We crafters can be guilty of wanting to have the best of everything in our arsenal – the best hooks, the best yarn, the most perfect pair of scissors and needles and stitch markers. We love our hobbies. We love our tools. And while the best of everything can make our hobbies or jobs much easier, sometimes we lose touch with the fact that not everyone has the money to buy those gold tipped embroidery scissors or that $20 skein of yarn. So, I thought I would just do a little Amigurumi on a Budget segment and show you a bit of what I keep in my arsenal – the good, the bad and the ugly dog-chewed handles.
A) Crochet Hooks
Everyone crochets differently; thus, everyone prefers different characteristics when it comes to their crochet hook. If you’re just starting out, start cheap but remember that you’re going to be spending a lot of time with that hook in hand and, thus, it’s one of the most important tools you own.
I’ve tried almost every hook on the market. I started out, of course, with the standard aluminum. Wood, bamboo, plastic, steel, acrylic. I’ve tried them all. I’ve always had unusually long and large hands for a girl and so I never found quite the right fit. Plus, I live in the (almost) South, in a valley less than a minute’s walk from a huge river, which equals 100% humidity nine months out of the year and, you guessed it, extremely sweaty palms. That can make for some uncomfortable crocheting.
Comfort is definitely a plus if you plan on crocheting more than a few minutes a day and amigurumi can sometimes make that difficult, since you have to use a relatively small hook and stitch more tightly than usual. Thus, working with plastic, wood, bamboo and acrylic hooks are out. You’ll just end up snapping your hook in two (which I’ve done many a time to my extreme frustration). Aluminum or steel are really the only direction to head in with amigurumi and the choice has brought (more than a few) tears to my eyes.
You see, I hate those anodized aluminum hooks. Can’t stand them. They seem fine at first but after a few weeks, for me at least, they start that dreaded squeak that comes from friction and dirt, and I find that they refuse to be cleaned. So, after a few weeks, they are utterly useless. Now, I know that a lot of people swear by them. A lot of people have never encountered that dreaded squeak. I only go by what I’ve experienced myself, which is that every anodized aluminum hook I’ve ever used, no matter the brand, I’ve ended up hating.
Let me take a minute to explain two things. First, I have a sensory processing disorder that makes that squeak feel like nails on a chalkboard to me. My brain over-processes sensations; noise is a thousand times louder, touch is a thousand times stronger, taste is a thousand times more awesome. So, when that friction is created on a hook, it sets my nerves on edge. I’m just giving fair warning that my experience won’t be everyone’s.
Secondly, however, anodized hooks are prone to create more friction than the nickle-plated hooks that I’ll speak of in a minute. When anodizing a metal (that’s what creates those different colors on the hooks), the aluminum is exposed to a diluted acid and an electrical charge. This results in the hardening of the surface, i.e., a stronger hook, and also leaves tiny holes all over the surface into which dye is applied to achieve color. However, this also results in a uniformly micro-textured surface that can cause strange vibrations to occur. Thus, the squeak.
With nickle-plating, however, (as featured on the hooks, pictured, that I use) the metal of the hook is exposed to an electrical charge in a solution which deposits a layer of nickle on the metal like paint. This results in an even smoother surface than before and creates a corrosion-resistant coating that keeps the tool smooth longer.
I’m subjecting everyone to a brief science lesson because I think it’s important to know what you’re buying, particularly if you’re going to invest money into tools you expect to last. And crochet hooks are an area in which I believe it’s actually important to eventually invest money, budget or no, because they keep your hands healthier for longer. Certainly, no one wants to be in the middle of a project when their hook breaks or starts squeaking or creates so much pain that they have to take a week off to recover.
When I found the Addi Swing crochet hooks, my crochet world changed forever. No hand cramps. They cleaned easily and felt like new again. Plus, color-coded, which is great when you have dozens of hooks. I never knew crocheting could be such a dream. However, I’m not mentioning them to promote them (although I think they’re worth giving a try). I mention them and my long history with crochet hooks as an example of finding the right tool. Whatever crochet hook works best for you, be it cheap or expensive, your crochet hook should be an extension of your hand and make crocheting easier, not harder. I’ve read a lot of books and blog posts touting the right hook to achieve the right gauge and, while that is certainly, of course, important, I think finding the right hook for your hand should be first and foremost.
I know that it can be daunting, especially to your wallet, to experiment with different hooks. When I saw that the Addi Swing hooks were $13 a piece, I nearly fainted. I already have all of these hooks, I thought. I can’t spend that much on another one, a single one! But when I got it, when I tried it out for the first time, like finding water in the desert, my friends. And now I have a box of older hooks that I can give away when one of my buddies or my buddies’ kids wants to give crochet a shot. A win-win, really.
So, don’t just try a different brand if your hook isn’t working out for you. Try a different material, try a different shape. Try and try and try until you can’t imagine how you lived before you found that hook that’s right for you. And then donate the hooks that you’ve collected along the way, because the more craftiness that’s out there in the world, the better.
Come back tomorrow for information on needles and stitch-markers. I promise to be less verbose!