Amigurumi 101: Part 1 – Never Give Up

Amigurumi alligator, pig, fox, and puffin.
Amigurumi 101: Part 1 – Perseverance

Amigurumi 101: Part 1- Perseverance

This is the first post in a four part series all for the amigurumi newbie! Part one of Amigurumi 101 focuses on the most essential skill any beginner must have and that is perseverance. The following three weeks will describe and demonstrate the fundamental techniques that you will need to master and become a confident toy maker!

While it is best for someone to have some basic crochet experience before attempting amigurumi, don’t let that stop you from trying!

I am a serial “giver-upper”, also known as a quitter. I have dropped out of almost everything I have ever attempted. Violin, Girl Scouts, gymnastics, and hair braiding are just a select few. Clearly perseverance wasn’t my strong suit. Whenever the going got tough, I just gave up! Thank goodness that is all in the past and I finally learned how to persevere.

Amigurumi 101 – It’s a Skill not a Talent

First of all, amigurumi is a learned skill, not a talent. You read that right. I often have folks comment that they could never crochet toys. While I do admit it takes a great deal of time to become proficient at making amigurumi, it is a skill almost anyone can achieve. Yes, I do agree it comes more easily to some. But the biggest predictor of success is simply the desire to learn.

For instance, maybe you’re looking at photos of the animals I, or many others make and you’re thinking, “That’s easy for you to say!” But hear me out! It took hours upon hours of practice to make my amigurumi look the way they do now. Yes, I’m proud of them. I’m proud because it took a lot of hard work to be able to make them. I’m proud because I made umpteen million mistakes but the point is I kept trying. Humor me and let me show you how I started!

First Project

About a year after I began crocheting, I began making baby clothes. Why? I have no idea. I had no babies and had no intentions of selling the clothes. The sweet tiny sweaters and crocheted dresses were just so addictive. I began watching a lot of YouTube tutorials from the wonderful Wooly Wonders Crochet. I was beginning to get the hang of basic garment construction when I happened to notice a tutorial for a stuffed bunny, an adorable, chubby bunny that is! I worked and worked on this little bunny and was so pleased with myself when I finished. I knew he was wonky. It was obvious he had some issues, but I was in love.

Wooly Wonders Crochet Pattern
Wooly Wonders Crochet Pattern

Amigurumi Patterns

Soon after, I began looking for more amigurumi tutorials and patterns. I came across the Animal Friends of Pica Pau book and I bought it instantly. I had never read an amigurumi pattern before but I was so enchanted by the cover and knew this was what I wanted to spend time doing. I began by reading the book like a novel. Beginning with page one, I read all the way until I reached the pattern section. I felt like I had a solid grasp on the construction. Naively, I dove headfirst into the Victor Frog pattern. I quickly became discouraged and wanted to quit.

Arguing with Myself

But something was different that day. I calmed myself down and had a little conversation with myself that went something like this:

Me: I can’t do this! I quit!

Self: So you’re just going to give up again?

Me: Of course I’m going to give up! This is ridiculously difficult.

Self: Is it really that difficult or are you just not willing to work that hard? You must not really want to make that adorable frog.

Me: Well that’s not fair.

Self: Other people can make amigurumi, why can’t you?

Me: Ummmm, it must be harder for me.

Self: Is it harder or is it that you just don’t want to work for it?

Boom. Did you hear that sound? That was the mic dropping! Lol! That last question literally changed not only how I saw making amigurumi but how I saw myself. Most of my life I had put minimal effort into hobbies and then became discouraged when I couldn’t do them. I decided then and there that this time was going to be different.

Want to learn how to read a crochet pattern? Please visit my blog post: How to Read a Crochet Pattern

Second Project

I went back to Victor Frog with a completely different attitude. No longer was I huffing, puffing, and uttering curse words under my breath! I decided to take the slow and steady approach. Calmly and carefully I read over the pattern. I took each step as it came and worked at it until it was right. When I hit a stumbling block I would research YouTube and blogs to figure out what I was doing wrong. Within a week I had completed my goal and had a frog to prove it. He wasn’t perfect but I couldn’t have been more excited.

Amigurumi frog with hand on his hip.

Third Project

Next, once I had gained a bit of confidence I decided to tackle Harry Wolf. He was a much more difficult pattern but his adorable face and ears motivated me to push through. I didn’t yet own safety eyes so I just used buttons. My stitches were uneven and my color changes were sloppy. Also I had no idea that you weren’t supposed to stuff the ears! Harry Wolf turned out to be completely weird and adorable, and I wanted to continue to improve my skills. Each mistake taught me something valuable. Therefore with each project I learned skills that helped me progress to be able to make the next toy even better!

Amigurumi Wolf.
Harry Wolf – Animal Friends of Pica Pau

From that point forward I began crocheting toys with the sole purpose of improving my technique. I wanted my stitches to be more even, I wanted my embroidery to be more uniform, and I wanted my sewing to be neater. I frogged sections that looked bad. Improving my technique became the motivating factor when choosing patterns.

Amigurumi Wolf closeup.
Button eyes, stuffed ears, and sloppy color changes! Oh my!

Want to see a side-by-side comparison of my first wolf and my third one to see the improvement practice and perseverance makes? Visit my blog post: You Can Make Amigurumi: A Tale of Two Walters.

You Can Make Amigurumi

I promise you can do this. Don’t believe me? Try it! Start with a YouTube tutorial. Work at improving your skills. Keep at it even when you feel like you aren’t making progress. Within a few months you will be able to see how far you’ve come.

Amigurumi 101 – Homework

Finally, this week’s homework is to watch Wooly Wonder’s YouTube video, Very Easy Crochet Bunny Tutorial. Then try making this adorable little rabbit or any of her beginner amigurumi tutorials! I think you’ll be surprised that you can do it! Please share your bunnies with me! I would love to see your progress!

Next week’s post will be all about how to choose a written pattern and color palette!

