Recently I’ve been having fun designing my Festive Crochet Friends pattern which are simple top down amigurumi*. It’s been a while since I made any of these little softies as they are sometimes called.
It took me a while to remember all those little tricks you use with crochet ornaments that you don’t tend to use in every day projects. I even learned some new ones!
I’ve found it really useful to remember these techniques, so I thought I would share my 7 most useful tips for working with amigurumi.
*Amigurumi is the Japanese art of making crochet or knitted stuffed toys. The term has been appropriated by the mainstream and is a whole specialist area of crochet.
Although I love to play with it, I am by no means an expert. There are many incredible and talented amigurumi artists (and it is absolutely an art) out there. I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to it, so do have a look for some of them if this area is of interest.
In crochet, amigurumi are typically made using only single crochet (UK double crochet), working in continuous rounds, using increases and deacreases to achieve an, opaque, shaped or moulded fabric which can be stuffed to create a host of characters.
Many crocheters like to use cotton for their amigurumi because it creates beautiful stitch definition, but you can use pretty much any yarn. In my most recent pattern, I used acrylic dk because I wanted a softer cosier vibe than you get with cotton.
With the summary out of the way, lets get straight into the tips!
1. Keep your hook size small
Starting with the basics.
You want to create a super tight fabric with no holes, so that the stuffing doesn’t fall out.
I will always go down at least a hook size, so for a double knit yarn I would use a 3.5mm hook. You could even go smaller but I’m not one for battling stitches to get the hook in (crochet is meant to be relaxing), so 3.5mm is fine for me!!
2. Magic ring
As mentioned earlier, amigurumi are, generally speaking, worked in continual or spiral rounds (without joining or turning). These rounds normally start with 6 stitches.
Side note: to create a flat circle with single crochet (UK double crochet), you start with a round of 6 stitches and increase by 6 stitches each round.
The magic ring is kind of a glorified slip knot that you can work into and then pull tightly closed. It will ensure you don’t get a hole in the centre of your first round. Again, this is important to stop the stuffing peeking out.
You can find a video tutorial for the magic ring here. It takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve got it, you’ve got it for good!!
Here’s what the first round working into a magic ring looks like before you pull it through.
3. Use invisible increases
Once you’ve started your ami, the chances are you’re going to start increasing right away.
The traditional way to do this is to work 2 single crochet into the same stitch. In amigurumi patterns, it will often just say INC to indicate this instruction. These patterns use short hand and the style is a little different to how I tend to write patterns.
A typical amigurumi pattern might look something like this:
- R1: 6sc in MR. 6 sts
- R2: 2sc around. 12 sts
- R3: [1sc, inc] x 6. 18 sts (2sc meaning 1 sc in each of next 2 sts and increase in the next st)
- R4: [2sc, inc] x 6. 24 sts
- R5: [3sc, inc] x 6. 30 sts
- R6: [4sc, inc] x 6. 36 sts
- R7: sc around
Note that I outlined this as an example here to give some context, but I will also refer back to it later.
When you work in continual rounds, you won’t see where the start of each round is, so it’s recommended to pop a place marker in the first stitch of the round. Especially if you’re likely to have your counting disturbed! I use a scrap of yarn and flip it over each round.
When working traditional increases, you may find that working 2 stitches in the top of a single crochet creates a gap (which is not what you want for pretty dolls).
To avoid this, the invisible increase works the first of the two stitches by inserting the hook into the front loop only, and the second of the two stitches into both loops.
This means you only go under both loops once, minimising the chance of creating a hole. It’s a great little technique and useful for all kinds of crochet projects, not just softies.
4. Use the invisible join for ‘jogless’ colour changes
Lets say you’ve worked the first 6 rounds of the pattern example above and now you want to change colours and keep working 36 stitches each round.
If you use the traditional method of joining your new yarn in the last pull through of the previous stitch before the colour change, then you are going to get a distinct change.
Essentially, it will look like you changed the colour in the middle of a round.
Now this might be what you want.
But if you want to create a smooth round so your work looks like it has a clean stripe then you will need to use the invisible join.
The picture below shows the back of my elf decoration where all the joins are. You can see the slightest bump where the beige changes into the green, but I think it’s pretty smooth. And once it’s stuffed, you won’t notice it at all!
