Five tips for improving your sculptural crochet
Yeah, that’s right. I got artsy-fartsy with it and called it “sculptural crochet” instead of “amigurumi”. That’s just the way I’m living these days.
In this post I’m going to briefly touch on five of the things that have made my Antigurumi more aesthetically pleasing (crochet-wise, anyway), professional-looking (whatever that means) and all-around sturdier. Some of you blog-nerds may have already seen/heard these tips before from other bloggers and are probably using them already, so you can roll your eyes all you want, but they always bear repeating. To others who may breathe a hefty, beleaguered sigh and say, “But Shove, I just learned to single crochet!! I don’t have time for all this extra fancy nonsense!”, please know that these are SIMPLE things you can do to VASTLY improve the look of your work… and I think you will be pleased with the end results. Now, this is just a small “Top Five” sampling– there are many other things that have helped my crocheting significantly and maybe I’ll go over more of them in the future, but for right now I highly suggest trying to implement these tips into your daily crocheting repertoire and see how they work for you. Although I currently have no time/patience/energy to make my own instructional videos, I have provided some links to other gracious souls’ teaching tools that illustrate these points perfectly. Enjoy.
1. The Magic Ring or Double Loop
While the “chain 2, sc 6 into the 2nd chain from the hook” is the easiest way to start off a piece and generally the method that beginners learn first, it can leave a wee gaping hole in the top (or bottom, depending on which way you work). To alleviate this dilemma, try thinking about the Magic Ring or Double Loop method, both shown in this instructional video by wiremysoul below. (I generally go with the Double Loop.)
2. Invisible Decreases
Okay, so you’ve just made your third stuffed penguin or whatever, and you’re super proud of the results. It’s much better than your first attempt, and slightly better than your second. But wait, what the hell are those irritating little bumps showing on the front of the work? They are your decreases, and they hate you. They want to mock your hard work and your very being by sticking out and saying “LOOK AT ME, DAMMIT.” Have no fear; there is a solution, and its name is the invisible decrease. Watch the instructional video from nerdigurumibelow.
3. Jogless Color Changes
Ah, the color change. A frustrating experience indeed. All the books tell you to just finish your SC with the new color on the last stitch, but you may find this leaves things looking messy. Sure, you could always hide the color change in the back somewhere, but it’s still going to be there, laughing at you. (Crochet is fond of mocking its creators. Take note of that.) Fortunately there is salvation at hand. This is actually something I discovered on my own very early in my crocheting history, but did not actually start implementing until my suspicions were confirmed by the wonderful Needlenoodles, who posted her photo tutorial up on her blog. She provides clear photos and written instructions to help you on your new jogless journey, which can be found HERE: Jogless Stripes Tute
4. Stuff Your Work Properly
When I first began using polyester stuffing, I would scrimp on putting a lot of it into my pieces, which resulted in a droopy, hollow and just-plain-sad-looking new crocheted buddy. But now, gentle readers… now I can look back and laugh, for I know the power of proper stuffing. The real keys to success here are as follows:
A) Use enough stuffing to make the piece solid. Don’t stuff it to over-exertion, where it’s distorting your stitches, but just enough so that empty-feeling “squish” is gone.
B) Tear the stuffing apart before inserting to remove the bulkier shapes. This will result in a smoother, and less lumpy appearance on the outside. Particularly take this into consideration when stuffing large pieces.
C) Fill up your work completely — even if it means squeezing the stuffing through that last tiny hole that closes your work, which I like to call the crochet’s “anus” (or alternately, “crochet-nus”). I’m pretty sure no one else likes to call it that.
D) Find a stuffing brand you can live and get along with. For a while when I first started I was using a really soft, fluffy stuffing readily available at Joann’s and other chain craft stores (see mugshot below). This stuffing and I did NOT get along, which I should have figured out earlier from the disturbing photos featured on the front of the bag. I soon found that heavier, cheaper stuffing (often recycled) worked much better for me than the downy, fancy polyester fill. So, do some research, spend a few dollars (literally, like $3 or $4), and experiment until you’re truly satisfied. Who knows? You may find a nice harmony by sandwiching a layer of loftier stuffing in between two heavier ones. Crazier things have happened.
5. IF IT DOESN’T LOOK RIGHT, RIP BACK OR START OVER AGAIN!
To my knowledge there is no video or written tutorial for this, but it’s actually one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you. It’s probably pretty good advice for art and life in general, but for right now let’s just apply it to crochet. No, a four-year-old recipient probably won’t care if his crocheted frog’s left leg is fatter than his right, nor will you be banned from the craft fairs if you used a half-double crochet when you should have used a double. In fact, you may just be so relieved that you even finished the damn thing that you don’t really care much about your mistake. However, there also may come a time when you look at the piece and develop a nagging feeling deep inside your chest that says “That could have been done better.” Well don’t let that nagging sensation turn into a panic attack or ulcer — although it’s far too late for me. Realize that anything can be (carefully) taken apart and put back together properly with a little time, some sharp scissors and a decent attitude.
Remember: It’s not Krazy Glue, it’s not concrete, it’s not bronze… it’s just yarn. And while that in itself may be the most essential tip of them all, it can also be the hardest to remember.