This programme is based on my experience of learning crochet, as assistance for other absolute beginners who want to learn to crochet.
Note: I have used American crochet terms throughout. A list of conversions with English crochet terms can be found here .
Lesson 1: For complete beginners - holding the yarn and hook, starting chains, single crochet stitch:
I recommend starting with a 4.5mm hook and cotton dk yarn.
Learn to hold the yarn and hook, make a starting slip knot and make a crochet chain here (YouTube video - relevant section runs up to 4.30)
The simplest crochet stitch is single crochet (sc) - look at this demonstration: on YouTube- Mikey's Mail single crochet lesson
Make a swatch to practise your single crochet stitches. Start with a 15 stitch chain and then work back and forwards in sc rows. At the end of each row, make a single chain stitch before you turn, to allow for turning. When making the sc stitch, it is important to insert your hook under both loops of the stitch. (The first row, when you are stitching into the chain, is the most difficult - persevere! it gets easier after that.) Once you've got the hang of sc, don't undo your swatch! You will need it for more stitches later. Just put a safety pin through the final loop and close it to stop the swatch unravelling.
Once you can do the single crochet stitch, look at these demonstrations on YouTube:
magic circle - Teresa's magic circle demonstration (I particularly like Teresa's demonstrations because they are followed by a slow-motion repeat, this is very helpful. In fact, for magic circle, I had to sit in front of the computer and follow her movements exactly several times, before I finally got the hang of it)
sc in front loop - sc in front and back loop tutorial - relevant part of demo starts about 6:14
sc decreases - Teresa's decreases demonstration
I didn't include above a video demo link for sc increases because they are so simple! All you do is work 2 sc stitches into the same sc stitch.
After you've looked at these, you will be able to tackle this little mushroom amigurumi toy (free pattern), which is a representation of the mushroom character found in Nintendo's Mario games. Don't care for Mario? Leave off the face, and use it as a pin cushion! Requires a 4mm hook and scraps of red and white dk yarn, plus a little toy stuffing.
When you reach the end of a piece of crochet and need to finish off, you just cut the yarn and pull the end through the last stitch to close it. Then weave in any final ends.
Lesson 2: Changing colour
To achieve smooth colour changes you need to change the colour at the last stitch of the previous row, at the point where you make the final loop before drawing it through the last two stitches on the hook. Make the last loop in the new colour and draw it through the two loops in the old colour.
You can practise colour changes by making the crocheted Harry Potter bookmark (free pattern). If you work with a small hook (typically 2.5mm) and fingering weight yarn you will have a a bookmark, or with a larger hook and dk yarn, you will have a Harry Potter striped scarf for a teddy bear!
With this pattern, you need not worry about the ends - just carry the unused colour up the side.
The most important thing is to maintain the correct number of stitches in each row. But if you find you have too few / too many, it's easy to rip back in crochet. There are no worries about dropping stitches, because there is only ever one stitch on the hook. Just pull back until you reach the point where there were no errors, and put that loop back on the hook.
Lesson 3: More crochet stitches - double crochet and half-double crochet
Look here (YouTube links) for video instruction on how to make double crochet stitches (double-crochet starts at about 4.30 of demo video) and half double crochet stitches.
Pick up the sc swatch you made earlier. At the end of the last row, ch3 (this allows length in your turning chain to accommodate the taller double-crochet stitches), turn, and then work into each stitch using double crochet.
At the row end, ch2 (this allows the right length for the half-double crochet stitches), turn and then work into each stitch using half double crochet.
Repeat these two rows a few times until you are confident you can make both stitches. (Keep your swatch in case you want to do more practice of other stitches later)
After this, you have all the skills to make the Work Your Way Up bag (free pattern). Requires 4 balls of cotton dk and a 4.5mm hook. This pattern also introduces the technique of creating spaces in your work, by not working into specified stitches and using chains to accommodate the space instead. Sewing the final seam will tidy up any uneven edges!
Lesson 4: Working in the round
Another way of starting in the round, apart from the magic circle referred to earlier, is to chain 4, then slip-stitch into the first chain to form a circle. A slip stitch (sl st) is just insert hook as for sc, make a loop, then pull that loop through all the stitches on the hook. It basically joins stitches together without adding height.
Once you have the circle of chains, the next round is to sc into the middle of the circle of chains, as many times as specified, and then work outwards from there, increasing as specified.
You can try this out in the Apple Tawashi scrubbies pattern (free pattern; log in to Lion Brand site required). They are basically crocheted circles folded and sewn in half. Requires red, green and ivory dishcloth cotton, scraps of brown yarn to embroider seeds/make stem and a 4mm hook.
Or, if you want a project without any colour changes or fiddly bits (stems, leaves etc), try this pattern for crocheted make-up remover pads, which is also extremely simple.
Lesson 5: Making a sewn-up item, including first use of decorative stitch pattern, crocheted seam, pick up and crochet, make a buttonhole
This simple camera / phone cosy pattern (note: free Ravelry download) has full instructions for making an item with a decorative shell stitch pattern. It also uses a crocheted seam (insert hook through two layers of stitches, make single crochet stitch, repeat to end of seam). Requires scraps of coloured dishcloth cotton and a 4mm hook.
I adjusted the pattern slightly to make a top flap at one end of the cozy which fastens with a button. To make the flap, just insert your hook into the crochet and work sc stitches along the edge you want the flap to join to. Then continue as desired- I repeated the shell stitch pattern after a couple of rows of sc. To make a buttonhole, just make a couple of chains instead of working into stitches in the middle of the row. This creates a gap in the row in which a button can be slipped through. The next row, sc into those empty chains as well as the other stitches.
Other helpful crochet sites:
The Ravelry Learn Crochet group contains lots of pages on learning to crochet and there are experts on hand to answer any technical questions you may have.
Lucy's Attic24 blog is very popular with many crocheters, and includes step-by-step tutorials for ripple pattern, granny stripes, granny squares etc. (UK site, so mainly uses English crochet terms)
Debbie Stoller's book Happy Hooker: Stitch n Bitch Crochet is a great intro to crochet with lots of useful reference material and quite a lot of patterns too.