In the World of Crochet
Who among us in the yarn community does not have a favorite fiber? In a not-so-scientific poll of crocheters, including Crochet World readers and a few knitters, I posed 3 questions, the first of which was simply: What’s your favorite traditional yarn—acrylic, wool, cotton, alpaca or a blend of fibers? The most popular yarns are not surprising but interestingly, many persons have more than one “favorite.” The top choice is cotton, closely followed by wool; acrylic is in third place, with alpaca in fourth. A few respondents offered reasons for their choice: Acrylics are a good substitute for those who are allergic to wool, and cotton is king in warmer climates. Alpaca fans (including me) love the softness of the yarn, the rich colors and the durability. Blends are popular, no doubt because of the cost factor and endless combinations of yarns. Wool blended with silk, acrylic or nylon made the list of “faves.” Nothing will catch my eye faster than a blend with luxury fibers such as cashmere, angora and/or silk.
Crochet World designer Brenda Bourg lists Tencel, sea silk and bamboo as her favorites. Tencel is a rayonlike fiber made from wood pulp. It’s from a sustainable source, creates a desirable fabric that is soft, lightweight and wrinkle-resistant, and wicks moisture from one’s body. Sea silk is silk blended with sea cell, a fiber made from seaweed. Fran Katz of East Brunswick (New Jersey) Hadassah's Knit & Nosh group, said she loves to work with specialty yarns like eyelash or bouclé. So do I! Smooth yarns are predictable but the novelty yarns often produce results we don’t expect. I love to watch the mystery unfold! The second question was easy to answer: Have you ever crocheted with something that is not a traditional fiber, such as cut-up plastic bags, fabric, steel yarn or other? Sixty percent of the responses were “yes.” So, naturally, the last question was: If yes, what was the “fiber,” and what did you make with it? The answers were unexpected and not necessarily limited to one or two unusual fibers from each respondent. The most common nontraditional fiber is plastic bags (often called plarn). It’s obvious that crocheters and knitters are eco-conscious. Bags cut into strips are worked up as mats, market bags, purses and coasters rather than tossed into garbage bins. Holding plarn with an acrylic or cotton yarn or fabric strips will create a more durable and solid piece of work. Fabric was another popular nontraditional “yarn.” It’s easily made into handbags, rugs and baskets. Years ago, I cut a queen-size flat sheet into 1-inch-wide strips, then joined them together into one long strip using a slit and join method. I made strips with coordinating fabric left over from sewing projects. I crocheted the fabric with a size Q hook and made a cover for my bedroom wastebasket. Not only did I save all that fabric from the local landfill, I made an attractive, washable piece of home decor in the colors of my bedroom. (It was estimated in 2014 that Americans sent 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills annually, so all efforts to repurpose clothing should be encouraged.) The prep time to create the balls of fabric yarn was long but the results were well worth the effort. Remember braided rag rugs that were sewn together to create rectangular and circular rugs? Now you know how to make today’s version—crochet it from strips of old clothing and sheets! No sewing involved! Wire is a common crochet material and its most popular use is in making jewelry. Some designers said that it’s hard on their hands and it ruins hooks. But obviously, with the popularity of crocheted wire and beaded jewelry, a little research on the technique and some trial and error will produce stunning one-of-a-kind pieces. Wire is available in
various metals, materials and thicknesses, some of which are very pliable for crochet work. A very unusual yarn is Jelly Yarn. Invented by industrial designer Kathleen Greco, it’s a supple, colorful, vinyl strand that resembles a very thin, glossy spaghetti. The hook or needles need to be lubricated with hand lotion or a vinyl protectant to allow the yarn to glide easily. I coated my hook with sunscreen as I crocheted with Jelly Yarn on a cruise! The resulting fabric is great for mats, handbags, belts, children’s items and home decor pieces. This yarn was used to create coral, anemone and sea sponges displayed in the Coral Reef Project. To see the complete selection of these fun yarns, go to www.jellyyarn.com. Newspaper yarn is a very uncommon fiber. Paper yarn isn’t a new concept; a traditional Japanese paper textile called shifu (cloth woven with paper thread) has been around for centuries. But with today’s “reuse, recycle or upcycle” mindset, it’s a great way to give yesterday’s news a new life today. It’s necessary to cut the paper into strips (the wider the strip, the thicker the yarn) and then spin them by hand or with a spinning wheel. Once the paper has been spun into strands, you’re ready to crochet! To find out more about this unique yarn and how to make it, search “newspaper yarn” online or go to www. instructables.com or www.handimania.com/diy/ handspun-recycled-newspaper-yarn.html. If a prize were to be given to the crocheter who worked with the most unusual fiber, it would go to designer and technical editor Lindsey Stephens (www.thelindseylife.com). She crocheted Twizzlers to make cake decorations! She tore them apart into individual strands and used a size N hook. She reports that it was not easy because the candy stuck to the plastic hook. This was a one-time project, “but you never know,” said Lindsey. “If I were to do this again, I’d try coating the hook in cooking spray first or lightly dust the candy strands with flour to reduce the stickiness.” Our readers responded to the survey with an incredible array of materials with which they’ll crochet. Carol A. Smith of Oklahoma has used “almost anything I can recycle and make pretty at the same time.” She’s worked with twine, craft ribbons, dental floss and plastic Hawaiian leis. Carol has even crocheted cereal bags into scrubbies! Other crocheters have worked with paper raffia, kite string, shoe laces, curling ribbon (great for durable flower motifs) and fishing line. They’ve made key chains, water bottle holders, can cozies, gift tags and sun hats. It’s obvious that anything a determined crocheter can get her hands on that is flexible is fair game for a crochet hook!
The author’s crocheted wastebasket cover.
Rock coral crocheted in lemon-lime ice topped with a blue taffy starfish.
Lovely Pink Petal Earrings crocheted with wire.
Yummy crocheted decorations!