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Crochet Basics: Tools, Definitions, and Shorthand Terms

Updated on May 4, 2014
Crochet uses one hooked needle to create the stitches.
Crochet uses one hooked needle to create the stitches. | Source

Crochet, the yarn work, comes from the French word 'crochet', meaning hook. Crochet work is formed by looping thread, yarn or thin strips of fabric with a hooked needle, forming a series of stitches.

Items that are made from crocheting can be very small and delicate, to large and durable. Lace can be created from crochet patterns. All sizes can be created from a single hook, just increasing the overall size of the hook itself, for example, very small and fine work can be done using a very small size number 14 hook, while the size N hook will result in very large loops. The size of the yarn will also dictate the finished project: the small the yarn the smaller and more delicate the work can be, no matter the size of the hook.

Just about anything can be crocheted: yarn made of acrylic, wool or cotton, specialty yarns, thin strips of fabric, cotton string, etc.

Examples of Crochet Work

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Crochet squares with flowers.Crochet blanket, different colors.Beginnings of a crochet project.White crocheted doily.Different yarn colors together for a multi-colored crochet piece.Monochromatic crochet shell look.Blue crochet project in progress.Black and white crochet scarf.Crochet blanket with striped border.Crochet in a pinnacle stitch creating a zig zag pattern for each row.
Crochet squares with flowers.
Crochet squares with flowers. | Source
Crochet blanket, different colors.
Crochet blanket, different colors. | Source
Beginnings of a crochet project.
Beginnings of a crochet project. | Source
White crocheted doily.
White crocheted doily. | Source
Different yarn colors together for a multi-colored crochet piece.
Different yarn colors together for a multi-colored crochet piece. | Source
Monochromatic crochet shell look.
Monochromatic crochet shell look. | Source
Blue crochet project in progress.
Blue crochet project in progress. | Source
Black and white crochet scarf.
Black and white crochet scarf. | Source
Crochet blanket with striped border.
Crochet blanket with striped border. | Source
Crochet in a pinnacle stitch creating a zig zag pattern for each row.
Crochet in a pinnacle stitch creating a zig zag pattern for each row. | Source

Crochet Shorthand Definitions

For those learning the art of crochet, reading a pattern may seem difficult since all instructions use crochet abbreviated shorthand. Here are some definitions to crochet shorthand you may encounter reading crochet patterns.

  • beg - This means 'beginning', either beginning a new row or new stitch.
  • ch - This means 'chain', as in a chain stitch. It could also mean single chain.
  • chs - This means 'chains' or multiple chain stitches. Read the pattern to know how many chains to make.
  • dc - Short for 'double crochet'.
  • hdc - Short for 'half double crochet'.
  • sc - Short for 'single crochet'.
  • tr - Short for 'triple crochet', or 'treble'.
  • dtr - Short for 'double treble'.
  • dec - When this comes up in a pattern, it generally means that the stitch is decreasing, so decrease the number of stitches specified in the pattern.
  • sp(s) - This means 'spaces'.
  • cont - Means 'to continue'. Follow the pattern for how many to continue with.
  • rep - Short for 'repeat', as in a repeating pattern or stitch.

Specialized Crochet Stitches and Patterns

Textured Stitches:
These crochet stitches will create a textured pattern on the finished work. It is generally made on a large area, like a blanket, sweater or pillow, giving it a look of a plain background with pronounced 3-D designs standing apart from it. Examples include raised dots, a pineapple stitch, different sized balls or fans, etc.

Openwork Stitches:
Crochet patterns are openwork if they have a series of skipped stitches, resulting in an open work pattern. Patterns with a net-like pattern are examples of openwork stitching.

Different Colors:
Crochet work can be done using different colors. These are finished pieces being joined together, or switching from different colors using different yarns in the middle of a project.

Medallion & Circular Stitching:
Crochet work is easily done in circular, square and hexagon shapes. These are either used by themselves, or joined to form a larger piece.

Crochet Tools

Besides the crochet hooks and yarn, these tools are also handy in crochet work:

  • Ruler or Sewing Tape Measure: This tool will help measure stitches and the row length.
  • Scissors: Used in cutting yarn.
  • Large Needlepoint Needles: For working different patterns on top of a finished piece.
  • Yarn Spooler or Swift: This will help to spool or roll skeins of yarn for you from pulled crocheted and recycled blankets, or from unrolled yarn.
  • Basket: For holding crochet yarn in one place.

How to Crochet Video


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