If you’re familiar with this blog, then you will know that the designer in me loves to understand how things are put together and how that effects their function. (If you’re about to read your first Dora Does post, you’ll pick up on this pretty fast!)
Today I am using that to go right back to the fundamentals and look at one of our two most important tools. The crochet hook. (The second being yarn btw!)
It surprised myself that, given what a foundational part of crochet the humble hook is, this is the first time I’ve dedicated a post to it.
When something just works, does it’s job and is completely reliable, it’s easy to almost forget it’s there. It becomes part of the furniture I guess. What a thing to take for granted! I hope to make up for that and then some!!
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When I first started, to crochet, I used the plastic hook that came with my beginners kit. It didn’t even have a size stamped on it. As I learned that different hook sizes existed, I moved on to buy a few simple aluminium hooks and progressed from there.
Over the years, I have tried a whole range of hooks, from most major brands. I enjoy changing it up because I think it’s healthy for my wrists to change the grip and movement every now and then. I also use different types of hooks for different projects.
But, the truth is that I always default to clover amour (though it took me a while to build the whole set!). They are the hook that best suits the way I crochet. However, that is just me. You might prefer something completely different. I want to use this post to explain why that is and how to go about finding your own default.
What is the best crochet hook?
I see this question asked a lot on all kinds of crochet groups on facebook and elsewhere.
The answer is that there isn’t a ‘best’ hook. What there might be however, is a best hook FOR YOU!
By understanding what goes into those little crochet magic wands, you can consider how these features might work with your crochet style, experiment and answer this question for yourself.
Below, I will explain the main features which vary between crochet hooks and how these may impact your preferences, your crochet rhythm and tension.
I do recommend trying a bunch of different styles, as funds and opportunity allows. Because once you find ‘your’ hook, you will know it! (It really IS like a magic wand!).
I’m going to say from the start that I’m aware I have developed rather an extensive crochet hook collection over the years (Which you will see snippets of thought!). I appreciate that this may not be the case for everyone. So whilst I suggest trying different things, or substituting different hook styles willy nilly, I appreciate this may not be feasible for all.
However, these suggestions are useful, even if you’re not currently expanding your hook collection. When you start to understand what works for you, it will help you make more informed buying choices when you do come to invest – hopefully saving you money in the long term!
My other tip is that, if you’re looking to experiment, it’s worth keeping an eye on charity / goodwill shops so you can try different styles of hook at a lower cost!
Okay, lets get started by explaining the core features in your crochet hook.
The anatomy of a crochet hook
The image below shows the main functional parts of a typical crochet hook. These are the terms I will refer to throughout the article.
Lets look at these in a little more detail;
This is the very top tip of the hook. It’s the part that you insert into your stitches. It can be sharp, rounded, almost flat and anything in between!
This is the part that ‘catches’ your yarn when you’re pulling up loops. The hook of the hook so to speak. It’s shape and sharpness / softness can have a big impact on how it works with the yarn.
Throat and Bowl
The throat is the part of the hook which is angled from the shaft down towards the inside curve of the hook (the bowl). The shape and angle of the throat can vary and can have an impact on your tension.
The interior shape of the hook is referred to as the bowl. It is where the yarn sits when it is hooked. The bowl can be shallow or deep, smooth or more angular depending on the style of hook.
Shank / Shaft
This is the bit that you make the stitches with. The diameter (width across the round) is where the hook measurement is taken. I.e. a 4mm hook will have a shaft that measures 4mm across.
When you slide your hook into the stitches, you need to make sure the yarn slides up to the shaft to achieve an even tension. If you make stitches with the throat instead of the shaft then you will find your will be very tight when you try to work into them.
Grip or thumb Rest
This is where your fingers and thumb hold the hook. Some hooks have flattened thumb rests, some have none at all. This is where hook design can vary enormously and preference and personal comfort start to come into play. The style of grip you have will likely impact which shape of thumb rest you prefer. More on grip later!
