Saturday, December 5, 2020

Trying New Yarn: A Mainstays Review

  Well, I've been "forced" into creating a new crochet pattern (not really) and that would have been a fine and dandy situation if only I had the right color of PINK (yuck) in my stash... And since the pandemic seems to have reduced the stock of everything to almost nothing, I was forced to take my search for the color PINK (gross) to the Walmart yarn aisle (even grosser). And the only color of PINK (icky) they had was in a yarn I have yet to try, despite the low price: Mainstays 100% acrylic worsted weight yarn. I'm not done with the project, but this yarn has already earned itself a review... 

  I suppose I should add a disclaimer that I don't hate this yarn just because it's PINK (eww), but that does help me feel better about my negative opinion. Also, secondary disclaimer: Since I can't get my good camera to work right, I thought I'd try the phone camera. It was a bad idea.

crochet, yarn, Mainstays, acrylic, review, worsted weight

  The first feel of a skein of Mainstays acrylic isn't bad. It feels like: Classic acrylic yarn. Not like the different kinds they make now that are super soft, sleek or fluffy, but plain old acrylic yarn. It's not horrible, but it's not great. When you grab this yarn off the shelf, you know you're not getting anything special. At $2.46 a skein, it's an "okay" value. 

  Mainstays is the brand name Walmart slaps on everything from candles to bathroom fixtures, and now the Big Box has breached the yarn market. Just like the $19.99 end tables I bought just to have some furniture, I expect this to not be the greatest product. Considering that those tables have rubbed the color off  the legs onto my carpet, I would hope this yarn might be of slightly better quality. I haven't washed it yet, so I'll have to update about how that goes. But never mind that! Let's get to the problems I'm already having... 

crochet, yarn, Mainstays, acrylic, review, worsted weight

  Working the first few rounds of my project was miserable. I'm using a smaller hook than usual, so of course those first rounds will be hard... But my magic circle wouldn't tighten because the yarn kept catching, I split the yarn within the first few stitches and every other stitch afterwards, and when the hook goes in between the plies it causes the yarn to untwist and split even more.

  I wanted to keep working with the same hook despite the difficulty because I had already worked this pattern with another yarn... My hope was that these yarns would be interchangeable for the project. If I had a choice, I think I would only recommend this yarn as a last resort. There are many reasons why I'm not happy with the product, but let's start by comparing it to the other "cheap" yarn I'm using in my design:

crochet, yarn, Mainstays, acrylic, review, Red Heart Super Saver, worsted weight

  The gauge of Mainstays acrylic is really close to Red Heart Super Saver, but it's just not the same. And it's not so far off that you can change a hook size to make the difference. So even though you could use it as an alternative, your pattern will come out just slightly different. There are quite a few yarns that are perfectly interchangeable with Super Saver, so that leaves this acrylic all by itself out there in the yarn world. That means if you want to make a project in more than one color, you'll need to pick from Walmart's stock of... Five. They had five colors. One was my second-most hated color, yellow. None of the others were neutral colors. It leaves you quite limited in choices, and the only other worsted-weight acrylic the local Walmart sells is... Red Heart Super Saver, which isn't exactly the same size.

crochet, yarn, Mainstays, acrylic, review, Red Heart Super Saver, worsted weight

  If you had no other choice, I would say this doesn't seem like the worst yarn, but I do worry that this product won't hold up to use and washing over time. There is one thing that I've learned to look for when buying a new yarn, but it requires comparing it to something you're familiar with. Look at the details of these two yarns... Both yarn labels claim to be 7 oz. (198 g). Red Heart Super Saver says this weight will equal 364 yds. (333 m), while Mainstays acrylic measures out at 397 yds. (363 m). 

  More yardage equals more value, right? WRONG. A ball of yarn that is that same weight but different yardage means one of two things: Either it's a different gauge yarn that is slightly thinner than what you're comparing it to, or it is the same gauge yarn but contains less fiber content. I've found that if it's the latter reason, the yarn is usually loosely plied and splits easily. Typically it will also have that halo of loose fibers that will eventually turn into pills. And look what we have here:

crochet, yarn, Mainstays, acrylic, review, worsted weight

  That telltale halo is quite visible even when worked with a smaller-than -usual hook. Also, those little fuzzies are making it extremely difficult to work this project with the small hook. My work alternates between making a stitch, catching on fuzz, splitting the yarn; repeat. Because I've already created the first prototype with Red Heart Super Saver, I know this project doesn't have to be so frustrating. 

