Be Captain of Your Crochet Hooks
As with any art, the success of your crochet work depends on your tools. Have you been stymied by the bullion? Baffled by bouclé? Have you ever swapped out a crochet hook—same size, different brand—and found that your project has gotten smaller or larger? It’s probably not you. It’s your tools.
Before you start reading, gather up all your hooks—from your workbasket, from the couch cushions, from wherever your son left one after he used it to pry open the pickles. Got them? Read on.
The basic crochet hook (affiliate link) is not that mysterious: It is a stick with a crook on the end. But the variations are multiple: Square hooks, round hooks, pointy hooks, long hooks, short hooks, curvy and angular—they all have different strengths and purposes. The trick is to find the right tool for the task you’re doing. Here, we’ll consider the basic anatomy of a hook and the variations, as well as materials used to make hooks.
Anatomy of a Crochet Hook
First, check out the basic parts above. Each part of a hook can vary in size and shaping, with the most variation being from throat to head, where most of the technique is carried out. These variations can make a huge difference in your gauge, swatching, and the quality of your crochet experience. Note that differences in design and shape occur even within the same product lines manufactured by a single company.
Head, Lip, and Bowl
Lips, bowls, and head points range in shape from hook to hook, sometimes even between hooks of the same size from the same manufacturer.
The head design affects speed, agility, and performance. In Figure 1, the left head is pointed, useful when working into tight stitches. The head on the right is rounded, just right for working into open spaces.
In the photo at the top of this page, the hooks have differently shaped bowls. The bowl in the top hook has a sharp, angular wedge, which helps release loops more quickly. The bottom hook’s bowl is round and generous, which is better for working with thicker fibers, multiple fibers, or complicated stitches that require many loops.
The hooks in Figure 2 show lip variants; the length of the lip dictates the depth of the bowl. A longer lip, as in the top hook, is useful when working with more fiber and loops or fuzzier yarns, because the deeper bowl holds on to the loops. The lip on the bottom hook is short, resulting in a shallower bowl, which is useful when using a single DK weight yarn or working fairly simple stitches, because it releases the loops more easily.
In some hooks, the bowl may angle toward the back or the front inside the head, which suits some crochet styles but not others.
The Neck and Throat
The neck and throat hold loops before they are worked off. Think of the throat of a crochet hook as moving work space and the shaft as static work space. The shaping of this part has the most influence on your gauge. The length and circumference of this area affects the consistency and shape of crochet stitches. Some crocheters prefer a longer work space, to allow loops to slide up the hook as they crochet; some crocheters like the shorter work space, particularly if they keep their work close to the head of the hook. Some hooks have a longer neck with a circumference that is smaller than the throat. If you push your loops up to the throat to work, this is no trouble. But if you keep your work close to the head, you may find gauge variance, depending on whether your loops are worked off the neck or the throat.
A wedge-shaped hook, shown in the handmade hook in Figure 3, can change the shape of your crochet stitches. The hook shown is size M at the neck and head, and size N farther up the throat. Loops farther up the hook stretch out larger than the loops closest to the head. The resulting stitch is larger at the top than at the bottom, as shown Figure 4. This effect can be useful for some projects, but will alter the appearance if the goal is consistently sized stitches. To make consistent stitches, you may have to manipulate your hand and wrist, causing discomfort.
The Shaft, Handle, and Finger Rests
The shaft, handle, and finger rests are the parts of the hook that crocheters grasp, so they are often the focus of ergonomics, the study of how things interact with the human body. This area of the hook should be comfortable not only when static but also when the hand is moving. If possible, test-drive a new hook while crocheting.
Consider first the length of the shaft. Most hooks are 5.5–6.5” long. A longer hook is useful for some techniques and is more comfortable for larger hands. Crocheters who have trouble with leverage and control while crocheting or who form blisters on their hand might consider a hook with a longer shaft.
Handles and finger rests can be modified for increased comfort. To create a thicker handle for increased grip and control, metal hooks can be dipped into liquid rubber, encased in wood or polymer clay, or covered in spongy pencil-grip material to add comfort and cover pointy edges. Modify with care; too-thick handles can strain the wrist, so test to find a happy medium.
Finger rests should be consistent in size so the gauge is not affected if loops move farther up the hook.
Attached handles can reduce the amount of work space available on a hook. Substantial decorative handles are best for crocheters who keep their work close to the head. Hooks with ornamentation can swallow work space or catch on fiber or hands. If a hook’s design or ornamentation gets in the way of crocheting, it’s not really a great tool, no matter how lovely it is.
Proportions: inline vs. “not inline”
An inline hook has a lip and head “in line” with the shaft of the hook. The head is consistent in size and circumference with the shaft. This hook is good for stitches, such as the bullion stitch, requiring multiple consistent loops. (See below for an even better, but less common, hook for this type of stitch.)
Another type of hook has a lip and head that protrude farther from the shaft. The head of this type of not-inline hook angles out and away from the working space of the throat and shaft. This style may have a tapered neck and throat.
A less common variant has a head that is smaller in circumference than the shaft. The lip may curve back slightly into the throat, with a beak-like crook. This style of hook can be useful for stitches that involve pulling a loop through many other loops without dropping the first loop and without getting the hook hung up in the process. The larger space of the shaft or throat keeps the multiple loops consistent, and the smaller head allows ease of maneuverability and keeps a solid hold on the loop being pulled through. This is an excellent tool for the bullion stitch.
A style of crochet hook less common in the United States is a curved shape. Most often made from shell, metal, or wood, they can be inline or not inline, depending on shaping and the direction of curve. The hand-carved hook below is not inline, as the lip of the hook is in line with the wider handle, not with the work space of the hook.
What kind of bowls, lips, throats, and handles do your crochet hooks have? Crochet with each of them a bit and start comparing the differences the shapes make in what you do. With practice, and the tips above, you’ll discover what type works best with your crochet style and for a given project.
—Julia M. Chambers
Julia M. Chambers is a blogger and lifelong crocheter from Texas who has a passion for crochet hook anatomy. You can find her blog at www.aberrantcrochet.wordpress.com. This article first appeared in Interweave Crochet Fall 2013.
Featured Image: These hooks have different bowls: at top, sharp and angular; at bottom, round and generous. Photo by Julia M. Chambers