Which is better: knitting or crochet? The best choice for you depends on what you want to make. Here’s an in depth look at knitting and crochet pros and cons to help you decide which one you should learn.
Should you learn to knit or crochet first?
The best way to decide between learning to knit or crochet is to think about the types of things you want to make. Choose knitting if you mainly want to make clothes, whether for adults, babies or children. Crochet is quicker and easier otherwise. It’s ideal for making blankets, homewares, toys or lacework.
Plenty of items are just as easy to knit or crochet e.g. hats, scarves, mittens or mitts without fingers, cushion covers, phone/ipad covers, baby bootees and small blankets.
Still unsure? There are design features unique to both knitting and crochet. So you can choose based on which visual effects you like most. If you adore multicoloured yoke sweaters or want to cover everything in aran cables, you need to learn to knit. Do retro granny squares rock your world or are you in love with lace? Then crochet is the craft for you.
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Advantages of Knitting over Crochet
1. Knitted fabric drapes well, better for making garments
Plain knitting creates a lovely flexible fabric perfect for making sweaters and cardigans, especially fitted garments. If you dream of a handmade wardrobe of luxe jumpers and custom cardigans, you were born to knit.
2. Knitting makes a finer fabric, good for socks and gloves
Knitted fabric is much finer than the equivalent solid crochet fabric. So knitting is the best choice for making socks and winter gloves that need to be fine and fit well.
3. Knitting is easier to do without looking
Many knitters can do simple knitting patterns while watching the TV or chatting with a friend. Once you are confident with the basics, you can knit away without needing to look down at every stitch. Patterns knit mainly in stockinette (plain knitting) are ideal “TV knitting” projects. You can be super productive while bingeing a box set.
4. Popular sweater styles are usually knitted
If you lust after Chris Evan’s iconic aran sweater from Knives Out or still dream about Sarah Lund / Linden’s scandi yoke sweaters from The Killing, knitting is the craft for you.
Once you master the basics of knitting, you can move on to intricate aran cable cardigans or knit statement fair isle colourwork sweaters. Sweater envy no more!
5. Knitting is more popular with a wider variety of patterns
Everyone is familiar with the concept of knitting. Non crafters will often call crochet “knitting” too! While crochet is catching up, knitting has always been more popular.
For most types of project, there are more knitting patterns available than crochet. On Ravelry‘s huge pattern database, there are 650K knitting vs 400K crochet patterns approx as at June 2021.
Yarn stores usually have a greater selection of knitting patterns and supplies too. Most staff can advise on knitting, but fewer know crochet.
Disadvantages of knitting
1. Knitting is harder to learn
People usually find knitting a bit more complicated to learn than crochet, but there are exceptions.
You need 2 needles to knit instead of just 1 crochet hook. Working with both hands is more involved and cumbersome at first. Plus you have 2 main basic stitches to learn in knitting – the knit stitch and the purl stitch. It takes time to get the hang of both of them, but once you master them you can knit anything in time.
There are lots of stitches to keep track of on your knitting needles too. Beginner knitters can struggle with this. It’s easy to lose stitches while knitting or stitches can fall off the end of your needle. It’s also hard knitting each row evenly. Common problems like this can make your knitting look a right mess and even put new knitters off altogether.
2. Knitting Mistakes look more obvious and are harder to fix
You can easily drop stitches when learning to knit. This can be hard for to spot at the time and fiddly to fix later on.
Even if you have been knitting for years, you can make all sorts of knitting mistakes. You can make the wrong type of stitch, do something at the wrong place in the pattern or just end up with the wrong stitch count.
Unfortunately mistakes can really stand out in smooth knitted fabric and spoil all your good work. Often the only solution is to rip back your knitting to before the mistake. It’s so common that knitters call this “frogging” because you need to rip it, rip it (like the sound of a frog croaking ribbit).
This is frustrating for new and experienced knitters alike. It can be messy and time consuming for larger, more complex projects too.
3. Knitting takes longer and you need patience
There are ninja speed knitters out there but knitting is generally a slow craft. That’s not a bad thing! It’s why knitting can be so therapeutic like mindfulness.
But knitting is much slower than crochet. So if you like quick projects or are short on time or patience, try crochet first.
You can knit plenty of small accessories or projects using large needles and wool in a matter of hours. But knitting an adult jumper in fine or medium wool can take several weeks if not months. Remember the best things come to those who wait though.
4. You need more supplies for knitting
You need 2 needles to knit, but that’s just the beginning! You’ll start out with a pair of straight knitting needles, usually a medium size (4-5mm). Next you will needles in larger and smaller sizes to use with different yarns and patterns.
