The Book, "Hard Crochet" by Mark Dittrick, and the technique he taught, was WAY before it's time. In my humble opinion every crocheter should have this skill as it opens wonderful possibilities. Hats that don't flop around, sturdy cases and purses, new accessories, beautiful home decor, and shoes (yes, I said shoes). I feel blessed to have discovered this book 38 years ago and I thank Mr. Dittrick for writing it.
Hard Crochet is not difficult crochet. Especially with today's materials and tools, and both have really changed. It's time to bring this method up to date. I don't want this skill lost as it's much too valuable.
In this free crochet lesson series I'll be teaching the technique, I'll share a lot of tips and tricks that I've developed over the last few decades, I'll talk about today's fibers and tools, and there will be free practice patterns to help you develop your skill.
Lesson 2, Hard Crochet Tapestry, is Coming Soon.
It was Spring 1978, I was 22 years old and had been crocheting for about 12 years. I was paging through a crochet magazine and spotted an ad for a new book called "Hard Crochet" by Mark Dittrick. The little bit of information in that ad grabbed my interest, I called my local book store and asked them to set a copy of the book aside for me.
After buying the book I sat in the car reading it with eyes wide in disbelief. He wanted me to crochet with carpet yarn using a 2.75mm steel hook? I needed band aids? But it was a new adventure, a new technique, and I wanted that hat on the cover. I bought the hook, and the supplies to 'change it' so I could use it. I called one of the companies Mr. Dittrick suggested and ordered my carpet yarn (I had to buy spools of it), they were very helpful and knew exactly what I wanted.
I followed the book step-by-step. Practiced my new skill until I could do it. YES, I made my first hat and it was glorious. The best lesson I learned from the book was that I could do more with a crochet hook then I ever thought possible. My biggest disappointment was that no one was creating patterns for this skill. Was it just too new?
Over about 10 years I kept playing with this skill until I was just about out of the carpet yarn, I had enough for one more hat and made it. From that hat I actually got three orders for hats. So I called to place another order for more carpet yarn.
The first difference was that the company didn't really know what I was talking about. After a lot of explaining (and finding the serial numbers of the old stuff I bought) I finally got my order placed. When the yarn arrived I went to work making the hats for my order. But ... something was different ... the hats were not turning out right. I double checked my gauge with both yarns and it was slightly off. The serial numbers were the same, but something had happened to the fiber, it even felt a little different. In order to get the hats done I REALLY had to CHANGE Mr. Dittrick's pattern. And I had just finished one with the old yarn - perfectly. The people were very happy with their hats. But I was really worried about the fiber change.
I knew part of the reason Mr. Dittrick's Hard Crochet worked, was because of the fiber he had chosen. Carpet yarn was rather stiff and rough. Could things be created with other fibers, did it have to be carpet yarn?
I honestly don't remember when I discovered Clover Crochet Hooks. Although I love them for all my crochet, they are A BLESSING for Hard Crochet. The hooks don't easily break apart from the padding, there are no extra lumps that can become annoying with extended use. Naturally, you can use any brand of crochet hook, so long as it's 2.75 mm.
The one big factor to remember about this technique is that you can't change the size of your hook. If you do (and I've tried it) you will not achieve the density, and 'feeling' in the fabric. Smaller hooks are nearly impossible to work with. Larger hooks cause you to lose the stiffness of the fabric, and that stiffness is what makes it "Hard" Crochet.
In order to get the rough feeling of Mr. Dittrick's hat, a rough yarn is required. However, not all hats are rough. Could beautiful hats, accessories, cases and purses, and even shoes be created without the roughness of carpet yarn? The short answer is, "Yes."
The important gauge is to reach between 6 and 6.5 stitches per inch, that's 24 - 26 stitches per 4 inches. This is important to reach the stiffness of fabric required by Hard Crochet patterns. Always check 4 inches. If you try to just check an inch, you will be off. I always chain 31, and single crochet 30 for 7 rows. That gives me a good center row to check the 4 inches I need.
In the picture above, the yarn on the top is from my stash, purchased in the early 1990s. The yarn on the bottom was purchased a month ago. I used the same hook (Clover C 2.75mm), both are 30 stitches, 7 rows, and I crocheted them one after the other. This alone is a GOOD REASON to check your gauge before you start a project. And, if you are using up older yarn - check your gauge with both your old yarn and your new yarn.
The Change of Fiber May Make Old Patterns Unusable
However, This Change Opens Up Hard Crochet to More Ideas
Kinds of Yarn That Work
The first thing is to find yarns that are medium weight. However remember that many yarns, although medium weight, still will not work. They may be just a touch thicker or thinner than what you need. Always check your gauge to make sure you hit 24 - 26 stitches in 4 inches, using a 2.75 mm hook.
I'm sad to say that even with this yarn change Mr. Dittrick's patterns don't work as well as they first did. If you are going to try some of his patterns, you are going to need to make A LOT of changes. His suggested carpet yarn companies are out of business. And even if you can find the 'right' yarn, it isn't the same as he once used. His book is out of print (you may be able to find a used copy on Amazon).
The BIGGEST problem is that his technique did not take off as well as I thought it should have. As I said before, Mark Dittrick was WAY ahead of their time. In my 38 years of playing with the technique I have not found someone else who creates patterns for it. Most don't even know what I'm talking about. It is for that reason that I'm trying to bring this technique up to date.
I'm sure, if you've been crocheting for any length of time, you've crocheted something in the round, perhaps a round rug. Did you notice stitches, in the same direction, do not have as much give as going back and forth? THAT is one secret to hard crochet, working in the round. Now you don't have to do that all the time, you will still be creating a very stiff fabric. I personally find it totally fascinating.
Your first free practice pattern is Hard Crochet Coasters. This will show you what crocheting in the round, using "Hard Crochet", feels like (and yes, it feels different). You will find the link to your first practice pattern just below.
Here are the important points of this lesson:
A simple pattern to practice the technique of Hard Crochet.
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