- Both crafts utilize yarn or fiber, and you can make the same sorts of projects– sweaters, shawls, wraps, blankets, afghans, scarves, hats, mittens, socks - with either technique.
- Both knitters and crocheters work from patterns, and use abbreviations. Some of the abbreviations are even the same.
- Knitting and crocheting both require similar skill sets: hand-eye coordination, an eye for color and design, an affinity for fiber, the ability to plan a project from start to finish and see it through. Mathematical ability is helpful, although not strictly necessary, for either craft technique.
- Above all, both knitters and crocheters need to have the patience necessary to keep working, stitch after stitch after stitch, until a project is completed.
So what's the difference between knitting and crocheting? Why would it matter whether you do one, or the other? Now that we've discussed the similarities, let's take a look at some of the most significant differences.
Knitting Supplies vs Crochet Supplies:
When it comes to supplies, knitters and crocheters end up with similar yet different stashes; you'll find most of the differences in the tools department.
Some knitters – hand knitters, that is - use pointy knitting needles. The pointy needles can appear in several different types of configurations; they often exist in sets of two, although this is not always the case. Sometimes the two needles are connected by a cord, as in the case of a circular knitting needle. Sometimes they come in sets of more than two. For example, double-pointed sock knitting needles often come in sets of four or five. If pointy needles are part of the process, then the crafter in question is knitting by hand.
Hand knitters are only a subset of the total number of knitters; in addition to hand knitters, there are also loom knitters and machine knitters. There are many different types of looms and machines that can be used for knitting; they range from the simple to the complex, from the small to the large. Some small machines can be used to knit i-cord, socks or various other small projects. There are larger machines that can be used to knit sweaters, garments or other similar projects. Then there are huge circular machines, some of which wouldn't even fit in the living room of an average home, that are used to mass-produce knitted fabrics for the garment industry.
Knitting machines facilitate the production of knitted fabrics from very fine threads and yarns. For example, t-shirt fabric is usually knitted; because crochet must be done by hand, and it's tedious to use such fine threads for crochet work, it's rare to find crocheted fabric as lightweight and "drapey" as knitted t-shirt fabric.
So, to recap, knitting is performed using either pointed knitting needles, knitting looms, or knitting machines.
Crocheters don't use pointy needles or machines to make their projects; they use a single crochet hook. The hook can be small or large, or any size in between; it might typically be made of steel, aluminum, bamboo, plastic, wood or bone, but it's definitely a hook.
Crochet is always done by hand, never by machine. A crocheter's movements are so intricate that, thus far, nobody has been able to create a machine that can duplicate them.
At this point I should mention that if you come across something that purports to be a "crochet machine," it isn't really a machine that can crochet. In the course of my career as a textile designer, when I've occasionally encountered these, they've always turn out to be something along the lines of a machine that can do blanket stitch or variations thereof.
So, to recap, crochet is performed using a single crochet hook, and is always done by hand rather than machine.
Structural Differences in Knitted Fabric vs Crocheted Fabric:
There are important structural differences between crocheted fabric and knitted fabric.
Before I get any further with this article, I should mention that, thus far, we've been discussing "weft knitting," which is the type of knitting that hand knitters (and some machine knitters) do. There's another category of machine knitting, known as "warp knitting" or "Raschel knitting." Structurally, warp knitted fabrics differ significantly from weft knitted fabrics, and the following points do not accurately describe warp knits.
Both crochet and knitting involve manipulating loops of yarn; with (weft) knitting, the loops build on each other in a way that requires multiple active loops to be held on the needles. Each stitch depends on the support of the stitch below it; if a knitter drops a stitch, the whole column of stitches below it might unravel.
With traditional crochet, there usually aren't many active loops at one time -- usually only one loop, or possibly a few loops. The stitches build on top of each other, but the active loop is the only spot from which the fabric is susceptible to unraveling.
Tunisian crochet is a bit different; this technique combines elements of both knitting and crocheting.
Knitting Projects vs Crochet Projects:
It's impossible to objectively discuss which technique is "better" for any given type of project. I get occasional questions along these lines - "Which is better for making afghans, knitting or crochet?" "Is it better to knit a hat, or crochet it?" I am sure these seem like perfectly reasonable questions, at least to the people who don't know much about either technique. The truth is, the "best" technique for any given project comes down to personal preference. Both of these needlework techniques are worth learning, knowing and using.
Your Opinion: Knitting vs Crochet:
I'd like to open the floor for comments from readers on the topic of knitting vs crochet. Do you have a preference? Which do you prefer? In your experience, which technique is faster? You're invited to share your thoughts: knitting vs. crochet
See Also: Knooking, a technique where you can use a tool similar to a crochet hook to create a knitted fabric.