Crochet is one of the best ideas to start a new craft hobby. It is pretty easy to learn basic skills and enjoy the fruits of your work immediately. If you need an extra spark to get yourself started, then choose amigurumi. Amigu…what? This exotic word denotes the Japanese art of crocheting or knitting small, cute, stuffed animals. Even if you haven’t heard of it you’ve seen some of them for sure. Today, I will share some basic tips for beginners on how to crochet amigurumi animals.
This craft has become extremely popular in the 21st century.
What Is Amigurumi
Amigurumi is simply an art of creating cute, little stuffed animals. It originated in Japan and it is closely related to the Japanese culture of cuteness or kawaii. This culture of cuteness gave birth to a couple of phenomena such as some manga genres, Hello Kitty, Pikachu, and amigurumi, that spread far beyond Japanese borders. Japanese culture never stops to amaze me. It incorporates such a vast variety of customs and traditions. From samurai warriors and sumo wrestling to gardening art to sakura philosophy that revolves around cherry blossom, to culture of cuteness. It is difficult to grasp it, but it is fascinating, nevertheless.
Anyway, back to amigurumi, we don’t know when the first dolls appeared, but by the end of the 20th century, they were very popular in Japan. Now, it’s everywhere. The secret of amigurumi lies in simplicity. It is quite easy to create some basic amigurumi toys, but as your skills improve you create some elaborate and sophisticated dolls. One thing never changes though: cute and innocent facial expressions. It is also a great gift for your friends.
Amigurumi can be knitted, but crochet is the most common method to create it. As for materials, basically you need yarn and polyester fiberfill for stuffing. Safety eyes, felts, ribbons and other accessories are used to finish and personalize the toy.
How to Begin
As for any other project, there’s a part called preparation. Planning and preparing can save you from trouble down the road. If you rush things to get started you will probably forget something. For me, it is very frustrating when I have to halt the project to get something that I have forgotten. Especially if I have to purchase it. However, planning an amigurumi project is pretty simple.
First, you need to choose a pattern. Then you need yarn. Usually, the pattern will contain info on the type and size of yarn that you should use. Choosing a crochet hook is the next step. Both pattern and yarn should suggest the size of the hook to use. Furthermore, get a yarn needle, fiberfill for stuffing, and stitch markers and you are ready to start! You can also prearrange safety eyes and other accessories, but it’s optional. You will use them only after you finish crocheting, so it’s up to you.
1. Use Basic Stitches Only
When you’re starting out it is important to keep things as simple as possible. Otherwise, you might get overwhelmed or make too many mistakes. You can create most amigurumi toys using slip knot, chain stitch, and single crochet stitch. For a detailed guide and instructions on basic crochet stitches you can read our article “How to Do Basic Crochet Stitches”. These stitches are easy to learn and more than enough for most amigurumi projects.
2.Choose The Right Hook
Yarn label will give you the most important information including suggested hook size. So, this seems like a no brainer. But, when it comes to amigurumi, you should choose a hook that is one size smaller. Your stitches need to be a little bit tighter so that stuffing doesn’t come out. For this reason, you should use a smaller hook for amigurumi projects. It will also make it look more polished and professional.
Speaking of hooks and yarn, I’ll share some thoughts on yarn choice. Generally, you can use almost any kind of yarn to create amigurumi toys. While most amigurumi dolls are designed for decorative purposes, some of them are genuine kid’s toys. The latter needs to be washed regularly and even the former should be washed every once in a while. Therefore, it’s a good idea to buy washable yarn like cotton or acrylic yarn. Wool yarn is beautiful, but it is difficult to care for and it doesn’t hold its shape as well as acrylic or cotton. So, my recommendation is to stick with acrylic and cotton yarn, at least for your early projects.
4.Start with The Magic Ring
The magic ring or magic circle is the best way to start working when you’re crocheting in the round. I am not talking about “My precious!” from The Lord of The Rings, but the magic ring technique has some magic of its own. Even though it looks and sounds challenging it is actually pretty easy to make. It will help you to close the small opening in the middle that you can’t avoid using regular techniques.
5.Use Removable Stitch Markers
When we work on amigurumi it is common to work continuously without joining each round. Continuous rounds provide a more professional and clean appearance. So, it’s necessary to use stitch markers to mark the beginning and the end of each round.
6.Count Your Stitches
Let’s be honest: most of us don’t usually count our stitches after every round of the project. While we should do it in all crochet projects, we MUST do it in amigurumi. It may be boring but it will save you time, not to mention the frustration.
7.Stuff As You Go
Stuffing doesn’t require technique or calculations, but it is important for the outcome of your project. You don’t really have to stuff as you go every single time, but it’s usually the best way to do it right. It allows you to stuff your pieces evenly. Also, it will help you to avoid bunching up or getting a “lumpy” look where you don’t want it.
You can choose different materials for stuffing, but polyester fiberfill is probably the best. It is the most common stuffing for toys and you don’t have to experiment with different materials from the very beginning.
That’s it, folks! Maybe you’re not ready for Bugs Bunny yet, but you are ready to create your first cute bear, kitty, or just smiling “something”. There are more tips and tricks to crochet beautiful amigurumi toys, but these basic tips are great to get you started. And you want to keep it simple in the beginning, remember?
As your skills and love for amigurumi grow, you will probably want to try some more elaborate patterns, techniques, and designs. Nevertheless, you will use these basic tricks as long as you keep enjoying amigurumi. It can be pretty addictive, so I believe that you have years to hone your skills and make myriads of amigurumi dolls for your family and friends.