(In)Coherent Crochet

Crochet has a reputation for being a gentle, quiet pastime, the sort of thing engaged in by little old ladies and the more productive sort of hippie. But little do people know what morasses of international confusion lurk beneath the tranquil surface of this seemingly innocuous hobby. I recently took up hook (to finish off a piece of knitting, as it happens) and I was completely boggled by what I found.

Take the hooks, for example.

CrochethookrollBritish crochet hooks are numbered: the smaller the number, the larger the hook. A little counter-intuitive, perhaps, but reasonable. Except that when it’s a steel hook, for finer work, the numbering is different. Still bigger number for smaller hook, just… a different range of numbers.

So, for instance, a size 4 could be 6mm wide, or it could be 1.65mm wide. Slightly awkward if you order one for crocheting yourself a blanket, and then find you are crocheting a coaster.

And not only do the numbers overlap, so do the sizes. A 2.25mm hook could be a size 1½ (steel, for fine work) or a size 13. Furthermore, a size 8 could be 4.0 or 4.25mm, and if you want anything between a 4.0 and a 3.5mm – well, good luck finding what you’re looking for, because in the British system that is The Hook Without Name.

But let us not single out the British for these eccentricities. The American system is, if anything, worse.

Most hooks have a letter and a number: B-1, C-2, K-10½… Except for size 7, sitting there all on its tod between G-6 and H-8. Unlike the British system, the bigger the hook, the bigger the number. Except for the steel hooks for fine work, which do follow the British convention of having bigger numbers for smaller hooks.

Not, of course, the same numbers. No, no. The American numbers run from 2 to 10, thus ensuring that there is another hook labelled simply 7.

So a size 7 could be a 4.5mm American hook, or a 4.5mm British hook (that’s where they cross over as one goes up and the other down), or a 1.65mm hook. And a 1.65mm hook could be labelled 7 for the US or 4 for the UK, but a UK 4 is also a 6mm and…

And thank God for the Europeans, who somewhere along the way had the Idea of Startling Brilliance, i.e. why not make the sizes be the actual size of the hook?
CrohookWhich is why most modern hooks, regardless of what market they are intended for and what other sizing system they use, are also marked with metric measurements, because then We Know Where We Are.

All we need now is for someone to do the same for the actual stitch terminology.

A slip stitch in the US is a UK single crochet. A US single is a UK double. A US double is a UK treble. You end up researching the genealogy of the friend who gave you a pattern in an attempt to discern what the very basics even mean.

And I have come up with a solution.

As follows. One of the first things you learn when you are beginning crochet, be it so plain as a coaster or dishcloth that you are making, is how to turn. And in order to turn (unless you are slip-stitch/single crocheting), you need to make a turning chain. And the length of said turning chain depends on the stitch you are going to make next.

DoubleturningInspired by the sane approach of the Europeans, I propose that these numbers be taken as the basis of a new universal crochet terminology, and since numbers are already in use (no one wants to be told to make two threes or three twos or anything confusing like that), they shall have suitably abbreviable names.

The stitch requiring no turning chain (formerly known as the slip or single) shall be the Zero stitch, abbreviation Z.

The stitch requiring a turning chain of one (formerly known as the single or double) shall be the Solo stitch – Star Wars fans can thank me later – abbreviation S.

The stitch requiring a turning chain of two (formerly known as the half-double, half-treble or short treble) shall be the Duo stitch, abbreviation D.

The stitch requiring a turning chain of three (formerly known as the double or treble) shall be the Trio stitch, abbreviation T.

The stitch requiring a turning chain of four (formerly known as the triple, double-treble or long treble) shall be the Quarto stitch, abbreviation Q.

the whole gangAnd there you have it! It may well be that I am the only one who will ever use it, but for what it is worth, I offer it to the world, as my contribution to international understanding and goodwill.

All it needs now is a name. I incline towards TurnWise – any other suggestions?

One Glove, Two Glove, Tight Glove, Loose Glove

Sometimes things work out just the way you planned them. Other things… not so much. Last summer I realized that I was down to only one pair of gloves (I’ve been moving my wardrobe in the direction of colours that actually suit me), and that pair were fingerless.

But it was summer! I had plenty of time to knit myself some full-fingered gloves, right? I cast on the first one the week before Christmas, and finished it before the summer ended, despite the inevitable fiddles of altering the pattern to fit. (I have small hands.) Autumn was interrupted by other knitting projects (with deadlines) and some knit-free weeks following eye surgery, and I was starting to feel the nip in the air.

side by side

The second glove knit up in practically no time at all (for me) – only a few days. There was just one problem with it. It was really, really tight.

Same pattern, same needles, same stitch count, what appeared to be the same yarn – but was it? Closer inspection proved that I had inadvertently used the ‘just-in-case-there-isn’t-enough’ yarn for the body of the glove, and the proper yarn for the fingers. Of course, this was only detectable under a certain light, and at the right angle.

I pulled the whole thing to bits (quite fiddly with the fingers, it turns out) and started again, this time using the proper yarn. And the result? You could have knocked me down with a feather – it was still much smaller. Not, perhaps, quite as tiny as it had been, but still visibly smaller. Observe:


I was (and am) baffled. Same yarn, same needle, same pattern. Different size. And it’s not as though my hands are different sizes, either – at least as far as I can tell. The only possible explanation (all right, the only possible rational explanation) is that I was much tenser when knitting the second glove. It’s funny – I didn’t think I was that stressed, at least until the Tiny Glove Happening.

However, since the winter draws on apace (it was one degree Celsius the other morning) I have decided that It Will Do. But next time I knit gloves, I’m going to try knitting them both in the same season. I’ll just have to learn to knit faster.


The original draft of this blog post – I usually write them ahead of time – ended here. Last night, however, as I was trimming away a little end that had come loose (you can just see it in the above photo, about halfway down the cuff below the thumb), I discovered that all was not well. Something more than a little end had come loose further along, and there was now a considerable hole in the almost-new glove.

I blamed it on the fact that the cuff of the Second Glove Mark II was knitted out of the fingers of the Second Glove Mark I – not a wise idea, in case anyone is ever thinking of doing it. You end up with a billion little ends to sew in, and the law of averages will soon result in your glove springing a leak. Take it from me…

The hole was beyond a mend: something more like surgery was required. I did my best to pick up stitches around the hand by where it met the cuff, and then carried on the unravelment from where the second hole had sprung up. Did I mention the second hole? It was right at the base of the thumb, practically.

At more than one stage in these proceedings, I considered wastefully chucking the whole thing and just knitting myself a new pair of gloves. Particularly at the point where I thought I’d only managed to pick up half the stitches, and the other half appeared to be laddering…

Mercifully, that proved not to be the case, and I managed to get all the stitches back onto needles, get a controlled unravel to even the round out, and then start knitting back out. Did I mention Second Glove Marks I & II had their cuff knit from the wrist out (hand started with provisional cast-on) because I was afraid of running out of yarn? I ended up using the reserve yarn for Second Glove Mark IIA (Cuff), since it was in bigger pieces than the twice-used ‘real’ yarn.

Alas, no photos were taken of the Franken-rescue process, as I was too busy panicking, picking up stitches, flinging off winter layers (I overheat when I panic), tap-dancing precariously along the outer edge of my abilities, knitting maniacally and then quivering gently as the adrenaline filtered away. Now all I have to do is sew the ends in, firmly this time. Because now, it’s winter.