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When I began crocheting I bought hooks like most beginners, a hook here and there as I needed it for a project. As I acquired more, I noticed little things about them that made me prefer one over another. As my sampling of hooks grew, it slowly passed the boundary of what a crocheter needs, and became what a collector wants. When I realized I had crossed this threshold, I knew it was time to go through my collection to see what I still wanted, what I liked and why. There are many reasons why one hook is more preferable than another, and naturally those preferences vary from one person to another. Let’s look closely at the small variations between hook designs that can really affect our love affair.
First, it’s helpful to know some basics about the anatomy and make-up of a crochet hook. Every hook is made up of 4 parts: the head, throat, shaft and handle. Many hook designers also include a grip area (figure 1). There are three general materials that today’s hooks are made from: acrylic/plastic, aluminum and wood (figure 2). There is a fourth, steel, but since these hooks are very tiny and used primarily for delicate work they are generally not offered in other materials.
Hooks also come in different shapes. To begin, let’s take a closer look at the head. Essentially, there are two head types. In one, the head of the hook is inline with the body of the hook. So if you put the hook against a ruler it would lay flat against it. This is generally seen in wooden hooks and Susan Bates’ hooks. The second variation is seen in the Boye style of hooks (figure 3). For this style, the head of the hook is actually proud of the body by a millimeter or so. It may not sound like a big difference, but it is. Most of us crochet using muscle memory; we are used to sticking our hook through the stitch a certain amount and catching the yarn. A millimeter’s difference is the difference between catching the yarn and missing it completely.
Within the two types of heads there are still more variations in their shape. Some crochet heads are highly angled and quite pointed, while others at the opposite end of the spectrum have a blunt, rounded head and no point at all. You can see this difference clearly in figure 2. Most hook heads fall somewhere in the middle, having a rounded head that slightly tapers to a barely noticeable point. Though the choice of a blunt head or pointed head will most often come down to personal preference, there are times when one functions better than the other. For example, it is often easier to crochet furry yarns or long novelty yarns using a blunt head because it is not as likely to split or snag the yarn. On the other hand, yarns such as the new ribbon yarns that ruffle on their edges work far better with a sharper hook head because you want to crochet through the edge of the ribbon. A sharper head will go through the yarn with less effort and leave behind a smaller hole than a blunt head. As for generic, worsted weight yarns, the difference between head types is pure preference. Some say the blunt heads seem to split the yarn more, while others say the same of sharp heads. I imagine this aspect of it is more dependent on the style and comfort level of the individual crocheter than the shape of the hook.
The angle of a hook’s throat is another important part of the overall design of the head. Some hooks have deep-cut throats while others have shallower, rounded throats that help to soften the tip (for an example see fig. 3 again). Just as a rounded or pointed head affects one’s crochet in tiny but important ways, so does the shape of the throat. Some feel that a deeply angled throat creates a sharper tip that may snag the yarn easier. Others feel that the soft, rounded throat is more likely to allow the yarn to slip off, thereby requiring more tension and attention. Again, this difference depends on the type of yarn being used. A silky, slippery yarn such as bamboo or rayon is more likely to slip off a rounded throat and deeply cut throats perform better here. However, yarns such as cotton that are made with many thin strands to form a wider ribbon or tape look may work better with a rounded throat. These yarns have a natural tendency to spread out and a deeply cut throat can snag these thinner strands.
All this can make choosing a single hook from the wide variety available a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, other differences, like switching from aluminum to wood, have less impact. There are certain yarns with which an aluminum or acrylic hook might work a little smoother or faster, but that comes down to personal preference and how fast you like to work. For example, novelty yarns seem to work smoother and faster with aluminum hooks. Wooden hooks create more friction and consequently more drag on the yarn, slowing a crocheter down by just a bit. It isn’t much, but enough that if speed matters an aluminum hook would be the better choice. Additionally, since wooden hooks are most often made by hand they can have sharper edges than a hook created on a machine or in a mold. Depending on how textured one’s yarn is, a wooden hook MAY snag the yarn on these sharp edges.
