How to Crochet with Thread: Tips and Tricks
Have you stumbled into the magical world of crochet mandalas (doilies) only to be immediately intimidated by the tiny thread, hand-cramping hooks, and looooong detailed patterns? But still you gaze longingly at the rich texture, the unique layering, the delicate beauty of thread crochet. In this article, I hope to give you some tips and tricks to help you overcome some of the challenges of crocheting with thread and start you on the fulfilling journey of mandala making! If you haven’t already, check out my Bucaneve: the Beginners Mandala post for more details on reading a mandala pattern. I will be referencing that post a few times in this one.
1. First, select a pattern that you are comfortable with.
Find a pattern that speaks to you, but isn’t difficult. To prevent getting frustrated or bored, I suggest a pattern that works up fairly quickly. The Bucaneve pattern is specifically designed for those who want to learn to work with thread. The original pattern can be made in less than thirty minutes with one ball of Sugars n’ Cream yarn! Work up the pattern you are comfortable with using a yarn weight and hook you are comfortable with. The end result is gorgeous!
2. Go down a yarn and hook size.
When you are satisfied with how step one went, take it down a notch! Try the same pattern using DK/3 weight cotton and a slightly smaller hook, like a 3.25mm or a 3.00 mm.
You shouldn’t notice too much difference between working the pattern in Worsted/4 or DK/3 weight yarns, but it will prepare you for the next step! Of course, if you are feeling brave, feel free to just skip down yarn weights even further instead of going down one weight at a time!
3. Invest in comfortable hooks
As you continue this method of working the same comfortable pattern in smaller and smaller yarns until you finally break into the realm of thread, you will notice the smaller hooks start to cause hand cramps - especially if you maintain a tight tension. I have tried several different ergonomic hooks ranging from incredibly affordable to kinda pricy, but very pretty! These ergonomic hooks are total hand savers and turn mandala making from a tortuous labor of love into… well… just all love! I struggle to enjoy anything painful, so when I purchased my first ergonomic hook, I knew I would never turn back!
On the far right in the picture above, you see my D/3.25 mm hook encased in the Susan Bates Comfort Grip. This is a small foam grip that you slide onto the traditional aluminum hook you already own. I find it soft and easy on the hand and comfortable with whichever grip you prefer to use when crocheting. Some reviewers on Amazon felt that the grip was challenging to slide onto their hook, but I found a little dish soap helped everything come together smoothly. This grip only slightly widens the hook’s handle, so it may not be quite enough if you suffer from severe hand cramps.
The lavender hook third from the right is my Boye Ergonomic Hook in an F/3.75 mm. I purchased this hook when making a sweater using DK weight yarn - I knew my hands would never forgive me if I made an entire garment with such a tiny hook! The Boye Ergonomic is by far one of my favorite hooks! The handle is firm, but has just enough give to it. The shape is convenient regardless of which grip you prefer. And you can crochet with confidence, knowing you have the trusty Boye hook on the end! A full set of these will run you around $26 in any craft store or online, but I consider it a worthwhile investment!
I purchased the White Lotus Aluminum Hooks on Amazon recently when looking for a budget friendly option for ergonomic thread hooks. This set includes eight hooks sized 1mm - 2mm going up in 0.25mm increments. This set came in German packaging with a label that read “Made in China.” The handles are plastic and much firmer than either the Susan Bates Comfort Grip or the Boye Ergonomic Hooks. The gently curved handle has a slight indent for the thumb and fingers. In spite of the hard plastic handle, I was happy with how they felt in my hand and found them easy to stitch with. The hooks are shaped much like the Boye hooks, but I found the thread did not slide as smoothly along them as it did with my old, tiny Susan Bates thread hooks. However, I was working with 100% cotton - which tends to not slide quite as well as synthetic fibers, and I was working with extremely tight tension, as I am prone to do when working with thread. Upon adjusting my tension, I felt the hooks performed quite well. Overall, I felt the quality of the hooks were good, but not the best. I am happy with this purchase and would recommend it for someone who doesn’t have the budget for Clover or Boye hooks.
Hobby Lobby Bamboo Handled Hooks
I have also used Hobby Lobby’s bamboo handled hooks, but only in the larger sizes - mostly because that is the size I needed when I was picking yarn! I find them comfortable and easy to work with, although I don’t have anything particular to say either way. They are more comfortable than not having the thicker handle, but not as comfortable as the Boye Ergonomics.
Other Ergonomics Options
The internet is so full of ergonomic crochet hooks, you never need to crochet with cramped hands again! You can find gorgeous options on Etsy, like the wooden or acrylic hooks shows above! Of course, brands like Clover also hold a high reputation for the quality of their ergonomic hooks. As you work down in yarn sizes into the realm of thread, I cannot stress highly enough the importance of comfortable hooks. I still use my antique thread hooks from time to time, but for larger projects, an ergonomic hook is a must!
4. Time to pull out the thread!
Don't panic! Just like regular yarn, thread comes in different weights as well! I definitely recommend beginning with a #3 thread, like this Warm Rose one by Aunt Lydia which I used for my first thread mandala! The thing to remember with thread weights, the higher the number, the smaller the thread!
And just like before, once you are comfortable with #3 weight, move to #10! Most crochet mandala patterns that you find online are made in #10 weight thread. Of course, if you want to challenge yourself, you can make them in even smaller threads, like #30! I just finished making Bucaneve: the Beginner’s Mandala in #30 thread (which was a first for me!) and I am thrilled with how it came out!
As you go down in yarn or thread weights, you may find you struggle to maintain your tension - especially with tall stitches like a double treble crochet. Don’t worry about it! Just like any skill, a little practice goes a long way! Also, small discrepancies in thread tension will mostly disappear when you block it (learn more about that here).
(Like those progress savers? Make your own using this tutorial!)
5. Enjoy the journey
I love learning new skills - which might be why I am so passionate about crocheting! Every day I seem to find a new technique to try with my hooks and yarn. If you are still feeling a little intimidated, try a pattern with a photo or video tutorial, like some of those published by Grace Fearon.
Never be afraid to try new things! With the right tools and support, you can create your own gorgeous (and, dare I say it, therapeutic) crochet thread mandalas!
Don’t forget to check out some of my free patterns while you are here!