What are amigurumi?

What are amigurumi? by hookabeeAre you new to amigurumi? Or have you ever wondered where they originate from and what the word actually means? Read on!

Amigurumi are knit or crocheted stuffed toys. They are hugely popular right now, and with reason. Ami (short for amigurumi) are super cute diy plush that can be made with minimal tools and supplies (a hook/knitting needles, a yarn needle and some yarn!) and are relatively easy to make. They are being made around the world by all sorts of people –  teens, adults, women, and men.

Making a little owl amigurumi by hookabee

Amigurumi originated in Japan, the land of kawaii (which means cute). The general wave of cuteness in Japan began following the devastations of WWII. Supposedly, this cuteness trend started as a way to change the image of Japan and to help people cope with the everyday stresses of work. One of the most well known examples of the kawaii craze is the Sanrio character Hello Kitty.

“Ami” means knit or crocheted in Japanese, and “nuigurumi” means stuffed creature or doll. Anything can be made into an amigurumi toy, from cats and bears to anthropomorphic pencils and sushi. Amigurumi can be as small as a dime to super sized and huggable.

Koko the owl amigurumi by @hookabee

The art of making amigurumi didn’t arrive in North America until the early 2000s, but its popularity has grown like crazy. The methods of making ami have changed to suit the preferences of Americans, such as fully written instructions vs. the typical diagrams found in Japanese patterns. The basics remain the same, however, such as working in the round and making them, whatever they might be, really cute.

Hanna the squirrel amigurumi pattern by @hookabee

Amigurumi are fun to make and are a great way for knitters and crocheters to make something other than another scarf, hat or sweater. In the summer when you are itching to use your hook, but don’t want to make something that will keep you warm, amigurumi are your answer. When you want to give someone, anyone, not just children, a fun handmade gift that will make them smile, laugh, and keep them company, amigurumi are perfect. Ami patterns are quick to make, use a small amount of yarn (usually), and allow you to bring to life a little character. If you haven’t made one yet, I highly recommend trying!

Little Walden the Narwhal amigurumi crochet pattern by @hookabee

Don’t forget to sign up for my amigurumi newsletter to receive emails filled with ami fun. You can also follow me on facebooktwitterinstagram, and pinterest to keep up to date on all things hookabee.
Until next time,

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Both loops vs. back loop only in amigurumi

both loops or BLO in amigurumi by @hookabeeThere isn’t just one way to crochet an amigirumi. Some people prefer to crochet through both loops, others like to work into the back loops only, and still others prefer to have their pieces with the ‘wrong side’ facing out. In this post I compare the two methods of working in the back loop only (BLO) and working in both loops.

So what do BLO and both loops mean? What is the difference? The difference is in how you insert your hook into the stitch you are crocheting into.

Both loops:

When stitches are worked through both loops (indicated by the two black lines in the photo below), you insert your hook under the front AND back loop of the stitch you are crocheting into.

Crocheting through both loops in amigurumi

Back loop only (BLO):

On the other hand, when stitches are worked into the back loop (indicated by the single black line in the photo below), you insert your hook only under the back loop of the stitch you are crocheting into.

Crocheting through back loop only in amigurumi

The differences between each method:

Texture and appearance:

This difference is probably the most obvious. When you work into the back loop only, the front loops remain on the surface of the fabric, creating ridges, or lines, at each round. These free front loops can be handy for counting rounds, attaching pieces, and placing stitch markers (for various reasons!). When working in both loops, the surface of the fabric is more uniform and less textured.

both loops vs. BLO appearance in amigurumi

Softness:

When working through both loops, no matter how soft your yarn is, your fabric can only be so soft because essentially when you touch the surface of the fabric you are feeling a bunch of knots. With BLO, however, you can touch the smooth font loops that lay on the surface of the fabric, over the knots. If you are using a nice soft yarn when working into the BLO, you can feel it!

Thickness and stretch:

While working into both loops creates a thicker, more stiff fabric, working into the BLO creates a thinner, more flexible fabric. Pieces that are made by working into both loops tend to hold their shape better and don’t stretch out as much. Pieces made by working into the BLO, on the other hand, are often more plush and squishy.