Wolf and Bunny Amigurumi Animals
My fist amigurumi projects!


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The Essential Amigurumi Toolkit

Never in my life did I think tools would be important to me. The very word “tools” conjures up the image of a dirty garage with hammers, screwdrivers, and those doohickies that clamp around things and turn them. But like any good craftsman we need good tools. They are a vital part of our craft and therefore their quality matters. A properly stocked amigurumi toolkit will not only make your life easier, I believe it will also improve the quality of the pieces you are crocheting!

The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.

Benjamin Franklin

Crochet Hooks

I have tried many brands of crochet hooks: wood, metal, cheap, and expensive. I have used different sizes and even different shapes. But I have settled on one that not only feels good in my hands, but does the job I need it to do. My hands down, absolute favorite crochet hook is the Furl’s Odyssey 3.5mm/size E hook. First of all metal is the only way to go in my humble opinion for amigurumi. I have tried wood but have found it to be “sticky”. It doesn’t slip through those tiny little single crochets the way only a metal hook can. I also like the shape of the Furl’s Odyssey hook. The tip of the hook is actually wider than the base of its neck which helps me to create the neat small stitches I love for my ami.

Furls Odyssey Crochet Hook – 3.5mm

You may also be interested in my post titled How to Read a Crochet Pattern

To see my post about my crochet room visit my post KonMari for Crafters

Stitch Markers

Stitch markers are another must have in your amigurumi toolkit. These are quite inexpensive but make the job so much easier. They slip easily into your stitches and keep the beginning of rounds clear and easy to see. I personally like the ones that resemble a safety pin and lock closed. There is nothing more frustrating than losing a marker and trying to figure out which stitch is the beginning of the round!

Stitch markers 100PC Mix Color Knitting Stitch Counter Crochet Locking Stitch Markers Stitch Needle Clip Knitting Crochet Markers(Color Ship Randomly)

Yarn Needles

Yarn needles are an inexpensive but necessary tool. They are blunt tipped at the end so that they will not easily split the yarn like a sharp needle would. They also have a very large eye designed specifically for yarn, not thread. I personally prefer the stainless steel type, not plastic. I tend to crochet quite tightly and need a nice sturdy needle for sewing pieces on.

Yarn needles BetyBedy Large-Eye Blunt Needles, Stainless Steel Yarn Knitting Needles, 9 Pieces Sewing Needles, Perfect for Finishing Off Crochet Projects (Silver)

Magnetic Needle Case

I didn’t always use a magnetic needle case but after dropping my regular one on the ground one too many times, I decided it was a necessity! As a child I stepped on a needle once and it imbedded into the heel of my foot. I probably don’t even need to tell you this but that HURT!!! I never want to repeat that mistake again, so magnetic needle cases for the win!

Magnetic yarn needle case Magnetic Needle Box

Embroidery Scissors

You don’t have to have a small pair of embroidery scissors, but I do find it more convenient. Large scissors are cumbersome for the job of amigurumi making. I also like the small sharp points of embroidery scissors to be able to closely clip yarn ends that have been woven in.

Scissors Embroidery Scissors – 4.53 inch, Stork Scissors Stainless Steel Gold Sewing Scissors Small Sharp for Crafting, Art Work, Threading, Needlework& BROSHAN (Gold)

Headlamp

This may seem like a super weird thing for an amigurumi maker to have but trust me, you will love this! It is definitely not a cute look, but oh so helpful! One summer night we lost power and I was in the middle of crocheting. I got out the headlamps that we keep around the house from my boys’ camping days. I strapped it on my head and continued crocheting. I quickly found that the LED light make seeing those teeny tiny stitches so much easier, even if the power isn’t out! I especially use the headlamp if I am crocheting with a super dark yarn or it’s late at night and my eyes are getting tired!

Headlamp Energize LED AAA Headlamp with HD+ Vision Optics, 4 Modes Flashlight 50 Hour Run Time, 250 Lumens (Batteries Included)

Pins

Pins are an absolute necessity for making amigurumi. They hold snouts, arms, and ears in place for sewing onto the body. I’ve tried not using pins and its just easier to use them. They are relatively inexpensive and mine have pretty glass heads!

Pins Outus 250 Pieces Glass Head Pins Boxed for Dressmaker (Multicolor)

Embroidery Floss

Black embroidery floss is something I use for almost each and every one of my toys. Noses, mouths, and eyelashes are typically stitched onto the toy and I usually like them to be black. I prefer embroidery floss over using yarn, which I think can look messy and bulky at times. Thankfully embroidery floss is quite inexpensive and a little goes a long way!

Embroidery floss DMC 117-310 Mouline Stranded Cotton Six Strand Embroidery Floss Thread, Black, 8.7-Yard

Amigurumi Safety Eyes

I am NOT a fan of stitching eyes onto amigurumi so I almost exclusively use safety eyes. So far my favorite eyes are in the link below. The reason they are my favorite is that the backs are easy to put on but don’t come off! If you have ever wrestled with the back of a safety eye, you know exactly what I’m talking about! This pack also comes with a wide variety of sizes and even little plastic noses! The only drawback to this particular pack is that it doesn’t specify what size each eye is. If that’s a concern for you look for safety eyes that specify that detail.

Safety eyes Hamineler 267Pcs Plastic Safety Eyes Nose Set, Plastic Safety Eyes (6-12 mm), Plastic Safety Triangle Nose (6-13mm) for Doll, Puppet, Plush Animal Making (5 Sizes Black)

Notions Pouch

Having a cute little pouch to keep all your notions all in one place is a wonderful thing to have! I like that a pouch keeps everything in one place, but it’s also convenient if you take your crocheting on the go!

Notions Pouch Cat Pencil Case Cats and Yarn Knitting Notion Pouch Kitten Makeup Bag Gift for Cat Lovers Pencil Pouch Small Cosmetics Bag

I hope this little list is a valuable tool for you as well! See what I did there?! Hehe! A properly stocked amigurumi toolkit is a wonderful sight to behold and will be in use for many years to come!

