Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Amigurumi Materials (Reasons why I chose acrylic yarn… mostly)

What do I use for my yarn creations? Two weeks ago at the Historic Farmers’ Market I was showing a girl in grade 4 the basic chain (ch) stitch (st), and she was wondering about my materials. I had with me a few hooks and a bag of balled yarn ends – and she was impressed. I wonder what she would have thought about my bookshelf of yarn? Annually I easily go through over $700 of yarn.

Yarn

On various message boards, such as Ravelry, discussions abound on which yarn to use with amigurumi (yarn dolls/toys). There are natural fibres such as cotton, wool, and bamboo and synthetic fibres like acrylic. Honestly, any type of yarn will work fine, and it is only through experimenting that a crocheter can discover their own preference. I prefer Red Heart worsted weight acrylic yarn.

  1. acrylic yarn more wallet friendly than natural fibres
  2. acrylic yarn is stain resistant
  3. acrylic yarn is machine washable and dryable (hot, warm or cold) – and since babies tend to put things in their mouths, many of my customers like to wash their toys in hot water. I was even told that one toy carrot has even survived an accidental round in the dishwasher and is not showing any damage.
  4. there is a lesser chance of fungal/bacterial grown and insect damage
  5. acrylic yarn is widely available in a rainbow of colours.

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While I understand the ecological reasons for using natural fibres, it does result in a toy that will not age as gracefully as synthetic fibres, and I feel that added longevity is the eco-friendly quality of the synthetic fibres. I sell my amigurumi to the public, and the best form of advertizing is in having a product that looks just as good 3 years later as it did the day it was bought. Red Heart yarn is now produced in the USA, so I have confidence that the working conditions of the employees meets labour standards. However, I know very little about the labour standards in yarn factories in Asia, India, and the Middle East. Also since my yarn is produced in North America (shipped locally from Ontario, Canada), it’s carbon foot print is smaller than if I was shipping it from a greater distance.

Why Red Heart brand? No, they do not sponsor me – I did try to work a deal with them since I purchase quite a lot of yarn, but I was quickly rejected. One of important details of crocheting amigurumi is to minimize the spaces between stitches.  I have tried Bernat along with other brands, but really liked that Red Heart does not have much of a natural stretch. When the yarn stretches, it thins and holes are more obvious. If I ever switch to a different brand, I would probably need to use a smaller hook size, and my creations would be smaller for the same amount of time (it is quicker to make an afghan out of yarn than a lacy tablecloth from thread). If some fibres have no stretch, then the holes may also be visible. As I crochet, I keep the tension on the yarn tight, and as each stitch is made, as it relaxes, the holes fill in. For example here is a picture  of a duck made with cotton (left), and the other with acrylic (right). When the cotton duck becomes wet, the stitches will loosen and the holes with enlarge slightly.

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I do create with other fibres. I make dolls out of cotton and stuff them with wool or cotton – but only on request. Usually the price is a dollar or two more, and I make sure that the new owners know the special care instructions. After all, in the end any sort of string or rope can be crocheted into amigurumi.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great post! I especially find the pictures of the ducks that contrast cotton vs acrylic yarn useful. What specific kind of Red Heart yarn are you referring to? I tried their super saver but it's so fuzzy I have a hard time counting the stitches...

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  2. Hi Katy

    Thank you for your comment. I do use the Red Heart Supersaver (usually the 1 lb balls or the economy size) and I believe I was using Bernat cotton in the picture.. It can be difficult to count stitches, especially when using dark colors. Do you use a stitch marker for help keeping track of stitches?

    Susan

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  3. Akryll-wool mixes are soft and feel neat with fingers. Akrylic only feels unnatural, like my bro said "it lasts like cola on your teeth"

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    Replies
    1. How does that yarn look after it is washed? Also, what does it look like when a child plays with it? Does it keep it's shape or does it stretch?

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  4. It definitely depends on the brand, that's for sure!

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  6. Hi, what size crochet hook do you use with the Red Heart Super saver?

    ReplyDelete