In the World of Cro­chet

Crochet World - - Front Page - By Randy Cav­a­liere

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!

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