Crochet Tools – Everything You Need

Crochet Tools - everything you need to get started, from Shiny Happy World

Want to learn how to make adorable crocheted stuffed animals with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make Amigurumi here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make an easy amigurumi from start to finish using simple crochet stitches.

It’s a fun, inexpensive, and totally portable craft. You can do it!

You only need a few things to crochet amigurumi – a hook (to crochet), some stitch markers (to mark your place), and a tapestry needle (to weave in the ends and attach arms and legs).

Besides yarn – that’s really it! It’s a lovely craft – and easy to carry your projects everywhere.

I’ve added these tools to the Shiny Happy World shop.

Crochet Hook Set from Shiny Happy World

This set of hooks includes the three most common sizes for working with medium weight yarn.

Locking Stitch Markers from Shiny Happy World

This packet contains 20 locking stitch markers – more than enough for any amigurumi project. I use these to mark the end of a row, to mark where eyes and noses go, to hold pieces in place while I whipstitch them together, and more. They’re super useful!

(If you want something a little fancier, pick up these cute heart-shaped stitch markers.)

Extra Large Tapestry Needles from Shiny Happy World

These are the biggest tapestry needles I could find and they’re awesome for crochet. Yes – you may have a large embroidery needle that you could maybe, with a lot of effort and swearing, work a piece of yarn into. Do yourself a favor and just get the enormous needles. They cost $1.99 and you’ll be glad you spent the money every time you need to thread some yarn.

Total for all these tools?

$15.48

Add in a pattern and a skein of yarn and maybe a packet of eyes, you could be making your first amigurumi for less than $25.

Give it a try! And happy stitching! 🙂

Best,
Wendi

How to Use Safety Eyes

Craft eyes. Plastic eyes. Safety eyes. Animal eyes. They’re called lots of different things!

You can use them for both sewn and crocheted softies. I’ve even used them in applique wall hangings. I just use a pair of wire cutters to snip off the post that sticks out after you attach the washers.

colored craft eyes or safety eyes fro making stuffed animals

I’ve made a video (below) that shows you how to install them. In the video I’m demonstrating on a crocheted stuffed animal, but you can use these eyes in sewn softies as well. You just need to poke a hole! I like to use this ball point awl. It creates a hole by stretching the fibers around the opening instead of by cutting any of the threads. If you cut a hole in stretchy knit fabric, that hole can run over time, just like a ladder in your stockings.

I prefer eyes with ridged shanks and plastic washers. I feel like they hold the best BUT they’re harder to use with smaller size eyes. It’s just really hard to hold such tiny pieces straight while you push the very tight washer on! So for the smallest eyes (4.5 mm) you’ll get smooth shanks and metal washers instead. They’re still small, fussy pieces, but they’re not nearly as hard to work with. Also – 4.5 mm eyes are so small that I really only use them for small felt softies – the kind of softies that stand on a shelf instead of being played with a lot. 

Speaking of safety – just because they’re called “safety eyes” doesn’t make them safe for babies. The eyes themselves will never come apart (here’s a video showing how to remove safety eyes – you’ll see how hard it is to do). But babies can chew through the fabric around the eye, which then frees the eye (along with the still-attached washer) which is a choking hazard. So only use these on toys for kids over three, or toys that will be played with under supervision.

Below the video I’ve also included a quickie photo tutorial for those of you who want to get ‘straight to the point’ as well as some other links you might like!

Ready to get some eyes for your creations? Visit my craft eyes (and noses) shop for the best selection of black, clear and colored animal eyes, comic eyes and craft noses. 

Video Tutorial for Craft Eyes

This is a little 5 minute video. Enjoy!

How to install craft eyes

Do you see those little points?

plastic washer on a safety eye

Those little ‘barbs’ dig into the fabric and keep the eye from rotating. Which isn’t a big deal if you’re just using a black craft eye, but is crucial if you’re using a comic eye. You don’t want them twisting and giving you googly eyes!

The ridges on the posts of craft eyes help the washer click on (and stay on!) securely. I love hearing the ‘click’ as I press the washer on! The ridges also help to make sure the washer presses on evenly.

how to attach a craft eye 2

So, let me show you how to install a craft eye with a plastic washer.

