Both loops vs. back loop only in amigurumi

both loops or BLO in amigurumi by @hookabeeThere isn’t just one way to crochet an amigirumi. Some people prefer to crochet through both loops, others like to work into the back loops only, and still others prefer to have their pieces with the ‘wrong side’ facing out. In this post I compare the two methods of working in the back loop only (BLO) and working in both loops.

So what do BLO and both loops mean? What is the difference? The difference is in how you insert your hook into the stitch you are crocheting into.

Both loops:

When stitches are worked through both loops (indicated by the two black lines in the photo below), you insert your hook under the front AND back loop of the stitch you are crocheting into.

Crocheting through both loops in amigurumi

Back loop only (BLO):

On the other hand, when stitches are worked into the back loop (indicated by the single black line in the photo below), you insert your hook only under the back loop of the stitch you are crocheting into.

Crocheting through back loop only in amigurumi

The differences between each method:

Texture and appearance:

This difference is probably the most obvious. When you work into the back loop only, the front loops remain on the surface of the fabric, creating ridges, or lines, at each round. These free front loops can be handy for counting rounds, attaching pieces, and placing stitch markers (for various reasons!). When working in both loops, the surface of the fabric is more uniform and less textured.

both loops vs. BLO appearance in amigurumi

Softness:

When working through both loops, no matter how soft your yarn is, your fabric can only be so soft because essentially when you touch the surface of the fabric you are feeling a bunch of knots. With BLO, however, you can touch the smooth font loops that lay on the surface of the fabric, over the knots. If you are using a nice soft yarn when working into the BLO, you can feel it!

Thickness and stretch:

While working into both loops creates a thicker, more stiff fabric, working into the BLO creates a thinner, more flexible fabric. Pieces that are made by working into both loops tend to hold their shape better and don’t stretch out as much. Pieces made by working into the BLO, on the other hand, are often more plush and squishy.

Stitch height:

This is where you have to be careful when you are following a pattern: each method creates a different stitch height, and therefore creates a different shape in ami pieces. Working into the BLO creates a taller stitch, while working into both loops creates a shorter stitch. This difference is exaggerated when you start stuffing pieces because the BLO fabric stretches to be even taller. In the photo below, both pieces were made using the same pattern, yet the BLO piece is significantly taller.

both loops vs. BLO stitch height in amigurumi

You need to be aware of this when you want to make an amigurumi from a pattern using the opposite method than what the pattern specifies. Say you have a pattern that is made by crocheting into both loops, but you prefer BLO. The shape of your ami may look quite different from the sample in the pattern and you may need to make some adjustments, like decreasing the number of rounds, if you want it to look similar.

Which method should you use?:

There is no wrong way to make amigurumi – it is all a matter of preference! Both methods have their pros and cons, and it is up to you to decide which is your favourite. Some people don’t like the look of working into the BLO so only work into both loops, while others love how the exposed front loops look and prefer BLO. But it isn’t all about how an ami looks, one also needs to consider how enjoyable they are to make. Experiment with both methods and see which is the most fun for you.

Most designers work exclusively in one method or the another. For example, Stacey of FreshStitches prefers working into the BLO, while June of Planet June prefers working into both loops. Me? I am kind of on the fence, but I have my legs hanging way over into the BLO side.

I love the look of working through both loops – the surface is so smooth and uniform. For some patterns this method makes the ami look fabulous, but then I will think, “that looks like a lot of work to attach all those pieces.” The main reason I prefer BLO over both loops is the ease at which you can attach pieces. I think assembly is one of the hardest and least enjoyable parts of making amis, and I think many others will agree! It is so fun to make all the pieces, but then they sit around in a pile as you procrastinate attaching them all together. Your hobby shouldn’t feel like a chore! You crochet to relax and have fun, no? When I work into the BLO, I almost enjoy attaching pieces! It is a lot easier and faster because you can use the front loops that are free on the surface of the fabric to attach all the pieces. Plus, I love how easy it is to count rounds and attach stitch markers (which we all know I love!) using the front loops.

Within my patterns I mostly use BLO, but for some pieces within a pattern I will choose to use both loops. I like to make at least the main body BLO, not only for ease of attaching pieces, but also so that the body is soft and squishy – a big plus for large amis like my big bee Bobby! Also, I do find that I can crochet faster and more easily while working in the BLO, so for me it helps to use that method when making larger pieces. But, if I want a piece to have a smooth surface or a stiffer fabric, I will work into both loops. For example, Walden the Narwhal’s horn is made by working into both loops so that it holds its shape better, and Koko the Owl’s eye circles and beak are also made by working into both loops because I think they have a better shape and look that way.

