Amigurumi: how to choose yarn?

You ask, I deliver :)

This is a re-make of my very, very old post. I tried to do my best and improve it, add even more from my experience, for you to benefit. If you are starting your adventure with crocheting amigurumi, this post is just for you!

Contrary to what you may think, choosing right yarn is not simple. Many depends on specific project and effect you want to get. Consider for who you are crocheting the toy, what your skills and preferences are, and you’ll probably get lost. Even more so, when you have little experience with yarns. When I was a total newbie, I thought it was so convenient to visit nearest yarnstore and grab first skein I put my hands on. How wrong I was! This left me with many projects I didn’t like and a lot of skeins I didn’t want.

In this post I am describing types of fibers and its features in hope to help you avoid my mistakes. Feel free to share your discoveries and opinions in comment section :)
Oh, and each picture can be viewed in full size by clicking on it.

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Acrylic yarns

Probably the most commonly used yarns. Cheapest, too. Come in width variety and many beautiful colours. Acrylic yarns do not sensitize, thus are perfect for kids and people with allergies. Avaliable in almost every thickness, often first choice for crocheters. Its softness promises toys pleasant in touch and gaps between stitches becoming invisible.

A characteristic feature, acrylic yarns tend to pile easily, which can be a deal breaker to some. Take a closer look – do you see little hair storm? Depending on the project, this effect might be desirable!

Cotton yarns

Another popular yarn fiber. Smooth and enduring, it owns this very delicate gloss. It is pleasant in touch, however amigurumi crocheted very tightly can feel harsh. Gaps between stitches will be more visible, too, so consider how much stuffing you want to use. Cotton yarns usually come in different thickness, even worsted, sometimes aran, but not thicker. It can be washed in higher temperatures, like 60 degrees celsius, depending on manufacturer, which makes it perfect for babies. Cotton does not sensitize and is a natural fiber. Greatest advantage though is its colour palette: vibrant, lovely colours, heavily saturated, in every shade you can imagine! Subtle glow makes it even more beautiful. For example, you can obtain this perfectly black yarn… for a black hole ;)

Cotton yarns can be mercerized or unmercerized. Mercerized ones are in general shinier, more durable and a bit stiffer, as they are twisted more tightly. Combed cotton offers more natural look and is softer in touch. Below planet is made with unmercerized cotton, while the ring with mercerized. I think difference between the two is well visible.

Acrylic and cotton mix

Proportions may differ, but usually it’s around fifty fifty. For me, it is perfect type of yarn for amigurumi! It combines features of both fibers, that complement each other. Acrylic makes it soft and easy to hide gaps. Finished toy feels almost like a plush toy. Cotton eliminates pilling – there is a hair storm, but barely visible. Yarn loses cotton’s glow, yet becomes more durable than acrylic ones.

For you to see difference in textures clearly, I post a picture of a planet with moon. Planet is made with mercerized cotton, while moon with acrylic and cotton mix.

Bamboo yarns

You should consider bamboo yarn if you want to crochet for small children or people with allergies. Bamboo is known for its antibacterial properties, therefore it is more convenient. It grows really fast, too, and pesticides are used rarely during cultivation. Yarn made with bamboo is sleek and glowy (even more than cotton yarns), though it tends to pill after a while, and – when crocheted tight – can be a bit harsh. Bamboo yarns are also refreshing, being few degrees cooler than ambient temperature. Beware of washing things made with it, as it tends to stretch more than other types of yarn and can loose its form.

Woolen yarns

There are so many wools out there: sheepwool, mohair, alpaca, cashmere, merino, angora – just to start with. Each one, of course, have its own unique look and different characteristics. Every one deserves separate description, I think. Woolen yarns are also the most expensive you will find. Perhaps silk and some novelty can beat it, but still.

Wool is great for many reasons: it is soft, chunky and comes in all types of thickness you may want. Depending on type, you can easily create unusuall look and style your amigurumi (more on this in fancy yarn section). The downside is allergy that one may have, especially if you create a toy, not collectible piece. Ah, and washing it can be tricky, as wool tends to stretch while wet (and it smells bad) and usually cannot be washed in a washing machine. However, if you have some leftovers, go ahead and use it for your project!

