Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated with the stuffed crochet dolls that were on my mom’s Annie’s Attic magazines. I wanted to learn how to make them so badly, but learning from a left handed crocheter proved to be too challenging for my seven year old self. So when I decided to give it another go nearly 30 years later, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. And the perfectionist in me wanted to make the best.
I hear so many people say they’re too intimidated to try Amigurumi, that they’re afraid of how it will turn out, that it will be too difficult to follow the pattern. I promise, it’s SO easy. So I compiled a list of tips and tricks I've used over the years to improve my ami.
1. Use Invisible Increase & Decrease
I see this a lot in the online crochet groups I'm part of. When someone is working in the round, and their decreases are leaving gaps in their work and the stuffing is poking out. Invisible Decrease is a MUST in ami and I use it all the time. Did you know you can do an invisible increase too? Here's how:
Invisible Decrease: Insert hook into front loop of next stitch, then insert hook into front loop of following stitch after that. Yarn over and pull yarn through first two loops on hook (two loops should be left on hook). Yarn over and pull through both loops on hook. Nerdigurumi has an excellent video tutorial you can check out here.
Invisible Increase: Sc in front loop only of next stitch. Sc in both loops of same stitch. Ellen Gormley has an excellent video tutorial on two different increase methods here.
2. Don't Overstuff!
I usually add this in the notes of each of my patterns, but I think it's a good thing to mention: DO NOT OVERSTUFF (unless the pattern calls for it). I find a lot of ami patterns use specifically placed increases/decreases/stitches to help give the body of the ami a particular shape, and when you overstuff, it tends to lose that intended shape and looks more "blobbish". There is definitely such thing as overstuffing, so try to find that sweet spot where you have just enough stuffing to fill out your ami and compliment the shape!
3. Yarn Under and Not Over
I will be the first to admit, I've known about this technique for a while, but I haven't started to implement it until recently. I blame this solely on reverting back to habit, because the difference between the two in ami is a slightly tidier, tighter stitch (which in turn uses less yarn). I find that Yarn Under is more time consuming, but if you can break the habit of doing yarn over (yo), give yarn under a shot and see if you like the difference!
4. Face Sculpting/Shaping
If you're creating a doll in any capacity, I find that one thing I think makes them stand out above the rest is face sculpting. I started doing this to my dolls a few years back, and I find it makes a world of difference. It helps give the face more definition and life-like qualities, and stands out more than just a flush/flat face. Check out my video tutorial I did on face sculpting below:
5. Thread Jointing
This isn't always possible for ami patterns, but when it is, I love to do it on my dolls. It gives the limbs full range of motion, and if you add in wiring, allows them to be pose-able as well. Here is a video on Thread Jointing limbs:
6. Colour Changing/Jogless Stripes
I find when you are working in continuous rounds, and you need to do a colour change, the colours connect choppy and don't flow well. This is how seamlessly change colours when working in the round:
7. Find the Perfect Yarn
This one is a toughy, mainly because there is no right answer to this one. I can recommend yarns I use and love, but depending on how you hold your yarn and hook, your budget, the purpose of your amis, what works for me may not work for you. I tend to lean towards thinner worsted weight yarns. This way the stitches aren't as bulky or defined. Cheaper acrylic yarn works up okay, but I find that it frays and pills easily, and doesn't hold shape well. It's great on the budget, but if your ami is going to see some play time with young ones, you might want to look for more of a soft cotton blend. I absolutely LOVE Knit Picks Comfy worsted. It's a pima cotton blend and works up beautifully. However it's a little more on the costly side because the skeins are so small. I have found the Knit Picks Brava Worsted is a great compromise and you'll find I use it in 90% of my ami patterns. It's affordable, light weight (a finer Worsted Weight, almost closer to a DK weight), stands up well to use, and doesn't fray as easily. When I'm working with larger projects, I tend to favour Bernat Premium from Yarnspirations. It's a thicker worsted weight that holds up relatively well to normal wear and tear, and is easy on your bank account. When I'm visiting the States, I like to stock up on I Love This Yarn from Hobby Lobby. It reminds me of Bernat Premium, just a touch softer and glides easier on the hook.
8. Smaller Hook = Tighter Stitches
In the crochet groups I'm in, I find a lot of beginner ami makers struggle with loose and gappy stitches. Asides from the previously mentioned invisible increase/decrease, a smaller hook is almost always the answer. The great thing about ami is that it doesn't necessarily need to meet a gauge. You'll just end up with a larger or smaller ami depending on if you go up or down a hook size. If you're struggling with large gaps even when you use invisible decreases and the yarn under method, try going down a few hook sizes (even if the pattern calls for a larger size). I have a crazy tight tension when I crochet, so my stitches are naturally tight (it's a problem when I try to crochet clothing and obtain specific gauges), so if you naturally have a looser stitch, try going down a few hook sizes until you find a nice tight stitch when making your ami.
9. Neck Support for Floppy Heads
When I was younger, my mom crocheted my sister and I dolls. The dolls head was slightly warped, but I loved that doll fiercely. The only thing that drove me crazy was that her entire head was constantly flopped over. There are a variety of methods you can use to keep the head upright (stitch around the neck, use wooden dowels), but the most child friendly one I found was foam hair rollers. These rollers are the perfect circumference for a dolls neck, they are layered in foam (so soft and squishy for kids to play with), they are pose-able, and they are found at most Dollar Stores! If you are working the head and body as one piece, just insert these rollers up through the neck so you have an end sticking up into the head and one going down into the body, and you will have perfect neck support for your ami!
If you're feeling extra ambitious, you can make your ami posable by adding an aluminum wire frame! This a great way to add extra character to your amis!
10. Pin Extra Pieces/Facial Features
If you are working on an ami where there's lots of sewing, I always recommend marking where the pieces are supposed to be attached (I use stitch markers or bobby pins), then pin the piece in place. Once the pieces are pinned in place, you can verify that everything is where you want them to be and then sew each piece into place. If you are just sewing each piece into place as you go, you will find that pieces won't be symmetrical and won't make your completed ami look as neat.
That's my Top 10 list for tips on Amigurumi! If you've been hesitant to try your hand at ami, try these tips and let me know how it goes! Have more tips that I don't have listed here? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll compile a part 2!