is called the handle. Although you don’t actually hold the hook by the handle, achieving the proper balance when crocheting is a necessity.
Inline vs tapered
When you start looking at crochet hooks, you may find that the throat looks a bit different on some hooks compared to others… This difference is called inline vs tapered. This is how Fiber Flux describes it:
“The hook on top is a tapered hook, and has a cylindrical body, then transitions into a smooth, cone-like throat. You’ll notice too that the hook is a little less deep and has a bit of overhang. I also want to point out that the thumb rest is further down.
The hook on the bottom is an inline style hook. This hook has a more geometric appearance, almost as if it were cut from a cylinder. You can see that the throat is more planar, with a flatter shape. The hook itself is deeper, and pointer than the tapered style. Also, the thumb rest is a bit higher.”
For example, Susan Bates is a popular brand of inline aluminum crochet hooks; while Boye aluminium hooks are tapered. You may also find that other brands aren’t as well-defined as each of these… Which doesn’t really matter. Neither is better than the other; but you will probably find that you have a preference, so it’s worth trying out both to see which works best for you.
As for me? I love my Clover Amour Soft Grip crochet hooks! They’re tapered aluminium hooks with incredibly comfortable rubber handles! Yes, they’re expensive… But I can assure you that they’re worth the investment!
Materials used to make crochet hooks
Crochet hooks are made in a wide range of materials. Standard hooks are most often made of aluminum or plastic, but sometimes they’re made of wood, bamboo, steel, glass… You can even get hooks that light up (Crochet Lite) so you can see what you’re crocheting at night (I’m yet to invest in a set of these, but I so desperately want to)!
The handle of some hooks may also be made of or covered with a different material to what the hook is made of. There are many small businesses on Etsy who take standard aluminium hooks and add clay or wooden handles in various colours and designs to make them more ergonomical, comfortable, personalised… Here are some of my favourite designs:
As a a quick side not for beginners though: don’t be fooled by the prettiness of bamboo hooks – I suggest using aluminium hooks to start with and experimenting with other types as you gain more experience.
Standard hook sizes
Crochet hooks are usually about 6″ / 15cm long and range from 2.5mm to 19mm thick. The thickness of a crochet hook is very important – it not only determines roughly the size of the stitch created (i.e. the larger the hook, the larger the stitch); it’s also how all hooks are labelled, usually along with the US letter system too. Yes, you guessed it – the world of crochet is divided just like many other things… There are two (2) main crochet systems: US and UK; and this affects how hooks and yarn are labelled, as well as how crochet patterns are written! More on yarn and patterns later, we’ll keep focussing on hooks…
*Thankfully* most hooks will be labelled clearly with the millimeter measurement, as well as any other labelling, so I suggest just focusing on that. BUT, to help you know the how the same size hooks are labelled in the different systems, I’ve created this helpful crochet hook comparison chart PDF for you:
As a beginner, I suggest starting out with a 5.5mm / 6mm hook. With the right yarn the stitches should be big enough for you to see what you’re doing, but not so big that your finished product looks silly!
Steel hook sizes
For more advanced crocheters there are also steel hooks to experiment with, which are the smallest of all crochet hooks. Steel hooks are used for crocheting with thread and very fine yarns.
They’re made of well, you know, steel; and measure about 5″ / 13cm long. They range from as thin as 0.75mm to 3.5mm, but the size labels for steel hooks is the opposite to standard hooks: they’re labelled with numbers only, no letters – the higher the number, the smaller the hook. Confusing? I agree… So maybe just stick with standard hooks for the moment!
Choosing the right hook for the project
There are a few basic ‘rules of thumb’ to choosing the right crochet hook for your project:
- The pattern will tell you the hook size that the pattern creator used to crochet get that specific project
- The label on any ball / skein of yarn will show you the suggested hook size that works best with that thickness / weight yarn (even if the label only shows the knitting needle size to use, you should be able to use the same size crochet hook)
- With experience, you will quickly pick up the fact that thinner yarn requires a smaller hook and thicker yarn requires a larger hook
Of course, these are just guidelines and suggestions which all depend on the type of project and your crocheting style / tension. Make sure you read my next post on how to understand, create and use a crochet gauge to make sure your project ends up the size you want / need. This will, in turn, dictate what size hook you should use.
Here is a basic chart to help you choose which crochet hook you might want to use with different types of yarn:
So what does all this mean for you as a beginner?
I think there are two (2) main things you need to remember when it comes to crochet hooks:
- It’s OK to experiment with different hook types and sizes with different yarn types and weights. Generally speaking though, if you use a hook that is ‘too big’ for the thickness yarn you’re using then your crochet item will be very loose with large ‘holes’ in it – which is fine if that’s the look you’re going for (if you’re crocheting a scarf, for example)! Alternatively, if you use a hook that is ‘too small’ for the thickness yarn you’re using then you may find that your stitches are quite tight, which can make them hard to work into and your crochet item will end up feeling quite stiff – which, again, is fine if that’s what you need (if you’re crocheting a toy, for example).
- Once you’ve decided on which size crochet hook you want to use for your project *make sure you remember which hook you started with*! You can do this by keeping a crochet diary, or attaching a little note to the project if you need to put it down and will come back to it later. This is super important as, if you forget which size crochet hook you were using and continue working on the same project later with a different size hook, your work will end up bigger / wider or smaller / thinner from that point on… Not good!
What crochet hooks have you used? Which are your favourite? Do you have any tips for how to choose the best hook for the job? Happy crocheting!