Full Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links and at no cost to you, I will earn a teeny tiny commission if you choose to purchase any of these supplies. Please know that I only recommend products that I believe are beneficial, not because of a small commission I might make. Thank you for supporting Le Petit Saint Crochet!

How to Edit Photos for Free

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I used to think photo editing just meant adding a fancy Instagram filter to my pictures. My favorites were Lark, Juno, and Ludwig. Now there’s nothing wrong with those filters but using an actual photo editing app gives you so much more control. More control = more happiness! Haha! Well, it does for me anyway!

I am not a photographer and I don’t claim to be an editing expert. I’m sure that a professional would cringe at my photo editing, but the way I do it makes me deliriously happy and it’s just so darn easy!

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Snapseed

The first thing you will need is the free app for your phone, Snapseed. There may be better editing apps out there, but this one is FREE! I love free! It’s also incredibly easy to use and I need easy. Head to your App Store and download this handy little tool!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to I photograph my amigurumi please visit: How To Photograph Amigurumi

I highly recommend playing around with the app so that you become comfortable with the different tools. I promise it becomes second nature once you’ve familiarized yourself with it. The great thing about it is if you don’t like your edits you can always revert the photo back to the original. So there’s nothing to lose!

Let’s get editing!

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Choose the photo you would like to edit

Open up your Snapseed app and tap on the large + sign on the screen and choose the photo you would like to edit.

Tap “Tools”

When you tap on “Tools” an entire menu will pop up.

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Tap “Tune Image”

Tapping on “Tune Image” will first bring up “Brightness” but if you scroll up on your screen it will bring up all the different tools in this section!

Brightness– This tool is fairly self explanatory. Scroll right to add more light to your photo and scroll left to bring that brightness down. Once you’re happy with that, scroll up to find your next tool.

Contrast– I like a decent amount of contrast in my photos. It increases the dark tones in the photo and helps them stand out. Play around with increasing and decreasing the contrast to see what looks good with your photo. When you’re satisfied scroll up to our next tool!

Saturation– This tool is one of my favorites and I can get a little “saturation happy” if I’m not careful. I try not to add too much saturation to my photos because it can distort certain colors like red and bright pink. If it’s overused the photo can lose its natural look. Of course if you’re going for a something a little wild then turn that sucker up!! Now scoll up to find our next tool.

Ambiance– this is a tool I really like. It can bring some light to dark sections without making it look bright. I especially like how it looks on natural wood. It takes away some of the shadows in a photo as well. Taking the ambiance down brings out the shadows and looks fantastic when you want those dark moody looks! Scroll up to find the next tool.

Highlights– this one is pretty self explanatory. It adds light but doesn’t seem to be a shadow reducer. Play around with adding and subtracting highlights to see what looks best in your photo. Typically I only add a little highlight to my photos. Let’s scroll up for our next tool.

Shadows– this is a tool I use sparingly. It is great when you need to reduce some of the shadow in a photo but I find that it can begin to look unnatural when it is overused. See what looks best for your photo. Do you like more or less shadow? Scroll up to find our last tool for this section!

Warmth– I definitely have warm tones in my photos but I typically don’t add much warmth to them. I usually never reduce the warmth to give my photos a cool tone. Which appeals to you more? I find that keeping photos either warm or cool in your Instagram feed helps give your account a more cohesive look.

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Once you’re happy with how your photo is looking, click the check mark on the bottom right corner!

Now let’s click back on “Tools” to keep editing!

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Tap “Details”

Details are probably my favorite tool in Snapseed. I think this is where you can really make your photos shine! I’m going to be completely honest here and admit something that makes me sound like an idiot…I really have no idea how these two tools are different  from one another! Yikes. But I use them with free abandon!!! You don’t need to know how they work to enjoy them, sort of like electricity, and airplanes, and telephones!

Warning! Adding Structure and Sharpening is a great tool for showing details, it’s not great on the aging human face! So I would skip this if this is a photo of yourself, but if it’s of your mother-in-law turn it up! Just kidding! Sort of. Teehee!

Structure– add more structure if you want to bring out the details of a photo. This is especially good for showing stitch definition and details!

Sharpening– Like the structure tool, sharpening makes your photos crisp and clear.

Tap the check mark

Tap back on “Tools”

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Tap on Tonal Contrast

Tap the check mark to see if you like what this does to your photo. I probably use this about half of the time. It brings out the details and adds some texture to the photo.  Tonal Contrast generally does not look good on human flesh. It makes skin look either very wrinkly or dirty, so that is no bueno in my book.  It can also distort some background images. You can always add it and then if you don’t like it tap on the back arrow icon to undo the edit.

Tap the check mark if you like the edit or the “x” if you don’t want to add it.

Tap back on “Tools”

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Other tools to play with

Some of the other tools that I occasionally play with are:

  1. Lens Blur – this tool is such a fun toy to play with! Add it to a photo to blur the background of photo. When you tap on Lens Blur it will add a bullseye to your photo with the focused section in the center, slightly blurred in the middle, and most blurred in the outermost section. You can even move the bullseye center for where you would like the focus to be. Also you can change the shape of the bullseye from a circle to an oval. This tool can give your photo a very interesting aesthetic and give your viewer something to focus on.
  2. Vignette – this tool is something I only occasionally use. It makes the photo darker around the edges and is another way to keep the focus exactly where you want it to be. It can also add that moody dark style that looks so good.

Snapseed has 28 total different tools and they each do something different. It’s a fun tool to play with and can bring out the best in your photos.

Free Printable Amigurumi, Crochet, and Knit Project Pages

 

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If you are anything like me you can’t remember what you ate yesterday let alone what brand of yarn you used for a project made six months ago! In an effort to become a bit more organized I created two printables so that I can keep track of all the details of a project in order to easily recreate it. I originally wanted them to be super colorful and pretty and then I remembered the price of printer ink…so I opted to go with plain ole black and white. Of course I had to add some cute, cuddly creatures and balls of yarn just to make them fun!

