Common crochet mistakes and how to avoid them
For the first several years after I learned to crochet I had very little guidance from a knowledgeable teacher. My older sister taught me, but I didn’t ask her for a lot of help on the details. I just bumbled along figuring things out on my own, and not very well in some cases. This was in the days before YouTube and blogging, so there was not help to be found on the internet either.
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Lucky for you, it is the age of YouTube and blogging, so information abounds! In this post I will share some of the common crochet mistakes that I made as a beginner and how to avoid them. Read on, and become a better crocheter in an afternoon than I was after 10 years of crocheting.
Common crochet mistake 1: Cutting ends short
One very common crochet mistake that beginners make is to cut yarn ends/tails short. I did this as a beginner, because I really didn’t know what else to do. I would tie a knot and cut the end off right at the knot.
Even if you do better than me and leave the end an inch or two long, it’s still not enough. There is a detailed discussion below about the proper way to handle your ends, but any time you have a yarn end/tail leave it at least 6 inches long.
A lot of crocheters will say at least 4 inches, but in my opinion, this makes it difficult to weave in enough, so I say 6. Weaving in a long end is the best way to ensure that your project will not come unraveled.
Continue on to the next section about not tying knots, which are another common crochet mistake, to see how to properly fasten off and weave in ends.
Common crochet mistake 2: Tying knots when you join in a new skein or color
I tied a lot of knots in my early crochet projects because I just didn’t know how else to join in a new skein or fasten off a project without them. Are those some of the places that you have tied knots too?
Why shouldn’t you tie knots? First, they are unsightly and do not feel nice when you are wearing or using the thing you made. Second, knots can and will come undone. Do not count on a knot to keep your project together! I have seen loads of people in online crochet forums distraught about a project that now has a huge hole in it because a knot came undone. As I said, it’s a common crochet mistake.
Let’s talk about how to avoid tying knots. First, when you are joining in a new skein of yarn there are a few good ways to do this. The standard method below is great for joining in a new skein of the same yarn or for color changes. I have a few other tutorials on good joining methods here and here, but these do not work for color changes.
First, work the stitch before the change up to the last yarnover. I’m working in half double crochet stitch in the piece in the photos, so my last yarnover is made with three loops on my hook.
Be sure you leave at least a 6 inch tail of your old ball or skein of yarn. If you are making this change and the first ball or skein of yarn hasn’t run out, go ahead and cut this yarn leaving a 6 inch tail.
Instead of making the last yarnover with your first skein, place a loop from the new skein around your hook, leaving a 6 inch long tail of the new yarn.
Pull the new yarn through the loops to finish the stitch.
Then work the next stitch with the new yarn. Switch made without knots! At this point (or you can wait until the end) you will weave in both ends securely with a yarn needle. See the next section for how to do that.
Common crochet mistake 3: Tying a knot when you fasten off
When you get to the end of your project, you don’t need to tie knots there either. The secret to securing the end of your project is essentially the same as when you change skeins – 6 inch tails woven in securely.
First, cut your yarn leaving a 6 inch tail. Wrap it around your hook, which we call a yarnover. Pull that through the last loop of your project.
Then use your crochet hook to pull that loop larger until you pull the end all the way through. Pull your end snug. That’s how you fasten off.
Next you will need a tapestry needle. This is a large, blunt needle with a large eye. You’ll use it to weave in your ends. Fold the end of the yarn and push the fold through the eye of the needle to thread it. On the wrong side of your piece, use the tapestry needle to weave the yarn tail back and forth through the loops of the stitches. Don’t put the needle through to the front of the fabric.
First you’ll go back and forth horizontally a few times, then back and forth vertically a few times so that you’ve woven the yarn in multiple directions in a small square. In the photo below I’ve woven in a contrasting piece of yarn so that you can see it.
Common crochet mistake 4: Not counting properly
All of us, no matter how skilled we are, will sometimes mess up our counting. The larger the number, the more likely we are to mess it up.
The best tip for avoiding this mistake is to use stitch markers.
As you count, place a stitch marker in every 5, 10, or 20 stitches. If I’m crocheting a long chain with hundreds of individual chains I’ll place a stitch marker in every 20th chain so that I can go back and count by 20s later. I like this bulb safety pin stitch marker set from WeCrochet.
Common crochet mistake 5: Stitching into chains instead of chain spaces
Sometimes you will stitch into chains, but sometimes you will actually stitch into the spaces underneath them. How do you know which method to use at any given time? Let’s go over a few common scenarios.
