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Knit or Crochet? How Knitting and Crocheting Differ

Updated on January 1, 2018
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green is an avid crocheter and knitter. She designs and sells handcrafted goods.

Brightly-Colored Knitted Skippers

Knitted Slippers, Courtesy Eleanor Beaton
Knitted Slippers, Courtesy Eleanor Beaton | Source

Knitters and Crocheters Use Yarn to Produce Fabric

Down through the centuries, hardworking crafters produced fabric using wool (and later yarn), and by means of hooks and needles. These trailblazers paved the way and passed down for posterity techniques and methods still in use today.

Many modern-day crafters feel a sense of kinship with all those handcrafters of old and they love the idea of going right back to basics and producing fabric with their hands, using time-honored methods and simple tools, sans mechanization.

Knitting and crocheting are methods of working with yarn that have wide appeal. It's almost magical how yarn can be turned into fabric without the need for a standard loom (used to weave flat panels of fabric), and without all the preparatory work needed to sew fabric (cutting and laying out pattern pieces, pinning, threading a sewing machine, basting, sewing seams, etc.). Handcrafting appeals to those who dislike cheaply made, mass-produced items and who prefer to make something unique and of good quality.

While most people know that knitting employs use of two needles and crochet makes use of one hook, far more is involved. Continue reading to learn more about the two crafts, the key differences between them, and why each method may be better-suited to certain tasks.

Knitting

Knitting a stitch.
Knitting a stitch. | Source

Method

Knitting is usually done on two needles but it can be done on four or five needles or circulars, depending on the project. Loops are placed on the needle then worked off of one needle and onto another, by adding yarn to create additional rows of stitches. Standard knit stitches look like small Vs.

Advantages

Pros

  • Knitting uses less yarn.
  • Knitting uses two basic stitches: the knit stitch and the purl stitch. All other stitches are variations of these two stitches.
  • Why knit a garment over crocheting it? Certainly, many usable clothing items can be made from crochet but knitting produces a softer and stretchier fabric, which may be preferred for some clothing items.
  • Some people also prefer the look of knitted goods, such as is seen in knitted sweaters. Many beautiful designs can also be incorporated into knitting using different stitches and colors and a technique called fairisling.
  • Others like how a knitted garment feels against their skin. Knitted fabric is usually less scratchy.

Nice and Soft Against the Skin

Warm Knitted Socks, Courtesy Eleanor Beaton
Warm Knitted Socks, Courtesy Eleanor Beaton | Source
Knitted Mittens, Courtesy Eleanor Beaton
Knitted Mittens, Courtesy Eleanor Beaton | Source

Disadvantages

Cons

  • Knitting is slower than crochet.
  • Because it uses two needles, some feel knitting is somewhat harder to master.
  • Casting on is slightly more challenging than simply hooking a foundation chain in crochet.
  • Knitting entails risk of dropped stitches, which are often discovered later, as holes in the work. While these stitches can be recovered, this is not for the faint of heart and takes practice and skill; whereas with crochet, recovering a dropped stitch is a simple matter of pulling back on the yarn and simply picking up from that point.
  • Because a knitting needle holds multiple stitches, if these slid from the needle. recapturing them can be a challenge. It's doable but not ideal, because each stitch has to go on the needle a certain way. A crochet hook, by comparison, only holds one stitch at any time.
  • Ripping back in knitting is also harder. You can't simply pull on the yarn. You have to carefully undo each stitch, while keeping all stitches in the previous row on the needle.

Pretty Knitted Sample

A lacy knitted panel.
A lacy knitted panel. | Source

Knitting at a Glance

 
Knitting generally produces a softer/stretchier/thinner fabric, ideal for sweaters, hats or socks, and considered to have a nicer feel against the skin.
Knitting is preferred for adding certain types of design elements. A good example is seen in Cowichan sweaters.

