Looking for a crafting hobby that’s inexpensive, fun, and easy to learn? Crocheting is the way to go! You can make everything from thick wooly blankets to delicate lace, but for beginners, beanies are a perfect project to learn on. You’ll be able to practice a variety of crocheting techniques that will come in handy for other projects, including chaining, single crochet, double crochet, and finishing techniques. You can even learn to make embellishments, like flowers and pom-poms, to add a little something special and create custom gifts for your friends and family. Like any new skill, crocheting a beanie might seem a bit daunting when you first get started, but by breaking down the process into simple steps, you’ll soon have them mastered.
1. Gather Your Supplies
If you’re new to crocheting, it’s easiest to start with a hook that’s not too big and not too small. Hooks are rated according to size, with the smallest sizes labeled 00, or B, all the way up to the largest, labeled 14 or S, depending on the brand of hook. Small steel hooks are typically used for crocheting lace, while larger hooks, often made of aluminum, bamboo, or plastic, are better for everyday projects. Try a J or K sized hook in aluminum or plastic to start with.
As if the jumble of sizes and materials weren’t confusing enough, crochet hooks also come in two types of hook designs! “Tapered” hooks have a smooth transition from the handle into the curve of the hook, while “in-line” crochet hooks have a sharper, notch-like hook. Thankfully, there’s no right or wrong choice. Which type you use is largely up to your personal preference. Tapered hooks are often easier to manipulate in tight designs, but it’s easier to drop loops that in-line hooks hold neatly. Try both and see which you like best.
The other crucial element in your first crocheting project is the yarn. Opt for something not too fluffy. Extra fibers can get caught between stitches, making it difficult to keep count and see where your hook needs to go. A medium or worsted-weight yarn is a good option for your first project. It’s available at almost every crafting store in a wide variety of colors and is typically inexpensive. Depending on the yardage it contains, one skein of yarn is enough to make between one and two hats for adults.
2. The Foundation Chain
The first step to crocheting a hat, or, indeed, any crochet project, is the foundation chain. Start by tying a slipknot in the end of your yarn, putting the loop over your crochet hook, and pulling on the working end of your yarn (the part leading toward your skein) to tighten the knot. You want the loop snug enough that it won’t easily fall off your hook as you move it, but loose enough that you can easily slide it along the length of the hook. There are several ways to create a foundation chain, but the simplest is the loop method. To create your chain, hold the tail end of your yarn in your non-dominant hand, and use the hook to catch a loop of yarn from the working end. This is called “yarning over.” Draw this loop in and, using the tail end as a handle, pull the slipknot on your hook up and over the end of the hook, drawing the new loop you’ve just collected through the slipknot as it goes. Pull gently on the working end of the yarn to tighten it if necessary. You’ll be left with one loop on your hook, and another, the loop from your original slipknot, trailing off the hook. These are the first links in your chain.
To create a hat for an adult, repeat the process about five times, until you have a chain two to three inches long. Now you’ll turn the straight chain into a continuous loop. Instead of yarning over, first push the hook through that first loop in your chain, right where the tail yarn joins. You’ll now have two loops of yarn on your hook. Now yarn over as before, and this time, draw the new loop down through both the loops on your hook. This is known as slipping a stitch. You’ve created your foundation circle! You want this to be a fairly small circle, as this is the crown of your hat. A small hole in the center can be stitched closed, or covered by an embellishment later, but if the hole is quite large, you may want to start again. Taking apart crocheting is easy. Just remove your hook from your work and pull on the working end of your yarn until the whole thing unravels. Just be careful not to do this unintentionally!
3. Single Crochet Stitch
The single crochet stitch is simple but effective. You can use it on its own to create all kinds of projects, or combine it with more advanced stitches to create different shapes and textures. It’s perfect for creating sturdy basic shapes, like the crown of your hat.
To create a single crochet stitch on a foundation chain, slip your hook into the second loop (you’ll have just used the first one for your slip stitch joining). You’ll now have two loops on your hook. Yarn over, and draw the yarn through ONLY the first loop on your hook. This will leave you again with two loops, one of which is new. Yarn over again, and this time draw the yarn through both loops on your hook at once. You’ve just completed your first single stitch! Repeat the process for each stitch in your foundation chain, and then use a slip stitch to join the last single stitch you added to the first one you made.
You’ll notice that unlike chaining, single stitch crocheting creates stitches that have two loops, a “front” and a “back” loop. If you look at your project edge on, each stitch looks like the letter V, interlocked with the stitches before and after it. The two legs of the V are the front and back loops. When you make your second row of single stitches, you’ll want to slide your hook under both these for the most secure stitch. Stretchier patterns make call for just using one, but for a first project, it’s easier to use both.
