Crochet is the go-to activity here in Artsyville when I need to get through a creative block or clear my head. It's an amazing stress reliever and mind healer. If I were a doctor, I'd prescribe it for everyone!
I am not even remotely an expert at crochet, but I do not let this get in my way. I find it an incredibly satisfying process. Seeing my favorite colors come together stitch by stitch feels like magic. Using just a few basic stitches, I'm able to create some fun, eye-popping pieces, and you can too.
Here are a few examples of my pieces and color palettes (for more, see #artsyvillecrochet on Instagram). I usually work with bright, bold jewel tones. Sometimes I'll go all out and use every color I have; for other pieces I'll keep my selection to three or four colors in total. My house is full of unfinished pieces (uh, I mean swatches) from testing different color combos...
(double crochet, acrylic yarn, alternating two rows of the same color and one row of the next.)
(granny stripe, acrylic yarn, several rows of single crochet edging)
(granny stripe, cotton yarn)
(single rows of double crochet, acrylic yarn, fun boots and lots of color changes!)
(granny stripe, cotton yarn, with a double crochet border and scallop edging)
(granny squares, cotton yarn, wine)
Here are ten tips to get you on your way to colorful crochet:
1. Start with two things: a ball of practice yarn in your favorite color (medium weight acrylic; nothing textured, silky or super soft) and the hook size indicated on the back of the package, most likely an H/5mm or I/5.5mm. Just those two things. Keep it simple.
2. Learn the basics: how to make a slip knot, a foundation chain, a turning chain, and a single crochet stitch, in that order. (Keep in mind that US and UK crochet stitches have different definitions, so pick one set of terms and stick with that as you learn. The sources I mention here use US crochet terms.)
Focus on one skill at a time. Be patient with yourself. Give your brain some breathing room to adapt to the hand/eye coordination (and pattern language) that crochet requires.The process looks and feels awkward at first and your brain might say no thank you, but you will have to gently train your brain past this. Say yes. Work through the frustration. (I am writing this here as advice to my own self.)
3. Master the basics. Repetition is your friend. Make lots of slip knots, practice making your foundation chains even and the tension consistent, and make lots and lots of rows of single crochet. As mentioned in the single crochet tutorial, the first few rows of any work can be challenging because there isn't much to grab onto when you are making those first stitches, but hold on. It gets easier after that, and you will get into a stitching rhythm. If your work doesn't look right (and many times it won't), undo it (this is called frogging), chalk it up to learning experience, and do it again.
Focus on the process rather than the product until it becomes second nature to you. There are loads of wonderful expert bloggers and videos that will walk you through each of these steps. I have included some of my favorite sources here. You can also just poke around online and search for a tutorial that best suits your learning style.
4. Pick your colors and get comfy with change. Choose colors you love -- this makes all the difference in your colorful crochet. Pick hues that sing together. Learn how to switch colors. Also, learn how to deal with your ends as you go so you don't have little strings hanging everywhere when you are finished. There are multiple ways to do this: I prefer to crochet over mine in the next row, while others prefer to weave in the ends with a tapestry needle.
5. Go yarn shopping! Once your basics are in place, try yarns in different weights and materials. Ooooh, this part is so much fun, and it is also a mighty wallet-buster if you're not cautious. So set a yarn budget. Use coupons. And stop the shopping when it starts feeling overwhelming, the budget is drained, or the abundance of choice puts you into a mild panic. (I live only a quick drive from the Lion Brand store -- I know the struggle.)
My personal yarn favorites:
I love working with cotton for spring and summer (Cream & Sugar is probably the best known cotton brand, and thankfully they have put some Happier & Prettier hues in their line over the last few years). Bernat and Lion Brand also have cotton yarn in beautiful colors.
In the fall and winter, I use acrylic yarn -- usually Michaels' Loops & Threads Impeccables brand. It is very reasonably priced and I (mostly) love their color choices. Sometimes I'll pop in a few color subs from other yarn lines when one of the Impeccables colors runs afoul of my palette aesthetic (please, Michaels, I need a brighter grass green...). I Love This Yarn from Hobby Lobby or Big Twist from JoAnn are often my backup yarns, but I'm not super picky -- personally, color drives my choice.
6) Try new stitches. Add the half double crochet and double crochet to your toolbox (these will be easy after you've mastered the single), and you will be amazed by what you can produce. Quick quiz: Can you do a double crochet? Can you count to three? You can make a granny square. You can also do a granny stripe, which is nothing more than sets of three double crochets with a few spaces in between.
Once you are a self-certified master of these basic stitches, test out some more advanced stitches, even if it's just for the thrilling feeling of "oh look -- it worked!" If you're not getting it, look at different tutorials for the same stitch until the light bulb goes on -- multiple explanations of the same concept help demystify things for me. I love doing "cro-as-I-go" afghans, where I have no idea what stitch will come next until I actually get to that row. I also like to try new edging stitches for afghans -- picot, scallop, shell, etc. - which I promptly forget as soon as I finish. (See tip #7...)
7) Don't fret if you forget. It will come back to you. I only do crochet as a relaxing pastime, so sometimes months go by without picking up a hook, and I forget how to do the simplest of things like how to make a slip knot. After a quick check, I'll remember that my favorite method is the pretzel knot, and muscle memory kicks in. (Repetition comes back to serve in time of need.)
8) Take it with you. Crochet is an easy craft to do on the go. Stash your yarn and hook in a cute tote & use it to fill in empty minutes: on the bus, a plane, on a break, waiting in the carpool line, having coffee with a friend, wherever you have a few minutes here or there. In the time you might spend on a mindless phone scroll, you could create a bunch of stitches instead. Many local libraries have stitch and bitch groups where you can pick up tips in person from more experienced crocheters.
9) Show your yarn! Hand wind your skeins of yarn into balls (start with the end of the yarn that is inside the skein, not outside) and display them in a large basket, bowl or glass jar.
10) Think of it as therapy. Crochet is a process that lets you create, unwind and focus all at the same time. It is an anxiety reliever and a mental salve. When I get all worked up about something but can't manage to channel that into anything else productive, I pick up a hook. I can feel the nervous energy transforming into something physical and positive with each stitch. An afghan is an especially good project for crochet as a meditative process, because it is just one long row after another -- which gives your mind plenty of time to wander and sort things out while creating something beautiful at the same time. Crochet is brain medicine, and at the price of a ball of yarn & a hook, it is pretty cheap therapy.
Finally -- here are a few of my favorite crochet masters to help you get started:
I hope this inspires you to pick up a hook and jump into the world of colorful crochet!