First, insert the post of the craft eye between the stitches on your piece where you want it to go. For sewn softies, use this ball-point awl or a small knitting needle to poke a hole. I recommend that you place the eyes first, before pressing on the washers, just to see if you like the look.

monkey with heart eyes

Once your eyes are positioned how you’d like, press the flat side of the washer (that’s the one with the tiny barbs!) onto the post.

Here’s a photo of how it will look (but without the fabric getting in the way… obviously, your piece doesn’t really look like this!):

how to attach a safety eye or craft eye for making stuffed animals

I don’t want you to stress too much about this, because if you try to put the washer on backwards, it just won’t go.

Now, push! You’ll hear that click, and it’s on!

A note about 6 mm craft eyes

The 6 mm craft eyes, because they are SO tiny, have smaller plastic washers without the ‘barbs’. And the 4.5 mm eyes (as mentioned above) have metal washers. But don’t worry, the same rule applies: flat side towards the fabric. 

6mm safety eyes

Other links you’ll enjoy

Here are some other craft-eye-related links you’ll like!

Have fun!

How much yarn does crochet use? Single vs. double crochet

My previous post, how much yarn do I need? has been so popular that I wanted to expand on it a little bit today by looking at adding another stitch into the mix, the double crochet.

How much yarn do I need crochet

Double Crochet vs. Single Crochet

The measurements above show you how much yarn you’ll use for a single crochet stitch for different thicknesses of yarn.

Did you know that different stitches use different amounts of yarn, too?

For my measurement, I measured single crochet and double crochet, both using a size H (5.0mm) hook, worsted weight yarn and crocheting through both loops.

how much yarn single crochet uses vs. double crochet

How much yarn does a double crochet in bulky yarn use? Or fingering? I’m only one gal! You’ll have to measure that yourself! Here is a tutorial on how to measure how much yarn a stitch takes.

You can use this number to calculate how much yarn your project will use or how many rows you can work on your blanket before you run out of yarn. Cool, right?

Which stitch should I use?

It looks like the double crochet uses more yarn, but keep in mind that it’s also a bigger stitch, too… so one stitch covers more surface area.

Knitting, too?

You can do the same comparison for any two stitches… even comparing a knitted stitch with a crochet one! Check out Not So Granny’s post on Does crochet really use more yarn than knitting?

Enjoy!

Best,
Stacey

Variegated Yarns: swatches in knitting, crocheting and weaving

It’s always so mysterious how a pretty little skein will work up, isn’t it? Especially with variegated yarn!

I dyed up a little (well, BIG) skein and made swatches in knitting, crocheting and weaving! And they’re SO different!

Here’s the skein I dyed (if you want to try it, check my tutorial on how to dye yarn with Wilton Icing Dye):

variegated skein dyed with Wilton icing dye

Knitted Swatch

Here’s my knitted swatch!

Variegated yarn in knitting

The factor that’s relevant in how variegated yarn will work up is how long each color repeat is and how much yarn each stitch uses. Although skeins vary, most are about 3-4 feet in circumference, and a variegated yarn will break this length up into a few colors. So, most color repeats are a few to several inches.

Here’s how to calculate how much yarn each stitch uses.

You can see here that each color lasts several stitches before switching to a new color.

Crocheting

Crochet stitches, in general, use more yarn than knitting stitches, so a color repeat will last over a fewer number of stitches.

Here’s my crochet swatch

Crochet swatch with variegated yarn

This swatch is done in single crochet, and most of the colors last for a few stitches before changing (as compared to several with knitting). This results in a ‘splotchier’ looking fabric.

You might be interested in reading about the latest craze of Planned Pooling.

Weaving

Totally different from knitting and crochet, because there isn’t a ‘stitch’, the color repeat goes for as long as it actually goes on the yarn. In most cases, a color lasted for an entire row on my scarf.

Also, weaving uses two directions of yarn, the warp and the weft.This results in a really lovely plaid-like fabric. Here’s my swatch:

weaving swatch with variegated yarn

All together now!

They’re all so different, right?

swatches: weaving crochet knitting

It just goes to show that when you find that dream variegated skein, you still have choices to make! You’ll want to select a project (and craft) that will result in the colors working up the way you want!

