Once you get the hang of a few basics, crochet is absolutely fun and easy. The best part is you don’t really need much to get into it. After all, all you really need is a yarn, scissors, and a crochet hook to start crocheting.
If you’re looking for an easy project to get started, start with an animal. There are many different techniques to crochet stuffed animals but one that is gaining so much popularity is a Japanese method called amigurumi. The word comes from the combination of the Japanese words ami, which means crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, which means stuffed doll.
Stuffed animals are great projects for beginners, as they’re small and mostly using only single crochet stitches. They’re also crocheted in the round, so you don’t have to deal with those tricky turning stitches. In short, you don’t really need advanced crocheting techniques to be able to make stuffed animals for your kids and quirky friends.
Getting Started with Amigurumi
In order to crochet amigurumi, the first things you have to learn include how to follow and read crochet patterns. But reality is, once you’ve mastered the single crochet, you’re pretty much set as almost all amigurumi patterns use this basic stitch. Truth is – the most difficult part for any crochet beginner is learning how to hold the yarn in order to achieve the right tension. You need to find a grip that is comfortable for you, so you’ll be able to achieve consistency.
Tension is very important in amigurumi because unlike normal crochet, your stitch tension has to be snugly tight to prevent holes from forming. You constantly need to readjust your grip for your stitches to get the look right.
Now that you’re ready with the basic principles, these are some materials that you need to have in your toolkit. Aside from your hooks, yarn and scissors, it would be helpful to have safety eyes and polyester fiberfill stuffing on hand. Usually, polyester stuffing comes in big bags and you can make a good number of crocheted animals just with one big bag. Be sure to stuff your amigurumi appropriately, as putting in too little results in a limp amigurumi while putting in too much might pop your amigurumi wide open.
The starting point of amigurumi patterns is a magic adjustable ring. It is a way to begin crocheting in round by crocheting the first round in to an adjustable loop and then pulling the loop tight. Just make sure you don’t make the stitches in the ring too tight.
If you don’t want to do an adjustable ring just yet, you can always make a loop with a chain of 2 or 4 stitches. This allows you to become more comfortable with single crocheting in the round until you’re ready to attempt the adjustable ring already.
Once you’re done crocheting in round, you can start crocheting in spiral. Crocheting in spiral is the real foundation of amigurumi. Unlike crocheting in rounds, crocheting in spiral creates an even fabric that sort of hides where the last stitch of a round is.
In order to give shape to your creations you need to learn how to increase and decrease. Increasing is nothing more than crocheting two or more stitches in the same stitch, while decreasing involves taking two or more stitches and turning them into one. The good news is that amigurumi is usually created with just the single crochet stitch.
When it comes to increasing, crocheting more than one stitch in the same hole can potentially stretch it out and create a small gap under the increase. Yet you can easily mitigate this problem by choosing softer and more flexible yarns like wool or acrylic. For decreasing, the first thing you have to do is insert the hook under the front loop of the first stitch. Make sure not to yarn over. Next, bend the tip of the crochet hook down and insert the hook under the front loop of the second stitch and pick it up onto the hook. Finally, yarn over and draw through the first two loops.
The best part about amigurumi is that it is pretty forgiving when it comes to missing stitches, so it is acceptable if you lose count of your stitches and you’re off by a stitch of two. Make sure you finish off both your open and closed pieces. Once you have crocheted all the body parts of your amigurumi, you just need to attach and sew them together, and you’re good to go.
Tips for Crocheting Amigurumi
There are a lot of great sites for free stuffed animal crochet patterns, so use the Internet to your heart’s content to find ones you’d like to make. The good news is that amigurumi is really easy to personalize, so you can even try making your own variations on basic patterns and see what you come up with.
Just be careful not to make your stitches too loose for amigurumi, as this will get your stuffing to show through. If you have troubles readjusting your grip or maintaining consistent tension, one good way to avoid this problem is go down a hook size or two to make your stitches smaller.
Don’t forget to make use of stitch markers, even if amigurumi is a technique is more forgiving than others. Whether you’re counting rows or stitches, it’s easy to lose count in crochet, so best to utilize one to make sure you stay on track. You can also use a scrap piece of yarn in a different color to replace an easy stitch marker. Just stitch over it each row so you can tell where your rows end.
Lastly, don’t be intimidated by amigurumi. Even if it seems to be complex at the onset, just take it one step at a time. Break it down per body part and you’ll find that it’s not all that hard. If you focus on making one piece at a time, you’ll make it easier to tackle. You can do it!