9/11/2010

Crochet Hooks 101

After re-reading an older post I wrote on crochet hooks, I got to thinking that it might be about time to update this topic. After all, since I've been publishing my own patterns, I've learned quite a bit more about the hooks out there and how to make a good choice for a project.

First, let's take a look at the parts of a crochet hook. The following image was taken from the Crochet Guild of America's Hook Standards page:



There are three things that can make a crochet hook unique:
  • Size
  • Material
  • Grip/Handle
Size
There are actually two groups of crochet hook sizes, depending on the type of crochet you'll be doing. These are:
  • Steel (or Thread Crochet) Sized Hooks
  • Standard Crochet Sized Hooks
Steel-sized hooks are used in thread crochet projects such as doilies and lace. These hooks are typically made from steel to prevent bending. As an amigurumi designer, I don't often get into these hooks, but it is helpful to know that they are out there. In US terms, the hooks are numbered from 00 (largest) to 14 (smallest) and range in size from 3mm down to .6 mm. For a complete list of steel crochet hooks sizes and US/UK/metric conversions, see this great conversion chart from Karp Styles.

My domain is usually within the standard hooks used to work with yarns from lace weight on up to super bulky. In US terms, standard crochet hooks are usually identified with a letter from B (smallest) through Q (largest) and range in size from 2 mm to 15 mm. The following chart gives you a list of the US/UK/metric conversions:

Crochet Hook Conversion Chart
Metric USA   UK  
2.00 mm- 14
2.25 mm1 / B13
2.50 mm-12
2.75 mmC11
3.00 mm- 11
3.25 mmD10
3.50 mm4 / E9
3.75 mmF-
4.00 mm68
4.25 mmG-
4.50 mm77
5.00 mm8 / H6
5.50 mm9 / I5
6.00 mm10 / J4
6.50 mm10 1/2 / K3
7.00 mm-2
8.00 mm-0
9.00 mm15 / N 00
10.00 mmP 000
15.75 mm or 16mmQ -

If you are ever in double about a hook size, it's best to go with the metric measurement rather than the assigned letter/number. This will ensure that you get the best match for your pattern.

Material
We already know that steel is most commonly used for thread crochet hooks, but a lot of other different materials are used for crochet hooks as well. The most common materials used in standard crochet hooks are:
  • Aluminum
  • Plastic
  • Wood/Bamboo
Aluminum hooks are generally the most sturdy, utilitarian hooks out there. You can pick them up just about anywhere -- from the drug store to fine crafting supply stores. In a nutshell, they are the work horses of the crochet world -- common, practical, and durable.

Plastic hooks by Lion Brand
Plastic crochet hooks may seem like a cheaper alternative to aluminum, but you really have to be careful with what you're buying when it comes to these hooks. I've found two main flaws in using plastic hooks:
  1. Many plastic hooks have a seam that runs the length of the hook. In some cases (for example, with Lion Brand's hook line), this is not an issue because the seam is smooth. In other cases, the seam is jagged and the yarn catches and splits while you're working.
  2. Plastic hooks tend to bend and may even snap off. I once purchased a set of plastic hooks for a young friend while teaching her amigurumi crochet. A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to visit her and see how her work was coming along. She sadly showed me the last two hooks remaining in her set (there had been 8 to start with).
I'm not saying that you can't use plastic hooks for amigurumi crochet, but I would advise that you be careful when you do your shopping. Make sure the hook you buy has a smooth seam and that it appears sturdy enough to hold up with the tighter amigurumi crochet stitches.

Hummingbird hook from DyakCraft
Wood/Bamboo hooks have recently become more popular and easier to find. These hooks are generally more expensive than plastic or aluminum hooks and can be more decorative (for example, check out some of these beautiful hooks from DyakCraft).

Wood and bamboo hooks have the added benefit of feeling almost warm in your hands. With use, they build up a very smooth surface and the yarn seems to pass over them effortlessly. I do stress the words, "with use" here, because some of these natural hooks can have rough edges from varnish or other finishing techniques. When purchasing any natural hook, I recommend checking the underside of the lip and the bowl carefully to make sure you select the smoothest possible -- otherwise, you may have to spend some time "breaking in" your hook with a bit of sand paper before you can really get to crocheting.

Grip/Handle
For me, the grip or handle of the hook is the most important piece in deciding whether or not to purchase a hook. I spend a lot of time crocheting and I need a handle that gives me a good grip on the hook but still feels comfortable in my hand after several hours.

Hook handles are as different as the day is long and range from very plain to decorative or purely ergonomic. For example, Provo Craft offers a crochet tool kit with two interchangeable, erconomic handles that looks more like a surgical tool set.

Polymer clay handle by polymerclayshed
Several Etsy sellers offer hooks with really lovely polymer clay covered handles. These are a very pretty way to spruce up a traditional crochet hook and the designs out there are endless.

Another neat option that has started to show up a lot more recently is an aluminum hook with a natural wood/bamboo handle. Susan Bates offers an affordable line of these hooks that give you the sturdiness of aluminum and the feel of wood.

Of all the handles, I've found that my favorite is still the Soft Touch line by Clover. These hooks are lightweight, have a defined thumb grip and a great shape. While I do find myself longing for some of the other beautifully-finished hooks available out there, nothing comes close to my Clover hooks for ease of use over several hours of crochet.
I hope this little reference helps everyone to understand a little more about crochet hooks!

8 comments:

  1. thanks for all this info!!! I never understood why anyone would get those funny looking handles on the hooks but now it makes total sense!! (can you tell I'm new to crochet!)

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  2. This website is a rainbow of joy. I will be following with a real interest.
    Best wishes from an Estonian living in Italy.

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  3. @Velma -- So glad I could help shed some light on the subject of hooks!

    @Pille -- I don't even know what to say! I am flattered and humbled by your comment and will continue to do my best to bring interesting topics to this blog!

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  4. very informative thanks :) I've never tried with plastic hooks and I think after reading this I won't bother - I've managed to bend some of my aluminium hooks so plastic would not last long with me!

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  5. Love the Clover Soft Touch. My wonderful hubby bought me two of these to try out. I now have a set of eight.

    I have snapped more plastic hooks then I care to think about.

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  6. Thank you Itsy Bitsy, this info was great. I too love the the Soft Touch by Clover. For most of my small, steel, thread hooks, I have purchased two sizes of soft tubeing used for various applications on model planes. These slip over the tiney steel handles for great cushioning.

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  7. hai..what a interesting topic,Can you give me permission to translate it in malay, so i can spread your knowledge among my friend.

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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