  Now, let's talk availability and price: Another downfall of Mainstays yarn is that you can only get it from Walmart. There are more colors available online, but as I mentioned there is a very limited stock in my local small-town hellhole. Now that I've moved, my only options for a craft store are one town south (the old hometown and not a really long drive) or one-and-a-half towns and one blinking yellow light north (about a 45-minute drive). 

  ...And then there's Walmart. The only other "grocery store" is a Save-a-Lot if that tells you how little there is here. There's a Mexican store that sells food too, but you can never get in there to park because it's right next to the bingo hall. But we have like four "dollar" stores! So anyway, enough about the town and back to the yarn... 

(Ooo, wait, I forgot to mention the PUBLIC shuffle board courts! Please help me...)

  Because I just wanted the right color of yarn right now and I stupidly thought a ball of some average PINK (gag) Super Saver shouldn't be hard to get from the Big Box Bastards, I had my mind set on leaving with what I needed for my project. Since the price for Mainstays ($2.46) was less than Super Saver ($3.44), maybe it would be a better deal, right? WRONG again. If you fight the pull of I-want-it-now Big Box Brain and do some internet shopping, you can currently find Super Saver at Joann's for $2.77. It's still more than the Mainstays yarn, but I'd rather pay the extra 30 cents for something better. Let's take an even closer look at this yarn, shall we?

crochet, yarn, Mainstays, acrylic, review, worsted weight

  The beginning of this skein pulled from the center with no problem. It took me like half a second to find the tail, and I've yet to find any knots or tangles. That's the best thing I can say about Mainstays! The beginning of the yarn was a bit kinked up, but that's no big deal, right? WRONG! (You've probably learned by now that's always the answer.) Taking a closer look at each of those crimped areas, you'll see loosely plied spots in the yarn, broken plies, and a slub-like formation that I think is extra fibers that got stuck in the machine and wound up back in the yarn. 

crochet, yarn, Mainstays, acrylic, review, worsted weight

  Comparing it again to Red Heart Super Saver, you can see without measuring that Mainstays has less wraps per in (WPI). Since there are all those spots where there are like NO wraps per inch, it's kind of hard to put it up to a ruler and actually measure the WPI anyway. The farther I work into the skein, the quality of the spin has not improved, and those slub-like spots are leaving bumps in my work.

crochet, yarn, Mainstays, acrylic, review, Red Heart Super Saver, worsted weight

  To conclude my review, I think you could make stuff with this yarn. I wouldn't make anything wearable or something that will see frequent washings, but maybe you could make doilies or bags or rugs with Mainstays. I don't think it would be a good yarn for beginners because of the splitting. And did I forget to mention the squeaking? Working with Red Heart and the small hook was more difficult than I care for my work to be, but the Mainstays is irritating me to no end because with every stitch it makes a squeeeeeak sound that's something between a dying chicken and nails on a chalkboard. Do not work with this yarn near anyone with misophonia or if you have it yourself! I do not have this condition and I find the noise so annoying that I have to wear headphones while working.

  Given the chance to make the choice again, I would have taken my shopping trip online and waited for the product I wanted. I don't feel like I got a good deal with the cheaper yarn, and I'm not satisfied with the results of my project. I'm not working on this just to have another pattern to post, but because my son specifically requested for me to make him something. 

  If it was just for the creation of the pattern, I would still use this yarn to create a finished product because I could use it as an extra in photos. But to use Mainstays for something that's actually for somebody and will get used as more than a prop in the background of a picture... I'm just not satisfied with the fuzz, bumps, and overall uneven look that my current piece is showing. I think for a similar or lesser price, there are better "value" yarns available among us.

crochet, yarn, Mainstays, acrylic, review, Red Heart Super Saver, worsted weight, Among Us


Happy Crocheting!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

United Yarn Fails

  Is it possible to be extremely proud of finishing a project while at the same time being immensely disappointed in the final results? Yes... Yes, it is, and you'll soon see why. Caron United yarn is now a discontinued product, so I won't have to warn you to not buy it. But for those of us with leftovers in the yarn stash, here's a warning on what not to make with United:

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  Isn't that such a lovely afghan? I started and finished it while we were still living at Dad's, but never got around to sharing it here. Being there with the Big Huge Afghan on the couch made me think I'd need my own version of a big blanket for my house. I knew there was a whole lot of the same kind of yarn in complimentary colors in my stash, but I doubted I could make the same pattern work with so many of the United scraps I had leftover from making blankets. So I got to work on something new and...

