Crochet clothing and home decor items have been all the buzz lately, and you can see that a lot of fashion brands are jumping on the trend. Given crochet’s popularity, many wonder whether mass-produced crochet is made by machines or by hand.
Can crochet be done by machine? No crochet cannot be done by machine. Crochet uses a hooked needle to create interlocking loops, and because of how the loops are structured, no machine can replicate the look of crochet.
If you see mass-produced crochet made by a machine, investigate it closely. The stitches probably look more like knit stitches rather than crochet because machine knitting does exist. The stitch patterns are designed to imitate crochet, but true crochet can only be done by hand.
Why is that the case? Let’s take a look at why it’s possible to knit using a machine but not crochet.
Can Crochet Be Done By Machine?
While sewing and knitting can be done perfectly using machines, crochet cannot be done by a machine. A machine cannot replicate crochet stitches, and therefore, crochet is always done by hand.
If you see a mass-produced crochet item, chances are it is either:
- Knitting done by a machine made to imitate crochet stitches using a lacy stitch pattern
- Crochet done by hand
If you are buying from a fast fashion brand, then it’s likely to be an imitation crochet piece made using a knitting machine. Of course, they look very similar at first glance, so it may not be a big turn-off if you like the design.
However, because crochet items are always made by hand, if you are buying a true crochet item, the price tag is usually more expensive due to the labor it takes to finish a handmade item.
Why Machines Cannot Recreate Crochet
Crocheting, although not difficult, requires a lot of hand dexterity. You have to twist the hook to pull the loops at an angle, and the stitches are not indicated by loops (like in knitting) but in the gaps in the completed stitches in the row below.
In some crochet designs, the stitches are even overlapping or worked over the front post or the back post of the stitch below to create texture.
These intricate steps require the crocheter to correctly identify where to insert the hook, which loop to pull through, and which angle and position the loops should be.
While machines are now smart enough for us to have self-driving cars, crocheting seems to require another level of dexterity and intelligence.
Since there are no clear spaces for the stitches to go through, and the loop positions and angles vary a lot depending on the pattern, engineers haven’t figured out how to create a crochet machine that can create convincing crochet stitches.
Of course, that makes handmade crochet items even more special.
Why Can Knitting Be Done By Machine But Not Crochet?
We know that knitting machines are relatively uncomplicated machines that have been around for hundreds of years. You can buy a relatively inexpensive knitting machine that you can operate by hand, and the result will be much faster than hand-knitting.
That’s because of the way knitting works. The stitches are relatively uncomplicated. You have live stitches on every row, and all of the live stitches can easily be identified by the machine.
Each stitch is marked by a loop that is held by a corresponding post on the machine’s loom. When a new row is worked, the machine simply pulls some more yarn through the live loop and lets go of the previous row’s loop.
This is a relatively simple mechanism that allows the machine to seamlessly create stockinette stitches without having to figure out where the stitches go and which loop to pull through!
This is the most basic principle of knitting machines, but knitting machines come in all shapes and sizes that can create all types of complicated designs, such as lace or cable knits.
These complicated designs are usually done by large industrial machines that can be programmed with a computer.
When imitation crochet is done by a knitting machine, the knit pattern is made to resemble the long stitches of crochet, with gaps and clusters that resemble crochet motifs like granny squares.
However, when you look at them closely, you’ll find that they’re still knit stitches, with one loop on each row. Crochet stitches, on the other hand, are much more complicated. One single stitch can be made of multiple loops, and the loops are often interlocking.
The double crochet stitch, crochet’s most popular stitch that’s present in almost every project, requires three different interlocking loops that the machine will have a very difficult time making.
Plus, crochet stitches are not ‘live,’ meaning each stitch is a contained stitch that’s sealed off when you work across the row; there’s no live loop for the machine to easily identify. This makes it difficult for machines to create even the simplest stitch pattern.
Are Warp Knitting Machines Crochet Machines?
Warp knitting machines, or crochet machines as they are known, also use a hook to pull loops through previous stitches.
However, you should know that the fabric made by these machines is still not crochet in the traditional sense. Instead, the warp knitting technique creates loops that are similar to chain stitches in crochet but not the more complicated crochet stitches.
Weft knitting machines will be able to mimic the looks of crochet by creating clusters of chains that mimic double crochet stitches and single crochet stitches, but the machine will still rely on the same mechanics as other knitting machines to create the stitches.
In comparison, the traditional knitting machines that we mentioned above are called weft knitting machines, which are used to create traditional knit stitches like stockinette stitches.
How To Tell The Difference Between Crochet And Imitation Crochet
If you see a crochet item being sold in a store, it can be difficult to tell if it’s hand crochet or machine warp knit/crochet. Imitation crochet looks very similar to hand crochet, especially at first glance.
However, there’s a pretty easy way to identify the difference between hand crochet and imitation crochet.
Take the item in your hand and investigate it closely. If the item is imitation crochet, each stitch will look like a series of loops that are perfectly aligned, like knit stitches. On the wrong side, the stitches will look like a series of dashes “-” that resemble purl stitches.
If the item is hand crocheted, the loops will look like they are interlocking in many different angles. On the wrong side, you won’t be able to see the link between the stitches because each stitch is completely finished before starting the next one.
Is Hand Crochet Hard?
Although this explanation makes crochet sound intimidating, crochet is actually quite simple to learn, and you can create your own crochet clothing with just a few basic techniques.
Crochet is a relatively inexpensive hobby that you can start using just a simple hook and some yarn. Like any other hobby, you can start by learning the basic techniques first and then build up your library of crochet knowledge by experimenting with different designs and techniques.
The most basic stitches that you can learn to start crocheting your own wardrobe are the chain stitch, single crochet stitch, and double crochet stitch.
With these three types of stitches, you can create thousands of designs by combining them in different ways. For more information, check out our other article: Is Crochet Hard? – What You Should Know Before You Begin.
Chain stitch (abbreviated as ch in most patterns):
This is the simplest stitch of them all, and it’s the first stitch you need to learn when you need to crochet anything because the chain stitch is the foundation in most projects.
To create the chain stitch, simply create a loop with your fingers first, and pull the yarn through to create the first loop for your hook. Then, tighten the tail yarn around the hook, and pull the live yarn through to create a new chain.
Single Crochet (abbreviated as sc in most patterns):
To create a single crochet stitch, insert your hook through a gap in the stitch below, and pull a new loop through. You will have two loops on your hook. Then, yarn over the hook and pull through both loops to create a new sc stitch.
Double Crochet (abbreviated as dc in most patterns):
To create a double crochet stitch, yarn over your hook and insert your hook through a gap in the stitch below, and pull a new loop through. You should have three loops in total on your hook.
Then, yarn over your hook and pull through two loops, and yarn over and pull through two loops again to create completed double crochet.
After mastering these stitches, you can start making your own handmade crochet items! There are also thousands of free crochet patterns online that help you practice crocheting while creating something of your own, so don’t be afraid to try them out!