Where Did Amigurumi Come From? A History of Crocheted & Knitted Toys

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The history of crocheted & knitted toys (amigurumi) is a fascinating one dating back centuries. Through twists and turns this amazing craft has made a big splash in the twenty-first century and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon.

Have you ever wondered where amigurumi originally came from? Or how long ago it was invented? Meeeee too!

Anytime I become interested in a subject, I want to know all there is about it. So I did a little detective work to find out where this amazing craft got its start and the story behind it’s beginning. 

Now, just a little warning. As much as I love history and finding out the stories behind my favorite pastimes, I am not an historian. So take these findings as anecdotal. I’ve done my best to consolidate a lot of different information that I gathered on the internet, but obviously, I could be wrong. 

After we talk about the history, I’ll share a little more about why I began making amigurumi and why I find it so darn addictive.

History of Crocheted & Knitted Amigurumi Toys

Amigurumi doesn’t have a specific start date. It evolved over time and there’s even some debate over when and where it actually began.

Most articles that I found believe that its earliest form began in ancient China, during the Shang dynasty to be exact. 

During the 17th century Dutch traders arrived in Japan and brought the craft of knitting. It was picked up by the samurai who learned how to make socks (with toes) for ease of movement as well as warmth. They also knit mittens and decorative adornments for their armor. 

Check Out the Most Adorable Amigurumi Doll Patterns

What Does the Word Amigurumi Mean

At some point our beloved craft got an official name, “amigurumi”. It’s the combination of two Japanese words “ami” meaning knitted or crocheted and “nuigurumi” which means stuffed creature. Ami + Nuigurumi = amigurumi.

People around the world were making small knitted and crocheted toys for hundreds of years. They were simple playthings for children. If you are ever curious, check out the (ADD WEBSITE) to see some of the antique patterns for knitted and crocheted toys. You’ll find some interesting patterns there. 

Check out the Antique Pattern Library

Japan’s Influence

But what we call amigurumi really didn’t get its start until the 1960s in Japan. 

During that time, Japan was changing rapidly after World War 2. People were moving from a more agrarian society to a more urban existence. 

History of crocheted and knitted amigurumi

Kawaii

The kawaii movement began in the 1970s and its leading lady was Hello Kitty. With her oversized head and little pink bow, she became an icon of all things cute. 


“Roughly translated as “cuteness,” kawaii is one of the most frequently used Japanese words. In a broader sense, it describes the culture of celebrating all things adorable and embracing fictional characters as the embodiment of positivity. Originating as a distinctly Japanese cultural trend, the concept soon evolved into the worldwide phenomenon it is today, spreading through many aspects of modern life, including art, fashion, technology, and even food.”

My Modern Met

Spring Knitting and Watercoloring

This evolution towards everything little and cute spread throughout the world and eventually ended up in the hands of crocheters and knitters who likely thought….I can make that.

Internet

With the invention of the internet and its adoption by most people around the world in the early 2000’s amigurumi began to spread like wildfire. 

Now people were able to share patterns easily and share photos of their own creations across the globe.

history of amigurumi
Amigurumi Designing, Sock Knitting & Book Shopping

Rise of Social Media

Social media took it even a step further by making it even easier for us to connect with people with similar interests, no matter where in the world they lived.

Because of how adorable amigurumi is, it’s only natural that when people could easily see photos of it, they wanted to learn how to do it for themselves. 

My History of Amigurumi

My own history with amigurumi began back in December of 2017. I had been crocheting for about a year as a way to cope with my son’s serious health crisis. 

Being a complete ball of stress, I needed something to distract me from the stress and worry. I also needed something I could easily tote around with me to doctor’s appointments and hospital visits.

Initially I was very happy crocheting blankets, but one day I happened to see a tutorial for a little stuffed bunny and although I thought it was cute, I thought I could never make something like that.

But then the thought occurred to me, well why not? Why couldn’t I learn how to make cute crocheted toys?

Wooly Wonders Crochet

The very first tutorial I ever made was from Wooly Wonders Crochet and I was hooked. I stayed up late into the night to make my bunny.

Looking back, I see so many mistakes, but at the time I was smitten. I was so excited that I made something that looked remotely like a rabbit. 

Three Little Pigs Amigurumi Patterns

Animal Friends of Pica Pau

That was also around the time that Yan Schenkel published her book Animal Friends of Pica Pau (the first volume). 

The very first time I saw that little frog on the cover, I knew I had to make him. 

From that point forward I continued to crochet little toys and my love and knowledge of amigurumi grew and grew.

The Best Knitted Toy Patterns for Beginners

Beginner Amigurumi Designs

I even began playing around with designing my own patterns, like the Bitty Bunnies, Princess Bernadette Bear, Roddy Rat and Magik Kitty. 

Find my FREE Amigurumi Patterns Here

These days you’ll find me designing more of my very own toys and still just as obsessed with amigurumi as ever (maybe even more so). 

The History of Crocheted & Knitted Toys – Amigurumi

I truly believe that amigurumi is a wonderful hobby that brings happiness and joy to those who take up this amazing craft. 

We are truly blessed to live in an age where any pattern we want is at the touch of our fingertips. Some of us can order books off of Amazon and have them shipped within a day or two right to our homes. Many libraries are even beginning to stock amigurumi books as well. 

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