  Oh. Oh no. Forget about my afghan... The blankets that were made to help create the World's Biggest Stocking... Which was assembled and then disassembled back into blankets... Which were supposed to be donated to the families of veterans... OH NO. It wasn't required that we use United yarn for the blankets, but it was recommended because part of the purchase price of the yarn was donated to the Children of Fallen Patriots foundation. 

  So that's what I used, and ordered way more than I needed for the four blankets I managed to donate. I originally planned to make twelve, which is how I was left with so much United in my stash. It inspired me to make my own blanket, and that led me to discover what an absolute disaster this yarn is. Well, I might as well show you already... 

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  I'm having trouble getting my camera to focus, but can we all still see the problem well enough? I was confident using this yarn because it seemed to be just like Caron One Pound. I've used One Pound in countless projects and have never had a complaint with the results. (A complaint about the number of knots in a skein, yes, but no problems with finished projects.) One Pound washes and dries like a dream, and I stupidly assumed that United would be the same.

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  Delicate cycle, gentle detergent, and low-heat drying: It's what I do for most of my crochet projects when the yarn label says "machine wash and dry". (I do like to skip the dryer the first time because if it doesn't look great coming out of the wash, then the dryer will surely destroy it.) I noticed quite a few yarn tails popping out after the first wash, so I hung it over a laundry rack and worked on weaving them back in. Because of the size and weight of the afghan, I was worried that it would get stretched out of shape from hanging or at least not dry and get stinky... Oh, I wish that could have been the worst of the problems!

  In fact, I was impressed that this huge, heavy afghan air dried while I was working on it. If only I could have had the foresight to always air dry it! After the next wash, it went in the dryer. And now it's really bad. There are big balls of United Fluff in most of the laundry. I'm still pulling it out of the dryer. I find it in my socks. Occasionally I spot tufts rolling across the floor like tumbleweeds. It got worse after the blanket required another washing. 

  Despite it looking like... (Insert your own description; mine's NSFW) Rip van Winkle still likes this afghan and wants it on his bed. Rip also has a history of destroying nice things. In my mind, this blanket was already ruined after that first use of the dryer, so I was fine with letting him keep it until it's final end. I thought it would just keep shedding until... I don't know, until one day it would disintegrate in the washing machine and disappear down the drain as if it never existed? Anyway, I'm not sure if this damage was caused by a snag while it was on the bed or if the yarn broke in the wash, but now my awesome creation also has a gaping hole in it:

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  It can't be proven whether Rip or the yarn is at fault for the unraveling, so I won't focus on that part of the damage. I could easily repair the hole if I thought it would be worth my time to do so. The main problem is that I don't think it's worth the effort because of the amount of... Pilling? I know that's the term we would normally use, but these are not pills. Instead of the small lumps that I know as "pilling", this long, stringy fuzz is twisting so much in spots that I think it might spin a new yarn from itself!

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  Now, I will admit to wondering if I had done something wrong. And I found my answer: Yes. Yes, I did do something very wrong. My mistake was in using Caron United to create something that will actually be used, laundered, and used again. In the following picture I've tried to focus on the black yarn to the right of the white stripe. It looks so much nicer than the rest of the yarn around it, right? Right. And that's because it's the Caron One Pound that I bought to finish the blanket when I started running low on yarn. It does have some fuzz from the rest of the yarns stuck to it, but you can see such a major difference in the fibers up close. One Pound is still soft and smooth, while United looks and feels like a mangy cat.