Cowichan Sweater

The flat nature of Stockinette stitch allows for inclusion of eye-catching designs worked in different colors.
The flat nature of Stockinette stitch allows for inclusion of eye-catching designs worked in different colors.

Cable Stitch

A favorite textural element incorporated into knitting is the cable stitch. Cables look like braided sections and are done using a special smaller needle to hold the cabled sections.

Cable Stitches Add Interest to Knitted Items

Cabling in the middle section of these neck scarves adds visual appeal.
Cabling in the middle section of these neck scarves adds visual appeal. | Source

Cable Needles

Source

No Seams With Circular Needles

Many knitted items can be worked in the round on circular needles. This is particularly suited for items that are round in shape, such as socks or hats, or when no seams are desired, as when making sweaters. Circular needles are connected by a cord. An advantage with circulars is that stitches are more secure.

Knitting on Circular Needles

Knitting in the round.
Knitting in the round. | Source

Circular Knitting Needles

Circular needles help prevent dropped stitches and are used for working in the round and for larger knitted pieces.
Circular needles help prevent dropped stitches and are used for working in the round and for larger knitted pieces. | Source

Did You Know?

With knitting, a large number of stitches are kept open at the same time; whereas with crochet, each stitch is worked and completed before creating the next stitch. This is why it is so easy to pull out a stitch in crochet or pick it up if your hook has slipped out and a stitch or two come undone. Not so with knitting, because you are working across a row of connected stitches, which are interlocked, so it is trickier to undo work or pick up stitches that have been dropped.

Lovely Beaded Hats

These pretty knitted hats include colored beads.
These pretty knitted hats include colored beads. | Source

Crocheting

Source

Method

A hook is used to create loops, then the hook is passed through these, creating more loops, which comprise stitches. Because of this "looping," a looser weave is generally created and fabric is somewhat bulkier because yarn is actually wrapped around stitches. Because each stitch is complete and is not connected to other stitches in the same way knit stitches are, many different kinds of stitches can be worked.

Crocheted Animal Hat

Crochet produces a sturdy fabric suitable for outer wear.
Crochet produces a sturdy fabric suitable for outer wear. | Source

Advantages

Pros

  • Crocheting is faster (if using regular yarn and a hook). The nature of many crochet stitches (loosely woven, instead of compact knit stitches) and hook size contribute to faster fabric creation and projects that whip up quickly, which makes crochet a perfect medium for making afghans.
  • Crochet is ideal when you need a stiffer fabric for items like baskets, children's toys that see lots of rough handling, or for slippers that wear longer.
  • In contrast, lacy-looking items can be worked in finer cotton, using a smaller crochet hook. Beautiful geometrically-balanced designs can be made from crocheting. (These projects take longer because of tiny crochet hook size and threadlike crochet cotton but the results are often astounding.). Crochet is considered the best medium when one wants to produce lacy-like complex pieces.
  • Because only one stitch stays on the crochet hook, the crocheter does not have to worry about multiple dropped stitches.
  • If crocheted work unravels, it is very easy to see and count stitches and it is an easy matter to crochet them again.

Lovely Patterned Afghan
Lovely Patterned Afghan | Source
Crocheted Monkeys
Crocheted Monkeys | Source
Crocheted Yarn Basket
Crocheted Yarn Basket | Source

Lacy Design in Crochet

Crochet Doily
Crochet Doily | Source

Disadvantages

Cons

  • Crochet uses more yarn, so it may cost a bit more.
  • Depending on the stitch or type of yarn used, crocheted items may have a rougher texture.
  • Some feel the look of crochet is not suited for clothing items.

