What is the Difference Between Knit and Crochet?

January 31, 2020

Many people who do not knit or crochet often ask, what is the difference? To them, both skills look the same, utilize yarn and use some sort of tool to make the magic happen. Let’s go through all the differences and similarities. Why? When thinking about starting a new hobby or skill, I like to learn as much as I can before deciding. Things like difficulty to learn, availability of information/education, cost of supplies can all figure into a decision. Plus, just the feel of the resulting fabric and the physical movements needed to create will help you determine which you prefer.

This blog post is written for those looking to start a new hobby and are researching the difference between knit and crochet to help them determine which one to pursue (first).

I will compare and contrast knitting and crocheting in the same section so you do not have to scroll up and down like crazy. I will highlight the craft (knitting or crocheting) for each section. I will list knitting first, then crochet… To be completely honest and clear—–I am a knitter first and foremost. I know how to crochet and I may have my biases about both crafts, here you will get as objective an analysis as I am humanly capable of doing… I will put some personal opinion in where I think it is granted. It will be in italics.

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What is the Difference Between Knit & Crochet?

Ease of Learning (or Difficulty of learning, if you prefer):

Learning a new craft/skill/technique has its challenges no matter your trade. How much of a learning curve you are willing to tackle can determine what things you choose to do in your lifetime.

Tools of the Trade:

Crochet and knit projects both utilize yarn, thread, or any other fiber that is long and rope like. Using the tools, the yarn/fiber is manipulated into a fabric structure. Other than the following two entries, the other supplies are generally the same. The absolute basics for both crafts:

● yarn or other fiber (for ease of reading, I will use the term yarn for the rest of the post)
● scissors (only need something sharp to cut the yarn, technically could use a razor blade or similar)
● stitch markers
● a small ruler

Other things like pens for marking on the pattern and a little pouch to hold all these little things are helpful.

Knitting:
KnittingSupplies
Just a few samples of knitting needles – traditional straight needles, circular needle and double pointed needles

Utilizes at least two knitting needles. Knitting needles come in a variety of sizes, lengths, styles and materials. The style most non-knitters are familiar with are the long single pointed kind. The ones our grandmothers used, usually made out of metal and made loud clinky noises when in motion. With time and need comes innovation, knitting needles have evolved and in some cases have become an art form on their own. Circular needles, involve two needles attached by a cable between are very useful and popular. You need specific sized needles for projects, and sometimes the size of the needle changes within a project. There are also sets with interchangeable needles and cables, expensive but eliminates the need for buying single cable needles. More on the details of all the kinds of knitting needles will be following soon in another post. The amount of money you need to invest in knitting needles is likely higher than crochet hooks. Plus, a crochet hook is a valuable tool for knitters!!!!

Crochet:

Crocheting involves a crochet hook. As a matter of fact, the word crochet means ‘ little hook’ in French. A crochet hook has a shaft with a small hook on the end of it. It does not have to be very long, at most there are only a handful of loops held on it. Crochet hooks also come in a variety of thicknesses and materials. They only have one size variable that affects the outcome of the project – the thickness of the hook and area just beyond it where the yarn sits to create the stitch, so you could buy every size crochet hook and be set for life. You can get hooks that have a thicker handle so it is easier on your hands. In theory, crochet would be cheaper in the long run, less stuff to buy.

Handling the Tools of the Trade:

Knitting:
Knitting held in hands
Typical use of knitting needles, one needle in each hand

Two needles are held with the pointed end pointed towards each other. The yarn is looped and moved from the left needle to the right needle. When a row is complete, the needles are switched between hands and the work is turned around – flipped horizontally. Yarn can be held in either the left or right hand. Can feel very awkward to control when first starting.

Crochet:
Crocheting a chain
Holding a crochet hook, I’m a righty

Only one crochet hook is required. The crochet hook is held in the dominant hand and yarn is held in the opposite hand. Starting with a slip knot on the shaft of the hook, the yarn is passed around and hooked to be pulled through a loop on the shaft. Not as awkward as starting to knit with two needles.