First up, your foundation chain. When you begin a project with chains and it’s time to stitch your first row, you will stitch into the chains themselves.
Next, your turning chains. When you are stitching across a row and come to the last stitch you may need to stitch into the top chain of your turning chain. The turning chain is the single or group of chains made at the beginning of each row.
If the turning chain counts as a stitch then you will probably need to place the last stitch of the next row into it. If it does not count as a stitch, then you will probably not stitch into it at all. Consult the pattern you are using to know whether or not to work into the turning chain. If you will work into the turning chain, then work into the top chain rather than the space under it.
In the next few cases however, you will work your stitches into the space under the chain(s) rather than into the chains themselves.
Sometimes you begin a circle with four or more chains joined into a ring. Then you will have a turning chain, and then you will work stitches into the space in the center of the ring of chains. Do not stitch into the chains themselves.
In addition, many intricate stitch patterns include places where you will work into either chains or chain spaces. In these cases, consult your pattern. If it says to work into a chain (ch), then work into the actual chain stitch. If the pattern says to work into a chain space (ch sp), then you will insert your hook into the space under the chain(s) to work your stitches.
In the Fan and V-stitch swatch below the large holes at the base of each fan are made by working the double crochet stitches of each fan into a chain space below it.
Common crochet mistake 6: Working into the wrong loops of chains or stitches
One very common mistake that I made as a beginner was to frequently work into only one loop, either the front or back loop, of a chain or stitch. It was easier and I didn’t realize that this made any difference. Well, it does make a difference, and I’ll show you why it matters.
First, when you are working into chains there are three loops that are part of each chain stitch. There’s a front loop, a back loop, and a bottom ridge loop.
When working into chains you should either work under both the front and back loops at the same time, which is the traditional, technically correct method. You could work under just the bottom ridge loop instead, which also gives a pleasing look and sturdy foundation.
Here’s what it looks like if you work under only the front loop. You can see there’s rather a large space under each stitch. When you work under either the front loop, or back loop, rather than both, you leave a space like this, and your foundation can get stretched out. It won’t look as nice and won’t be as sturdy.
Instead, this is how it looks to work under both the front and back loops together. No spaces. It’s sturdy and it looks nice.
My favorite method is to work under just the bottom ridge loops. This is also sturdy and it looks really nice. This makes the bottom edge match the top edge of your work.
Now, about working into stitches. Every stitch has a front loop and a back loop. The front loop is the one closer to you as you work and the back loop is the one further from you as you work.
In the photo below are two little swatches. Each of these is worked with the same yarn and the same hook. They are each 10 stitches wide and 8 rows tall. You can see that they are not the same size. You can also see that the texture of the two pieces is different.
The difference in how I stitched these two pieces is that the piece on the left was stitched into only the front loops. The piece on the right was stitched under both front and back loops together.
Sometimes a pattern will tell you to work only under the front or back loop by itself, and there are reasons that you might want to do this. Maybe you want that different texture, or that looser, flimsier fabric. But there are times you will not want that texture or that fabric.
Stitching under both the front and back loops together is the standard. If a pattern tells you to single crochet in a stitch, this means to use the standard method, under both loops. If you only stitch under one loop instead, you can see that this change will result in a different look, sturdiness, and size to your piece!
So if the pattern specifies a loop to stitch under, follow the pattern. If it doesn’t, work under both front and back loops together.
Common crochet mistake 7: Using yarn of the wrong thickness
First, a little vocabulary lesson. Yarn weight sounds like it refers to the number you’d find if you set your skein of yarn on a scale. Actually, yarn weight means yarn thickness. There are different categories of yarn weight. And unfortunately it’s not super straightforward because not all yarn companies label things the same. Below is a general guide.
0/Lace includes some yarn labeled lace weight, fingering weight, or thread.
1/Super Fine includes some yarn labeled sock weight, fingering weight, or baby.
2/Fine includes some yarn labeled sock weight, fingering weight, sport, or baby.
3/Light includes some yarn labeled as DK (double knit), or light worsted.
4/Medium includes yarn labeled worsted weight, afghan, or aran weight.
5/Bulky includes yarn labeled chunky weight, craft weight, or rug yarn.
6/Super Bulky includes yarn labeled super bulky, or roving.
7/Jumbo includes yarn labeled as jumbo or roving.