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, One Pound, afghan, review

  This makes me sad. This makes me angry! But I'm not mad about my own afghan. I'm upset because I used this yarn for a charity project! Did they not test the yarn before they recommended we use it? Did they not care that these blankets were supposed to be a symbol of sympathy and appreciation extended to families who had lost loved ones to the service of their country? I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I just don't think "Hey little Jimmy, sorry your mom/dad is dead, but here's a blanket to make up for it" is enough. "No little Susie, you can't actually wrap up in it for comfort because it was only made to be looked at. But don't worry! The ten skeins of crappy yarn used to make it means a whole $1.50 was donated to a college fund you might never see!" I want to beat my head on the desk. Repeatedly.

F- words.
More f- words.
F-ing f- words yelled about how these f-ing f- words made us look like a bunch of f-ing f- words by encouraging the use of this f-ed up yarn.

  I think I used United for some of my Scarf of the Month donations. I know I used this yarn to make Mom's Afghan. They were all special projects that were important to me, and it took an afghan I don't give a care about to show that it only takes a few washes to turn "thanks for the gesture" into "thanks for nothing". So was the price (about $3.50 a skein) worth the 15 cent donation that went to charity? 

  NO. Many of us still have and cherish a mom/grandma/great grandma's afghan that was made 30+ years ago with Red Heart Super Saver yarn that has held up for decades. At the time I purchased the 230-yd skeins of United, the price for 350-yd skeins of Super Saver (at Walmart) was $1.50. But I didn't want to use "cheap" yarn to make blankets for charity, I wanted to use something nice. And this was my lesson that price does not always equal quality! 

  I could have made more blankets for less price and donated the $2 difference to the foundation. And if that's all I donated was the $2 savings from just one skein of yarn, more money would have went to charity than from all 10 skeins of United used in one blanket. Their donation of 15 cents looks more like an afterthought than a heartfelt gesture when I put it in that perspective.  

crochet, yarn, Caron, United, afghan, review

  I can only hope that the little blankets which were meant to be a big "thank you" don't look like a big "f- you" instead. I feel like the knitters and crocheters who used United had the wool acrylic pulled over their eyes. We did help set a world record for the World's Biggest Stocking and our purchases did contribute something to charity. But... I can't shake the thought that this "charity" project was created just to promote a new yarn. We were led on with the promise of "doing good" when in reality we were just test dummies. And I sure feel like a dummy for trusting them.

  Maybe that's just a paranoid thought in my angry brain, but I know for sure that I expect much better from of Caron yarns. I have used Simply Soft since I started crocheting... Yes, it does split and I really recommend hand washing it... Okay, so I've accidentally thrown some Simply Soft projects in the wash. GASP! Although they fuzzed up a bit, that yarn still didn't look as bad as United. And as for One Pound?

crochet, yarn, Caron, One Pound, United, afghan, review

  Here's some current-day pictures of the "baby blanket" I made for The Kid. I published the pattern for the Bobble and Chain blanket in 2012. It has been used and washed (and used, and washed) many times and it still looks fine. That's after being used by a kid. And sometimes a cat. Supposing I had only washed The Kid's blanket once per year (and eww, it was much more than that), then this baby blanket made with One Pound has held up for more washes than the afghan made with United. Plus, it was used by a kid... And sometimes a cat. 

crochet, yarn, Caron, one Pound, United, afghan, review

  If I could, I would glare with teary eyes and point a shaky finger at Caron United while yelling "I TRUSTED YOU". Getting involved in this project made me spend more money than I could really afford. Promoting support for the cause threw me into some drama I didn't need: It started with angry messages from multiple people, and by the time I had moved onto another military-themed quest I was getting death threats including a violent, graphic description of how he would sexually assault me first. (If I recall correctly, it was just one guy that took it that far.) Because I made some blankets? I no longer support anything military-related because of this.

  In hindsight, working on the World's Biggest Stocking project is one of the biggest regrets I have. When one of my harassers (I have a theory that "they" were really just one person with fake accounts) sent a message with my home address... My actual, correct home address... It got way more personal than I could handle. I kept a pistol and/or a rifle loaded and within arm's reach for over a month.  What kept me going through that (besides stubbornness) was knowing I was doing something good

  I caved to the pressure anyway. I got scared; they won. But more than fear, there was disgust. It was absolutely sickening for this situation to play out; a "tough guy" taking his anger and hatred for the military out on a 100 lb. woman for crocheting some blankets... What has this world come to? Again, the one thing that kept me positive through that was knowing that I was doing something GOOD.

