In the World of Crochet
The love affair we have with crochet starts simply with an unpretentious piece of bent metal, molded plastic or carved wood: the hook. This modest and usually inexpensive device is on equal par with the myriad of yarns that captures our hearts and hands. The origins of modern crochet are debatable and a timeline can’t be defined before the 16th century, but the hook as the integral tool is indisputable. The word “crochet” is an old French word meaning “small hook.” Hooks, new and old, vary by material, color, length, diameter and purpose. The most common are standard, steel, Tunisian and jumbo hooks. The use of one hook or another is dictated by the type of stitching (for example, standard or Tunisian), the fiber content, the yarn weight and the crocheter’s personal preference. Regardless of its size or purpose, all crochet hooks have similar characteristics. The anatomy of a hook hasn’t changed much over time. Today’s standard hook (see illustration) features the head (A), which may be slightly pointed with an “inline" sharply cut throat (B) (the head protrudes slightly over the shaft). The shaft (C) is where the size of the stitch is formed. Susan Bates and Boye hooks have thumb rests (D); depending on the shape of the handle, other brands don’t always have this feature. The rest of the hook is the handle (E). A Tunisian hook’s longer handle ends with a stopper so the stitches don’t slide off. Standard American hooks are identified by a letter and number; the millimeter measurement is the diameter of the shaft. Sizes range from the nearly imperceptible head of the size 16/0.6mm steel hook to the gigantic size U/50/25mm hook. There are even larger custom sizes for huge crochet display pieces. You can look back in time on Nancy Nehring’s website, www.lacebuttons.com, to see old and
unusual hooks. In her History of Crochet article featured on Crochet Guild of America’s website, www.crochet.org, Ruthie Marks stated that early hooks were made from whatever the crocheter could find: one’s own fingers, wood, animal bones and tusks, metal wires with cork or bark for the handle, and other materials. Nancy’s site illustrates the many hooks and handles that Ruth describes. Click on “Crochet Hook Classification” to scroll through a glorious array of dozens of hooks. Many date back to the mid-1800s. The hook and shaft were often made of steel wire but it’s the handles that make these pieces so unique. Today, we’re all familiar with inexpensive, standard hooks. Who hasn’t learned to crochet with a reliable aluminum hook? Once we’ve mastered stitching, the fun really begins as we broaden our collections with hooks made of colorful plastics, swirls and bands of exotic woods, and cushy ergonomic handles designed to alleviate pain in our hands. Steel hooks are a “must” for those who love threadwork and lace-weight yarns. So what’s the “best” hook? The answer is highly debatable. There is no “best” as each hook has its positive attributes, but there is the “right” hook for the user and the particular project. Ask a longtime crocheter what her favorite hook is and you may get more than one answer (as we did!). It’s not uncommon for crocheters to amass sets of hooks for different yarns and purposes.
Keep in mind that crochet hooks of the same size from different manufacturers are not necessarily interchangable. Experience has taught me that there are subtle differences in hooks of the same size from one company to another that can affect the gauge. So work with the same hook throughout a project. An informal poll of crocheters across the U.S., including Crochet World readers, reveals that the most favored hook brand is Susan Bates, followed by Boye, then Clover. Aluminum is the first choice of material, no doubt because they’re inexpensive, colorful and ideal for a wide range of fibers. And, importantly, there’s no “catch” as the yarn slides over the hook. Wood, including bamboo, rosewood and luxury woods, are next in the list of “faves.” Crocheters love their hooks. They’re brand loyal and will often invest in limitededition hooks, one-of-a-kind hooks, handmade hooks and beautifully crafted hooks from various manufacturers in an array of materials. Ergonomic hooks are very popular. They fit the crocheter’s hand, lessen or prevent carpal tunnel issues and are offered by different companies. Clover offers a colorful range of rubber-handled Amour hooks that are comfortable for extended periods of stitching. They’re available in the usual sizes common in the U.S. and European sizes 7mm and 12mm. For those who love Tunisian crochet projects, there are sets with interchangeable hook heads and cables of varying lengths. Joining cables together allows for larger projects such as sweaters and afghans that can’t fit on the limited length of standard Tunisian hooks. Crocheters also like novelty hooks in colorful plastics, those that light up, square-handled hooks, and cushions that slip on standard handles. Whatever your preference, it’s safe to say that you can’t be a crocheter without being hooked on hooks!