Off the Hook: Amigurumi

I’ve only recently started crocheting, previously being an exclusive knitter. However, I’ve quickly discovered that it’s just as easy and fun once you understand it. “Off the Hook” follows my newbie’s journey through learning crochet, as well as little discoveries.

The reason I decided to figure out crochet once and for all in 2014 was because I was in need of a round rug. As any knitter knows, non-rectangular shapes are undoubtedly more challenging to create in knitting than in crocheting.

This past Christmas, I was stumped on what to create for my young cousins, who are too old for baby clothes and blankets, yet not old enough for sophisticated cowls and hats. Mittens wouldn’t work either, them living in a warmer climate.

Not weeks earlier, I had learned the name to the art of creating typically anthropomorphic stuffed animals; amigurumi. The Japanese word combines two meanings, ami, meaning crocheted (or knitted) and nuigurumi, meaning a stuffed doll. Most popularly, amigurumi is done in crocheting, although more complicated techniques exist in knitting. It is a widely popular hobby, as well as a versatile technique–I mean, just look at everything you can do! Once I thought of it, I realized it would be a great idea for gifts for my cousins, with only one problem–I’d never tried it before, let alone do much crocheting at all.

But, as I typically am with most everything, I jumped into the deep end, starting with a simple duck pattern and then trying to design patterns for one cousin’s favorite video game characters. It was much simpler than I expected, being, in short, the art of creating shapes by combining single crocheting, increasing, and decreasing, all in the round. After creating each piece, you stuff them and join them to create a cute creature.

My first crocheted amigurumi, a fun and easy project in all.
My first crocheted amigurumi, a fun and easy project in all.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

  • Many patterns will start you off with something similar to “ch2, sc 6 times into second ch from hook”. Unless you enjoy the little gaping hole you get, don’t follow these starting instructions! Sample of that wonderful crevice in the duck’s beak above. No, there’s really no way to follow these instructions and get a starting ring closed enough not to look bothersome! The solution is called the Magic Ring, which basically has you crochet the first 6 sc on to an adjustable ring, which you pull tight, eliminating that annoying hole. A fantastic tutorial is available on PlanetJune, a crocheting site that has plenty of amigurumi tips as well as other crocheting resources.
  • Size doesn’t matter! Literally! The great thing about amigurumi is that the size hook and yarn weight you use doesn’t matter, as long as they’re in sync. Reading the recommendation on the yarn label for hook size and bringing it down a couple sizes will do. Thus, I imagine that if you took a particularly nice pattern and repeated it with different sizes of hooks and yarn, you’d get a cute family of different sizes. Yeah, I’m going to try that some day.
  • Who has to weave in ends in amigurumi? One amazing thing about having stuffed pieces is that you can just dump the hanging ends inside the project, stuff, and forget about it! Naturally, one should make sure that the ends are secure, but in general, knots are not required. Leaving ends inside the project is completely valid and an amazing time-saver.
  • I’ve mentioned it already, but I’m recommending it again; PlanetJune.com is an amazing resource for beginning amigurumi tips. I especially recommend reading/watching her Magic Ring and Joining Amigurumi tutorials, staples for anybody trying amigurumi.
  • Even more easily than knitting (which I’ve been doing forever), it is so easy to create your own basic amigurumi patterns! If you collect a couple good patterns for basic shapes, you can just modify them and join them together to create fancies of your mind’s eye.
    • I’d like to mention a pattern for spheres here, since we all know that the surface area of a sphere doesn’t exactly increase linearly, or exponentially. Thus, quite a few attempts at creating a good sphere pattern have failed. One mathematician of a crocheter set out to create the Ideal Sphere because of the lack of one. Check it out on her blog. Note that you can also create gumdrop shapes or dome-topped cylinders using half a sphere pattern.
  • Most amigurumi you’ll do, will, at the very least, include eyes. You could choose to embroider these, but the most common solution is safety eyes. These are basically black buttons which look like point-less screws. You can stick them through one of those convenient holes in the crocheting, and stick a securing washer on the back to keep it there forever. If positioned correctly, they can be the key part to the “cuteness” of your project. I happened upon a small quantity of them by chance in the buttons section of my craft store, but I imagine if you’re looking for more, and a wider selection, you’ll have to be looking online. (Safety animal noses exist too, in case you are doing a dog or cat, or the like.)
    • If you can’t find safety eyes, sewing on felt or embroidering with yarn are also feasible options.
  • Overestimate the yarn you’ll need. In migrating from knitting to crocheting, the main general part that I’m having trouble with is how much yarn I’ll need. It makes sense, though, that crocheting just takes up so much more yarn than knitting; each crochet stitch is made up of so many more motions, hooks, and yarn overs than knitting.

Another great thing about amigurumi is that there are already so many people doing it–there’s no end to the amount of patterns around, and definitely a surplus of people who can help you learn.

Amigurumi is a worthwhile technique to have in your basket, if you crochet. I’m usually hesitant to try new things, since I like to approach them slowly and correctly, but I was thrown into figuring the whole thing out within weeks. It’s a relatively easy hobby to pick up, and fun, too. I can just see it; I’m going to have done so much more of this in a couple months.

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Off the Hook: Amigurumi

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