Crochet patterns are usually written with a specific weight of yarn in mind. If the designer uses DK weight yarn, for example, but you use super bulky yarn, your finished item will be much larger than the original. If you are trying to make something wearable, that will matter a lot because it likely will be too big to wear.
Even in a blanket this can be a problem. Many years ago before I understood yarn weight and why it mattered, I chose a baby blanket pattern to make for my first niece. The pattern was written for sport weight yarn, that’s 2/Fine. I looked in the yarn isle and chose a yarn I liked the look and feel of, but it was a 5/Bulky yarn.
Well, what should have been about 3 ft long, turned out to be large enough to cover a twin size bed. My niece loved it, but this was a very inconvenient size of blanket for my sister to carry around everywhere they went!
So when you are trying to make something from a pattern, you need to use yarn that is the same weight (or thickness) as the original.
Common crochet mistake 8: Using the wrong size hook for your yarn
Just as there are different thicknesses of yarn, there are different thicknesses of crochet hooks. In the US, crochet hooks are commonly designated by a letter. In most of the world outside the US, there is a metric measurement that is used instead. This measurement is the diameter of the shaft of the crochet hook. The shaft is the area between the hook and the thumb grip.
In addition to using the same thickness of yarn that is called for in a pattern, you should also start with the same size of crochet hook called for in the pattern. Using a hook that is much smaller than that will give you a stiffer fabric and using a hook that is much larger will give you a looser, floppier fabric.
However, it is best to check your gauge. Any crochet pattern worth its salt should tell you the gauge of the desired fabric. This should read something like 15 sts x 5 rows = About 4 inches. This tells you there should be 15 stitches in a 4 inch wide section of the finished piece and 5 rows in a 4 inch tall section. In order to get a similar fabric to the original you need to match that gauge.
To avoid this common crochet mistake, start with the recommended yarn and hook in the pattern and make a small piece of crochet fabric called a swatch using the main stitch pattern of the project. Then you measure a 4 inch wide section and count the number of stitches in it. You also measure a 4 inch tall section and count the number of rows. If these don’t match the stated gauge in the pattern, then you need to change your hook size.
If your 4 inch swatch has too many stitches or too many rows, that means that your stitches are too small. You need to use a larger crochet hook in order to make the stitches larger.
If your 4 inch swatch has too few stitches or too few rows, that means that your stitches are too big. You need to use a smaller crochet hook in order to make the stitches smaller.
Make a new swatch with the different hook size and check again, and so on until your gauge matches.
If you aren’t starting from a written pattern, you can check this table from the Craft Yarn Council or the yarn label for an idea of an appropriate hook size. If you get going and find that the fabric is too stiff, try again with a larger hook size. If you find that the fabric is too loose and floppy, then you’ll want to go down hook size.
Common crochet mistake 9: Extra or missing stitches at the ends of rows
One common crochet mistake made by beginners is to leave out or place an extra stitch at the ends of rows. That’s because, when you are new to this, it can be hard to tell where the last stitch is supposed to go. Many a beginner has made trapezoids when they meant to crochet rectangles because of this issue.
How to fix it. The best way to avoid this common crochet mistake is to mark the first stitch of each row with a locking stitch marker right after you make it. When you turn your work and start going back the other way, that marked stitch will be the last place to stitch into at the end of your new row.
Once you’ve stitched into that spot you can remove the stitch marker and use it to mark the first stitch of your next row. You can see that in this little swatch I have a sea green stitch marker in the final stitch so that I know exactly where to place the final stitch of my current row.
The little graphic below will take you to where you can purchase that exact style of stitch marker on Amazon. However, you can see in the upper left of the photo above that I have quite a collection of different stitch markers. You can sometimes find some very fun stitch markers made with beads and charms. However, I still use the clover stitch markers below more than any others.
Common crochet mistake 10: Choosing yarn that is dark or overly textured
As a beginner, please do yourself a favor and choose yarn that is light to medium in color. It is SO hard to see what you are doing with dark yarn. In fact, many very experienced crocheters still won’t use black yarn because it is so hard to see what you’re doing with it.
The other suggestion for beginners is to start with smooth yarn. There are some neat textures of yarn out there from furry, to bumpy, to beaded. However, same story as dark colored yarn, it will be so much harder to see what you are doing if you use these textured yarns. Until you have loads of experience, stick with smooth textures.
And those are 10 of the most common crochet mistakes, especially for beginners. I made every one of these mistakes myself, and I’ve come a long way since then. No shame! It’s part of the learning process.
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