Then you will likely move on to knitting in the round and need sets of double pointed needles or circular needles. If you fall in love with circular needles like me, you’ll start replacing your long straight knitting needles with circulars too.
Even after many years knitting, somehow you can own every size needle imaginable except the ones you need for your next pattern!
Plus storing all your needles takes up space and carrying knitting projects on the go is a bit more awkward than crochet.
Then you have all the other bits and bobs – a needle gauge, stitch holders, a stitch counter, stitch markers, needle protectors etc. It’s nice collecting these notions over time, but it all adds up.
5. Tricky to use knitting needles for multiple projects
Once you start a project, most knitting needles can’t easily be used for anything else until you finish. Technically, you can transfer your stitches to a holder or some loose yarn, but that’s hassle and not recommended for beginners.
Many crafters love to have multiple projects on the go. We call them WIPs (works in progress). So it’s a pain when you want to start something new only to realise your needles are already in use for another project. I’ve resorted to buying multiple pairs of the same size knitting needles because of this.
FYI: You can avoid this problem by using interchangeable circular needles. Once you buy a few spare cables, you can easily use your circulars with multiple projects at once. Fancy!
6. You need to choose a knitting method
There are actually 2 common ways to knit which adds confusion. These methods are English knitting (sometimes called throwing) and continental knitting (also called picking). Knitters in UK & Ireland usually use the English method, whereas continental knitting is more common in mainland Europe. In the US, both methods are popular.
The 2 approaches are quite different. I suggest learning how to knit using the method most popular locally or in your country first. That way you can more easily get help from your friends or a local yarn store if you get stuck.
If you can’t get the hang of knitting one way after a few attempts, definitely try the other. It may just click with you from the off.
Having learned English knitting as a child, I’ve tried & failed to learn continental knitting as an adult so far. Others are master pickers but struggle with the English method. No matter – once you know one method, you can knit anything you want.
The Advantages of Crochet over Knitting
1. Crochet is quicker than knitting
Crocheting works up much faster than knitting. Crochet stitches are taller than knitted stitches – sometimes way taller. So each crochet row or round makes visible progress. If you are using solid crochet stitches, without many holes, your fabric will be quite substantial and bulky too.
This makes crochet a great choice for afghans or throws. You can crochet a large blanket quite quickly whereas you would be knitting FOREVER.
You can crochet small items like dishcloths, granny squares or simple toys in next to no time. It’s like magic.
2. Crochet is easier than knitting, with only 1 active stitch
People generally find it easier to learn to crochet than knit. There is just 1 hook instead of 2 needles, so you only need to use one hand.
You can crochet most patterns with just a few basic stitches and they all use the same technique. It can take time for this to click, but once you get a feel for the “yarn over hook” motion, you’re flying.
Plus, with crochet you only have 1 stitch on your hook. You don’t have a whole needle full of knitting stitches to worry about that you can easily lose or drop, messing everything up.
3. Crochet is more forgiving and it’s easier to fix mistakes
A big pro for crochet is that mistakes are no big deal. Its textured nature helps hide mistakes, especially if working in the round. So if you go wrong here and there, you can often forget about it and just keep on crocheting.
Worst case, if you do need to undo your work, it’s much easier to rip back crochet than knitting. You only have one active stitch, so you just rip back as far as you need to. There’s no risk of losing any stitches in the process. Plus, because crochet is faster than knitting, you’ll be back to where you were before you know it.
4. Crocheting lace is really simple
Making holes with crochet is a doddle. You will be AMAZED at how easy it is to crochet lace. Especially if you have ever tried to knit lace. Knitted lacework is a thing of beauty. But it is so slow and so much effort.
If lacy cotton tops and dresses are your vibe, or want to make a lace baby blanket fit for royalty, crochet is the way to go. Always!
5. Crochet circles & any shape you want
Circles are much easier to crochet than knit. In fact any shape is possible with crochet. It lends itself to free-form designs. This makes it easier to improvise or even create your own patterns.
In knitting, you have a row or round of stitches which constrains you. You can still make shapes, but it’s much more complex and needs to be planned out. With crochet, you can put your hook anywhere!
That’s why there are far more crochet patterns for soft toys, like adorable amigurumi. My free fall guys character crochet pattern was my first ever pattern. I was able to create it as I went along because it’s quick and easy to crochet custom 3D shapes. There are lots of knitted toy patterns too, and they can look incredible, but most are a lot more complicated and time consuming.
