In recent years, the Japanese art of amigurumi (ah-mee-guh-roo-mee) has taken the world by storm. The technique of crafting cute little dolls or inanimate objects is crocheted or knitted in spirals of unjoined rounds. A smaller size hook compared to the weight of yarn typically is used to create a tight fabric of fiber. Objects are stuffed with fiber stuffing, and extremities often are filled with plastic pellets to give the doll a life-like feel.
Finding Amigurumi Myself
I first came across amigurumi in the summer of 2006 when I was visiting a LYS to see Debbie Stoller on her Stitch ‘N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker tour. You know, those really adorable creations everyone’s been talking about? Even the Oxford Dictionary added the word in 2006.
A local fiber artist had some of her dolls on display for sale, and I was amazed at how adorable the dolls were and fascinated with this crafty technique. Shortly after that, I came across Lucy in my June/July 2006 issue of Bust magazine. Tamie Snow’s pattern is a pretty simple doll creation that you can get your feet wet with in the art of amigurumi. What I didn’t know was that this little pattern would become the gateway project to a whole new world of cute.
I started cruising the Internet, during these pre-Ravelry days, and came across the Amineko Crocheted Cat pattern: a pretty classic design that I was seeing on a number of sites. Not much of a crocheter up to this point, I began by working the head in a spiral. By the time I reached the body, I was officially hooked.
It didn’t take me long to discover Beth Doherty’s creations, who I figured out was the artist displaying her work at the LYS earlier that summer. I fell in love with her creations and desperately wanted to make them for my little cousins for Christmas. Unfortunately, her book Amigurumi: Super Happy Crochet Cute wasn’t due out until the following year. So I was left with other similar patterns and Doherty’s gallery of work to help me base my own design.
Four months later, I had three little creations, complete with accented details, wrapped for my cousins. Each was different animal: a bunny, a kitty and a bear; used a unique combination of colors and accessories; and featured a unique outfit. As I went, I worked out my own pattern through trial and error.
Not everyone, of course, will be as determined (or desperate) as me, and will rely on the hard work of talented designers. There are a number of patterns on Ravelryavailable to get you started. What worked best for me was finding a pattern that was so irresistibly adorable that I would remain determined to finish it!Getting a book can help elaborate some of the basics of this technique; a few are listed in Ravelry. There are also a number of websites available, including Crochet Me which has an amigurumi section featuring some tutorials.
Amigurumi uses some pretty basic crochet techniques, including the chain stitch, slip stitch and single crochet (sc in U.S. terminology). One technique that may be new to you is the magic adjustable loop, which helps to create a chain into a round circle. This is the basis of most of the amigurumi pieces. Crochet Me has a tutorial complete with pictures to get you started. Other things you may need in your crafty arsenal are bobbles, double and treble crochet stitches, and increases and decreases.
Not much of a crocheter? Don’t worry. There are knitted amigurumi creations too. This thread over on the Patterns board have tracked down a number of knit patterns.
Learning from others’ experience can guide you too. Check out Amigurumi Style Crochet, Amigurumi Designers, Amigurumi Doll Lovers, Amigurumi Dollmakers and Amigurumi Knit and Crochet.
What You’ll Need
Now that you’ve got a pattern picked out, where do you go from here? First pick out some yarn. Any worsted or DK weight kind would most likely do. I used Caron Simply Soft or Red Heart Soft for my creations, which worked out pretty well. I usually liked to pick out a bunch of colors that seemed to complement each other and pull them out at once. As I worked the pattern and came to color changes, I would see which looked the best. I also used embroidery floss for accents and for the eyes.Now track down a crochet hook. If the pattern doesn’t specify, a 3.5 (D), 3.75 (F) or 4.00 mm (G) will due just fine for the main body pieces. For embroidery pieces, you’ll want to switch to a really small steel hook. Note, however, that the Japanese sizing is a bit different. Make sure to follow your pattern or look at this table that converts Japanese sizing to metric.
Other supplies you’ll need include:
- Fiber stuffing – found at most craft stores.
- Toy eyes – Amigurumi Style Crochet has a thread about craft eyes. They make craft eyes that are attached to the head with a back bracket before you attach the head to the body. Keep in mind if you’re making a toy for a small child, you may want to sew on eyes or use yarn as an accent to avoid any choking hazard.
- Buttons/Accents/Fabric/Felt – This can include beads, buttons, patches and fabric. The sky’s the limit. Keep in mind the size of your doll when choosing your accents, as well as how you’ll attach them to the doll.
- Tapestry needle – For sewing the toy together.
- Thread and sewing needle – To attach any accents.
- Plastic pellets for the limbs – To add weight to extremities (optional)
- Doll stand – Many craft stores carry doll stands, which can be quite useful for the finishing touches of your doll or for display. This is used typically for more traditional doll creations. (optional)
Most of these supplies are easy to find at a local craft store. When choosing your pattern, try something simple to start and work your way through the amigurumi portfolio. Also, take your time to think about the details. I spent four months creating the dolls for my cousins, because I often took long breaks to get inspired. So next time you come across an amigurumi creation, don’t be intimidated. We all have a little cute within us!
Originally published March 17, 2008 in This Week In Ravelry (issue #8). Photos courtesy of Kate Hamilton