  But what is left of that feeling now that I know my blankets probably won't last? Nothing. I'm so disappointed. I trusted the idea that a company wouldn't recommend a bad yarn for a charity project. Right? Maybe they didn't know how poor the quality of their yarn was at the time... Maybe they just didn't test it enough? That's still not a good enough excuse for me. Caron United was a cheap yarn sold at a not-so-cheap price and I think the company thought they could pull it off by calling it " for charity". The only thing more disappointing than that is the fact that I still have at least ten skeins of this junk taking up room in my stash. 

  I still don't care much about the afghan I made for myself... I can remake that any time with any yarn I want. But how can I make up for the projects that have already been donated to random people? I can't. If ever I decide to take on another charity project, I'll make extra sure that I test that yarn and test it again. And I'm sorry to repeat myself but I just can't fully express how disappointed I am in the quality of this yarn. Okay, rant over! There's not much more I can say, so I'll just end here with the usual closing of

Happy Crocheting?
...With better yarn? 
Yup... Happy crocheting with better yarn.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Working on Working

  Hi! Crazy Lady here, back with more problems again... Insomnia has been hitting me harder than ever, so I should apologize ahead of time for... Well, most of this, I suppose. When I do sleep, it never lasts more than two hours. It's been this way for over a month (two; three?) now. My brain is in a constant fog, and I find it harder to concentrate with each day that passes. Which is NOT going to help me with any of the mess I've uncovered: 

crochet, pattern, writing, notebook

  Yay, my pattern notebooks have been found! They were misplaced in the move, and I've been hoping to find them so I could get back to work on some completed patterns that have yet to make it here. Since I had some things to do on the blog anyway, I thought I'd start typing them up. (Maybe a bad idea to do any work... Anybody remember the time I deleted the blog's background?) What I thought would be a simple task turned out to be a bad idea, indeed.

  The patterns in one of my lost notebooks were created while living at Dad's. Writing in the dim light from the TV with my book balanced on the couch, I didn't have the best penmanship. Well, I never do consider my handwriting to be good but this chicken scratch looks unfamiliar to my eyes. The letters of many abbreviations are smashed together, the writing fades to almost unreadable towards the bottom of the page, and I have sticky notes stuck to the pages which are fortunately more readable, however, I have no clue what they are for.

  What. A. Mess. And here I was thinking this would be a mindless task! Nope, this is not a job for tired brain and eyes. BUT... It's not like this is a total disaster, because at least I've found the notebooks. There's a chance I could decipher all of it someday, I just need to be able to find the time that I never seem to have.

  Hmm. Time. Like the time I wasted while searching for the link above? I got a little too distracted while searching for that post, and I ended up browsing my own blog for awhile. There are so many broken links! SO. MANY. And all of them are my own fault for creating my tutorials with Guidecentral instead of publishing my own content.

  They said it would be a great opportunity. I would get so much EXPOSURE (good god, I hate that word) and my own blog would benefit. They said I would make money, which I did for a time. First it was $7 per tutorial, then it got dropped to $4. I became suspicious when I was nearing my last payment threshold and they wouldn't let me publish any more tutorials. Dollars short of receiving payment, they shut the monetary side of the program down. But it's okay, they said we were more than welcome to keep creating tutorials for FREE, because well, you know, it's great exposure.

  Guidecentral didn't last long after that. (Aw, I wonder why?) We had the opportunity to download our own materials before they shut the site down, but I suffered another setback when my PC crossed over the great Fiber Optic Rainbow in the sky. I never recovered any of my work and I was left with a ton of broken links that were eventually forgotten among the bigger stresses in life.

  So... More good news! I now have another PC that's about to get hurled over that stupid rainbow. It used to work for at least 20 minutes before freezing, but it's getting worse. (No joke, it has frozen on almost every paragraph of this post.) After going through all the brains (OS, drivers, troubleshooting, etc), I opened the case up to check out its guts. Looky what I found:

HP, PC, desktop,

  Could that be it? Well I'll just plug that wire all the way back in, then... Push; falls. Push harder; falls. Entangle wire with another wire so it will stay put; FALLS. Grrrr. If this is the problem, I'm not fixing it by simply plugging it back in. Use gruff mechanic-voice here: I'm gonna go get the duct tape and a hammer. If one don't fix it, the other will.

