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Swatching with Single Crochets

When you first look at these two squares, what is the first thing you notice about them?

Right Hand vs Left Hand Single Crochet Swatches demonstrate differences in tension

Their size, most of my students say.

What if I told you that I crocheted them both with the same size hook? And that they each have the same number of stitches and rows. What would you think then?

No, I wasn't mad when I crocheted the smaller one! Nor had I had any wine when I made the larger one - and yes, this absolutely CAN affect your tension! Ask me how I know...

The simple truth is that the first one was crocheted with my right hand, which is my domant hand and how I've been crocheting since I picked the hook back up in 2006. The other square was crocheted with my left hand.

No, I'm not ambidexterous. Nor am I a glutton for punishment. Well, perhaps that's up for debate!

The reason I crocheted these two swatches is not only to demonstrate the differences tension can make, as I clearly have a much tighter tension when crocheting with my left hand, but it was also an exercise in patience and humility, to remind me how difficult it can be to learn something new for the first time.

Which is exactly why I did this same exercise in 2013 when I started teaching crochet classes.

I knew that my perspective as a relatively experienced crocheter was vastly different than that of a student new to the fiber arts, and thanks to one of my amazing college professors, I knew that I needed to find a way to put myself in my prospective students' shoes. The reason I knew this was because when that teacher had me in her Special Needs Learners class, she gave us some particularly challenging assignments, such as spending a day in a wheelchair and completing a list of tasks (use a public bathroom, visit the library and check out a book from the second floor, etc - I was SO sore the next day!) and taking notes for one entire class period with our non-dominant hand. She did not slow down; she did not cover old material. It was class as usual except that we were not allowed to use our dominant hand for note taking. It. Was. Brutal. Exhausting. Frustrating. And an exceptionally valuable lesson.

The first time I made a pair of swatches like this, it took me about eight minutes to make the first small square it was only two inches wide). The one with my left hand? It took over SEVEN times as long! About an hour. And it was not my first attempt at it! This time around I did much better - it only took me three times as long, ha ha. BUT, I've been practicing a bit, too. I'm working on an on again, off again tapestry crochet project using both hands so that all the stitches are facing forward (it's a flat piece, so it can't be worked in the round like most tapestry crochet projects are). Isn't it cool!?

Sierpinski Carpet Tapestry Crochet

But also, I've had a left-handed student in class again recently, which was the main reason I revisited this exercise. And for the second time, despite significant improvement, it was still mightily humbling, for which I am remarkably thankful. Why? Because it makes me a better teacher. I was astonished and saddened when she told me that she had actually been turned away as a student because she was left-handed. I couldn't hardly believe it! But she said it's happened more than once. Can you imagine?

One of my very favorite crochet resources to share with my students is Tamara Kelly's website: She has an outstanding range of well-made video tutorials AND she often has both left and right-handed versions, which I respect enormously. I sincerely doubt that I will ever become proficient enough at crocheting with my non-dominant hand to create tutorials!

Many of my left-handed crochet students learn quite well by mirroring, or even by learning to hold their hook in their right hand, which makes it pretty easy for me as a teacher. But sometimes there just isn't a better way than to be able to pick up your hook in the same way that your student does and SHOW them how to do something. And that's what I wanted to be able to do for my students.

So. I taught myself how to crochet with my non-dominant hand. And I'm so very glad I did! Not only because of the perspective I gained as a crocheter and a teacher, but also because I have been able to help people learn to crochet who want to do it badly enough that they KEEP LOOKING for a teacher even after being told they are unteachable. I still just can't even wrap my head around that!

While I was working up these two swatches, I decided I ought to also make some squares that show the different fabric you get simply by modifying your hook placement. So here you have single crochet three ways:

Single Crochet Three Ways: Both Loops, FLO, and BLO

The first square is what we are all most familiar with: single crochet by inserting your hook under BOTH loops of each stitch.

The middle square is my favorite solid single crochet variation: single crochet by inserting your hook under the FRONT loop only, which is typically abbreviated as flo.

The third square is often used as crochet ribbing: single crochet by inserting your hook under the BACK loop only, usually abbreviated as blo. This technique capitalizes on the natural slant to the top of single crochet stitches and makes each row sit at an angle to the previous row.

Each square has the same number of stitches and the same number of rows. Working under both loops gives you a nice sturdy fabric while working under the front loops only gives you a stretchier fabric with better drape. And, of course, you get mad texture when you throw in those blo stitches!

If you're unfamiliar with working into the front and back loops, here are a pair of videos from Tamara - both left and right-handed versions! I also have a Skillshare class for my Persiennes Scarf, which you can enroll in here (you'll get two months for free when you go Premium through my link). This design is a great exercise in practicing all three techniques as shown above in the same piece, which gives you some fun texture! And the pattern is free here on my website!

Texture in Single Crochet: Working into the Front and Back Loops, Persiennes Scarf Skillshare Class by Connie Lee Lynch

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my crochet history, so to speak, and if you've never played around with hook placement, I encourage you to go try it! It will work with most other stitches, too.

Happy crocheting, y'all!

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