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Archive for August, 2018

review: Susan Bates crochet hooks

Did you know there are now two new additions to the Susan Bates hook line? I had to investigate, and got out all my SB hooks to compare the new styles with my classics:

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: review

Susan Bates crochet hooks have always been my favourites, because I find their in-line shape makes it much easier to make perfectly uniform stitches.

What’s an ‘in-line’ hook?

See my Crochet Hook Styles article to understand why the head shape can make such a difference to your stitches. It comes down to personal choice – if you prefer a tapered hook, you probably won’t enjoy any of the hooks in my review below (and that’s okay too, there are plenty of other crochet hook brands out there!)

Now, I prefer aluminium/aluminum (I’ll say aluminum from now on, as the hooks are American!) hooks to bamboo or plastic, as they’re strong, smooth, and rigid. But clearly, even recommending you try a ‘Susan Bates aluminum hook’ in your preferred size doesn’t narrow you down to a single option, so I thought I’d put together a quick roundup of all the currently-available SB metal hooks, so you can make a more informed choice.


Susan Bates aluminum hooks – the contenders:

Here are all the options I’ll be looking at today:

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: review

  1. Quicksilver
  2. Silvalume
  3. Bamboo Handle/Silvalume Head
  4. Silvalume Soft Ergonomic
  5. Silvalume Super Lightweight
  6. Crochet Hook Cushion Grip

And now onto the reviews…

1. Quicksilver

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: review

The Quicksilver line is the old-school classic Bates hook, but they are still available today. All sizes are the same matte grey colour and very smooth. These are the first hooks I bought in all the sizes when I started crocheting seriously, and mine are still in perfect condition.

The biggest downside is that, if you crochet with a knife grip like me (i.e. you hold the hook gripped in the palm of your hand), the narrow handle, especially with the smaller sizes, makes it less comfortable to hold and and it’s more likely that your hands will cramp up.

2. Silvalume

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: reviewI gradually upgraded to a set of basic Silvalumes, starting with the starter set (sizes F-K US, 3.75-6.5mm), and then adding all the other sizes individually. These anodised aluminum hooks are helpfully colour-coded by size, so it’s easy to tell the difference between your H hook (blue) and I hook (pink).

In a side-by-side comparison, they don’t feel as smooth as the Quicksilvers, but they’re still very smooth, and I prefer them to the Quicksilvers (although possibly just for the convenience of the colours…) Again, the handle is narrow, so not ideal if you crochet with a knife grip.

The newer Susan Bates hook styles below are all based on a Silvalume head, with a built-up handle that you may find more comfortable if you crochet with a knife grip. If you crochet with a pencil grip (with the handle of the hook resting on top of your hand), the handles are unlikely to provide you with much benefit.

3. Bamboo Handle/Silvalume Head

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: review

My all-time favourite hook! The bamboo-handled hooks have all the advantages of the Silvalume head with a smooth, warm bamboo handle that I find very comfortable to hold.

I really do swear by these hooks – I have two complete sets, plus another six spares in my most-used size (E US/3.5mm, for my amigurumi)!

4. Silvalume Soft Ergonomic

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: review

Soft Ergonomic is one of the new SB hooks, with a soft-touch plastic handle. The handle is a little longer than all the above hooks, so may work better for you if you have a larger hand. I find it pleasant to the touch and a definite improvement in comfort to the all-metal hooks, although I personally prefer the wider grip of the bamboo handles.

If you crochet with a pencil grip, you may find the soft-touch handle more comfortable resting on your hand because it’s warmer than an all-metal hook and not too bulky.

5. Silvalume Super Lightweight

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: review

Super Lightweight is the other new hook style, and I must admit this one has me baffled. Aluminum hooks are always lightweight, and, weighing the same size of each of the above hooks, the Super Lightweight hook was actually slightly heavier than any of the others! The handle is made of a brushed aluminum and it is much lighter than it looks from its size – maybe that’s where the ‘super lightweight’ part comes in..?

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: review
L: Bamboo Handle Silvalume; R: Silvalume Super Lightweight

Like the Soft Ergonomic hook, this one also has a longer handle, which you may find more comfortable if you have larger hands. However, with my small hands and the way I hold my hook, the wide part of the handle only benefits my little finger, so it’s definitely not well-suited to small-handed knife-grip crocheters! And, personally, I prefer the warm feel of the bamboo or soft-touch plastic to this cold aluminum handle.

(For amigurumists, I should mention that the smallest size this hook is currently available in is an F US/3.75mm, so it may be larger than you’d prefer for your amigurumi.)

6. Crochet Hook Cushion Grips

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: review

If you already have the older Quicksilver or original Silvalume hooks and don’t feel like the expense of buying a whole new set of hooks but would like a comfort upgrade, cushion grips could be the answer.

These Susan Bates cushion grips come in a set of two, and the packaging says they fit sizes F-J. I found that the green grip has a smaller hole than the blue, and, in my tests, the green works well for sizes E-G7 (3.5-4.5mm) and the blue for sizes H-J (5-6mm).

These grips are squishy and comfortable, and may be the best answer if you have arthritis or find gripping a narrow hook problematic – by pulling the grip up over the thumbrest, you can get the benefit of the foam padding and wider grip for your thumb and forefinger, as well as for your other fingers.