Counting

Patterns are written so that the stitches are divided into rows/rounds. Each row/round has a specific order the stitches need to be made in order to make the ‘fabric’ the way you want it to look and function.

Knitting:
knitted fabric
See how the stitches/loops are all on the needle(s), all the time

In knitting, all of the stitches are held on the needles (or a stitch holder when stitches are not being worked but still need to be available for later use) all the time. Counting is very necessary to keep the pattern on track. I like that all stitches are held and are accounted for and I don’t have to keep mental track of where I am. (I suck at keeping count. I can count, but I can’t keep count, there is a difference)

Crochet:
The process of a crochet stitch
Making a single crochet, notice how there are only a few stitches/loops on the hook at any given time

Stitches are worked by using the hook to draw the yarn through a loop. Sometimes keeping more than one loop on the hook and pulling the yarn through all of them at the same time – sometimes just drawing one through. There is a lot of counting chain stitches and number of times that you draw the yarn through the loop(s). If you have a hard time keeping track of things like this, it could be an added difficulty for you. This is one of the reasons why I have a hard time wanting to keep working on a crochet project! I like the stitches held and counted for me on the knitting needle.

Patterns:

Availability of Patterns

Ever heard of the website Ravelry? It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, resources for finding knitting and crochet patterns (a lot are available to purchase right on Ravelry, others listed on Ravelry can be found in books and periodicals). They can be searched by many filters and criteria. A lot of them are free, too! If you are just starting out, you might want to stay away though, it can be extremely overwhelming. If you want to see what all is possible, check it out at your own risk. Ravelry can be found here. Not every single pattern on earth is on Ravelry, but it is safe to say that if it isn’t on Ravelry, you’ll have to go digging deep on the internet or in old books to find what you’re looking for. To see the relative ease of finding patterns for either knit or crochet, see the percentages below to get a feel for availability of patterns.

Knitting:

On Ravelry alone, there are 574,047 knit patterns. Not all of them are amazing or correct, just available to search. This represents 62.75% of all knit/crochet patterns available on Ravelry.

Crochet:

On Ravelry alone, there are 340,631 crochet patterns. Not all of them are amazing or correct, just available to search. This represents 37.25% of all knit/crochet patterns available on Ravelry.

Reading Patterns

Both knit and crochet have a set of basic directions that are abbreviated for patterns. Abbreviations are useful to make the pattern shorter (page wise) and to help simplify the pattern (for example: in a knitting pattern K12 means to make a knit stitch 12 times in a row. If you had to write it out word for word it would look like this: Knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch, knit a stitch. AND that would be MISERABLE!!! Imagine trying to keep your place in that pattern…) Reading a pattern in either craft for the first time looks like it is written in English with words from other languages thrown in for fun. When you have learned the ‘language’, reading patterns becomes much easier.

Knitting:

Knit stitches and purl stitches make up the majority of patterns, there is also the yarn over but it’s not as prevalent. To make the fabric take a shape other than a flat rectangle, you need to do things to those basic stitches. Most directions are abbreviated and there is a standard list of abbreviations, most of which are based on straight forward terms that describe what you do to the stitch(es). For example: Knit 2 together is a decrease, you knit two stitches at the same time which takes two stitches down to one stitch – the abbreviation is K2TOG. The pattern is knit with each row of stitches landing on top of the previous row of stitches. The stitches make vertical columns.

Crochet:

Crochet patterns usually begin with a length of yarn that is ‘chained’, loops are formed into a chain using the hook to pull the yarn through a slip knot. Stitches are then formed by ‘working into the chain’. Every time a row ends (on a non-circular piece) a chain needs to be created to travel up the side of the next row that is going to be created. Room needs to be made for the height of the row so it can go across evenly and not pull on the ends. (This is another reason why I’m not crocheting regularly, another thing to forget…)

Reading the Fabric:

As you knit or crochet along, the fabric that you make will have a pattern, whether it is the most basic pattern or an amazingly detailed pattern. Recognizing what the pattern looks like for each kind of stitch is important to make sure there are no mistakes (or at least ones that would affect the end product or function of the piece).

