Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Impostor

  Working with Mainstays acrylic yarn resulted in a negative review before I was finished working on this pattern. (You can read that review here if you missed it.) I was aware it didn't perfectly match Red Heart Super Saver. I knew to not expect much from a Walmart brand acrylic yarn. What I didn't know was how the smallest difference in gauge would make this project much harder than it needed to be.   


Among Us, crochet pattern, Mainstays acrylic yarn

  Let's just start with quality... Do you see the "seam" running up the body of the character? Well, it's not really a seam. That is the tail from starting new yarn after joining the legs, and I worked over it as I always do. The beginning of my rounds on the other side don't show as much. So why didn't I sew the backpack to this side to cover the flaw? Because the other side is riddled with a bunch of snags from the yarn splitting as I worked.



Among Us, crochet pattern, Mainstays acrylic yarn, Red Heart Super Saver

  I already knew this wouldn't be great, but since some adjustments in the pattern were still needed I didn't mind continuing with the Mainstays yarn. The backpack on the first character needed to be wider, and I wasn't sure if the body needed to be shorter or if I got the placement of the visor wrong (maybe both?), but I was mostly happy with what I had worked out using Red Heart. 


Among Us, crochet pattern, Mainstays acrylic yarn, Red Heart Super Saver

  The finished size of the Mainstays version came out smaller and the yarn doesn't stretch the same when stuffing. That means I can't be sure if any of the adjustments I made will work the same when I go back to using Red Heart. Plus, I had to rework the whole design for the visor because I'm still using Red Heart to create that piece. The size of the original visor didn't match and in the end it was necessary to start over with fewer beginning stitches. I think I like how the new visor is a bit more round, so I'll still have to redo the pattern to match Red Heart if I decide to keep it that way. 


Among Us, crochet pattern, Mainstays acrylic yarn, Red Heart Super Saver

  Overall, I think the version made in Super Saver looks better. If you take a close-up look at these two pieces, you can see that Red Heart fills in the gaps between the stitches, while Mainstays allows a peek through to the stuffing. Same hook, almost same pattern but with a few more stitches across for the backpack.



Among Us, crochet pattern, Mainstays acrylic yarn, Red Heart Super Saver

  Is it possible that going up a hook size could have reduced the tension and produced a better-looking results? Probably. (I think the tension being too tight could be the cause of the tails showing through.) I chose to not change sizes because the next larger hook also didn't match the gauge of Super Saver and made the pattern larger than the original. 


Among Us, crochet pattern, Mainstays acrylic yarn, Red Heart Super Saver

  Lesson learned: It's not the best idea to substitute an unfamiliar yarn while in the middle of designing the pattern. I don't need the headache of trying to match gauge while I'm still trying to figure out the proper dimensions of the character! Do I have the visor too high? Or is the torso too tall? Something is triggering my OCD to say "this isn't right"... I just wish my brain could tell me exactly what that is, instead of just telling me I'm wrong.


Among Us, crochet pattern, Mainstays acrylic yarn, Red Heart Super Saver

  Anyway, at least I worked out the problem I was having with the backpack. The first try was close but not wide enough. It looks perfectly fine if the character is at a slight angle, but when facing forward the backpack disappears. Because every reference photo I can find shows the character at an angle, I'm not really sure how wide the backpack should be. What I do know is I always struggle with body proportions and facial features and this is EXACTLY why I stay away from projects like this! 

  (Deep breath...) However, It's not really as bad as anxiety is trying to make it. The backpack was fixed with a few extra stitches across and some adjustment when sewing it shut... Plus I changed the way I began the piece, and how is was attached to the character... Okay, so the backpack actually got a total redesign, and I barely noticed!  


Among Us, crochet pattern, Mainstays acrylic yarn, Red Heart Super Saver

  I can say I'm closer to knowing what I need to change, but using this impostor of a yarn for the second try was a mistake. I now have a skein of Red Heart Super Saver in pink (yuck), and I should be able to work out a finished pattern soon because I just have to figure out the proper dimensions and make the needed adjustments. 

  Sounds simple, right? It should be, but having OCD makes assembling the pieces a big pain. I see little details that most people probably don't... Like how the visor on the pink (ew) version is pinched in a bit to the left; the border around the visor on red has a thick spot where I sewed over a stitch twice. And neither one is perfectly centered. I see the stitches that got pulled at the top of the Red Heart version because I pulled a bit too hard while sewing in the tail; I see every little imperfection in the Mainstays piece from the snags and splits in the yarn, and how the top of the head is a bit too flat because I didn't stuff it quite enough.

  I'll get it soon, maybe. I'm so close, yet so far away from a finished pattern because of the setback with the bad yarn... And all that other stuff, too. I know it's close enough to be called good, but I also know I could make it better. Any suggestions?
 
Happy Crocheting!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

When Mistakes Don't Matter

  Alternate title for this post: Crazy Doesn't Begin to Describe Me.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  Oh, what have I gone and done now? I should start by explaining that although my state of "mental breakdown" over this project is more satire than serious... It is a fact that I'm questioning my sanity after beginning another (right, ANOTHER) one of my "giant plarn" projects. And before we move on to the actual subject, I'd like to provide the link to the last giant plarn project that still isn't finished

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  I mean, I can't even get my camera settings right... I took half a dozen pictures of my new pile of giant plarn while trying to figure out why the photos are so dark. Uh, maybe it's because the photo is in black and white? I can't remember to turn off a monochrome filter, what business do I have starting another giant plarn project when I already have one on the hook? 

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  So there's all that, plus more: This project was supposed to be oval shaped. To achieve this shape, I used 14 stitches in the beginning round. This number was fine until somewhere around the tenth round, when too many stitches started causing ripples.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  My genius brain decided to fix this problem by cutting the number of increases in half, so... Seven. Seven increases per round to achieve a symmetrical shape. I realized my mistake when the project became not-an-oval. Then big-brain kicked in again to fix this problem by alternating the places where I was making the increases... I swear I'm not an amateur, but this project is no help at proving it!

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  Anyway, none of that really matters as much as the mistakes yet to come. This WIP is going to be a cat bed, and I'm hoping the cat won't mind that I managed to work the ripples out by fudging the oval into a circle after working back up to an even stitch count. What's more important to me is not having to frog a project that has 15 bags in each round.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  I'm cutting and joining the material using the loop method (video tutorial here) and I don't want to rip back all those stitches with all those little knots in between them! Fifteen bags in one round. At least I've found a trick that's helping save my hands from the friction of the plarn...

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  A pair of lightweight gloves makes this job slightly easier. Within the first few rounds I was developing a sore spot that would have become a blister on my thumb. The gloves also catch the bit of ink that wears off of the bags instead of having to wash my hands every time I put the project down. So there's one positive thing that came out of this disaster!

  Now, let's get back to all the stuff I'm messing up: I want the sides of the cat bed to be fairly stiff, which I thought I could naturally achieve with the thick-cut plarn. Once I reached the desired size I began working even, but the edge didn't curl tightly enough because there were still a few too many stitches all around. That's when I did this:

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  What is this thing that I've done? Well, I've crocheted one row over another. What is that called? I have no freaking clue. Again, my brain seems to have gone on vacation. (Can I go too?) My memory wants to call this the "roll stitch" but I also know darn well that's another name for the bullion stitch. There's a name for this! I swear I'm quite experienced at crochet...

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  Perhaps I should just stop trying to convince anyone that I know what I'm doing. My row-over-row crochet work did nothing to help stiffen the sides. Instead, the sides seem to be too bulky and don't hold themselves up at all. I should be gaining vertical sides now that I'm working even, but it still seems to be growing outward... 

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  I can keep track of the number of bags in a round because I'm following a color pattern as I join the bags. Each round for the sides uses 15 bags. And now I'm crocheting a row over a row, so it's taking twice as many bags to create the sides.

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  Twice as thick, yet the sides still fall. Instead of doing the smart thing and frogging back a few rounds, I threw a few decreases in there and kept powering through the now twice-as-hard project. Can ya'll please give me a call if you happen to see my brain wandering around somewhere?

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  The sides finally took shape with those decreases, if you can really call it "shape"... A better description might be "how much were you drinking when you made this?" but I'm leaving it just as it is. It's for a cat... Do you think the cat will care if the bed is perfectly round? 

plarn, plastic yarn, recycled grocery bags, crochet, cats, cat bed

  This is the worst-looking thing I've made in a while, but for once it doesn't matter if I've made a few mistakes. I would say I hope the cat will be happy, but there's me not thinking again... You can't make this cat happy. She's old and grumpy, which is why I thought she'd like a nice squishy bed, but the only thing that makes this cat happy is taking what you didn't give her... Oh, wow, it just took writing an entire blog post to realize: I'm just wasting my time anyway, aren't I? 

cat, crochet

Happy Crocheting!

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


Hmm...

Happy Crocheting!

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