I know I kind of write with the presumption that my readers know what I'm talking about, so here is a beginner's post!
What you need to crochet:
Hooks are tricky--weird numbers and letters and metal or bamboo? I was lucky and inherited most of my needles from my late Great Grandmother, but I have dabbled with different kinds. Lets talk size first. They are "lettered" from A-Q(I think q is the biggest I've seen) so that A is the smallest and Q would be the biggest. I find a J hook to be ideal for starting out (what I started with), but my personal favorite now is the G hook. Its small enough so I can make really tight stitches if I need to, but big enough to still grab large yarn and look like I'm getting somewhere! That is huge for me. I need to see progress!
The other important thing to look at is what kind? I have been pretty loyal to the Boye brand metal hooks. I was told by the woman who taught me to knit that plastic needles can bend with the heat of your hand and tend to break. I have honestly never used any sorts of wood hooks, but I would imagine they would be just fine. I prefer my metal hooks because they keep my hand cool :) Hooks run around $5 or less and they last for life; I have had mine for 15 years, so if you're going to stick with it, metal is the way to go!
Next question is yarn? What yarn do I get? That's tricky. I started out with cheap $2/skein (roll of yarn) Red Heart Super Saver:
You can get it at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michael's--basically everywhere (not at high end yarneries). If you are unsure if you are going to stick with this crocheting thing, this is the way to go. I find it to be a bit scratchy, but affordable. It is an acrylic yarn. My favorite acrylic yarn is what I buy at Hobby Lobby and it is called: I Love This Yarn!
It is a little more pricey--maybe $2.89 a skein, but well worth it. It is so soft and lovely to work with. They also make cotton and wool that I will talk about now!
My favorite cotton is Sugar n' Cream and I get it at Hobby Lobby as well. You have to be careful with this kind, because they have what is called a dye lot. Dye lots are numbers found on the label that indicate the lot that this skein belongs to. If you are making a large piece, it is important to buy all yarn at once, from the same dye lot because the differences between dye lots are noticeable and striking! Red Heart has no dye lot, which is definitely a benefit.
I have not dabbled too much into other fibers, but I have used wool. It is difficult to wash, so that is a disadvantage, and it can be scratchy--particularly for children. The main benefit is that it is WARM! Alpaca is even warmer. If you're making mittens, or a hat or something similar, wool or alpaca is the way to go. You can also investigate wool blends, which tend to be less scratchy and less expensive.
And that's all you need to get started! Summary--get a metal J hook and start with a cheap acrylic yarn. Work your way into more expensive yarns as you get the hang of it!
I would love to field any questions anyone may have, so just let me know!