 

Read more about why I want to transform myself into an organized crochet diva here: KonMari for Crafters

But the best part is that I made the printables for y’all too!! Yay! Yippee!! The links are all the way at the bottom of the post! I hope you enjoy them both!

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Check out my Amigurumi Pattern Directory for links to this pattern and all my other favorite amigurumi designers!

These printables make it easy to keep track of every detail of a crochet and knit project, from the yarn brand, to the hook and needle sizes, and everything in between! Unfortunately I crocheted a beautiful sunburst granny square blanket back in 2017 and I no longer remember what materials I used. I would love to make another one with the exact yarn but I didn’t have anywhere to store that information. That is one of my big motivations for keeping these records!

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Another great reason to keep track of your project details is that it will be super simple to share with others. When your friends want to know exactly how you made that gorgeous sweater or your adorable mermaid tail all you have to do is take a photo of your project page and text or email it straight to them! Voila!

 

 

Amigurumi Project Page!

 

 

Crochet & Knit Project Page (1)

 

Free Printable PDFs! Say that five times fast!!

Amigurumi Project Page!

Crochet and Knit Project Page

Thanks so much for stopping by the Le Petit Saint Crochet Blog! I would love to learn about your best tips for keeping your creative projects organized!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Lessons Makers can Learn from Disney

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Pio Pig – Made by me – Pattern from Les Petites Mains de Khuc Cay

Yes, I am that crazy woman who brought a crocheted pig into Disney World and snapped a photo of him! On an average day almost 53,000 individuals enter the gates of  Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL. Gasp. Let that sink in for a sec… That equals over nineteen million visitors each year! It is the most visited amusement park in the world and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon, even with more competition coming on the scene in recent years.

We recently went on a wonderful trip to Disney World. It had been almost a decade since we had been there and I saw it with new eyes! Waiting in line for the Small World ride my family and I began discussing how well Disney deals with the overwhelming crowds of people. I noticed how clean all the little nooks and crannies were while waiting in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. At the Confectioner’s Shop I couldn’t help but be impressed with the smiles from the cashier even though she had likely been there for quite a while and had been ringing up customer after customer.  It got us all thinking about the inner workings of the iconic park and how they have perfected the concept of “experience”.

For the rest of the trip and the nine hour drive home I thought about how Disney does what they do and how well they do it. It began to dawn on me that many of these same principles can be applied to our own little handmade businesses as well!

(For more information about the pig pattern check out my Amigurumi Pattern Directory)

Branding

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No one, and I mean no one, has perfected their branding like Disney. Their font is instantly recognizable. The music, the movies, the merch… it doesn’t even need to have their name or logo on it and we all know exactly where it came from.

How can we as handmade makers begin to develop our own brand recognition? First I believe we all need to be clear about who we are and what we do. I have a few friends on Instagram that I immediately recognize their photos, I don’t even need to see their handle. The products they make, the style of their photos, and their consistent editing make them a brand, and a good one at that! One maker has a very rustic look throughout all her photos, another has bright pinks, yellows, and turquoise! They both have different photos, products, and messages they are promoting, but they stay true to their defined aesthetic.

Details

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I was awestruck when I really took the time to notice all the details at Disney. Since I had a lot of time to wait I started looking for them and I was not disappointed. Each and every ride had so many details, from the cobwebs at the Haunted Mansion to the antique furniture in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, no element was overlooked.

In my humble opinion details make the creation. What I mean by that is the little details create the entire piece. For example, my little piggie wouldn’t be nearly as adorable if he didn’t have eyebrows, or suspenders, or his little bowtie. Even if you are making a toy that doesn’t have a lot of details within the original design, that shouldn’t stop you from creating them yourself. Packaging and tags are another way to add those personal details that make toys special.

(For more about how to create those memorable details: Making Amigurumi: The Artistry is in the Details)

Consistency

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Disney shows up day after day, week after week, month after month…you get the idea. When someone buys a ticket to Magic Kingdom they can be assured that the quality of the rides, the food, and the entertainment value will be the same. I have been going to Disney World since I was a young girl and there is a sense of comfort knowing that I’m going to enjoy my favorite rides and shows.

As makers we need to show up, whether that’s on your social media accounts, blog, or website. We need to show up day after day, week after week, year after year. And that’s hard. It’s hard when you’re in a creative slump. It’s hard when you’re sick. It’s hard when you’re busy. But that’s what sets apart the serious makers from those who just want a hobby. There is nothing wrong with having a hobby, but for those of us who want more consistency is key.

Message

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Disney’s slogan is “The Happiest Place on Earth” and they work very hard to make sure that message comes across loud and clear. They aren’t screaming this statement from their rooftops but they are clearly communicating it. Every employee has a smile on their face. Every ride is full of happiness. Take the Haunted Mansion for example, some theme parks have haunted houses and they are scary! But Disney’s is spooky in a fun, childlike way. Their message is unambiguous and consistent.

What message are you trying to convey? Are you a serious maker, are you silly, are you quirky? What do you want people to know about you? How do you want them to feel when they interact with your content? Defining your message and communicating it in written and visual form is paramount to your success.

Service

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Every single Disney employee we encountered was friendly and knowledgeable. The waiter at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant was professional and conscientious. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was so charming. I’m certain that Disney employees are trained in excellent customer service.

We as makers should treat our own customers with great care. We are creating an experience for them as well. When they purchase a finished product, respond to our content, or buy a pattern they should feel our appreciation. I don’t have a physical storefront, but I do have a virtual one and I try to treat online customers just as I would if we were face to face. Making people feel welcomed is something each one of us can do!

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These five principles are simple. It doesn’t take a genius to see how important they are for handmade businesses but it does take effort, a lot of effort. What suggestions do you have for making your small business better? Do you have big scale organizations you look to for inspiration?