This part of the hook lays either through the centre of your hand or rests on top of it, depending on how you hold it. The length and style can vary. Many handles are straight and others are shaped for ergonomics. (Keep reading for a bunch of examples which show how much handles can vary.)
Crochet Hook Styles: Inline vs Tapered
All hooks have the same basic anatomy, but there are two main categories within most common hook designs: tapered and inline.
Neither one is better or worse, it’s an individual choice thing again. But it is worth understanding the differences and how they can impact your crochet.
What’s the difference between inline and tapered crochet hooks?
In simplest terms, the head of an inline hook is ‘in line’ with the shaft. With a tapered hook, the lip sticks out beyond the shaft.
Below you will see an image of two 8mm crochet hooks. The wooden, brightly coloured hook on the right is an example of an inline style (the head is the same width as the shaft) and the yellow handled metal one on the left is the tapered style (the lip sticks out beyond the shaft).
There is a little bit more to it, so lets take a look at the features of each type in more detail.
Inline Crochet Hook Features
The distinguishing feature of an inline hook is that the head of the hook is ‘in line’ with the shaft.
It is said, (though I’m not entirely convinced), that this consistency in size helps crocheters maintain a consistent stitch size. Some people would therefore recommend inline hooks for beginners. Most of the basic aluminium hooks are the inline style. Beginner or not, if you’re struggling with your tension on a tapered hook you may want to try switching to inline.
The taper from the shaft to the throat in an inline hook is a little more angular than the tapered hook. Often the throat is flat rather than rounded and the bowl is deeper or more angular.
This means that an inline hook will ‘catch’ the yarn more firmly. Depending on how you look at it, this could be a pro or a con. If you struggle to keep the yarn on your hook when pulling it through then an inline hook would help with this. Personally, I find that some of them can be a bit ‘catchy’.
In many, but not all, inline hooks you may also notice (as in the wooden hook pictured below) that the throat of the hook does not narrow towards the head when you look from the front or back. This is another contributor to stitch consistency.
Below you’ll see two quite different hooks from different angles. They are both the same size (12mm) and are inline (the head and shaft are the same width), but there is quite a bit of variation in other areas such as the handle and the throat shaping.
Tapered Hook Features
The distinguishing feature of a tapered hook is that the head, and in particular the lip, pokes out beyond the shaft of the hook.
The shaft slopes more softly towards the head and in a more rounded style, narrowing at the throat.
The head of the hook is also often more rounded at the lip.
Below are a couple of examples of tapered hook. Again there are quite a few differences. I’m showing you more than one example because I think it’s helpful to recognise the variation within the categories.
Personally I prefer a tapered hook, but I believe that preference is impacted by how you crochet. Both the amount of twist in your wrist and the way you grip your hook and yarn will contribute towards this.
The different ‘grips’ and how you hold your crochet hook
Broadly speaking, they way crocheters hold, or ‘gip’ their hooks falls into two categories; the knife grip and the pencil grip. They are pretty much as they sound!
The knife grip:
The pencil grip:
I hold my hook like a knife – I marvel at the precision people seem to have with the pencil grip. I’ve had a go at changing it up, but I feel like I’m trying to crochet wearing mittens or something!!
Taking a picture of me holding my hook like a pencil for the image above felt very strange to me!
As there is no ‘best’ hook, there is also no best grip. There is what works for you and gets the job done! I often wonder if there is a relationship between grip style and hook preference, but I’m yet to see the science!
Crochet hook size and hook style
If you have been crocheting any length of time, you will know that you work with different size crochet hooks with different yarn weights and to achieve the gauge or tension that a pattern is calling for.
There are may different scales for sizing crochet hook and you can find a chart comparing the different global crochet hook size terminology used here.
I always stick to the metrics sizing personally. That is, the diameter of the shaft of the hook in mm. So typically I might work with a 4mm (G/6) hook when working with double knit or 4ply yarn.
I’ve always wondered how accurate the sizing is on crochet hooks and whether there was a difference in different materials and styles. So I did a little experiment for this post.