To begin your second row of single crochet, first chain one stitch. This is known as the turning stitch and brings your hook up to the top of what will be your next row and gives you space to work. Now slide your hook through both loops of your first single stitch and yarn over. Draw the yarn through the entire first stitch, leaving you once again with two loops on your hook. Yarn over again, and draw the yarn through both loops. Continue around your project until you reach the first stitch in this new row, then use a slip stitch to join the last stitch to the first.
4. Shaping Your Hat
Beanies are worked in two sections. First, you’ll create a circular mat by increasing the number of stitches in each row, and then you’ll add depth by working each row with the same number of stitches.
To increase the number of stitches in a row (or, in this case, in a “round,” since you’re working around the edge of the crown of your hat), simply chain one stitch—your turning stitch—and add one single crochet stitch just as you did for your last row. When you’ve completed that stitch, instead of putting your hook under the two loops of the next stitch, make another single stitch right next to the first, putting your hook into the same stitch where you just added one. This allows you to increase the number of stitches in each row, which keeps the crown of your hat from curling up too soon.
The exact number of stitches you’ll need to add per row varies from hat to hat depending on the size you’re making. The easiest way to determine how many stitches to add will be to use a pattern, but if you’re patient and willing to experiment a bit, you can also try different combinations and see what shape you like best.
5. Double crochet stitch
If you do opt to use a pattern to make your hat, be sure to learn the double crochet stitch as well. It’s no more difficult than the single stitch, but because it’s taller, it means you’ll create more hat with every stitch!
To create the first stitch in a round of double crochet, first chain two stitches. Where single crochet stitches are one chained loop “tall,” doublet crochet is twice that, since it’s essentially two single crochets stacked on top one another. After chaining two stitches, yarn over. You’ll have two loops on your hook. Insert your hook into the first stitch in the round, and yarn over again, pulling a loop of yarn through the stitch. You’ll now have three loops on your hook. Yarn over, and pull this yarn through the top two loops on your hook. You’ll now have two loops left, one that was already there, and the second that you created by pulling yarn through the first two loops. Yarn over once more, and pull the yarn through both the loops on your hook. You’ve created your first double crochet! You can increase the number of double crochet stitches in a round just as you would with single crochet—just work two new stitches side by side atop a single stitch in the row below.
6. Finishing your beanie
When you’ve added enough rows to the crown of your hat so that it comfortably covers the top of your head, it’s time to add depth. Don’t add any more extra stitches into each row; continue the pattern of completing a round, slip-stitching the last stitch into the first, and chaining up (either one or two loops depending on whether you’re using single or double crochet) to start your next round. Your hat will begin to curl upward, and soon it should start to take shape. Continue to add rows until it reaches the desired depth. Finishing off crochet projects is easy. Cut your working yarn about six inches from your last stitch and remove your hook from the stitch. Pull the yarn through the last remaining stitch, then pull it gently tight. Don’t cut the yarn off yet. Use a tapestry needle to weave the end of the yarn into the loops of your crocheting. Tie it off in the middle, then weave in another inch or so before cutting off any excess. Leaving long tails makes it very difficult for your knots to come undone, and weaving those tails into the project itself keeps them invisible. Congratulations! Your hat is now ready to wear.
Basic beanies are all well and good, but as you get better at crocheting, you’ll probably want to be able to dress them up as well! There are plenty of store-bought decorations available, and you can make your own using materials like felt, but it’s also easy to use yarn scraps to make embellishments like pom-poms and crocheted flowers.
To make a quick and easy pom-pom, wrap yarn around the fingers of your non-dominant hand. For a small pom-pom, use two fingers; for a larger pom-pom, use all four. Continue winding the yarn until you’ve built up a sizeable bulk, making sure to wrap loosely enough that you can still wiggle your fingers a little. Cut a piece of yarn about six inches long and tie it around the middle of the yarn loops you’ve created. Essentially, you’re cinching the O shaped loops you’ve created around your fingers into a figure-eight, with loops above and below the point where you’ve tied it. You can remove your fingers from the loops so you can tie the yarn tightly. Now use a pair of scissors to clip the top and bottom loops of the figure-eight, and to trim the resultant pieces into a smooth round shape. You can use the long pieces of yarn from the point where you tied the pom-pom into shape to stitch it onto your hat.
Crocheting is a simple hobby to master, and with just a little patience and some simple projects—like beanies!—to get started with, you’ll be crocheting like a pro in no time.