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Differences of Knitting vs Crocheting Amigurumi

Differences of Knitting vs Crocheting Amigurumi

I’m just going to admit this right here and now, I’m an amigurumi addict. I love making them and love learning new ways to create them.

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Even though I’ve crocheted dozens of amigurumi, knitting them was totally intimidating. I consider myself a basic knitter and was unfamiliar with the techniques used to create knitted amigurumi. When I discovered the adorable patterns from Mary Jane’s Tea Room I knew I had to give it a try! I’m so glad I did. Her pattern is also a tutorial in and of itself and worth every penny! There are wonderful explanations and photos to help along the way. She also has links to video tutorials to help with certain stitches.

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There are several differences between crocheting and knitting in general. The main one is in the way crocheted stitches are completed before moving onto the next stitch. Whereas in knitting the stitches stay on the needle until completed in the next row. The fabric each produces is also quite different. If you are nerdy like me and like learning about these things check out the fascinating Wikepedia article all about crochet and the differences between it and knitting.

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Differences in Crocheting vs Knitting Amigurumi

  1. The texture and attributes of the fabric                                                                               The differences in the fabric these two techniques create is striking. Crocheting creates a knobby, thick fabric while the knitted fabric is finer and smoother. But the biggest difference is in the quality of the stretch of the fabric. Single crochets create a nice tight weave for making amigurumi, but there is very little stretch at all. The stockinette stitch knitting creates is a very stretchy fabric which in turn changes the entire structure of the amigurumi animal or doll.img_3877
  2. In the round vs. flat construction                                                                                           Before making this pattern I had only crocheted amigurumi in the round. Those patterns typically either start at the top of the head and work down, from the nose and work in, or from the feet and work up. The teddy bear pattern from Mary Jane’s Tea Room (you can find a link to the pattern at the bottom of that page) is knitted flat and then seamed together. For quite some time this technique kept me away from attempting to knit amigurumi. It seemed so incredibly foreign to me and I wasn’t sure I was up for the challenge. But I found that its like any skill that just takes practice and a desire to learn.img_3883
  3. Seaming: Joining vs Mattress stitching                                                                                With crocheted amigurumi attaching snouts, limbs, and heads is a fairly simple technique. There is however a delicate balance between pulling the yarn tight enough to hide the stitches and not causing the fabric to pucker. Here is a link to a great Youtube video showing the way I like to join my crocheted amigurumi pieces: How to Join Amigurumi Pieces. For knitting, mattress stitches are used to close the flat sections to create the rounded parts. This stitch has proven to be a little tricky for me causing the joined sections not to look as neat as I would like. I did improve as I continued working the pattern. I found that using stitch markers to identify which rows should be joined together helped in making the seams more even. (Link to Youtube video tutorial for mattress stitch: Mattress Stitch Tutorial )img_3873
  4. Stuffing                                                                                                                                         In my book, this is the most important difference. With crochet, stuffing typically will not change the shape of the amigurumi toy. It is quite important to make sure that it is stuffed really well, it actually feels overstuffed. Over time stuffing will deflate a bit and an an under-stuffed toy will not look its best. In knitting, stuffing is part of the shaping process. The pattern may even specify which areas need more stuffing to create the desired shape. Because of the stretchy fabric knitting creates, strategic stuffing is imperative. If you add too much Polyfil to a knitted toy it will distort the the entire shape.         img_3914                       
  5. Final product                                                                                                                                Knitted and crocheted amigurumi may both be toys but the process and final product are quite different. The crocheted toy is solid, sturdy, and structured. The knitted toy is typically soft, squishy, and supple. Both are adorable and both have their challenges. I do not have a preference and believe that both are worthy of making. I plan on making many more crocheted and knitted ami!

I’m so glad that I didn’t let my fear of knitting amigurumi stop me from trying. My little teddy is far from perfect but he is perfectly wonderful! There are a plethora of great amigurumi toy patterns (Check out my Amigurumi Pattern Directory to find some of my favorites) but I have not found as many for knitted toys. Be sure that I will be on the hunt for them and will share them with you all!

Thank you so very much for coming to my blog! I am so incredibly thankful for each and every one of you! I would love to know if you have crocheted and/or knitted amigurumi! Do you have a preferred method?

 

KonMari for Crafters

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Why This Crafter Needs KonMari

This is the stuff of horror movies and I’m putting the carnage and chaos on full display.  I’m ashamed to admit that my beloved crochet room is no longer the pristine, restful place that it was just a few short months ago. When we turned our spare bedroom into a space for my own creativity I proudly shared a tour and was so incredibly proud of it. (You can read more about that here: A Room of Her Own: A Tour of My Little Crochet Room and What it Means to Me). Fast forward to today and it’s a complete disaster. A big hot, unorganized mess. The video below isn’t for the faint of heart! Lol!

I wish I could write that I purposefully trashed this room for dramatic effect for the blog. But sadly that would be a lie. This is the state it is currently in and I am bound and determined to do something about it! I’m sure by now you have heard about Marie Kondo, her book, and her Neflix series. KonMari has become a household word in my neck of the woods and has me so excited about taking control of my spaces.

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Fabric scraps in a mason jar, crochet books, and magazines piled high on an overstuffed dresser.

The KonMari Method

1 – Commit yourself to tidying up: 

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I’ve been avoiding this particular step for some time now. I’ve made excuses for why this space stays so unorganized like, I’m creative so it’s going to be messy. I’ve even equated messiness with creativity. But in actuality that is just a crutch and it only gives me a reason to keep the junk. So although this may seem like the easiest step it is probably the hardest for me. I’m committing myself to tidying up my crochet room and I’m no longer going to give myself a hall pass.

I do think it’s important to understand why this space has become so completely unorganized while the rest of my home is fairly neat and tidy. I think the number one culprit is too much clutter. There’s way too much furniture in this small room and it always feels crowded no matter how organized it is. I want to remove pieces of furniture to allow this space to breathe.