Stitch height:

This is where you have to be careful when you are following a pattern: each method creates a different stitch height, and therefore creates a different shape in ami pieces. Working into the BLO creates a taller stitch, while working into both loops creates a shorter stitch. This difference is exaggerated when you start stuffing pieces because the BLO fabric stretches to be even taller. In the photo below, both pieces were made using the same pattern, yet the BLO piece is significantly taller.

both loops vs. BLO stitch height in amigurumi

You need to be aware of this when you want to make an amigurumi from a pattern using the opposite method than what the pattern specifies. Say you have a pattern that is made by crocheting into both loops, but you prefer BLO. The shape of your ami may look quite different from the sample in the pattern and you may need to make some adjustments, like decreasing the number of rounds, if you want it to look similar.

Which method should you use?:

There is no wrong way to make amigurumi – it is all a matter of preference! Both methods have their pros and cons, and it is up to you to decide which is your favourite. Some people don’t like the look of working into the BLO so only work into both loops, while others love how the exposed front loops look and prefer BLO. But it isn’t all about how an ami looks, one also needs to consider how enjoyable they are to make. Experiment with both methods and see which is the most fun for you.

Most designers work exclusively in one method or the another. For example, Stacey of FreshStitches prefers working into the BLO, while June of Planet June prefers working into both loops. Me? I am kind of on the fence, but I have my legs hanging way over into the BLO side.

I love the look of working through both loops – the surface is so smooth and uniform. For some patterns this method makes the ami look fabulous, but then I will think, “that looks like a lot of work to attach all those pieces.” The main reason I prefer BLO over both loops is the ease at which you can attach pieces. I think assembly is one of the hardest and least enjoyable parts of making amis, and I think many others will agree! It is so fun to make all the pieces, but then they sit around in a pile as you procrastinate attaching them all together. Your hobby shouldn’t feel like a chore! You crochet to relax and have fun, no? When I work into the BLO, I almost enjoy attaching pieces! It is a lot easier and faster because you can use the front loops that are free on the surface of the fabric to attach all the pieces. Plus, I love how easy it is to count rounds and attach stitch markers (which we all know I love!) using the front loops.

Within my patterns I mostly use BLO, but for some pieces within a pattern I will choose to use both loops. I like to make at least the main body BLO, not only for ease of attaching pieces, but also so that the body is soft and squishy – a big plus for large amis like my big bee Bobby! Also, I do find that I can crochet faster and more easily while working in the BLO, so for me it helps to use that method when making larger pieces. But, if I want a piece to have a smooth surface or a stiffer fabric, I will work into both loops. For example, Walden the Narwhal’s horn is made by working into both loops so that it holds its shape better, and Koko the Owl’s eye circles and beak are also made by working into both loops because I think they have a better shape and look that way.

Koko the Owl amigurumi crochet pattern by @hookabee crochet (www.hookabee.com) #crochet #amigurumi #owl #patternWalden the Narwhal amigurumi crochet pattern by @hookabee crochet (www.hookabee.com) #crochet #amigurumi #narwhal #whale #pattern

All in all, I like to mix things up! While most of my amis and their pieces are BLO because I find it easier and more enjoyable to crochet, there are times I prefer to work into both loops. What is your preference?

Until next time,

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The ultimate amigurumi CAL

At the start of this month a great crochet-along (CAL) began on ravelry that is all about amis: the Ami-Along. Didn’t know about it until now? Don’t worry!! It is still going on and won’t stop until the end of August.

ami-along logo

Don’t know what a CAL is? Basically, a group of crocheters make the same thing (could be the exact same pattern, or simply a theme) and cheer each other on as they complete projects. Members of the group have fun sharing photos as they work on their projects, as well as a photo of their finished item so everyone can admire it! CALs are also a great place to ask any questions you might have about the specific pattern you are working on, or any general crochet questions. There are always people in a CAL group that are willing to help a fellow crocheter out, and have the know-how to do so, too.

You can discover some great new designers by joining a CAL.  This current Ami-along includes patterns from 14 different amigurumi designers (including myself).  Some designers even have knit ami patterns, so really, it is a KAL (knit along), too.

One of the best things about a CAL? The possibility of winning a prize! Many CALs include prizes for some of the lucky participants.  There are a limited number of prizes, but the more projects you finish and share to the group, the greater chance you have of winning one.  I know for this Ami-along, there are many many patterns to win, as well as some physical items that will be mailed out. You could win a hookabee pattern if you join in!

Amigurumi moustache by @hookabee

So if you love making amigurumis and plan on making some this summer, head on over to ravelry and join the Ami-along group! There are already over 250 members and more joining every day.  Some members have already started sharing their hookabee creations!

Until next time,

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