What is the best kind of yarn to use for amigurumi?
Updated: May 15, 2020
I think the first question that comes to mind to most beginner (or even seasoned!) amigurumi makers is what is the best yarn to use?
Well, I'm here to give you the vaguest answer you could possibly find.
Just kidding! But seriously, there are a lot of things to consider: fibre, weight, brand, among other things.
I can only speak anecdotally and give you my personal preferences, but I think as you read on and continue to do more research you'll find that everyone does things a little differently. Really it all comes down to what you like to work with! So here I go...
From a quick Google search I'm sure you'll find a lot of information about yarn fibres, and it'll mostly come down to cotton or acrylic.
Personally, I like acrylic yarn for amigurumi. I find that generally acrylic yarns have a wider range of vibrant colours, they feel soft to the touch once it's worked up, it's widely available, it's lightweight, and its got a *little* bit of stretch which makes it easier to work with (and as long as you're stitching tightly enough, you don't need to worry about your amigurumis losing their shape). I also like the sheen that you get some acrylic yarn, as it makes your colours look more vibrant :) Also, if you have allergies (like me), acrylic is pretty safe to work with without worrying about getting a reaction.
There are definitely some downsides to acrylic yarn though. I think the primary downside is that depending on the quality of the yarn you have, the yarn can have a tendency to look a little "fuzzy". This is because acrylic is a synthetic material, and is made of very fine fibres that can come apart and shoot off in different directions from the primary piece of yarn. This can be a benefit to some people who want to give their amigurumi a brushed look, but for others it can make their amigurumi look less "clean" and "polished" than an amigurumi made of cotton yarn. Personally, I've never found this to be a huge issue for me unless I'm constantly working and reworking the same length of yarn. Also, there is definitely an aspect of quality with this issue - I do find certain brands to be better than others (will discuss in the brand section). Worst worst case, take some scissors and give your amigurumi a little hair cut :)
Another criticism of acrylic yarn is that as a synthetic material that is essentially made of plastic, it's bad for the environment. I have done a little bit of research into the matter (there's a pretty informative post here) and while I am the first to advocate for sustainability and environmentally responsible practices, I think by choosing handmade and by choosing to make things we are already taking steps towards sustainability that are farther reaching than natural vs synthetic yarn. There are also many other lifestyle changes that most people can make that will also, in my opinion, have a much larger impact than acrylic yarn. I don't want to get too far off topic so I'll stop there but if you'd like to chat about this topic please send me an email and I'd love to discuss with you! All we can do as crafters and as people in general is to do research and make informed choices.
From my experience with cotton yarn, while I like that the yarn doesn't get as "fuzzy" as acrylic yarn, I find that the stiffness of the fibres can be a bit hard to work with and results in amigurumi that feel rough to the touch. But hey, a *lot* of amigurumi makers use cotton yarn and make absolutely beautiful dolls, so again, this is all personal preference.
If you do end up making up an amigurumi doll from one of my patterns with cotton yarn, please do send me a photo (or tag me @yurigurmi on instagram)! I'd love to see how it turns out and maybe I'll be converted :P
Generally you'll find that amigurumi makers will use either worsted (or aran) weight yarn or light worsted (or DK) weight yarn. I also find that generally worsted weight yarn is more popular in North America, and light worsted is more popular in Europe, which is why since I started making amigurumi in Germany I became accustomed to light worsted weight yarn and it sort of just stuck. This actually can be annoying for me since Michaels (the North American craft store) mostly stocks worsted weight yarn so I can really only get the best selection of light worsted yarn online (and if you're anything like me, if you're itching to start a project and it takes 2 weeks for yarn to get shipped to you it can be pretty frustrating!).
I think the choice of yarn weight is really just dependent on what size of amigurumi you want to make and how detailed you want the final product to be. I like making small figurines and keychains, so to get the level of detail I want I can really only achieve this with light worsted yarn. However, if you want to make larger cuddly-sized toys, you're probably better off using worsted weight yarn otherwise making all those stitches to get the size you want will take forever. And, if you're making things like accessories or clothing for your dolls, you might only be able to achieve a certain level of detail with worsted weight yarn. Maybe you can experiment with using both weights in a single project!
*Just a note: I am not sponsored or affiliated with any of the brands mentioned below. These are just my personal favorites.
Hopefully through my own trial and error I can save some of you readers some time (and valuable yarn storage space) by giving you some opinions on brands I've tried, especially ones that largely are only available online and you don't have the luxury of feeling the yarn before you buy it. I'll mainly be reviewing DK/light worsted weight yarn that I use most often here.
Patons Astra was one of the first DK yarns I worked with once I got back to Canada as it's available at Michael's. It's a slightly thicker DK yarn (gauge is 28 rows to 4 inches) compared to others and it works up quite nicely. The only downside of this brand is that recently they have discontinued a bunch of their shades so their colour selection is limited. You'll find a variety of bright colours but if you're looking for more natural shades or pastels you'll find this brand of yarn to be a bit lacking.
Loops and Threads Snuggly Wuggly
Another yarn available at Michael's, this is a DK weight yarn marketed for use with baby blankets and garments. This is a thinner DK yarn (28 rows to 4 inches) and the colour selection is limited to pastels. It can be a bit pricey (the regular price is around $7 CAD per ball) but if you're looking for a DK yarn in-store this is a pretty good option.
Hayfield Bonus DK
A very affordable brand of yarn available on Lovecrafts with a wide variety of colours. I really like this brand and it's a similar gauge to Patons Astra so they work very well together. I'd really recommend this yarn if you want to start building up your DK stash :)
Another favorite of mine, also available on Lovecrafts. They have a great colour selection and the yarn feels of high quality. I did find that the gauge to be a bit larger than expected although it is described online as a thinner DK (30 rows to 4 inches), projects I made with this yarn ended up being significantly larger than when I used Patons or Hayfield. This yarn is also very reasonably priced and comes in smaller skeins if you're not sure you want to commit to certain colours.
Paintbox Simply DK
This is a very popular brand of yarn available on Lovecrafts. Again, they have a great colour selection and are at a very affordable price. I find this yarn to be on the thinner side of DK, so it won't play well in terms of interchangeability with the other yarns I've mentioned. Also, this yarn has a higher sheen compared to the others and is a lot more light-reflecting. For those who don't like "fuzzy" yarn like I described above, this yarn I've found to shed and fray the most.
Thanks everyone for taking the time to read through this post! What's your favorite yarn? Do you have any recommendations for me? I'd love to hear from you!