This is where those tiny differences in the design of a hook come in to play. For example, the hook on the right in figure 4 is a silky rosewood hook with a blunt head. Unlike most hooks, though, the tip of this hook really comes to a sharp point. I have found that this hook simply will not work on anything except the smoothest of yarns. Otherwise the sharp point of the hook is constantly snagging on the yarn. The hook on the left is also a wooden (birch) hook, yet I have never had this hook snag on any yarn. The difference between them is that while most hooks taper down to a point from the top and bottom of the head, they stay about the same across the width of the tip. The rosewood hook, however, not only tapers from top to bottom, but also from side-to-side, creating a tip that one could prick a finger with.
Hand carved hooks by Jimbo http://jimbosfrontporch.blogspot.com
In addition to the new wealth of materials offered, there are also innovative new hook designs meant to help crocheters with arthritis or other chronic pain conditions. The ELEGGANT HOOK is specially designed to provide a larger handle that ergonomically fits the palm of the hand. Others, such as KOLLAGE, have solved this problem by making the hook squared, rather than rounded. Both methods aim to make it easier to hold the hook, easing tension on sore hand muscles.
Another important design feature of a hook is the grip; even whether or not it has one. While most wooden hooks don’t have any grip at all, aluminum hooks offer a wide, flattened area slightly less than half way down the length of the hook’s handle. This creates a generic area to grip the hook that works well for both pencil and knife holds. Differences in the placement of a grip can entirely change the way a hook works. The palmwood hook in figure 5 provides an excellent example of this. The design of this hook places the grip closer to the head of the hook. Again, we see the difference a few millimeters can make. Because the grip is closer to the head than normal, the crocheter’s hand is now closer to the head than normal. This means that the normal length of thrust through the stitch will have to be shortened. Not that this hook really gives the crocheter a choice. The shaft gradually widens from the throat to the grip, leaving very little space for working the yarn and making it difficult to push through a stitch. Any stitch requiring one or more wraps around the hook before inserting the hook into the stitch becomes distorted. The more wraps needed, the more distortion occurs as the loops become stretched by the ever widening shaft. I am always careful now to note where the grip is placed, and whether its placement effects the shaft of the hook.
How a design element affects a person’s relationship with her hook also depends on the chosen hold of the crocheter. There are some elements that affect those with a knife-hold more than others. For example, many plastic hooks are shorter than hooks of other materials. This may result in a crocheter needing to modify her grip in order to have her full hand on the hook, resulting in a change to how she will crochet. Another example is the beautiful turnings commonly found at the end of today’s wooden hooks. For someone with a pencil hold, these turnings are well out of his way. But for someone with a knife hold, the turnings may cut right into the palm or fingers. This is where the length of the hook will come into play. If there is a long, smooth shaft, the crocheter will be able to hold the hook there. However, not all hooks provide an elongated shaft before the turnings. For crocheters with a knife hold it is important to pay attention to the length of the shaft and the point at which the decorative turnings begin.
It’s no wonder that crocheters become overwhelmed when faced with such a broad variety of hooks. But if you keep in mind the small design elements you prefer it will help to narrow the selection. First, decide if you like the Bates’ or Boye style of head. Second, pay attention to the angle of the head and the point of it’s tip. Is the tip too sharp or too narrow? Next, do you want a grip? Look at the placement of the grip and determine if you want one closer to the head or the center of the handle. Also note if it effects the shape of the shaft. Most hooks have a stable shaft and flare at the grip. However, if the shaft tapers towards the grip, determine if you have enough working area before it begins to widen. Lastly, hold the hook using your preferred hold. How does it feel in your hand? Is it comfortable? Is it your normal way of holding a hook, or have you had to alter your hold in some way to offset the hook’s design? It can be difficult, when we find that one, beautiful hook, to be honest with ourselves about how it really feels. We tell ourselves that it’ll be okay, we can live with it. But the truth is, it’s likely we’ll use it once and then feel guilty every time we see that beautiful hook sitting unused and unloved. You wouldn’t enter into a relationship with a beautiful person with a flawed personality. You would sigh quietly, relish the beauty and move on. We must take this same, difficult approach with our hooks. Take a deep breath, release that sigh, give the hook another good fondling and walk-away from it. It’s hard, but there are other beauties waiting to be found. (Note: When dealing with a beautiful person, it is best to skip the fondling step). Happy hooking!
Addi Comfort Grip
Kollage Square hooks