Best,
Stacey

How to use Ravelry’s Stash Feature

This post was originally published 5/21/2012… but 4 years later, this is still some of my best advice! Follow these steps to get your stash organized!
amazing tutorial for using stash on Ravelry... go read these tips!
You’ll also be interested in reading:

If you’re a Ravelry-user, you’ve probably seen the ‘Stash’ button (underneath ‘my notebook’)… but do you use it?

You should! In this post, I’ll tell you why I love storing my Stash on Ravelry, and I’ll walk you through the basics of how to use it. Just put in a bit of time up front, and you’ll have a super-organized stash that your yarny-friends will be envious of!

Reasons to Use Ravelry’s Stash

Why should you go through all of the work of uploading your yarns into the Ravelry database? Seems like a lot of trouble, huh?

Here are a few reasons why I think it’s worth your while:

  • No matter how large your stash is, storing it in Ravelry’s online database makes it easy to sort and search… no more digging through tubs in your basement to see if you have any pink laceweight yarn.
  • The stash is integrated into other features on Ravelry, meaning you can search through patterns based on what’s in your current stash.
  • When it’s time to do spring-cleaning, it’s easy to list your undesired yarn stock as ‘for sale/trade’.

The Basics of Putting your Stash on Ravlery

Let’s start at the start. Under ‘My Notebook’, click on ‘Stash’:

You’ll go straight to your Stash Page (yours will be empty if you haven’t added anything yet, but I’ve got yarns in mine!):

Have a yarn you want to add? Click the ‘Add New Yarn’ button and add whatever information you’d like. I like to put a picture in, but that’s not necessary. To get the best use of the stash feature, be sure to enter the name of the yarn, number of skeins you have and color.

How to Search through your Stash

Okay, so you’ve uploaded the yarns that you have… how do you search through them? Easy-peasy!

Let’s look at our main screen, again:

Look to the right of the ‘Add New Yarn’ button… that’s where you do your searching! You can search by ‘Date Acquired, ‘Yarn Weight’ (i.e. do you have any bulky-weight yarn?) or ‘Fiber’.

Let’s say I’m trying to find out if I have any yarns that contain cotton… I just select ‘Contains Cotton’ from the ‘Fiber’ drop-down menu:

Looks like I have 4! When I click on that selection, those yarns come up on my screen and I can browse them for further info.

Searching Patterns with your Stash in mind

Now, we’ve all done the search for patterns… but did you know that you can restrict your search to patterns that you already have the yarn for?!? Talk about a time-saver!

To do this, you’ll need to click ‘Pattern Browser & Advanced Search’:

Here, you can enter lots of criteria… but what’s important to us is restricting your search to yarns you have in your stash.

Scroll down, looking on the left, until you see the ‘My Notebook’ header. Click ‘Yarns in my Stash’, and the search will bring up all of the patterns you can make!

Isn’t that great?

Using your Stash in your Projects

Once you’re using the Stash feature, you’ll want to keep it up-to-date. So, when you start a new project, make use of the ‘use stash yarn’ option:

Doing this does 2 things:

  • It automatically updates the amount of yarn in your stash
  • It lists detailed information about your yarn (color, dye lot, purchase date) in your project

Listing your Yarn for Sale/Trade

Sometimes, you’re looking to clean out your yarn stash. No problem! It’s easy to list your yarn for sale to other Ravelry-users. Edit the information about your particular yarn, and select ‘Will Trade or Sell’:

If you want added exposure, share your yarn with some groups where you think people may be interested.

Get Started!

Are you encouraged to list your stash online, yet?

Those of you who have giant stashes, here’s one more helpful bit of information:

See that line next to my cursor? You can use the ‘Stored In’ line to add information about where a particular skein is stored (i.e. the blue storage tub under the guest bed) in real life!

Happy organizing!

Are buttons baby safe stuffed animal eyes?

Craft eyes from Shiny Happy World (even though they're called safety eyes, they are not baby safe stuffed animal eyes)

I get a lot of questions about what stuffed animal eyes are safe for babies.

Even though craft eyes are often called safety eyes – they are not recommended for use in toys for children under the age of three.

I’m often asked, “can I use buttons instead”?

In short, the answer is no.

