Tools of the Trade

I remember before I went to college one of my favorite teachers described the experience as a kid, a room, and a book (I am old enough that we still had hard copy books….none of this online business). If you would have asked me about a year ago to describe crocheting, I probably would have responded similarly saying it is a person, a hook, and some yarn; after all, when I first started crocheting in my single digits that was all I had. That’s only partially true.

yarn

The only requirements for crochet are a person, a hook, and some yarn; however, there are so many wonderful little additions one can add.

As we chat a bit about the little extras a crocheter and amigurumi-er (yes, I know it isn’t a word), I have included some pictures (because I like pictures), but there also are some links. These links will take you to various pages on Craftsy’s Web site. I am currently having a love affair with their platform. However, full disclaimer, this post contains affiliate links: You will be directed to where these reside on Craftsy and if you purchase from the link, I get a small fee from the site. The items I am showing are all ones that I have used and that I have absolutely loved. I will always be honest about my opinion – and if I don’t like something, I will be upfront about my opinion.

I had this thought last night as I was working on my first attempt at an amigurumi doll (I’m trying to make Belle from Beauty and the Beast). As I progressed in the project, I found myself frequently reaching into my “bits and bobs” bag. I purchased the bag originally to try to store my yarn (insert hysterical laughter here). Yeah…once I realized that wasn’t going to work, it became my catch-all bag.

Some of the contents of the bag are standard: I have some spare hooks in there – hooks I love to use for hats and scarves, but that don’t work quite as well for amigurumi. As well as an extra pair of scissors. However, there are some things I never thought about when I started that I wanted to share with you.

TAPESTRY NEEDLES

As I’ve shared before, I started crocheting when I was about 9 years old; but, I never really stuck with it. Also, I was always determined I was going to make an afghan – it was the great white whale to my Ahab. Never made it. I lost interest too quickly and never thought to make a smaller project. With that said, I never had to worry about how to finish a project, so the first hat I made I was surprised to see it mention a tapestry needle.

Huh?cloverchibitapestryneedlesetbentstyle_aiid1351377.jpg

I’m not a sewer – I can’t even figure out how to put my sewing machine together to attempt to hem pants (suggestions welcomed). I can’t thread a stinking needle. What do they mean a tapestry needle?

Turns out when one finishes a project, there are pesky ends of the working yarn that need to be hidden and dealt with and weaved into a project. And while you probably could get away with doing this carefully with a smaller crochet hook, one of the cleanest ways to tuck those ends away safely is done with a tapestry needle.

Smaller tapestry needles also are helpful in adding some extras to your amigurumi – like Belle’s eye lashes and her mouth.

Why won’t a regular sewing needle work? For the embroidery, a sewing needle might be able to add the features; however, for weaving in the ends on a crocheted piece, a regular sewing needle’s eye is not large enough to accommodate the yarn, which is thicker than a standard strand of sewing thread.

There are different types of tapestry needles, which also have various eye widths. You can get plastic tapestry needles (which were my first), steel tapestry needles, ones with bent tips, and those with straight tips. As with most things, the option you choose is whatever works best for you. Most of my tapestry needles are straight tipped, but I’m leaning more toward the bent ends to help pick up only one loop of my crochet for a cleaner finish.

STITCH MARKERS

Stitch markers are absolute life-savers, and things I never knew I needed before I began amigurumi.cloverlockingstitchmarker20ct_aiid1351371

In making scarves or most blankets, a crocheter is working in rows. In doing so, there is some counting that goes on, but the beginning and end of each row typically is clearly defined. This is not always the case with hats, and especially with amigurumi.

My little Yoda above is a good example. To have that smooth round/oval type shape the piece is worked in rounds, but is not worked in joined rounds; which means the last stitch of a round is not joined to the first stitch. With this type of project there are different ways you can keep track of where you started. I have seen some people recommend using a different color yarn to mark the starting stitch. Others have suggested using a bobby pin. And while there is no right or wrong way, the thing that has worked the best for me is the locking stitch marker.

With this, I don’t have to worry about jostling my work and having the marker fall out, and I can use different colors of markers – if I need – to remind me of different things (for example, what round to place the eyes, versus where my first stitch was placed).

I have a ton of these locking stitch markers available for use, which is helpful when I have multiple projects I’m working on, and when I need to note where eyes or other features should be placed.

ROW COUNTERS

With projects that require multiple rows, I’ve found having a tool to help me keep track is an absolute life saver (because I am not so good at counting rows accurately after they are done). For that reason row counters have been a good addition to my repertoire.

cloverminiknittingcounterakakachakachamini_aiid1351374

The first row counter I got came with my starter hook set and I think it took me four weeks to realize what this bizarre little wheel with dials was. From there, I upgraded to the stop watch type counter (like the one seen above). I like having the physical counter to be able to use, but I also have been using row counter apps a good bit lately to help me when I’m on my phone or tablet. If you go to the App Store on iTunes or Google Play and search for row counters, you should be able to find a couple different options. Having the mobile friendly versions are nice so you don’t have to worry about losing your counter if you take your work on the road.

And while there still is an element of human error with this – forgetting to click the row, clicking too many times – having a way to keep track of your row is a pretty helpful little extra.

STUFFING

I used to think stuffing was just for Thanksgiving day, but I quickly learned that the cute lil’ luvvies I was making needed something inside them to give them shape and definition.

1522169079750-20180321_571536_fairfieldsofttouchstuffing_2962_detail

I’ve tried a couple different types of stuffing so far, but my favorite has been Poly-fil. I’m still playing with whether the Poly-fil beads will work for me or not – I hope I can make it work so I can make some bean bag-like “F” bombs.2018-05-15_15-20-09I mean my little moose looks cute, but he’s even better looking when he’s fully stuffed.

And please don’t be like me and the first Porg I made who is stuffed to the gills with leftover yarn pieces. I mean it worked, he was stuffed, but you could see all the different colors coming through his stitches.

CRAFT EYES

Called several different things: safety eyes, doll eyes, craft eyes, animal eyes – these are helpful to give the luvvies a more professional look.

1522167975468-20180322_570977_toyeyes_9302_detail

You don’t have to use plastic eyes for amigurumi, and for some projects – like my attempts at Rarity and Applejack (the My Little Ponies) – I’ve been able to crochet eyes, or for other projects like Gromit, I’ve used felt and craft glue (two other bits and bobs in my notions kit) to create their distinct looks.

Gromit

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When push comes to shove, I prefer to use the doll eyes because they are more even, consistent, and secure than what I feel I can achieve from other mediums. However, I appreciate the variety other application methods provide.

AND ON….AND ON….AND ON

Yes, I’ve become a collector of things, from hooks to felt to craft eyes and noses as I’ve gotten more involved with the art of amigurumi (and don’t even get me started on my yarn stash that I have to start hiding from my husband because it is just insane at this point). But, at the end of the day, you really don’t need any of this to make adorable plushies. In the end, all you really do need is a hook, some yarn, and lots of love.

Hugs and cuddles,

Elisha

 

 

 

 

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