2 –  Imagine your ideal life

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When I imagine my ideal crochet room, it is roomy, uncluttered, organized, and beautiful. It creates a feeling of calm when I cross the threshold. It sparks my creativity and inspires original thoughts. Currently it is the exact opposite. It stifles my imagination. It causes me to feel anxious. I avoid it. It’s claustrophobic.

3 –  Finish letting go first

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I’m actually really looking forward to this part. I’ve been telling myself the lie that I need to keep certain things like yarn I don’t like, because I may need it some day. But truthfully I only use a handful of yarns and I rarely if ever even look at the others. I need to donate the yarn that I am never ever going to use again. I need to toss the scraps that somehow I have talked myself into keeping as well.

4 –  Tidy by category, not location

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Crochet tools in a repurposed makeup caddy.

This makes the most sense for this space. Tidying by category, not location, will make my job much easier. I’m going to keep yarns separated by brand and weight. (You can read more about my favorite yarns for amigurumi here: Yarn Recommendations). I want to keep my tools in a more logical order as well. Knitting needles and crochet hooks need a place of their own. My patterns have a file box but somehow when I pull them out they just end up in a pile on the floor.

5 –  Follow the right order

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Marie Kondo recommends tackling clutter in the following order:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items)
  5. Sentimental Items

I think for my crochet room I will adapt this since it doesn’t really fit for this space. For the clothes I will substitute my yarn and all other fiber materials. I will keep the books and papers in the above order. I’m also going to substitute tools for Komono. The final step will will be for miscellaneous items like my camera equipment. I don’t really keep sentimental things in my crochet room so that category can be eliminated. Here is my revised order for tackling this space:

  1. Yarn, embroidery floss, fabric, and ribbon
  2. Books and magazines
  3. Papers – patterns, certificates, printed articles
  4. Tools – crochet hooks, knitting needles, embroidery hoops, scissors, etc.
  5. Miscellaneous (anything else in the room like camera equipment)

6 –  Ask yourself if it sparks joy

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This is the part of the KonMari method that really speaks to me. Since I was a small child I have been personifying every single thing in my life. In middle school I remember a pair of Esprit espadrilles that had seen better days. I didn’t wear them anymore because they were so battered and worn out but I couldn’t bear to throw them out. I kept imagining how sad and betrayed they would feel at being discarded like just a piece of garbage.

Marie Kondo recommends holding each item to see if it “sparks joy”. Does it give a thrill or happy feeling when it is in your hands? If not, thank the item for serving you and either put it in the donate, sell, or throw away pile. I can really get behind this action. I love the idea of thanking items for their service, but at the same time removing them from my own home. It is acknowledging items for what they are and have done and letting go without guilt. img_4046

I’m actually looking forward to this process now. I have a plan and for me that is half the battle! Do you follow the KonMari method for your home or crafting area? How do you keep your creative spaces organized?

Interview with an Amigurumi Designer: Crochet to Play

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Have you ever thought that something looked fairly simple, but when you actually tried doing it yourself you found it incredibly difficult? No, just me? Haha!! Well that is exactly what amigurumi design is! When a designer does it well, they make it look easy and that certainly is the case with the talented Jennifer behind Crochet to Play

Jennifer’s style is whimsical and full of the wonder that fills childhood play. I found Crochet to Play just last year and was immediately impressed with her unique designs and adorable characters. I feel lucky to now consider her a friend. Jennifer’s designs are so imaginative and I want to make every single one of them! I was honored to be able to pattern test her Felicity Fawn pattern last month! Isn’t she adorable?

I’m not the only one noticing Jennifer’s work, recently her Little Red and Wolf pattern was published in Crochet Now magazine! She is currently designing animals for her Forest Friends collection and has released Mrs. Millie Mouse and Felicity Fawn. Jennifer just finished designing Mr. and Mrs. Hedgehog and they are the cutest pair you ever did see!

I am amazed with Jennifer’s “scope for the imagination” (bonus points if you know where that phrase comes from) and I can’t wait to see what is up her sleeves! I hope you enjoy this interview and I just know you’re going to love her work!

 

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Jennifer from Crochet to Play

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, husband, kids, job, favorite food, movies, hobbies outside of crochet. I’m from the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where I met and married an amazing guy and where we’re now raising our three sweet kids together. We met at a golf course over 18 years ago – I was a cart girl and he worked in the restaurant. The rest is history!  I’m a part time teacher (I work with students with reading difficulties like dyslexia) and mostly I’m just a busy mom. I love Mexican and Italian food and tend to binge-watch Hallmark movies while I crochet at night. Crochet is definitely my main hobby, but if I don’t have a hook in my hand, I love making memories with my family – going on walks, to the zoo, or to the beach.
  2. When did you start crocheting? I started crocheting about nine years ago when my oldest daughter was a baby. I wanted to be able to make her cute things and was intimidated by knitting, so I learned to crochet. I knew a little bit from my mom and grandma and learned the rest from the public library!

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    Daniel and the Lion’s Den

  3. When did you start making amigurumi? One day, a few years ago, I was browsing the yarn aisles at Michael’s and I stumbled across Ana Paula Rimoli’s book Amigurumi World.  To say I was mesmerized by the cuteness is an understatement! I fell in love with amigurumi right then and there and haven’t stopped making it since.
  4. When and why did you start designing amigurumi? I designed my first amigurumi pattern (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) three years ago. I was ready to transition from selling made-to-order items, mostly hats at the time, to something totally different. So I gave designing a try, and knew right away I wanted to design amigurumi. I had (and still have!) notebooks full of ideas that I couldn’t keep inside. It was a slow start, maybe a pattern every few months at first, but it has built up over time.