Silk, viscose, linen, hemp, poliester and other fibers

It feels wrong to put all the rest into one bag, but I don’t have much experience with said fibers and I don’t want to speak about things I don’t really know. I worked with poliester, viscose and linen before, yet it was more of a trying it out, one quick project of each type. Not enough to learn much, and I am not tricking you into thinking I know all about it. I’ll be sure to update this post if things change though ;)

If you have tested this yarns, your feedback will be more than welcome! I’m eager to learn something new :)

Fancy yarns

Fancy and creative yarns of all types. They are real game changers! Sometimes it’s enough to use it in place of usual yarn and you will get so different amigurumi… This can be a yarn with multiple colours (longer parts or enough to crochet only one stitch before it changes), additional strand of different fiber or colour, with beads, pompons or sequins, with multiple threads standing out that will make toy look furry and so on.

Don’t worry if you don’t have it on hand, or if you don’t wish to purchase one like this. With a bit of patience and flair you can make your own to create the same effect. Want multicolour yarn? Learn how to switch colours. Do you like to add something extra? Use your usuall yarn with thread that stands out, or slip on it some beads. Want your ami to be furry? Brush it with sharp comb (acrylic yarns are perfect for that) and watch it change :)

Working with such yarns requires more advanced skills. Well, multicolour yarn is the same as single coloure, but if you decide to work with few yarns and change colours, it obviously becomes more difficult. Yarn with two or more separate strands can tangle and hook up, while additional elements like beads can make crocheting a bit more inconvenient. When you work with furry yarn, you are not able to see stitches, so you kind of need to learn and feel them under your fingers. It does not mean it’s impossible, and final effect is worth it!

Keep in mind that some of this yarns are not suitable for babies and animals. It may contain rough fabric or small pieces that can be swallowed.

Thickness and yardage

The rule is simple: bigger thickness means bigger amigurumi. Using the very same pattern you can end up with few centimeters toy and another enormous one. Look at my eggs – all are crocheted from one pattern, the only difference is in yarn thickness: white one is super bulky, green is aran and purple – sport. Black eyes have 12 milimeters for your reference.

All yarns are divided into eight thickness categories (from thinnest):
* 0 – lace (yarns in this category: fingering, 10-count crochet thread), gauge (stitches per 10 centimeters): 32-42 double crochets, recommended hook (for clothes, not amigurumi): 1,4-1,6 mm
* 1 – super fine (sock, fingering, baby), gauge: 21-32 stitches, recommended hook: 2,25-3,5 mm
* 2 – fine (sport, baby), gauge: 16-20 stitches, recommended hook: 3,5-4,5 mm
* 3 – light (DK, light worsted), gauge: 12-17 stitches, recommended hook: 4,5-5,5 mm
* 4 – medium (worsted, afghan, aran), gauge: 11-14 stitches, recommended hook: 5,5-6,5 mm
* 5 – bulky (chunky, craft, rug), gauge: 8-11 stitches, recommended hook: 6,5-9 mm
* 6 – super bulky (super bulky, roving), gauge: 7-9 stitches, recommended hook: 9-15 mm
* 7 – jumbo (jumbo, roving), gauge: 6 stitches and less, recommended hook: 15 mm and bigger

Some patterns tell you how much yarn you’re going to need by providing yardage (how much of yarn in lenght is needed to complete project). But remember that when changing yarn for thicker or thinner, yardage also changes. Unfortunately, there is no easy tell how much of replacement yarn you will need, in contrary to crocheting or knitting clothes (at least if you don’t plan to adjust pattern, which is rather tedious work that requires lots of calculations). Yardage does not change drastically if difference in thickness is relatively small though.

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I hope this post clears things a bit and will help you choose the right yarn for you. I always struggle with it :D

I’d love to hear from you, what is your experience and advice on picking this perfect fiber!

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog, where we are going old school :)

Yup, that’s the point. It is my fourth blog, after all, and I’m tired of all the blogs out there that imitate small web portals with thematic posts every Wednesday and new pattern published every week. I don’t really mind it, and some of them are awesome :) Though it seems to me that number of readers and commenters determines its form and shape, like it is the very most important thing about blogging. Unfortunately many of these blogs lost their purpose along the way.

I shall stay out of all this and follow my own pace. Writing anything I feel to write about and sharing whatever pops into my head at the time. Mostly amigurumi and crocheting stuff ;) And if I have just one reader, one that comes back to visit, I will still feel happy and I will continue writing for that one person.

Thus I hope you’ll like it here :)

~december