Crochet – holding the yarn & tensioning
While first learning to crochet, holding the yarn may at first seem very awkward. Your various fingers have several different tasks to perform. While there is no way to avoid the practice time it takes to become comfortable, it will eventually become second nature. It’s definitely possible to naturally stumble into a different hand positioning than that which has been taught. This is perfectly acceptable, do what works and what causes the least amount of hand strain – beyond that the most important factor is to make sure that the method you choose allows you to have good control over the tension of your yarn.
Because fingers and hands come in different sizes and shapes, yarn positioning will vary by person. For example, my fingers are long, thick and my knuckles are not larger than the rest of my fingers. This means there is no extra space between my fingers when they are pressed together. I just squeeze my fingers together a bit to stop the flow of the yarn. Others, who may have larger knuckles or thinner fingers, may not be able to and might need to wrap the yarn around a finger to get that kind of grip. . Stopping and starting the yarn by gripping and releasing it is one way to control the tension (size/density) of the stitch. Typically, the index finger has a further role in fine-tuning the tension by lifting or lowering the working yarn which decreases or increases the amount of yarn in the stitch. Releasing the same amount of yarn for every stitch will make your stitches the same size and your work look even and tidy. It also controls how tight or loose your stitches are. If you crochet tightly enough to make stiff fabric, you can loosen it up by just releasing a bit more yarn per stitch. Now let’s get into specifics about how to hold your yarn.
Next, I grip the work (or slip knot if just starting a piece) using my thumb and middle finger. I can add the fourth finger if the piece has grown large enough to accommodate its use. The next pictures demonstrate this. Note that I have the index finger of my hook hand pressing on the loop on the hook. This helps keep things from sliding around and off the hook.
This next set of pictures shows what my yarn hand looks like while I’m crocheting. Notice that in this picture, I only have a slip knot on the hook. I can either hold the tail or the slip knot, whichever keeps things feeling more stable. Eventually, when the piece is big enough, I will start to grip the piece itself instead of the knot/tail. Note that the index finger on this hand is held in an upright position. Raising and lowering this finger fine-tunes tension. If I raise my finger it tightens the loop on the hook by tightening down the slip knot (or the loop on the hook). By lowering this finger I give the yarn more slack so that when I pull back on the hook with my hook hand, the loop gets bigger. By pinching the yarn between my ring and pinkie fingers, and/or my index and middle fingers I control the flow of yarn through my hand, stopping and starting as yarn is needed.
Now I’ll show you a couple of other options for holding the yarn. This first option wraps the yarn once around the pinkie before carrying it across the palm side of the next two fingers. The yarn is then brought between the index and middle finger and draped back over the top of the index finger.
This next option is almost the same as the first option, except the yarn is threaded over the ring finger as well as the index finger.
Next we have a very different hold, where the working yarn is draped over the index finger and simply gripped in the remaining three fingers.
Finally, here’s an unusual one, where the working yarn is just held between the index and middle finger. I find this method to be trickier to maintain the flow of the yarn.
Notice in all of these images that the yarn end connected to the hook is draped over the index finger close to the tip of the finger. The index finger is used to guide the yarn and keeps the tension by raising and lowering it. Whichever method you end up using, I think you will end up with better tension if the index finger is used in this way.
What I’ve shown you doesn’t cover all the possible ways to hold the yarn. If my method doesn’t work well for you, if it feels awkward, try the other methods I’ve shown you or use these photos as strategy examples and develop a method that suits your hands. Essentially, it all boils down any of these possible options: 1) wrap yarn around a finger (or none or more than one), 2) carry yarn over or under other fingers, and 3) end by letting yarn drape over the index finger. Mix and match to see what feels right, allows you to maintain the flow of yarn and consistent tension, and what doesn’t cause hand strain.
Hope this helps! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.