Koko the Owl amigurumi crochet pattern by @hookabee crochet (www.hookabee.com) #crochet #amigurumi #owl #patternWalden the Narwhal amigurumi crochet pattern by @hookabee crochet (www.hookabee.com) #crochet #amigurumi #narwhal #whale #pattern

All in all, I like to mix things up! While most of my amis and their pieces are BLO because I find it easier and more enjoyable to crochet, there are times I prefer to work into both loops. What is your preference?

Until next time,

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My favourite tools for making amigurumi

My favourite tools and notions for making amigurumi by @hookabee

Everybody has their preferences when it comes to which tools they like to use when crocheting. Today I am going to share with you my favourite tools for making amigurumi.

1. Hooks: Clover Amour

When I first learned how to crochet I simply bought the first hook I could find. I didn’t know the difference between hooks, the selection was limited where I lived, and I didn’t yet know if I would even like crocheting. But when I fell in love with crochet and wanted to purchase an entire set of hooks, I decided on the Clover Amour set, and haven’t looked back since. I love them! They are colourful, smooth, strong, and nice to hold and use. For amigurumi, I use the entire array of sizes, depending on what yarn I use, but the one I pick up the most is the 3.5 mm (E) one with worsted weight yarn.

2. Hook case: hand crocheted by me!

In order to keep my hooks safe and in order I decided to crochet myself a case rather than buy one. I used the pattern by Crochet Dynamite, and it turned out really well! I just used some acrylic yarn I had on hand, and I am still using it three years later (though it may need a trip through the wash soon…).handmade crochet hook case3. Stitch markers: Clover Locking Stitch Markers

You can’t make amigurumi without your trusty stitch markers. Well, you can, but it is much easier if you have them! Just have a look at my stitch marker blog series for an idea of how much I love them. I own the Clover locking stitch markers and really like using them. They open easily, stay closed when I want them to, and are nice colours. I bought one set a long time ago and they are still going strong.

4. Needles: Clover Chibi with Darning Needles

I use the darning needles that come in a cute little “Chibi” case by Clover. There are three different varieties of these Chibi’s, each with their own needle sizes and style. I have the green one with the basic straight needles in three sizes, and most often use the largest needle included. I have heard it is nice to use a bent needle when attaching pieces in amigurumi, so I am tempted to get another, either the orange or blue Chibi.

5. Stitch counter: Clover Mini Kacha-Kacha

Sometimes I like to keep track of rounds using a stitch counter so that I don’t have to count the rounds every time I forget where I am. I have the Clover (can you see a trend here?) mini kacha-kacha counter because it is a nice size and you can run a string through it to have around you neck. I also like that you can lock it so if you throw it in your bag you won’t get added counts by mistake.

6. Scissors: the pair I had as a kid and another I found on the ground.

I am obviously not picky about my scissors. When making amigurumi you don’t really need to be. I have a couple pairs that I use, and both I didn’t even choose or purchase. One is a pair I have had since I was a kid and another I simply found on the ground one day. They are both children’s craft scissors, nothing fancy, but they work to cut yarn and that is all that is required! Plus they have fun coloured handles.scissors7. Stuffing tool: the one included with a bag of stuffing (ie. a chopstick)

I always have a stuffing tool on hand to get stuffing into small spaces (and to help with little bitty ami pieces). I use the one that came with a bag of stuffing I bought at Michael’s, but really it is just a chopstick (actually, my husband saw it and thought I stole his chopstick!).

8. Scale: Escali Primo Digital Scale

I use a scale to weigh my yarn so I know how much I used when designing a new amigurumi pattern, and to determine whether I have enough yarn to make something in particular. I bought the Escali Primo scale partly because it was pretty (so many colours!), partly because it was a good price (find it on Amazon), and partly because it had good reviews. I bought it early this year and I am still loving it. One feature I like is that it has an automatic turn off, and only after 4 minutes. Other scales also turn off automatically, but usually too soon. Now that I have it I also use it for baking and cooking – multiuse!WeighYourYarn9. Yarn winder: Stanwood Needlcraft Large 10oz winder

I love this bad boy :P. Often with amigurumi you only use part of a skein and then you are left with a floppy, misshaped mess of yarn – which does not make me happy when I like everything to be just so. I like to turn these messes of yarn into pretty yarn cakes using a yarn winder. There are many basic (and cheap) plastic winders out there, some that are very popular, like the Lacis winder, but I wanted one with higher capacity for larger skeins, so I bought the Large Metal Winder – 10 oz Heavy Duty by Stanwood Needlecraft. It is so sturdy and well made, I could probably crank that thing all day and it wouldn’t fuss at all. The pieces are solid and it moves really smoothly. If I was to buy a swift (on my wishlist!), I would buy a Stanwood one because I am so happy with my winder.

