I first learnt to crochet when I was nine, waiting for my brother to finish a sports class. I noticed one of his friend’s mums making a blanket, and was absolutely fascinated by how she was doing it. She ended up teaching me how to make a small flower, and kindly gave me one of her hooks and some wool. The next week I took back several flowers to show her and I have been crocheting ever since. It’s safe to say I was hooked (pun intended).
In the last few years I have been excited to notice a massive surge in the amount of young people who are crocheting regularly, and I think we can all agree that it is no longer just grannies making Christmas jumpers – although we love those too! Everyday on Instagram I see posts featuring everything from coasters, to bags, soft toys, and bikinis, and it is no surprise that the Instagram tag #crochet has over 46 million posts.
However, it is no secret that the crochet trend has caught the eye of fast fashion clothing brands in a concerning way. Not only have there been frequent accusations of large companies plagiarising self-employed designers work, crochet cannot be created by a machine due to its three-dimensional structure, and whilst you can get machines that design something similar, they do not look the same. For this reason crochet is a dangerously time-consuming fast fashion nightmare which is helping to fuel exploitation in sweatshops.
When considering this I turned to Shein to see how they are marketing this trend. Shein sells a crochet bucket hat for £6.50, made of 5 floral squares and joined with double crochets. I decided to see how long it would take me to make, and was unsurprised to find that just the 4 colours of yarn required for the design would cost me £6 (prices for Hobby Craft’s own brand selection April 2023), leaving just 50p if I was to attempt to sell a similar product matching Shein’s prices. Making the squares for the hat took around 30 minutes each, so including joining time, that was at least 3 hours of making time. Whilst re-creating this hat is a fun and very manageable project it did make me very aware that fast fashion brands are not only making the market inaccessible for small business owners, but that it is almost impossible for them to be paying their workers, as even excluding materials costs the price of the product is considerably less than living wage for the time it would take to make it.
So for those of us inspired by the infamous ‘Harry Styles cardigans’, Katie Perry’s Granny Square American Idol Dress, or Tom Daley’s Crochet Instagram page @MadewithlovebyTomDaley, who want to avoid fast fashion but don’t want to pay hundreds of pounds, it is the perfect time to grab a hook and take up a new hobby and learn to crochet!
Whether you are a crochet novice or a hardened hooker, here are my top five tips for crocheters:
1) Buy a decent quality hook and some wool – don’t start with a ‘ready-made crochet kit’
I’m not saying you should go out and spend loads on money on a fancy hooks set or hundreds of balls of wool, but for the same price as a beginners kit from a craft store you will be able to get a metal hook and a ball of wool, and with the amount of free patterns available online it is possible to find beginner tutorials that will make a much nicer final piece than a craft store kit and can be tailored to your crochet dreams.
2) Use a video pattern – there are lots on YouTube
On the subject of patterns…whilst ‘book’ patterns may be more traditional, video patterns have the advantage of you being able to see the creator making the stitches. This means that you don’t have to learn loads of code words – who wants to be worrying about what ch, sc, dc, hdc, and sc mean when they are just trying to make a fun hat? or worry about whether you are following a US or EU pattern (the stitches have different names!).
3) Start with something small
Who doesn’t love finishing a project? Not only is a small project cheaper in terms of materials, the serotonin from a completed project will always be a draw for a busy student.
4) Practise a pattern with lots of the same stitch
As with the above, getting really good at one stitch is a great way to quickly build confidence and develop your skills. Lots of simple tops and cardigans will do this, but a Granny Square is a great way to start because they use two stitches and build quickly.
5) Pay attention to your tension
One of the biggest mistakes crocheters make is not paying attention to their tension – as your work builds, tension is what will make your stitches look even and keep your project to the right size. To keep your tension uniform, focus on the way you are holding your hook and yarn, note if the stitches feel tight or loose as you pull the hook through. It is something that gets easier with practice! And if you get stuck, check out Krista Cagle’s great article on Easy Crochet, ‘How To Get Perfect Crochet Tension’.