To explain why, let’s talk about why craft eyes aren’t baby safe for stuffed animals. It’s incredibly unlikely that the washer will accidentally come off of the back of the eye. (In fact, it’s pretty difficult to remove the washer from an eye with plastic ridges, as I showed in this blog post on how to remove craft eyes.)

The danger with craft eyes is that a baby (or dog) could chew through the fabric that the eye is attached to, dislodging the eye. A plastic eye securely attached to a scrap of shredded fabric is still a choking hazard.

Now what about buttons? Many people assume that since they’re sewn on, they’re more secure. But it’s not true. A baby can use their set of chompers to chew through the thread attaching it to the piece. It’s actually easier for a abby to chew through the threads holding a button eye in place than it is to chew through the fabric surrounding a craft eye.

Baby-safe stuffed animal eyes

For completely baby-safe stuffed animal eyes you have a few different options.

For crocheted stuffed animals, the easiest solution is to crochet the eye.

amigurumi crochet owl kit by FreshStitches

And they look fabulous! Just look at that adorable owl. You can get that owl pattern here, and there’s a tutorial here with a pattern for crocheted eyes that you can use with any stuffed animal.

Another option for baby safe stuffed animal eyes is felt.

How to Add Baby Safe Felt Eyes to Your Stuffed Animals - a tutorial from FreshStitches and Shiny Happy World

There’s a post here with instructions to make felt eyes – including adding that little white spark. You can use felt eyes on both crocheted and sewn stuffed animals.

One more option for baby-safe softie eyes is to embroider them! This also works on both crocheted and sewn stuffed animals. On small stuffed animals you can use this stitch, and for larger eyes I recommend satin stitch or split stitch as fill stitch.

So many options- and all baby safe. Choose the one you like the look of best!

Happy stitching!

Crochet an adorably cuddly hound dog. Get the pattern here.

How to Paint Your Own Craft Eyes

I stock lots of pretty colors of craft eyes in my shop. But, what do you do if you want something I don’t have? Like pink eyes? Or glitter eyes? Or polka dot eyes? Hmm… those would be hard to find.

how to paint glitter eyes from FreshStitches

You can paint them yourself! Today, I’ll show you how to paint your own craft eyes! All you need is clear craft eyes and some paint. And since there are oh, about a thousand, colors of paint available… the possibilities are endless!

Scroll down for the video!

Glitter eyes!

Have you seen Beanie Boos? They’re the new generation of Beanie Babies… and they have glitter eyes!

I’ve been getting lots of requests for glitter eyes, because you want to add this awesome touch to your own stuffed animal creations. I can’t find anywhere where they are commercially available… but, I have found the perfect glitter paint!

 

Glitter eyes from FreshStitches

Aren’t these amazing? And they’re even more sparkly in person!

Glamour Dust paint is fantastic!

paint square

It’s so much fun!

How to Paint Your Own Craft Eyes

Painting your own craft eyes is easy! All you need is some acrylic paint and clear craft eyes.

Paint your own craft eyes

You’ll get more details in the video below, but here are the basic steps:

  1. Apply a thin coat of acrylic paint to the back of the craft eye
  2. Allow paint to dry
  3. Repeat. I’ve applied 2-3 thin coats for maximum glitter

Of course… you can do fun patterns or stripes. Your imagination is the only limit! (and keep following the blog, I’m planning on posting some more tutorials… I’ve already painted some great 2-color ombre eyes!)

Video Tutorial

I filmed this tutorial before I got the fancy palettes, and I realize my thumb is often in the way… oops! But, I think you get the idea!

 

 

 

Isn’t that easy? And here’s the result!

 

Glitter eyes from FreshStitches

Ready to paint your own?

Get a glitter eyes kit or just some glitter paint and give it a try!

The kit contains 3 colors of clear eyes: 12mm, 15mm and 18mm. I’m working on making these available individually, but for now, the only way to get all three sizes is to get the kit!

Sorry – the kits are no longer available, but you can get the paint here.

Get glittery! 🙂

How to Use a Stitch Marker in Crochet

How to Use a Crochet Stitch Marker - from Shiny Happy World

Want to learn how to make adorable crocheted stuffed animals with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make Amigurumi here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make an easy amigurumi from start to finish using simple crochet stitches.

It’s a fun, inexpensive, and totally portable craft. You can do it!