Knitting:

Knitting involves three general stitches, the knit stitch, the purl stitch and the yarn over. Every other technique is built off of these stitches. So recognizing what the knit and purl stitches look like when done properly is important. See here for a closer look at them. They look a particular way and also feel a particular way on the needles, too tight and something might be wrong, too loose and something might be wrong. The yarn over makes a hole, easy to recognize 😉

Crochet:

Crochet fabric made with the basic Single Crochet stitch has a little more going on than a knit or purl stitch. I am not as familiar with them yet so I have a hard time picking out each individual stitch. But, every time you make a stitch properly, it looks and feels the same. So a mistake in a single crochet row should stand out, maybe there is one less loop that was pulled through so it looks smaller/thinner than all the rest or vice versa.

Fixing Mistakes

Learning how to fix mistakes is probably the most important factor in how succesful you will be with either knitting or crochet. We all make mistakes, all the time! If you get frustrated making mistakes but do not take the time to learn how to fix them, then it is very likely you will not continue on your project.

Knitting:
Fixing a dropped stitch
Fixing a dropped stitch, using a crochet hook of all things to fix it!

Knitting is basically a big spiral of loops that are connected to the row below. You can make a mistake and not realize it until a row or a few later. The fix can be done as long as you have access to the active loops above the issue, or if you don’t have access to the active loops, you will likely have to rip out all the work back to the issue. Beginners may not know how to fix the mistake without having to rip it all back. More experienced knitters can examine the mistake and work their way down the column of loops to where the issue is and fix it, using the same yarn that is already there, no separate pieces.

Crochet:

The nature of crochet does not allow for fixing a past mistake unless you rip your work back to the point of the mistake. There is usally only one or a few loops available to work with, the ones on the hook where the next stitch will be worked. When you notice a mistake, you will need to either rip it back or use the same yarn as the location of the mistake in order to ‘patch’ it up later. If there is a stitch that you need to add because it was missed, you will need to use a tapestry/yarn/darning needle and the original yarn to replicate the stitch that is missing. (Another reason I like knitting, I make mistakes and want to be able to fix them on the go and not have to rip back.)

Finished Product:

Sometimes a pattern is appealing because of the stitch pattern used to create the fabric of the piece. Both knit and crochet have stitch patterns, using the different stitches in different ways to create more textures and looks for the fabric of the project.

Knitting:

Finished fabric from knitting
Finished knitted fabric, smooth and even compared to the crochet sample

Knitting has a smoother texture than crochet when comparing knit stitches (stockinette stitch – kniting on one side and purling on the other) vs. single crochet. T-shirts use the same method of forming the fabric as knitting (hence the proper name of t-shirt fabric is ‘knit fabric’) just with much thinner thread and needles than knitters tend to knit with. The final product in the image above shows the stockinette stitch. It feels much thinner than the crochet sample below. Knitting is a slower process but takes up less yarn, hence it’s thinner than crocheted fabric. The same yarn is used for both samples. This is my biggest reason for chosing to continue knitting instead of crochet. I really like the smoothness and more supple fabric that it creates.

Crochet:
Single Crochet sample
Finished single crochet sample, much more texture compared to the knit sample

Crochet pieces are less smooth and more segmented, each stitch is essentially its own little cheering section. I have seen some stitch patterns that are smoother than the standard single crochet, but it is still segmented compared to knitting. The fabric made from the single crochet is thicker and stiffer than the knit sample, even though they are made from the same yarn. Crochet will go faster but will also consume more yarn, hence the thickness. (The tension I hold the yarn with has an affect on the stiffness, this is just a basic comparison)

Phew… That was a lot. Did I miss anything? Let me know if you have any other questions before deciding on which craft to learn. Sign up below if you decide to go with knitting, this blog will help you get started.

Want to get started? See this checklist with all the basic supplies to get started with knitting!

A great place to start when you decide you want to start learning how to knit!

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