To start, a disclaimer. This is in no way intended to be a prescriptive guide to crochet. If you do it differently, that's fine. There are umpteen ways to hold a hook, control the tension and so on. This is just how it's done here in Hookery Land.
Right, let's get started. First off, you'll need a hook and some yarn. For this, I'll be using a 4mm hook and some DK cotton yarn.
All crochet starts with a chain. A chain looks not unlike a plait and once you've mastered this, you're pretty much on your way. To start a chain, we need a loop in the end of the yarn...
Make a loop at the end of the yarn.
Pass the tail of the yarn under the loop and pull a bit through.
You should end up with something like this.
Now for your hands. If you're right handed, you will hold the hook in your right hand and the yarn in your left. The left hand controls the tension of the yarn, your right hand makes the stiches. If you're left-handed, reverse what I just told you. If you're ambidextrous, you're very lucky and I'm jealous.
Anyway, I'm right-handed so I hold the yarn in my left hand and control the tension by winding the yarn through my fingers like so...
Once round my little finger...
and then back round my index finger.
There are other ways of doing it - if you don't get on with this method, try Google and YouTube for something more comfortable. Next, the hook. You can hold your hook however you like. Like a pen, like a knitting needle or like me, with your thumb on the grip and fingers on the other side of the hook. You are going to hold your work between the thumb and middle finger on your left hand, so tighten the yarn through your left hand until you can hold the knot at the base of your loop like so...
Ready? Then let's crochet!
As I said above, every piece of crochet, no matter how big or small, starts with a chain. To make a chain you're going to loop a bit of yarn over your hook ('yarn over' in crochet-speak)
The 'yarn over'
And now pull that bit of yarn through the loop on already on your hook. If it won't fit through the loop, you've got the loop too tight - loosen it a bit and try again. When you've done it, you'll have a loop on the hook and your first stitch just below it. Congratulations on your first stitch! Keep going until you have a chain. Like I said, it will look like a plait...
Keep practising until you get a comfortable rhythm going. The hardest bit about crochet is actually controlling the yarn and keeping an even tension. When you can make a nice even chain with evenly-sized stitches, you've cracked it!
We've covered quite a bit today, so you get practising your chain and I'll be back tomorrow with the next instalment - the double crochet!