  This became motivation for me to hook up the previous desktop to see what I could do. I had worked on that machine for hours after it failed, trying to resurrect it from a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) just to get a Black Screen of No Return. (That's when I made the mistake of going to Walmart to buy the only piece of HP I could find.) So yesterday I set the old machine up on the floor, not expecting much from it. After three-ish years of being unplugged, the booger started up without a single problem! Then it crashed as soon as I started trying to pull my files.

  This is good news though, because it means not all was a total loss. My files are there! I just have to get them so I can load them onto... Oh... Yeah, there's no point in putting them on this piece of HP, is there? (LOL I suppose it didn't like me insulting it, so it froze again as I finished that sentence.) Since I still have the case open on this thing, I took another look and found the hard drive to be as warm as a freshly poured cup of coffee (mmm, coffee), so I'm guessing this won't be solved by some Windows updates or wiggling wires.

  The harsh reality? This is a simple issue that's pretty easy for me to fix: By a new PC. Pull the files from this and the old one. Load them onto new computer; begin working again. So, what's the problem? What I can't fix is the rest of my life where everything is always falling apart and I can't seem to stop it from affecting my work. And "it" just keeps piling up. What would be nice if I had a husband that wanted to lift a finger with any of those other things.

  I understand that Rip van Winkle can't help me with technology problems, but it would mean so much if he just made his own sandwich for lunch, or unpacked that lunchbox when he gets home, or do some of his dishes or laundry... You know, take care of yourself kind of stuff. Clean your own truck? It would have been even better to get a hug after my cats died. Something... Anything. I am so tired of this life that I would be happy to just walk away from everything and get a job at Walmart or a gas station or something so that I could leave this (unfinished) house and forget that I'm basically a maid that works to the tune of someone else's snoring.

  *Sigh* Gee, that feels good to say to people who might listen. He can't see the problem when he's almost always staring at the back of his eyelids. When he's awake, it's the TV he stares at... But that's after asking me to put something on to watch because he "can't figure out how to use the remote". He can't make his own food because he "can't find the dishes" and "can't get the directions right" for how to cook a Hot Pocket. And I can't see myself dealing with this much longer, but leaving my marriage will only result in another major upset in a life that has been derailed so many times that it's an official train wreck. Until I make a decision to stay or go, I'm just going to keep working on working.

  This post sure jumped the tracks as well, huh? My point is that I've had trouble finding the motivation to get back to work when I'm always faced with another issue to solve (or work around). And I'm starting to see that it's not all my fault... Things need to change. It's going to start with him microwaving some leftovers or going hungry. (Update: That resulted in him not eating until after 9pm when I finally set food in front of him because apparently I have no spine.) I have 50+ broken links to fix and most require the creation of a new tutorial. Forget that lack of inspiration! I already have a list of tasks ahead of me and it's time to get to work... As soon as I'm done spot-treating the concrete out of his work clothes.

  You may guess by my rambling that my mental state isn't at its strongest, but I'll be okay. Writing about it often helps me to work out my problems. And the more I reread my own pathetic words, I get mad instead of sad. When I'm sad, I'm only able to do the bare minimum of work. My "duties as housekeeper" burn up all the energy I have. When I get mad, I do things. Sometimes those "things" are me throwing half his stuff out the door while yelling "I can't take any more of your crap piling up!", but hey... It's doing something, right? *Disclaimer: He has at least refrained from bringing anything that came from a dumpster into the new house. He puts it in the shed instead.

  The more I think about it, the extra work of fixing those links might pull me out of this funk. Maybe going through those tutorials will help inspire me to get back to creating patterns. If I can't fix all the broken things in my house or my broken relationship, then I can at least fix the broken links on my blog. I can't wait to get to work! I'll start as soon as I'm done picking up the paper towels he's been throwing on the floor behind the trash can.

Thanks for listening, or at least pretending to. It doesn't matter if anybody reads this, it just helps to vent sometimes.

Happy Crocheting!

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