This technique is not perfect but I find that the more I practice it, the better I get.
The invisible join is a game changer for fastening off rounds in any crochet project, whether worked in continuous rounds or in joined round. Definitely one for your crochet tool kit!
5. Invisible decreaeses
Just like with your increases, traditional decreases can leave holes in your work because the top of the stitch tends to be a little bigger than standard.
A typical decrease, if you’re not familiar with them, would use a single crochet 2 together (sc2tog), made by inserting your hook under the first stitch, yarning over and pulling up a loop (2 loops on hook), then inserting your hook into the next stitch, yarning over, pulling up a loop (3 loops on hook), then yarning over and pulling through all 3 loops.
This pulls two stitches into one.
The invisible decrease uses a similar technique but, like the invisible increase, works with the front loops. So you would go about it as follows:
- Insert hook into front loop of next stitch and the front loop of the following stitch, so you have 3 loops on your hook (do not yarn over or pull up a loop in between)
- Yarn over and pull through 2 loops so you have 2 loops left on your hook (this is the equivalent of pulling that loop through after inserting your hook in a typical single crochet)
- Yarn over and pull through the last two loops to complete the decrease
This takes a little getting used to but is another great trick. I will be giving it a try in some of my other projects I think.
6. Staggering your increases and decreases
We’re going to refer back to the sample pattern for this bit.
You might have noticed that when working flat circles with a small increase repeat (like the 6 stitches we are using here), your circle ends up looking more like a hexagon than a circle.
This is because all of the increases are made on top of each other which creates a kind of false seam. When you stop the increasing to create a round shape, you’ll end up with something a little more geometric than a curved sphere.
To avoid this, and this is something I suggest for most projects worked in the round (if the stitch pattern makes it appropriate), you can stagger the placing of your increases.
So lets take Rounds 5 and 6 of the example;
- R5: [3sc, inc] x 6. 30 sts
- R6: [4sc, inc] x 6. 36 sts
To avoid the increases stacking, you want to work the increase on top of an sc, not another increase.
So you could change Round 6 to read:
- R6: [1sc, inc, 3sc] x 6
You will still work 4 sts between the increase, but this way your inc is going to be placed on the second of the 3sc from the previous round.
As you continue to make increases, you can stagger where they are placed. One approach is to move the increase 1 stitch along each round to avoid this stacking.
I confess that I tend to go a bit off-piste with this staggering and place the increase roughly in the centre of the set of sc from the previous round!
7. Yarning Under
This last tip is a new one on me, but I’ve given it a try and can get on board with it.
Normally when you make a single crochet, you insert the hook, yarn over, pull up your loop, yarn over and pull it through two loops to finish the stitch.
In amigurumi many people replace both the yarn overs with ‘yarn unders‘, where you grab the yarn with the hook on top.
So your yarn under single crochet would read;
Insert hook, yarn under, pull up a loop, yarn under, pull through two loops.
The physics of it all is a bit beyond me, but this technique creates a tighter stitch with the vertical posts filling the ‘gaps’ you sometimes get with a traditional single crochet.
It takes quite a few tries to get the knack of yarning under (especially when you pull through the last two loops to complete the stitch). I found it hard to challenge my muscle memory to yarn under instead of over, but eventually I got the hang of it. I found it pretty enjoyable to change things up actually.
It definitely creates a tighter tension, and does require a little more forcing of the hook, especially with increases. Or so I found.
Here are two of my festive fellas, the one on the left (with the white bobble on it’s hat) worked with a traditional yarn over and on the right (red bobble), worked with a yarn under. You can judge the difference for yourself!
And with that cheery scene, I am done!
I haven’t gone into detail about adding limbs and sewing parts together here because, honestly… I am not great at it, so it would feel a bit wrong offering advice in that area! I don’t enjoy sewing the bits on as I’m a bit clumsy about it. It’s one of the reasons I favour one piece softies!!
I hear that using bobby pins to position your parts before you start sewing is a good place to start though!
I hope that you find these tips a useful addition to your tool kit, for amigurumi and for other projects.
If you have another tips for working these cute characters then I would love to keep learning and sharing, so do drop them in the comments 🙂