10. Light: OttLite 13w Folding Task Lamp

I saw this little OttLite Folding Task Lamp on sale at my local Michael’s craft store and decided to give it a go. It came in pink, for one thing, and I was finding our apartment got pretty dark in the evenings, even with the lights we already had, so felt it would make my evening crocheting easier. It has special light bulbs, which I will need to buy when the first one goes out, but so far it is lasting a long time. Supposedly the light is better for seeing everything more “clearly and comforatbly”, and while I am not sure about that, I do find it nice and bright – especially when crocheting little black bee legs :P. I also really like that it folds down and has a handle for easy mobility and storage. One thing I do find tricky, is it isn’t great for crocheting while sitting on the sofa. You need to have a high level shelf or table right beside the sofa to place it on. I have to stack up books on my side table to get it at a suitable height. Works great while at a desk though!lamp11. Storage: Recollections (a Michael’s brand) storage tower, plus a pencil case

With all your hooks and notions, it is a good to be organized and have a specific place where they can live. Not long ago I stored all my small items in a pencil case so I wouldn’t lose them, and still do when I am travelling. My pencil case is made from recycled juice boxes (so fun!) and was given to me as a gift.TravelCaseRecently, however, I purchased a storage tower with little compartments on the top, and I love it! I have it right beside my desk so I can access things easily, and everything has its place. I can now have stuffing for my amis in the large lower drawer so I don’t have the huge bag of it hanging around our living room. My tower was on liquidation at Michael’s, but you can find similar ones on Amazon.StorageTowerWhy did I choose these brands over others? A lot if it has to do with appearance – as you can see, I love fun colours! For some things, like the scale, winder and hooks, I did quite a bit or research before buying, reading reviews and descriptions online before making a decision. Other things, like the scissors, stuffing tool and travelling case, were given to me or found, so I use them because they work and are free! In the case of the needles, stitch counter, and stitch markers, they are all Clover. I purchased one thing from them, loved it, and just keep going back to their products because I know I can trust them. Plus, I love the style of Clover products and you can find them easily in local craft stores. For the storage tower and light, I chose them because they were on sale at the time I really wanted them (and they are fun looking!).

I am greatly influenced by colour and price, but quality is also important to me. I want my tools to last, and so far so good!

What are your favourite hooks and tools for amigurumi?

Don’t forget to sign up for my amigurumi newsletter to receive emails filled with ami fun. You can also follow me on facebooktwitterinstagram, and pinterest to keep up to date on all things hookabee.
Until next time,
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Stitch markers series: Uses #7 & #8

Stitch marker blog series for crochet amigurumi title: uses 7 and 8We have finally reached the last post in this series! If you missed out on the previous posts, you can check them out here:

  1. Introduction
  2. Uses #1 & #2
  3. Uses #3 & #4
  4. Uses #5 & #6

USE 7: Hold pieces in place when attaching them

With almost all amigurumi patterns, you need to attach smaller pieces onto larger pieces by sewing them together.  Most often people will suggest to use normal straight pins to prevent a piece from migrating across your ami’s body as you are trying to sew it in place, but when you crochet through the back loops only, I find stitch markers are a better choice.

When working through the back loops only you have the handy dandy front loops on the surface of the pieces, which you can hook your marker into. When attaching pieces, bring your marker through both a loop on the piece you are attaching AND a loop on the piece you are attaching it to, and it will hold them together in the location you want them as you sew.  Unlike straight pins, the markers won’t poke you or fall out, and they work even when you attach pieces before stuffing your ami.

Stitch marker Use 7 for amigurumi: hold pieces in place while attachingThis technique works when attaching an open piece to a closed piece (as pictured above), a closed piece to a closed piece, and when attaching two open pieces together, like in my Bobby the bumble bee pattern:

Stitch marker Use 7 for amigurumi: hold pieces in place while attaching

USE 8: Mark the locations of where pieces will be attached

In many of my patterns I include instructions to place stitch markers on particular stitches to mark the locations of where to attach pieces later. Then, when it is time to attach the limbs and eyes, there is no guessing on where to put them. Below is an example from my Bobby the Bumble Bee pattern. These markers indicate where the wings will be attached later.

Example of use of stitch markers to locate positioning of pieces when making amigurumi

If your pattern doesn’t specify exact locations, you can still use stitch markers to map out where you want all the limbs and eyes to go before picking up your needle to attach them.  This way, everything will be more evenly spaced and you will know where you want everything in relation to each other.

Say the pattern specifies to place a leg between rounds 10 and 14. You can place a marker on rnd 10 and another on rnd 14, which allows you to then better visualize how much space it will take up and where you want it to be placed along those rounds. It is much easier to move around the stitch markers when deciding on placement than unattaching pieces you already sewed on that are not quite right.

Stitch marker Use 8 for amigurumi: mark location of pieces to attach

That concludes the stitch marker series! At least until I discover yet another use for them 😛 Do you use stitch markers in other ways? I would love to hear about new techniques.

Don’t forget to sign up for my amigurumi newsletter to receive emails filled with ami fun. You can also follow me on facebook, twitter, instagram, and pinterest to keep up to date on all things hookabee.

Until next time,

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