5/18/2010

Great Owl Crochet-Along - Shoppin' for Yarn

One of my favorite parts about starting a new crochet project is hitting the craft stores to find the PERFECT yarn. So, I figured while we're waiting to get everyone signed up and ready to go on this adventure, I'd post a little advice on picking yarn for your owl project...

The owls you've seen in my pictures were all made with Red Heart Designer Sport yarn. I chose this particular brand for a couple of reasons:

Amigurumi + acrylic yarn = very good
Let me explain... Sometimes, when you're making amigurumi, it's enough to follow the pattern to get the shaping you need. But more often than not, you're going to need to do a little shaping (read, "sculpting") on the fly. More than any other fiber, acrylic yarn supports gentle stretching and squishing to give you the shape you want. Case in point -- my baby dragon design. A lot of baby's shape came from increases and decreases in just the right spots, but there is no way I could have done her in anything other than acrylic yarn. Stuff as I may, the neck would NOT hold its shape with a soft natural yarn like cashmere or alpaca -- unless I found a way to get the stitches WAY WAY tighter.

Gauge
I love to make tiny tiny crochet stitches, so the smaller gauge yarn I use -- the better. That said, you need to pick a yarn weight that works for you. When you're shopping for yarn, pay close attention to the little gauge symbols on the label:


Red Heart Designer Sport is a 3 weight yarn and the recommended hook size to make up a 4" x 4" swatch (10 x 10 cm) is an H (5 mm). When I do my amigurumi, I usually step back a few hook sizes. For instance, with the 3 weight yarn, I actually use a hook size E (3.5 mm). To get the best results, you're probably going to do the same thing. Now, one of my amigurumi friends tells me that she goes "absolutely cross-eyed" with anything smaller than a G (4.25 mm) hook. If that sounds like you, then you probably want to stay away from the smaller gauge yarns. Instead of Designer Sport, I'd recommend checking out a 4 weight yarn -- like Red Heart Classic.


Like its lighter cousin, Red heart Classic has a great palette of colors but with a little more bulk than a sport weight yarn -- making it easier to catch with a larger hook size.

Keep in mind though -- if you do opt for a larger yarn gauge, your finished work will come out bigger than mine. There is nothing wrong with this -- in fact, I switch up yarn weights all the time to get different size amigurumi without changing the pattern. But it's definitely something you should be aware of!

Colors
Red Heart Designer Sport comes in a great palette of modern colors. When I designed my owls, I had a very specific color scheme in mind and Red Heart was the only one that could match it while staying in the same yarn family.

Do you need to stay in the same yarn family? Absolutely not. However, I have found that a 3 weight yarn in Red Heart can be slightly different from a 3 weight yarn by Caron and that can be slightly different from a 3 weight yarn by someone else. So, the trick is to keep your work to as few yarn brands as possible to ensure a consistent look. That's why I tend to pick a brand that has a vast palette.

So, do I sound like a commercial for Red Heart yarn yet? Here are a few final thoughts on selecting the yarn for your project...

You do NOT have to use Red Heart yarn for this project. I've had a lot of luck with Caron yarns and some of the yarn catalogs out their make some really nice acrylics under their own brand. Herschner's is also a great option for acrylic yarns in a size 3 (check out their DK weight) or 4 (look at their worsted weight). Mary Maxim Starlette is also a good way to go if you're shopping in the 4 wight range.

If you really really want to use a natural fiber for your owl, I'd have to recommend Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (worsted/4 weight). The Wool of the Andes yarn is a 4 weight yarn, but I typically use a size E (3.5 mm) hook when I work with it because the natural fiber tends to lose its shape more with a bigger stitch.

I know there are quite a few international folks signed up for this crochet-along, so I'd love to hear if you have any good brands readily available. I know for a fact that Mary Maxim does ship internationally, and I think Herschner's does as well -- but if there's something that works better for you, please let me know in the comments for this post!

So, what are you waiting for? It's time to go SHOPPING!

7 comments:

  1. Great Info I just buy the yarn not really paying attention to the weight, but now that I buy online I have to so this really helps. Congrats on winning the Critter Contest I won too! I think I should make a cell phone for my 18 month old so he will stop trying to steal mine. love your work! Gina :o)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello,
    I looked for an email on your blog but was not able to find one.
    I am starting a new feature on my site. I am looking for guest bloggers to post about crafts or tutorials.
    I have been following your blog for awhile now and I would like you to be a quest blogger over at Http://mariescozycorner.blogspot.com
    my blog is about crocheting, crafts, recipes and other handmade crafts. Please, check out my blog and let me know if you would be interested in being a guest blogger.

    looking forward to hearing from you.
    -Marie-
    owner of Marie's Cozy Corner
    Mariecozycorner at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh... the peas.... never mind... duh!

    Super cute!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I mostly use natural fibres and tend to buy whatever takes my fancy. You do have to stitch fairly tightly but I find choosing the right stuffing makes a massive difference.

    Normal synthetic stuffing is very slippery and doesn't hold its shape very well when you push it into bulges it tends to spring out again. I use ginned cotton which in addition to being a natural fibre packs very densely and holds its shape because the fibres are rougher.

    You can't really use it with soft fabrics because the end result is very lumpy, but as crochet tends to be a firm fabric it works really well. You should be able to get it from places that sell teddy bear making supplies.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great information Lucy! Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin