Thursday, May 18, 2017

New FOs and Steel Crochet Hooks

First, a couple of sets of finished objects!

I recently came across this (free) pot-holder pattern ("Double-Thick Diagonally-Crocheted Potholder"), which is perfect for mindless crocheting.

Crochet Pot Holders

I wanted to use up what cotton yarn I had in-stash (which turned out to be Hobby Lobby's I Love This Cotton!), so I had limited color choices.  It's kind of an autumn palette, but I'm not enough of a seasonal decorator to bother about that.  They'll be used year-round.

I ended up with seven of them before my yarn ran out.  Two have gone to another home, but that leaves more than enough for us. ;o)

Crochet Pot Holders

It's an easy pattern-- particularly after you get past the crocheting into the chain part.  The only possibly tricky bit is deciding when to seam it closed.  I found that I tended to want to close them up earlier than I should, so once or twice I had to rip out a seam and add another round or two.  If you close them too soon, they might be slightly rectangular (instead of square).  They'll still work just fine, though, if they're rectangular.  It's purely an issue of aesthetics.

(I made a few technical notes over on my Ravelry project page, if anyone's interested.)

Crochet Pot Holders

Since I was already in pot-holder mode, I decided to try making some quilted pot-holders, too.  I've had the insulated batting for a long time, but just hadn't taken the plunge.  I was in a hurry to finish them in time for Mother's Day (along with two of the crocheted ones and some other things), so I kept the design simple-- just string blocks in blues and neutrals.

Quilted Pot Holders

And then I quilted them with straight line stitching on the sewing machine and used some striped fabric for the binding.  I chose to leave off the hanging loops-- partly because I was running out of time and partly because, personally, I hardly ever actually hang pot-holders by their loops.  (They go in a designated drawer, instead.)

Quilted Pot Holders

The backs are even simpler-- wider strips of fabrics sewn together.  A pieced back is a little more interesting and "handmade"-looking than a solid piece of fabric would've been-- and it used up some scraps I already had on hand, ready to go.

Quilted Pot Holders

I love sewing with scraps-- strings, in particular-- but I don't have a huge supply of them in a wide variety, and you really need a good variety to achieve the look I like.  So I'm trying to accumulate more variety, a bit at a time.

Quilted Pot Holders

I am happy with how these turned out, though, even if the selection of fabrics was a bit more limited than ideal.  There's plenty more of the insulation batting ready and waiting!

Quilted Pot Holders

- - - - - - -

I recently noticed that my favorite steel crochet hook (affiliate link: Clover Amour, size no. 0/1.75mm) had developed a discoloration on the metal where my finger touches it.

The way I hold my hook, I touch the metal a lot with the pad of my pointer finger (holding the thread/yarn in place), and I'm one of those lucky people whose body chemistry messes up nickel-plating.  (*sigh*)

The hook is still usable, but I suspect it's only a matter of time before the dark spot gets worse and starts to smell like metal-- and leave my fingertip smelling of metal, too.  (That's the eventual fate of all the nickel-plated tapestry needles that I use for weaving in ends of yarn.)  Once it starts to smell metallic, I won't want to use it.  Painting over it with clear nail polish would probably be at least a temporary fix, but it would likely also be a different texture than the unpainted metal.  It's a possible last resort, but I'd rather find a replacement.

Clover Amours are nice hooks, but in my opinion they're a little pricey to have to buy the same size of over and over again.  (And the price has gone up a couple of dollars since I bought mine.)  If I can't find another hook I like as well, I might bite the bullet and buy an identical hook.  This first one has lasted since September 2014, after all.  However, it seems worth looking at other options, first.

I briefly toyed with the idea of finding a steel crochet hook that wasn't nickel-plated-- something that's 100% surgical stainless steel (no plating of any kind) would be ideal, but I haven't had luck finding anything like that.  I have no trouble (knock on wood!!) with aluminum hooks, but no-one manufactures aluminum hooks in that small of a size.  (Not strong enough, I'm sure.)

I did find at least one source for luxury hooks in sterling silver or gold, but I can't recall if they make hooks that small (doubtful)-- and the whole point was to find a source that would be cheaper than the favored Clover Amour hooks.

Anyway, to finally get to the point, I found many different (but similar) sets of handled steel crochet hooks on AliExpress.  Some of them are incredibly cheap, so I decided to give it a try.

I ordered a set of these.  (That's not an affiliate link.)   They're currently $2.99 (free shipping) for a set of eight steel crochet hooks (sizes 1.0, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, 2.0, 2.25, 2.5, and 2.75 mm) with multicolored rubber/plastic handles.  (Actually, they're listed as aluminum hooks, but I'm confident mine are steel hooks.  I think it's a translation mistake-- or someone forgot that the smaller hooks are a different material from the larger sizes.)

They're coming all the way from China, so you do have to wait a while, but my packet came faster than expected.  I placed my order on April 25th and received them... Saturday? Monday?  Not too bad.

Here they are:

Steel Crochet Hooks

Nice, bright, cheerful colors.  (Exact colors can vary, by the way!)

The size in millimeters is clearly stamped into the bottom end of the handle:

Steel Crochet Hooks

I haven't yet tried to crochet with them, but just looking at them, they seem to be of decent smoothness.  The tips are gold-colored, which is kind of gimmicky, in my opinion, but shouldn't do any harm.

I also haven't double-checked to see if they're actually the size marked.  That's one problem that you see mentioned fairly often in reviews of these super-cheap hooks and knitting needles.  But as long as you swatch or pay attention to your gauge at the beginning of a project-- and use the same tool for the duration of the project-- it shouldn't be an issue.

Steel Crochet Hooks

The texture of the handles is different from that of the elastomer Clover Amour handles.  It's not quite as rubbery-- slightly more plasticky-- but not bad.  It's definitely not hard plastic.  It's slightly flexible (which makes it obvious that the metal rod doesn't go the full length of the handle, as it does with the Amour) and has a pleasant-enough texture.  There is a slight seam down both sides of the handle, too-- more so than with the Amour-- but again, it's not bad.  I've seen worse (on the rubberized plastic handle of the two Boye Crochet Dude hooks I own).

About the fact that the metal doesn't go all the way down the handle... It's possible the hook part might eventually start to come loose from the handle, but if that happens, I can't see why you couldn't just glue it back with a little superglue.  That's what I'd try, anyway.

Steel Crochet Hooks

For the price, I think they're decent quality-- especially for someone who wants a complete set of steel hooks with comfortable handles, but isn't ready to invest in more expensive brands.  You'd certainly be hard pressed to find a better price than this!

If you're willing to spend some time looking, you can find a variety of different sets with slightly different specifications (and at slightly different price points).  Just be sure to pay attention to not only the product description, but also the product reviews and seller ratings.

(If I notice any glaring problems with these new hooks when I do finally give them a test-run, I'll try to remember to come back and mention it here.)