Tall Stitches Make for Shorter Working Time

Tall crochet stitches are used to produce afghans in record time.
Tall crochet stitches are used to produce afghans in record time. | Source

Crocheting at a Glance

 
While crocheting with regular yarn produces less-soft fabric, because of the taller/looser stitches used in crochet, fabric yardage can be produced at a faster rate (treble crochet, for example, produces tall stitches, thus making crochet the preferred method for afghans or throws. As well, if stitches are all the same, a crafter can fly along a row with a crochet hook.
Crochet is considered the perfect vehicle for structured work as is seen in doilies or table runners with geometric design elements such as pineapples, or in decorative pansies or roses. These are considered easier to produce with a crochet hook instead of using knitting needles. (Knitted doilies are seen occasionally but are not as common as their crocheted counterparts.)
Bulky and slightly stiffer items can be produced, such as crocheted flowers, placemats or rugs.
Panels of filet crochet are used to create picture-like designs containing leaves, berries or flowers, animals, letters or even people. These look fantastic and are usually worked using only two stitches. Such is the versatility of crochet.

Crocheted Flowers Are Stiff Enough to Retain Their Shape

Crocheted flowers are used to adorn hats and other handmade items.
Crocheted flowers are used to adorn hats and other handmade items. | Source

Circular Rug

A bulky yarn is used to make a crocheted rug.
A bulky yarn is used to make a crocheted rug. | Source

Did You Know?

With crocheting, you can stop working mid-row and pick up right where you left off. Not so with knitting and knitters usually knit to the end of a row before stopping work on a project.

A Crocheted Cowl Over a Knitted Sweater With Cables

A multicolored fuzzy yarn used to make an attractive cowl.
A multicolored fuzzy yarn used to make an attractive cowl. | Source

Which Do You Prefer?

See results

No Hard and Fast Rules for Knitting or Crochet

As can be seen, both knitting and crochet offer amazing versatility. And certainly, it cannot be said that one method is better than the other. A crafter may feel that each method is better suited for a particular project. Much depends on the type of yarn used, the size of knitting needles or hooks, the stitches used, plus the skill-level and imagination of the crafter.

While both methods differ, one thing is sure: a skilled knitter or crocheter can produce absolutely wonderful handmade items.

© 2012 Athlyn Green

Which is Your Favorite Crafting Method and Why?

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    Post Comment

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      10 months ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Donna, ditto on what you wrote. Same for me.

    • Shellreeser profile image

      Shelby Tatianna Reeser 

      5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Awesome hub! I knit and my sister in law crochets. We're always debating which is more efficient. I'm showing her this hub for sure! Thanks!

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      5 years ago from West Kootenays

      I always wondered what the differences where between knitting and crochet. While there is the obvious visual difference, there are other factors, as well.

      I learned to crochet first before learning to knit and while I enjoy both, I have to say that I find crochet easier. And that is odd because I have worked complex doilies and runners!

      With the colder weather, it is always so cozy somehow to curl up with a project and work on it. In Canada with our winters, this is a nice way to relax.

    • profile image

      angela 

      6 years ago

      I just learning, and I definitively prefer continental, is easier for me, as well because I am left hand =)

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      6 years ago from West Kootenays

      Both knitting and crocheting are rewarding hobbies and very relaxing. Crocheting is faster but knitting has its advantages too.

      Both crocheted and knitted clothing is hard to beat in terms of "coziness" and sheer warmth. I notice that crocheted or knitted slippers are so much warmer.

    • Gypsy48 profile image

      Gypsy48 

      6 years ago

      Informative hub. I wish I knew how to knit or crochet, will definitely have to give it a try.

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      6 years ago from West Kootenays

      For some reason all the other comments disappeared!

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      6 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Donna, did you try to learn English or Continental? When I teach crocheters to knit, I usually teach them to hold the yarn in the left hand (Continental) because that is already comfortable to them.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 

      6 years ago from USA

      This is an excellent (and completely unbiased) look at the pros and cons of these two hand crafts. You are right that both have their strong points. Because I learned to crochet first and did not attempt to learn to knit until years later, I find it hard to become comfortable with knitting, but I do think that knitted sweaters and other garments have a finer looking appearance than some crocheted ones do. You have done a wonderful job with this and so I voted it up and useful.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      6 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      This is a very good compare/contrast hub.

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