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    Little Red Riding Hood

  5. What does your creative process look like? Like I just mentioned, I have notebooks full of toys, themes, and sketches of amigurumi I’d like to make. When I officially begin a project, I generally do a quick sketch and then decide on yarn colors. This can be painstaking for me. I can always “see” the finished design ahead of time and then have to find yarn to match my vision. Once I finally do, I map out the parts and pieces I’ll need to shape and join and then I start experimenting until I get it right!
  6. Why do you think people should make amigurumi? Oh, so many good reasons!  I think amigurumi makes people smile. It’s such a unique niche in the fiber arts.  It’s very satisfying to make a toy from start to finish, especially as your skills improve and you can enjoy it more and more.

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    Felicity Fawn

  7. What makes you excited about the yarn and crochet community? I am crazy about the crochet community!  I absolutely love the connections I’ve made with other makers in this craft – people from all walks of life who get just as excited as I do about a yarn delivery, or a new finished project, or a pattern release that has roped us all in. Social media has given us a window into how many amazing makers are out there right now, putting their fresh stamp on crochet. It’s being modernized in a lot of ways and I love getting to see it and being a part of it.
  8. What are your goals and dreams for Crochet to Play? This year, I’d like to continue releasing patterns from series I’ve started – more animals for the Forest Friends, more Bible stories, with a few other patterns in between. I would like to grow Crochet to Play in the future as my kids get a little older, but I don’t yet know what that will look like. Perhaps books, perhaps with a blog.  It’s been a dream come true already so I am open and excited to how it’s going to grow.

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    Christmas ornaments

     

    You can find Crochet to Play on Instagram and Etsy

    If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

Making Amigurumi: The Artistry is in the Details

Do it Scared…Explore Your Creativity

 

 

How I Healed my Crochet Elbow: AKA Tendonitis

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I tend to overdo things. When I’m interested in a subject I will eat, breathe, and live every single minute detail and then some. Crochet has been no different for me, if anything it’s been more engrossing than anything I have been passionate about before. I love reading about it, looking at it, writing about it, and doing it!

I began having problems early in 2018. I would occasionally experience pain and stiffness only in the right elbow but that began to change as the months wore on. By spring of of that year the pain was waking me up at night and doing normal everyday activities began causing me a lot of discomfort. Gripping items like a hairbrush caused lightening bolt pain to radiate up and down my arms.

For months I tried to ignore it. I tried a few home remedies but nothing worked. Finally I went to the orthopedic doctor. He diagnosed me with Tennis Elbow, or tendonitis. He recommended a shot of cortisone in the joint might help with pain and advised that I take some time to rest. The injection itself was fairly painful, and I say this as a woman who has given birth with no anesthesia! It wasn’t horrific but it was definitely uncomfortable. By the next day I was actually regretting having the injection done because I was feeling a good bit of pain. By day three the discomfort was noticeably better. A week later I claimed that I was completely healed and went right back to crocheting 24/7.

Approximately three months later the trouble with my elbow was worse than ever. Everyday activities were even more difficult and I was now emotionally worn out and discouraged. Something that brought so much joy to my life was now causing so much harm. I reluctantly went back to the orthopedic doctor. He recommended that I begin physical therapy and that’s when my condition finally began to improve.

The following suggestions are what I learned from the physical therapist I worked with. She was very knowledgeable about repetitive motion injuries and how to heal them. I am so grateful for her wisdom and understanding! I hope you find something that you can apply to your own life to either help heal tendonitis or help prevent it.

Rest

This was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. I did not want to put my crochet hooks down for any reason, but eventually the physical therapist convinced me that I would never get better if I didn’t. What surprised me was that I didn’t have to put them down for days, weeks, or months at a time. She just recommended that I only pick them up for a max of a couple of hours a day and to take breaks. This seemed very reasonable to me and I began implementing this right away. I stopped the marathon crochet sessions late into the night. I started taking breaks every thirty minutes or so. If I could only recommend one suggestion this would be it!

Stretch

When my physical therapist first examined my arm she noted all the knots up and down my forearm, around my elbow, and up my tricep. These knots are caused by tight muscles and tissue bunching up and causing pain. During my crochet breaks my PT encouraged me to stretch. I would stretch my wrists, elbows, chest, forearms, and back muscles. As with most things, in the beginning I would overstretch and cause pain and more damage. My PT taught me that stretching should never hurt. Push to the point where you feel the stretch but not to the point of discomfort.

Ice

This is my second most important suggestion. After putting ice packs on my elbows following crochet sessions I began noticing considerable improvement right away! This was the hardest thing for me to remember to do, but I also believe it made a huge difference in my recovery from tendonitis. I used simple gel packs from Walmart and always kept one in the freezer so that I could apply it at any time.

Identify

Identify what triggers your pain. While listening to a BHooked podcast about different types of yarn I learned that cotton could be part of my problem. (You can read more about that here: Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cotton Yarn) I switched to wool and wool blend yarns and began to notice a big difference right away. During my physical therapy treatment I tried using cotton yarn again and immediately began feeling that familiar pain. I haven’t picked it back up even though I absolutely love the look and feeling of quality cotton yarns.

You can read more about my favorite podcasts here: My Favorite Handmade Business Podcasts

I also identified that holding my dog’s leash was causing problems as well. My physical therapist recommended using a different type of leash that I could wrap around my forearm rather than by holding the handle on the type we have.

Crocheting was definitely the main trigger for my tendonitis but there were other factors that were contributing to it. Really begin to notice what could be causing pain, even if it seems too small to be the culprit. You might be surprised what little things you are doing in your own life that could be causing problems!

Strengthen

My physical therapist used a metaphor that helped me to see more clearly the objectives we were trying to achieve through strength training. She compared crocheting to running. Just running improves your cardio condition and endurance levels but to prevent injury you need to strength train. The muscles you use to crochet need to be strengthened to prevent injury down the road.

My preferred way to gain strength is through yoga. Many people think of yoga as more of a stretching activity, but upper body strengthening is a key component. I regularly practice gentle yoga through the YouTube series Yoga with Adriene. There are a few poses that do cause pain in my elbows and wrists so I adapt them or skip them altogether. For the most part it has been the easiest way for me to gain the strength I need and stretch tight muscles caused by crocheting.