Besides your hook and yarn, a crochet stitch marker is your best buddy and most useful tool!

You want to look for a locking stitch marker, which is a lot like a fancy safety pin.

Locking Stitch Markers from Shiny Happy World

Locking stitch markers come in a few varieties, but the most important thing is that they open and close! Don’t get fooled into buying those ordinary ring markers that are for knitting needles. . . they don’t work for crochet.

Do you have your stitch markers ready? Let me get you and your new best friend acquainted!

Handy Use #1: Mark the End of the Round

The most common problem crocheters have when crocheting in the round is losing track of where the round starts and ends – which leads to an incorrect stitch count and mayhem! So, I’ll show you how to use a locking stitch marker to mark the end of a round.

I don’t tend to use a stitch marker for the first couple of rounds (because there are so few stitches per round), but I usually start at the end of the third round. Here I’m crocheting the snout of the cow, but many circles begin the same way.

Crocheting in the round - starting a circle.

Since I crochet through the back loop only the front loop is available to hold a locking stitch marker.

Adding a stitch marker to the front loop of the last stitch in a crochet round.

Slip the stitch marker into the front loop of the last stitch in the round, close it up, and keep crocheting!

small crochet circle with stitch marker attached to the last stitch

I know I’m finished with my next round when I’m just above the stitch marker, like this:

Using a stitch market to show where a crochet round ends.

Then I can move the marker and start my next round. No confusion!

Handy Use #2: Counting How Many Rounds You’ve Done

A lot of amigurumi are made by crocheting in the round. When teaching classes, I’ve noticed that counting rounds is something that gives a lot of crocheters trouble… I mean, who wants to count every stitch? I’ll show you how a crochet stitch marker can help you in counting rounds.

small crochet circle with locking stitch marker attached.

Let’s do a little example.

I’ve been following my pattern instructions for the first three rounds, and now my pattern says:

Rounds 4-6: sc in each st (18)

How can we do this without counting?

I take a crochet stitch marker (the orange thing in the photo above), and lock it onto the last stitch of the round. Then, I’m just going to keep crocheting around and around until I’m exactly 3 rounds above my marker!

Crochet sample shown crocheting three rounds past the clocking stitch marker.


Check out the photo above… and you’ll also see why I prefer crocheting through the back loops- each round leaves behind a little horizontal ridge that makes each round super-easy to count!

Handy Use #3: Position Your Pieces for Attaching

Attaching pieces can be a little tricky, too… but stitch markers can help! So, let’s look at some instructions that say, ‘attach legs to rounds 9-14’.

What you want to do is find out where round 9 is, and place a locking stitch marker there. Start counting (see the ridges?) from the center:

Count until you’re at round 9, and place a marker. Place another at round 14. Now you know where your leg should be located on the body!

Handy Use #4: Use Crochet Stitch Markers to Hold Pieces While Seaming

So now you’ve marked where your pieces should go… but locking stitch markers have one more great use. I use crochet stitch markers to hold my pieces in place while I’m sewing pieces together. It’s like having a few extra hands!

They’re big enough to go through a couple layers of crochet fabric, and by placing a couple around the piece that you’re attaching it’ll be held in place – making your sewing even easier. Yay!

I’ve been showing you lots of examples of circles… but this exact same trick can be used when assembling a sweater or afghan blocks! It keeps everything nice and even!

Handy Use #5: Keep Your Work from Unraveling When You Travel

how to keep crochet from unraveling - using a locking stitch marker to keep the yarn from pulling through

Throw your crochet into your bag, and you’re just one snag away from all of your work coming undone. Eep!
But not with a stitch marker!

Put your locking stitch marker through the loop when you’re done… and it can’t unravel even one stitch! Fabulous!

Caring for Your Crochet Stitch Markers

I bet you didn’t think these handy tools needed any special care, but there’s one little trick that will make them even easier to use.

Store them open!

That’s it! That’s the key to a healthy and long-lasting locking stitch marker.

Why? If you store your marker closed, the plastic slowly bends until the ‘open position’ isn’t very open anymore.

crochet stitch marker - barely open

It’s not a huge deal, but it makes the marker just a little bit harder to slip onto your crochet piece. Store them open and there’s no problem!

