By Armina Parnagian

http://arminas-aminals.blogspot.com

Amigurumi – Ami what? A few years ago that would have been the response. Amigurumi, pronounced “AH-MEE-GOO-ROO-MEE”, originated in Japan, but the craze has hit almost every household today. Amigurumi means “crocheted toy” – you may also see it referenced as “Kawai”, which means “cute.” So what is Amigurumi? It is a “cute crocheted toy”.

The Amigurumi bug bit me a few years ago and I am totally in love with designing and creating these adorable stuffed toys. I am a self-taught crocheter-knitter. I learned how to crochet and knit over 20 years ago, and I’m still learning and exploring this incredible craft. I love designing, creating and sharing this wonderful art with my fellow crafters. My first love is crocheting, and if I do knit an item, I often add a crocheted embellishment.

Everything around me is an inspiration. I always carry a notebook and pen, since you never know when the creative juices will start to flow. I start with a rough drawing of what I plan to create. From there, I decide on the size I want to make, whether miniature, small or a larger toy. Then I move on to selecting my yarn and my hook. I prefer to work with acrylics for my Amigurumi and usually select yarns that are readily available at most yarn stores. I keep my patterns uncomplicated so the beginner can pick up my pattern, read the directions, and complete the project.

When I started crocheting, I did not have all of the resources that we have today. I started with a book, a hook and some yarn – and trial and error. Lots of errors! Today, even the novice can learn how to crochet with all of the learning tools available over the internet. To quote Julia Childs, “Don’t be afraid.” What is the worst that can happen? You take it apart and start over, and I have done that so many times! I encourage everyone who is interested in crocheting, whether it is Amigurumi or any other item, to venture forward and take the challenge head on!

I use basic crochet stitches throughout my Amigurumi; single crochet and occasionally the half double, double and treble crochet. Amigurumi is always crocheted in the round, which means continuing your stitches without turning. I encourage using a stitch marker to mark the beginning of each round to eliminate mistakes. Amigurumi is very forgiving – if you have one stitch more or less, your piece will turn out ok. However, it’s best to keep track of your stitches and use stitch markers.

To crochet Amigurumi, you have to make your stitches tight, to prevent the stuffing from showing. Your stitches will stretch a little as you stuff your piece. Amigurumi is easy to sculpt. By sculpting I mean you can shape and give definition to certain parts. For my stuffing, I use 20 oz weight polyester fiberfill. I’ve tried many different kinds of stuffing and weights and found this works best for me. It produces a soft toy, is dense enough that you don’t need to overstuff your item, and is readily available.

As for tools, I use several. The Clover Soft Touch Ergonomic hook eliminates cramping of my hand when crocheting over a long period of time and it’s comfortable to hold. Since Amigurumi requires tight stitches, your hand may cramp. If your hands do start to cramp, stop, shake your hands, exercise your fingers and take a break. This is supposed to be an enjoyable craft, not torture!

I use a stuffing fork for my smaller pieces, which enables me to stuff tiny crocheted pieces without going insane. This wonderful tool is available online at most craft suppliers and comes in two sizes, large and small. I use the small one most of the time. The stuffing fork is a thin piece of metal with the tip split like a fork. It is easy to grab the polyfill and twist it around the fork end, then insert it into the crocheted piece. I also use a jeweler’s flat nose pliers when turning a finished piece inside out. They work best for smaller crocheted parts and prevent the poking of holes in the piece. I utilize a dog brush with metal bristles to brush my yarn for a furry look, a toothbrush for grooming the brushed pieces when completed, safety eyes and safety nose, available online and at craft stores, and real human make up, like blush, for accentuating a specific feature. I even incorporate needle felting into some of my amigurumi pieces. This technique gives a clean finish without stitch lines or the need for gluing. I have tutorials on my blog for some of these techniques.

Sewing needles – just as important. I use blunt darning needles for assembling the basic pieces, sewing needles for the embroidery floss and finer sewing, and long 7” doll needles for thread jointing.

My technique for assembling the Amigurumi is this – assemble as you go. For example, you crochet the head – insert the eyes and stuff the head, now set it aside and crochet the ears. When the ears are done, you attach the ears to the head and move on to the next part. Assembling as you crochet eliminates having 6, 7 or more pieces lurking at you, which can be daunting.

I always embellish my Amigurumi: ribbons, bows, buttons, artificial flowers, felt, tulle, beads, pompoms, the list goes on. These add that finishing touch. I stock up on these whenever I visit the craft store.

My creativity never stops. I love learning new things, experimenting with new techniques and seeking tools that will make my craft more enjoyable and rewarding, not to mention easier. The world of crochet is reborn and rich, with so many avenues to explore.

With all that said, are you ready to pick up a crochet hook and yarn and create some magic?


Armina


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Mitzi the Maltese


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