Crochet

Designing Amigurumi: How to get Started

You’ve probably seen amigurumi before: You know, those cute little crocheted people and animals. You may even have made some, using patterns like the ones I post here. If you’re here, what you’re probably wondering is where to start if you want to design your own amigurumi.

When I first started making amigurumi, I spent tons of time looking at cute creations and wishing for a free pattern. I’m a student, and don’t exactly have money just lying around to buy patterns, even if they’re for reeeaaally cute things. So, being a bit of a chance taker, I figure I could save some time by just making up my own patterns. The first one was a bit of a disaster.

It’s been about a year since then, and I’ve made quite a few more amigurumi, including a number that I’ve designed myself. After getting some practice in, here’s some tips for getting started:

Make Lots of Amigurumi

I’m not talking about having made one or two, I’m talking tons of them. Fill a shoebox with them, if you’re like me and prefer to make small ones. Fill a small book shelf if you tend to make larger ones. Try out tons of different patterns. The more amigurumi you make, the more of a feel you’ll get for how patterns work.

Experiment with Increases and Decreases

Before you try to design a whole piece, see what happens if you move your increases and decreases around on a ball. If you’re trying to design pieces, you probably know by now that a fairly standard set of increases gives you 6 stitches, then 12, then 18 etc. And most of the time, you increase evenly, but when you’re designing something that’s not a sphere, which is most of the time, you end up using increases unevenly. What happens if you increase three times in a row, and then work evenly the rest of the way around? That side starts to stick up, like you might want over the muzzle of a dog or cat.

Experiment with what different increases and decreases look like by creating different balls and tubes. Take note of what combinations form what shapes (I’ll share some of mine in another post). When you’re doing this, make sure to work at least 2 rows evenly after the unusual row or rows to get the full effect of the shaping. And stuff your pieces: stuffing can dramatically change the shape of your little ball.

Head First

This is probably a little controversial, but I always like to start my amigurumi by making the head. Especially with animals, the head can be the most distinctive and complicated part. Starting there gives me a chance to work on a difficult part in whatever size is easiest for me, keeping in mind roughly how big the final toy will be. I also find it easier to scale the body, usually a simpler shape, to the head than the head to the body. This may just be a personal preference, but I recommend you give it a try.

Reference Pictures

I don’t care if you Google a picture, or draw up your own creature, you absolutely cannot create an amigurumi doll without a clear idea of what it’s going to look at. I often just Google a picture and look at it, but sometimes it’s worth drawing a little sketch. The point is to get what you’re trying to make down on paper, preferably with an idea of what colours it will be and what details are most important. This picture is an important starting point for your next design.

Amigurumi Pieces Everywhere

Don’t try to do everything in one pieces, or as few pieces as possible. I cannot emphasize this enough. When I started making amigurumi, my least favourite part was sewing all the pieces together, so when I started designing my own, I tried to make them in as few pieces as possible. Unfortunately, that often means that you’re trying to make a really complicated shape using increases and decreases, and it probably isn’t coming out how you want it. Break down your creation into simple shapes to put together.

Scyther’s body, with one green armor patch sewn on

Most things can be broken down into spheres (or sort of awkwardly shaped sphere like things), hemispheres, and flat sections. Think about a dog’s muzzle: You could try to make the beginning smaller, and then increase on one side to show where the head gets taller and the muzzle stays in. This can work, and it’s a strategy that I use a lot when the muzzle is pointed, or not very pronounced. But what about something with a blocky muzzle, like a pug, or just a large muzzle, like a lab? Here, it becomes easier to make the muzzle, whatever its shape, separately, and sew it onto a roughly spherical head. This strategy works for a lot of more complicated shapes. It’s just easier to break the animal down into pieces and then sew it together.

 

Also, feel free to layer pieces. When I designed Scyther, I saw that he had some green over white on his upper body. Rather than fussing with lots of colour changes, I made the green pieces separately from his main body and sewed them on afterwards. The result looked good, and the construction didn’t give me a headache.

Start Small

I’m not saying that you have to make small creations like I do. Just don’t start off trying to make a really complicated piece. A good jumping off point is to make a variation on a pattern that you have. For example, if you have a pattern for a German Shepherd, you might try adjusting the head and colours to look like a Labrador Retriever. Or you might go a little further and try to make a Beagle by changing the ears, legs, and head. Once you get comfortable adjusting patterns, you’ll feel more ready to try making your own. (Disclaimer: Do NOT just modify someone else’s pattern and then try to claim it as your own. Of course lots of patterns are similar, and it is possible that you could have come up with the whole thing independently, but remember to give credit where credit is due)

Hopefully these tips have helped you get started designing your own amigurumi. I’d love to see your creations. If you’re not feeling ready to jump right in, I’ll be posting again soon about the math behind increasing and decreasing (EDIT: The next post in the series is now live here), and its effects on the shape of your creation. To make sure you don’t miss a post, subscribe to my weekly updates, sent out every Sunday to let you know about any posts made during the week.