As crochet’s popularity surges, it’s easy to join in
It's leaner and trendier than it was in the 1960s and '70s, when the craft was known for its bulky, acrylic yarns. Crochet's enduring popularity is due partly to today's high-quality, luxurious yarns, many at affordable prices.
Crochet can be found on high-fashion runways and in upscale home decor. Textile artists such as Kaffe Fassett use it.
But it also can just be fun: Mischievous "yarn bombers" decorate urban landscapes -- street signs, trees, even bicycles and cars -- in crochet.
It's never been easier to learn how to wield a crochet hook, thanks to an assortment of books, magazines and free online tutorials.
"To me it's like painting with stitches," said Teresa Richardson, 50, of Savannah, Ga., who shares free patterns and video tutorials at her blog, Crochet Geek.
Her YouTube video tutorials average 75,000 daily views, according to YouTube Analytics. She recently completed requests to crochet a manatee, an octopus and a sheep.
Carol Alexander, of Berne, Ind., has been crocheting since the early 1980s, when she made a toy for her then-unborn son. A crochet-pattern designer for more than 20 years, she's the executive crochet editor for Crochet! and Crochet World magazines.
"Crochet has always been the 'redheaded stepsister' (to knitting) but not anymore," Alexander said. "It's really out there and setting the standards."
Edie Eckman, co-author of the new "Crochet One-Skein Wonders," agrees that crochet has become more fashionable.
"It's OK to be seen crocheting publicly now," said Eckman of Waynesboro, Va.
New yarns have helped. Appealing blends that include bamboo, silk or alpaca, for example, allow for thinner, softer yarn. As a result, crocheted pieces can drape more attractively, which is why clothing designers are using more crochet, Alexander said.
The traditional and ubiquitous granny square has been re-envisioned.
"People are using it in the same old ways but in new colors and in smaller yarns," Eckman said.
Crocheters and knitters have long argued about which medium is superior. Eckman, who does both, sees each craft's charms. Crochet, she said, is faster, more versatile and more forgiving.
Knitting uses two or more needles to create two basic stitches -- the knit and the purl -- which are combined to create hundreds of stitch patterns.
Crochet, with its one hook and basic stitches, is able to conjure up thousands of stitch patterns.
And because there's only one "live" stitch in crochet, crocheters can change a pattern on the fly more easily than knitters can, and without fear of dropping a stitch.
To learn crochet, Alexander recommends starting with an online tutorial so you can watch another person's hands.
Richardson's basic stitch tutorials include instructions for left-handed crocheters.
She recommends that new crocheters practice the basic stitches -- a chain, single crochet, half double crochet and double crochet -- before tackling advanced projects.
For inspiration and free patterns, also visit Ravelry, an online community for crocheters and knitters.
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