I'll start this off by saying that I've known how to knit and crochet for most of my life. I come from a very craft-oriented family. We're never really at want for things like yarn and thread and fabric because we've spent years going to craft stores and stocking up on supplies. Whenever I have the urge to start a project because I saw something neat on Pinterest, it's not hard for me to pick up a skein of yarn and just go to town. As long as I have a pattern and my materials (with Google for the occasional reference), I'm good to go.
A lot of my friends, however, didn't grow up in the same environment I did. When I pull out my yarn and my crochet hook with the intention of making something, I often hear the comment, "Oh, wow, you knit?"
To which I reply, "Yeah, I do, but this is crocheting."
And this always leads to one of two questions: "What's crocheting?" or, "What's the difference?"
So, for the sake of learning and expanding our horizons, let's answer those two questions right now.
First off, what is crocheting? Crocheting is the act of weaving yarn together in a series of loops using a tool called a hook. Hooks come in a variety of sizes and are assigned a letter based on the diameter of their base. Unlike fishing or other hooks, crochet hooks have long bases that end in a small curve. The curve is what pulls yarn through itself in order to make stitches, the fundamental building block of any fiber craft. Depending on the size of hook and type of yarn you use, you can crochet a variety of things, such as scarves, blankets, tablecloths, sweaters, bags, and even intricate lace designs. If you learn the notations and find a good pattern, you can make just about anything.
There's more I could say for crocheting, but because this is a basic overview, I won't bore you with the technical jargon. If you're still curious about crocheting, though, I implore you to look up tutorials online. It's a fun hobby with tons of available resources.
Now that we're a little more familiar with what crocheting is, what makes it different from knitting? For starters, even though both practices center around weaving yarn together through loops, they use completely different tools. While crocheting uses a hook to make stitches one at a time, knitting uses two (or more, depending on the purpose) long cylinders called needles to make a large number of stitches that stay open until the work is finished off.
Needle sizes, like hook sizes, can be described by diameter, but instead of being assigned letters, they're assigned numbers.
Another thing that sets these apart is how different effects are accomplished using these different methods of yarn weaving. In crocheting, for example, you can use your hook to either work in straight lines that lay flat upon completion, or you can use a technique called crocheting in rounds to make three-dimensional objects such as dolls or teddy bears.
No extra tools are needed to achieve this. In knitting, on the other hand, the yarn can only be worked in straight lines using two normal needles. Special double-ended needles or needles connected with a bit of wire are needed to be able to knit in rounds, and many other types of specialized tools are required to make especially fancy knit designs. Crocheting typically only requires the use of one hook.
Despite the fact that hand knitting has a more complex set of tools than crocheting, knitting in its basic form is much easier to replicate using machinery, allowing the mass production of knitted fabrics. That's why most of the sweaters and hats you buy in stores have a knitted pattern instead of a crocheted one. Crocheting is easier to produce by hand and therefore not as commonly found in clothing markets. You're more likely to find it online or in specialty stores.
So there you have it! Crocheting and knitting are very different practices that, while appearing very similar. They have their own unique properties, advantages, and disadvantages. The next time you see someone with a ball of yarn and some sort of tool in their hand, I hope you're able to identify what they're doing. If you can, you may even be able to impress your friends with your newfound knowledge.
At the very least, you can stop asking me about it.