There you go – lots of handy ways to use your crochet stitch markers to make your projects just a little easier and more fun.

Happy stitching!

Crochet an adorably cuddly hound dog. Get the pattern here.

How to Dye a Gradient Yarn using a Spray Bottle

How to Dye a Gradient Yarn Using a Spray Bottle - tutorial from FreshStitches and Shiny Happy World

Remember when I told you how to dye a gradient yarn with a sock blank? Well, today I’m going to go a step further and show you how to get an even more gentle gradient using a *spray bottle.

When I made this skein of yarn, I was feeling Easter-y, so I picked yellow, blue and pink:

wilton dye for dyeing yarn

Click this post to see what the Wilton Icing Colors look like on yarn.

wilton colors 2

Okay, now here’s the technique: I rolled out my sock blank and dunked each end and the center in one color, leaving a lot of white space in between. See?

dyeing a gradient yarn tutorial

Ignore my ugly cooking sheet in the background. Actually, don’t ignore it (it’s crucial for keeping your counters clean in this project!)… just pretend it’s prettier!

Now, load up your spray bottle with the dye.

spray bottle 4

You want to use the spray bottle to direct your dye exactly where you want it. With this blue, I’m going to spray more towards the blue dyed portion of the yarn, and then spritz less to blend it into the yellow.

how to dye a gradient yarn

Now wash your bottle really well and repeat with the other two colors. You’ll get a very blended effect!

See how the colors blend? Because the dye is wet when you’re spraying, the blue mixes with the yellow and makes green… it’s an effect that’s hard to get if you’re just dipping the blank in dye.

dyeing a gradient yarn

I let it dry, and then wound it on a niddy noddy. Here’s the hank:

skein of yarn dyed by FreshStitches

The gradient-ness doesn’t show up too well in a hank. But no worries, I’ll show you what I’m knitting. Here’s a little shawl I’m working on:

shawl knit and dyed by FreshStitches

Isn’t the gradient fantastic? I can’t wait to wear this one!

Have you tried these ways of making yarn?

This post contains affiliate links. That means I make a little commission if you buy something after clicking through. All affiliate links are marked with an *.

Of course you can go to the store and purchase a skein of yarn.

But you can also make the yarn yourself!

Some of these are fabulous options if you’re on a budget, or maybe just looking for a way to get creative!

Spin Yarn

Spinning is using either a spindle or a spinning wheel to create yarn from fiber. You can make it as complicated as you want… you can sheer the sheep, wash and card (organize) the fiber yourself (free if you own a sheep or are friendly with a farmer!) or purchase some roving online.

 

spinning yarn on bobin yellow red

 

Tips

  • If you’re giving spinning with a spindle a try, I highly recommend one with a notch. You can find one for less than $20 on Etsy.
  • If you’d like to take a class, check out Ply to Knit: Spin the Yarn you really want* on Craftsy
  • Before investing in a wheel, shop around. Try borrowing one from a local spinning guild or renting one from a yarn shop so you can see if it really suits you.
  • Shopping for fiber is as much fun as shopping for yarn! Search for ‘hand dyed roving’ on Etsy to get started!

Make t-shirt Yarn

 

T-shirt yarn is yarn made from t-shirts!

t-shirts for tshirt yarn

 

I made some t-shirt yarn a little while ago and crocheted a bath mat. So much fun!

I absolutely love this tutorial on how to make it.

Make a Magic Ball!

Do you have lots of scraps laying around? Join them together to make a magic ball! Here is a tutorial.

rainbow spinning

 

Tips:

  • Select yarns that are the same weight to join together
  • Yarns with plies work best
  • Wind the ball as you go to keep it tidy!

Once you’ve finished, you have a fun rainbow-y yarn that you can use to knit or crochet anything!

Unravel a Sweater

Some beautiful yarn in the world has been knit up into really ugly sweaters.

If you find one of these gems in the thrift store, you can unravel the yarn and put it to good use! I once retrieved skeins of cashmere yarn from one lucky find!

And more…

This Mollie Makes post has links to even more techniques for making yarn that I haven’t tried yet. Newspaper yarn? Whoa!

How many of these have you tried?

Are any of these ways of making yarn new to you?

Or have you done them before? Let me know your experiences!

Best,
Stacey