6. You need less supplies for crochet
All you need to crochet is a hook. It’s the size of a pen or a toothbrush, so it’s more portable than knitting needles. Crochet hooks are very affordable too.
A medium size crochet hook (4-5mm or size G/H) is best for beginners and you can pick up more hook sizes as you need them for projects. Most crochet patterns use the most common hook sizes, in the range of 3-6.5 mm (D-K). Plus, unless you are making garments, using a slightly different hook size will often work just as well.
Unlike knitting, it is easy to have multiple crochet projects on the go using the same hook too. So you will only ever need to buy 1 hook in each size.
A few other bits and bobs come in handy: stitch markers, a measuring tape, a scissors and a blunt needle for weaving in ends. But you can still fit everything in a pencil case.
The Cons of Crochet
1. Crochet uses more yarn than knitting
Crochet uses roughly 1/3 more yarn than knitting. Plus since crochet is faster than knitting, you will feel like you are going through skeins in no time.
Yarn usage depends on what you are making. If you are crocheting a fine lace shawl or blanket, you will still get good bang for your buck. But crocheting a fairly solid blanket will need lots of yarn. It will end up good and heavy though. I went through a 100g ball a day the last time I crocheted a chunky blanket!
2. Crochet is not as good for making sweaters or socks
Crochet creates lace like magic, but solid crochet fabric is bulkier and stiffer than knitting. So while you can crochet amazing intricate lace tops, dresses and shawls with ease, knitting works must better for most garments.
There are lots of patterns for crochet sweaters and cardigans. But they will be heavier and you won’t get the fit or drape you get with knitwear.
Crochet also does not stretch the same way as knitting. Because you need a fine stretchy material for successful socks & full fingered gloves, crochet is not the best choice for those projects.
3. You need to pay more attention while crocheting than knitting
With crochet you only have one live stitch on your hook. That makes crochet simpler than knitting in one way, but it also means you need to actively look at your work while you crochet. You need to check that you are putting your hook into the right place each time. So while you can still crochet watching TV, your head will be up and down a lot more than if you were knitting.
Crochet patterns often involve lots of counting too. You could be making 4 stitches, then 2 stitches into the next 3, then 5 chains etc, and you also need to keep track of your starting point if working in rounds. So you generally need to concentrate a bit more when crocheting. But remember crochet is quite forgiving too, so the odd slip up doesn’t matter.
4. Crochet is less widely known than knitting
Crochet has grown hugely in recent years, but knitting has always been more common. On Reddit, the main knitting subreddit has 375K members, 50% more than crochet reddit as of June 2021, but they are both very popular.
There’s oodles of crochet patterns available, but for many project types, there is still a wider variety of knitting patterns. Some yarn brands offer few or no crochet patterns and there are also fewer crochet magazines.
Most staff in yarn stores can offer knitting advice, but many don’t crochet. So it’s not as easy to get hands on help if you get stuck.
5. The same names mean different crochet stitches in US vs UK
One really confusing thing for beginners learning crochet online is that the same basic stitch names mean different things in the UK from the US. You can avoid this by learning from either all US or UK sources initially.
It’s really useful to know there are 2 versions right from the start though. That way you won’t get completely muddled when you see patterns and forum threads referencing the other version.
It’s most unfortunate that “double crochet” means completely different things depending on the pattern, but once you understand the basic stitches, you can easily tell them apart and get past that.
TIP: a handy way to tell US crochet is to look for the phrase “single crochet” (abbreviated to sc) as that doesn’t exist in UK crochet.
Learn both & you can make anything!
If you already knit or crochet, I would strongly encourage you to try learning the other. With both crafts in your toolkit, you can choose the best one for the job each time.
Crochet lace shawls with ease, even while watching TV, instead of spending forever poring over lace knitting giving yourself a headache.
Knit lightweight jumpers that drape and fit you just right instead of struggling with heavy crochet versions that just don’t hang like store bought clothes.
Knock up a crochet blanket in half the time it would take to knit one. Knit luxe socks and gloves that feel so fine.
Combine both crafts for even more fun. Use your crochet skills to add decorative edging or embellishments to your knitting. Or crochet your knitted seams together if you hate sewing up.
Know that you can make any pattern instead of seeing something really cool made with a craft you can’t do.
Most of all, have maximum fun making ALL THE THINGS!
I hope this knitting vs crochet guide has helped you weigh up the pros and cons & decide which one is best for you. What are you going to learn and make first? Still confused about anything? I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below.