I learned to crochet when I was 9. In fact, I took private crocheting lessons, which sounds pretty fancy until I mention that I took my lessons in a basement filled with pink yarn and plastic baby dolls whose bodies doubled as blankets. My teacher treated me well; she didn’t rap my knuckles or stab me with embroidery needles or traumatize me with rust-and-avocado-colored Granny Squares. Even so, she did not manage to make me an avid, lifelong crocheter, mainly because I had no interest in a long lifetime of making scarves, blankets, and other forms of winter wear. It wasn’t until 30 years later, when I met a tattooed, pink-haired woman who told me I could crochet things like eyeballs and demonic squirrels, that I decided I might love the yarn arts after all.
The Missing Link
According to my pink-haired friend, Sarah, I needed to look into “ami,” which was short for amigurumi, which turned out to be Japan’s way of saving all of us from death by winter wear. (And to Japan I say…domo arigato.) In brief, amigurumi are crocheted, stuffed dolls or toys. People create everything from sweet-natured girls in dresses to drooling zombies in business suits. Some dolls sit nicely in the palm of the hand; others prefer a couch, since they stand more than a foot tall. Ami of both sizes may or may not raid the liquor cabinet during the night.
Although some people make ami for children, plenty of other people make them for adults – or to add to their own collections, which can build up quickly. With free patterns abounding on the internet, anyone with a crochet hook can, for the price of some yarn, have an adorably sparkly mermaid, a Dr. Who doll, or a Dr. Who doll leaping into his crocheted TARDIS with an adorably sparkly mermaid.
Starting A Collection
Amigurumi make easy and accessible projects, even for beginners. I’ll explain some of key things about making ami, but be aware: Crocheting small, adorable critters can prove addictive.
• According to every ami expert everywhere, it’s essential to keep the white polyester stuffing on the inside of the doll from showing on the outside. Making tight stitches will help to achieve this goal, as will the selection of a hook at least two sizes smaller than the one recommended on the yarn label. (The author of the ami pattern may indicate what size hook s/he used, but unless you’re using the exact same yarn, that information will not necessarily be relevant. Check the back of the yarn, and size down twice.)
• Be sure to pick up a bag of that polyester stuffing I just mentioned, along with a stitch marker – but not the super-affordable round plastic stitch markers in the store. Those stitch markers are for knitters, which no one told me until I bought a package, took it home, and broke three of the little buggers in half, at which point, my mother-in-law said, “Ann, those are for knitters.” Anyway, just use one of the safety pins in the corner of the junk drawer. As an added bonus, they’re free.
• Ami are crocheted in the round, or in other words, in a circle, which is created by crocheting into the same stitch five or six times.
• Making ami involves a lot of counting, which is not to be confused with expressing algorithms or doing anything so complicated that it becomes impossible to drink wine while working. At the end of each row, the pattern provides the correct stitch count. As long as your count matches the pattern’s, huzzah!
• When the pattern says to “sew” or “stitch” the ami’s head to its body, there’s no need to go rummaging in the sewing basket for thread that matches the yarn. Instead, leave a length of yarn at the end, and use that yarn to sew the parts together. Well, that yarn and an embroidery needle.
• Some crochet patterns call for plastic eyes, which are available at many craft and hobby stores. Meanwhile, most ami patterns don’t call for a neck. Ami don’t tend to have them, which is part of the reason they are irresistibly cute.
What Kind of Crochet Skills Are Really Needed to Make Ami?
To follow an easy ami pattern, master these basic crochet moves, including:
- Chain stitch
- Single crochet
- Fasten off
Excellent videos abound on YouTube, making it possible to watch as people demonstrate the exact stitch required. Put another way, it’s easy to learn all the fundamentals necessary for making ami just by using the internet.
Amigurumi Pattern: Voodoo Doll created by Ann D’Angelo