Below you’ll see 6 4mm crochet hooks in different styles and materials. I used my hook measure to see if they actually were all the same circumference.
Now it’s worth noting that this isn’t a particularly precise method of measuring hooks and fine tuned callipers would be more accurate. However, I was relieved to find that all hooks hit the same mark on my measure. Near enough for me.
(I tried it with a bunch of 6mm hooks too and found the same result.)
Does it matter what material your hook is made of?
The most common materials used in crochet hooks are metal, plastic and wood. They all have a different feel, weight and glide to them so this is another area where personal preference intervenes.
The different materials used will come with a variation in amount of friction between the hook shaft and the yarn. Though this might not make a huge difference (again, this is my experience and intuition speaking rather than science), I think the different materials will impact your tension.
If you change to a hook the same size but a different material part way through a project, I’m fairly sure you’ll notice a difference in your tension as the yarn will slide over the hook in a different way. Note, I am not recommending you do this for any other reason than to experiment!!!
If you’re using a wooden hook, It’s really important that it’s well sanded and preferably waxed or varnished because the last thing you want is splinters catching on the yarn. Most commercially available hooks are absolutely fine for this purpose. And I find that the more you work with a wooden hook, the softer and smoother it gets.
Generally I work with metal hooks until I get above a 6mm when I lean towards wooden or plastic. But overall I don’t really have a preference. The grip, comfort and consistency in stitch tension is more important to me.
Handles and ergonomic grips
There is endless variation in the sizes and shapes of crochet hook grips and handles. Below is a bit of a medley to demonstrate.
Many hooks claim to have ergonomic designs and reduce repetitive strain injury risk and help with wrist health etc etc. I think these claims will work for some and not others. A hook that might ease wrist strain for one crocheter may increase it for another.
Having injured my wrists in the past, I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to look after your joints and, regardless of what hook you use, take regularly breaks and do some wrist exercises!
This area is another case of trial and error and seeing what works.
Crochet hook selection, yarn and project type
You may find that you prefer different hook styles for different project types, fibres and yarn weights.
I already mentioned that I prefer metal hooks for lighter yarns and wood or plastic for chunkier weights, but there can be more variation within that.
For example, for a typical garment, I would always go to a tapered hook, like the clover amour for anything up to about a 6mm. After that I like the lightness of a wooden hook. I love my knit pro 8mm and my plastic clover amour 12mm, and I have inline bamboo hooks in 9mm and 10mm that I like using too (I think these are knitpro too but the brand has long since worn off!!).
If I was working with a project which had a tight tension, like an amigurumi, then I would want something with a bit more of a defined point on the top of the head, so that it’s easier for me to insert it into the tight stitches.
If I’m working with a really silky, slippy yarn then I may be more likely to choose an inline hook, whereas if I’m working with a rougher yarn like a natural , non-mercerised cotton or a woolen woven wool (the fluffy kind), then I would go with a tapered hook for a smoother motion.
These are just a few examples of how your hook choice interacts with what project and yarn you’re working with. There will be more, but I just wanted to give you an idea of the interplay between the elements.
Other things to consider when choosing your crochet hook
You bring uniqueness to hook choice, so something else to consider is the hook to hand size comparison.
I have small hands and I really think this makes a difference. Because I have a knife grip, the handle of the hook runs inside my closed hand, so anything too long gets in my way.
How to find your perfect crochet hook
The hook style, your grip, the hook size, the type of handle and the material your hook uses will all impact how your yarn works up. But the most important factor is you.
I highly recommend trying as many variations of crochet hooks as you can, to find what works for you. This may be a slow process and your preferences may change over time. It was only last year I tried the clover soft touch for the first time (this one has a flat handle so is quite different from what I’m used to), but I really enjoyed working with it.
There is always room to learn!
I hope you have found this a useful insight into all the invisible things that go into our trusty hooks. Fingers crossed I have left you with some food for thought about what your preferences might be, what to look out for and maybe an idea of what you might like to try next.
And on that note…
… Happy hooking!