Choosing a crochet hook size: 5 things to consider
If you're like me, you have an embarrassingly sized hook collection. They come in all shapes and sizes and you've definitely lost a few in your WIP bin (work in progress). I'm a firm believer that too many hooks isn't a bad thing. At least you've got options!
With so many options, how do you choose which one is the best fit for each project? I have fallen victim to choosing the wrong hook size for a sweater and wasting HOURS on something I can never wear. If I'm following a pattern and using the recommended hook size, how did that happen??
If you're a pattern designer, there are a few more things to consider when choosing which size to roll with for a project. Depending on the type of pattern, it may need to be able to hold its shape really well. Or maybe you want it to have movement when you walk around. Choosing the right stitch is highly important in this decision making process, but so is hook size!
For me, I almost always go with a hook size that is larger than the label calls for. I have my reasons and here they are! These are the 5 things I am sure to keep in mind when I am making my choice.
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Nearly every crochet pattern under the sun has a gauge swatch. I'll be the first to admit I haven't always been the best about starting here. Becoming a pattern tester really pushed me to check my gauge and I frequently found I needed to go up a hook size. That's because my tension is tighter than most. This will SIGNIFICANTLY impact the size of the finished project. If it's a garment, that's a really big deal. Tension and size are in bold because those nearly made the list on their own.
Pictured above are three squares. Each has the same number of stitches and rows. They are also pinned to line up on the right hand side of the square. You can see how much bigger each square gets as I moved up in size. Now imagine that in a whole sweater!
On every yarn label, there is a recommended hook size. For the smallest square, I used a hook smaller than recommended. The middle was the suggested size. The largest was much larger. For example, this is Lion Brand Color Made Easy (Size 5). It calls for K/6.50mm hook. The large square, I used P/11.50mm.
If I'm crocheting a sweater, for example, I struggle when it comes out being stiff. I can't stand the feeling and will never wear it.. Same goes for wearing a scarf up around my face. I want them to have a more "store bought" feel that has movement when I walk around. In the picture above, each of the three squares has a totally different squish to it. The smallest square would hardly bend if I held it up and moved it around. It is really rigid. The largest would be much more relaxed and "drape". Gravity would actually have an impact on the big square if I held it up. This factor makes a garment much more wearable.
My Bulky Beginner Raglan Cardi is made with the same yarn pictured and I used a P/11.50mm hook which is much bigger than recommended.
The Ballet Wrap sweater uses size 3 yarn and recommends a G hook... I used K. It sits in a relaxed way on the body rather than keeping it's structure when I move around.
This drape-y scarf (free pattern here!) was made with a larger hook and you can see it folds in on itself so it will hang nicely around your neck rather than keeping its triangle structure.
This goes hand-in-hand with drape. The opposite of having a flouncy garment that flows in the wind is having a project that will hold it's shape and you can rely on it. I'm talking about things like baskets, pillows, and amigurumi. If you're making a doll, you'll want to make sure the stuffing won't come out and it will maintain its original shape. This means I'd need hooks smaller than recommended.
This giraffe wouldn't look as cute if his ears didn't stand up!
So if you want your pattern design to hold it's shape, I would suggest sizing down a hook or two!
Ok so that's not the technical term. Do you want some more air to get through your project or do you want it to be a more dense fabric? My Super Scarf pattern is really hole-y and it means it has good drape, less structure, and it will also let some air through. The bigger the hook, the bigger the holes between your stitches. If you have a large hook size on a garment, you may want to wear something under it unless you're comfortable with some "show-through".
That is a trade-off with having a big hook for drape. You may end up with larger holes than you'd like and be able to see right through the garment. That's where you'd want to get creative with your stitch choice if you're hoping to prevent that!
Choosing a stitch is the number one influencer of texture. Hook size will also have a say here.
From left to right, these swatches increase in hook size
When working on my most recent sweater design (coming soon), I used two different types of stitches and was planning to use the same hook size throughout. The top section is v-stitch and I wanted the more "fabric-like" look of the left square. I was hoping for the texture of the v-stitch to be the standout and the rest of the garment to have a more uniform look and draw the eye upward. My hook size was chosen with that in mind. I was going for a certain texture...
Welp, that did not work out. If you follow my instagram reels, you can see me pulling out the single crochet stitches I wanted to use for the bottom part. While it gave me the texture I wanted with the smaller hook size, I had forgotten about drape. It did not have any.. At that point, I couldn't go up a hook size since I was too far along (frogging is the worst). I switched to alpine stitch to get the drape I was hoping for, but had to give up on my texture.
That, my yarn friends, is what inspired me to write this post! While I love the texture of the un-named sweater design I'm working on, the I/5.50mm hook I chose is too small for the Lion Brand Chainette yarn and didn't do what I was imagining. I should have started with a bigger size...