Hook Head Shapes

For completeness, I should also mention that all Susan Bates hooks are not the same – the head shape has changed more than once over the years, and depending on where/when your hook was manufactured, you may find your hook has a pointier or more rounded head, and a deeper or shallower throat cut-out.

My Susan Bates hooks have a mixture of the two, and I can say that I usually prefer to use one with a more rounded head, as it’s less likely to split the yarn, but the pointier ones have their advantages too – for example they come in handy when you need to poke the hook into a tighter stitch (e.g. for my Better Back Loops Only technique!)

Which head shape you prefer is a personal preference, and probably not one you’ll have any control over if you buy a new Susan Bates hook, anyway. But I will say that it doesn’t change my opinion: all Susan Bates hooks have the same in-line shape, and that’s the most important factor to me when I choose a hook.

susan bates aluminum crochet hooks: review


We’re lucky to have so many hook choices these days, but it can be very confusing, especially if you add all the other brands of hook to the list of choices!

If you’ve been wondering which Susan Bates hook to try, or what the differences are between all the options, I hope this post will help you choose the one you’ll enjoy most.

What’s your favourite hook? Are you a Bates fan too, or do you prefer Boye, Clover, Tulip, or another brand? Please share your recommendations in the comments below ๐Ÿ™‚

Notes: Red Heart kindly provided me with samples of the new hooks for my review, but all opinions are my own. The affiliate links above point to amazon.com. If you live outside North America, see my tips for buying in-line hooks internationally.

Comments (12)

Crochet Investigation: Avoiding the Jog in a BLO Round

Spoiler alert: in doing this jog-minimising back loop only round amigurumi experiment, I have a recommendation for a simple modification to make to your amigurumi that will minimise the jog with those back loop only rounds! If youโ€™re not interested in my experiments, jump straight to the Jogless Back Loop Only Round for Amigurumi video tutorial ๐Ÿ™‚

jogless back loop only round for amigurumi by planetjune


Crocheting a round of back loop only (BLO) stitches is a standard method for creating a sharp corner in amigurumi. The biggest problem is that, when you work in a continuous spiral, you end up with a noticeable jog between the first and last unworked loops of the round.

I’ve had several requests to develop a method for minimising that jog, so you know what that means: it’s time for another PlanetJune crochet investigation!

Method

For this experiment, I tested a few candidates that I thought may improve the look of that jog. Modifying one or other of my Perfect Stripes methods seemed like a promising idea, as well as changing the height of the end stitches to bring them closer together.

I crocheted the same small sample for each method so we can compare the effectiveness of each one. Each sample was crocheted in a spiral with a flat circular base, a round of BLO stitches to turn the corner, and then a few more rounds worked straight.

So, here are the candidates:

A. The control sample, as described above, with no attempt to minimise the jog
B. Sample using the No-Cut Join technique for the round before the BLO round and the BLO round
C. Sample using the Invisible Join technique for the round before the BLO round and the BLO round
D. Sample modifying the height of the stitch before the BLO round with a slip stitch

The photos below show each sample from two angles, and, if you’d like to play along, you can compare the appearance of the line of unworked loops around the edge of each sample and see what you think of my ‘improvements’…

jogless back loop only investigation - candidate A

jogless back loop only investigation - candidate B

jogless back loop only investigation - candidate C

jogless back loop only investigation - candidate D

Results

I compared each candidate with the control sample (A) to see how much it improved the appearance of the jog, judging on two criteria:

  1. How continuous the line of unworked loops appears between the first and last stitch of the round (left photo)
  2. How circular the entire round of unworked loops appears (right photo) – note that this effect is more noticeable because the samples are quite small; it wouldn’t be as obvious for a larger piece such as the base of an ami plant pot

Here are my observations:

B. The No-Cut Join gives the worst result of all the test pieces. Although the jog is reduced, extra mess is introduced to the surrounding stitches, and I think the overall effect is actually worse than doing nothing.

C. The Invisible Join gives a flawless result – the join is completely invisible and the round of unworked loops is almost completely circular. However, it’s slow, and leaves a lot of extra yarn ends, so it’s quite an investment in time and effort.

D. The height modifying method is very quick and simple to execute and gives a pretty good result. As the spiral is almost uninterrupted, the unworked loops don’t quite form a perfect circle, but the jog is almost invisible.

My Recommendations

If you want the best-looking back loop only round possible and don’t care how long it takes, switching to joined rounds (for both the round before the BLO round and the BLO round) and using the Invisible Join method from my Perfect Stripes tutorial will give you the most perfect result.

But, my recommendation is: for the best balance of a good result with a quick and easy method, use my height modifying method – now called my Jogless Back Loop Only Round method – for minimising the jog. (And, to give an even better result, combine it with my Better BLO technique – between the two, you’ll end up with a very neat and practically jogless back loop only round, as you can see below.)

jogless back loop only round for amigurumi by planetjune

Impressed? Now learn how to do it, with my new video tutorial:

Continue to A Jogless Back Loop Only Round for Amigurumi video tutorial >>

Comments (3)

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    June Gilbank

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