Heal

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“Dry needling is also called trigger point dry needling or myofascial trigger point dry needling. It is done by acupuncturists, some chiropractors, medical doctors, and some physical therapists (PTs) to treat myofascial pain. The word “myofascial” is made up of the roots “myo” (which refers to muscle) and “fascia” (which refers to the tissue that connects muscle).

Muscles sometimes develop knotted areas called trigger points. These trigger points are highly sensitive and can be painful when touched. They are also often the cause of referred pain (or pain that affects another part of the body). Clinicians push thin solid needles through the skin into trigger points. The needles are used to stimulate the tissue, not to inject medication.” – Cleveland Clinic

Dry needling is not something I was particularly looking forward to. Thankfully I’m not afraid of needles, but they aren’t my favorite either! Dry needling was done during my physical therapy appointments and was one of the best things I did to help heal my tendonitis. The sessions were $30 each and were well worth every penny. The physical therapist explained that inflammation is not always a bad thing. By injecting the needles into specific trigger points she was causing controlled inflammation. She explained that bringing fresh blood into the area would help the healing process. I’m so glad that I didn’t let the fear of a little additional pain prevent me from doing this treatment. It did cause discomfort at times, especially when she would tap the bone with the needle. When she would pinpoint a particularly good area my muscles would spasm! She always got excited when that happened because it was a sign that she had gotten the right spot!

Wait

This is the absolute hardest part. I can be a very impatient person and want problems to be fixed yesterday. Tendonitis definitely taught me that healing takes time. Typically there are no easy fixes, especially if you wait a long time to deal with a problem. My current strategy is to prevent tendonitis from happening in the first place. I work really hard to rest, stretch, ice, and strengthen routinely so that I keep my joints healthy for years of healthy crocheting!

I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful! I would love to hear about some of your own tips for keeping your joints healthy for crocheting and knitting!

Making Amigurumi: The Artistry is in the Details

 

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I have been enamored with details since I was a little girl in elementary school when I discovered they could be useful. In third grade our teacher had an art project for the students to make. The assignment was to draw a scene on a plastic plate that when treated would render the artwork permanent. What I discovered was that the more I added to the picture the longer I could stay out of class. I can still remember adding worms in the grass and birds in the sky. “Just one more,” I would say and surprisingly the teacher just let me. That is the day I discovered that details weren’t just for fun they could come in handy!

Many wouldn’t define making amigurumi “art” but I believe there’s at least of hint of it in every creation. The dictionary defines artistry as “artistic quality of effect or workmanship.” Crocheting something beautiful or useful is at the very least a skilled craft or to put it another way, workmanship. But making something that creates emotion in another person, whether that is happiness, joy, or wonder takes artistry.  Being an amigurumi maker takes both skill and artistry.

When making amigurumi the details are what make the object come to life. With each project there are choices to make. Those choices will determine not just the size and shape of your project but its personality and uniqueness! This quote by the great coach John Wooden sums up my feelings perfectly about all the details involved with making amigurumi!

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” John Wooden

The following six steps are the decisions that I make for each and every project and I hope you find them helpful!

Yarn Weight and Hook Size

This is the grand decision that needs to be made at the beginning of each and every project. The yarn is what serves as the inspiration for the whole project. For the wolf pattern, from the wonderful and talented Yan Schenkel (you can read more about her work here: Book Review: Animal Friends of Pica Pau), I first had to choose which weight and  brand of yarn to use. I chose the Berrocco Vintage wool blend specifically because of its soft touch and the slight fuzziness it creates. It is a worsted weight fiber and it comes in so many gorgeous colors. With that particular yarn I have found that I like using a 3.5mm hook. It creates nice small stitches that do not leave big gaps or holes for the stuffing to show through.

You can read more about my yarn preferences here: Yarn Recommendations

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Colors

Many times I use very similar colors that the designer chose but I have the most fun when I go off the rails and try new things. For this particular wolf project I decided to stick with a traditional gray and white color scheme. I love the heathered gray and feel that it gives this project a rustic look. Currently I am in love with mustard yellow so I chose that for his shirt. The gray, white and mustard were the first colors I chose and I used them as the basis for the other colors I wanted to add. I decided on a rusty orange and mossy green colors for his little cowl.

Just changing the colors could have made this project look completely different. If I had used a reddish orange instead of the gray he could have been a fox! Or I could have made him a her by adding more traditionally feminine colors like pink and mint green for the shirt and cowl colors.

You can read more about my color inspiration here: Winter Color Inspiration

Eye Size and Shape

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Eye size and shape can also completely change the look of your amigurumi. I tend to like 9 mm round safety eyes. But I have seen others use oval and multicolored eyes as well. It completely changes the appearance of the project. It is surprising that such a small thing can make a really big difference. You could also not use safety eyes at all and embroider them on. It’s such a cute design feature to stitch the eyes closed to make them look like they are sleeping or just closing their eyes in pure happiness.

Nose and Mouth Embroidery

This is where you can get really creative! Do you want a small nose or a large one? Do you want to use a satin stitch to fill it in or just make it a simple “V” shape? Will the mouth be smiling, frowning, or absent altogether? I enjoy this part of amigurumi but it is the most challenging for me. I have found that a sharp embroidery needle instead of a yarn needle works best. I also prefer using embroidery floss rather than yarn. It can be quite tricky to make sections of a nose even or a smile look straight or curved. I had to practice so much to make them look cleaner and neater than when I first began making amigurumi. I am also not afraid to rip it all out. I redo the mouth and nose until they look the way I want them to. To be completely honest though I always see room for improvement and am never 100% happy.

Tags

Personally I really enjoy making tags for my amigurumi! My current favorite are black tags and I use a white gel pen for writing the text. They look like miniature chalk boards and I feel it also helps to give them a vintage look. I also like using the craft brown tags and black ink. I prefer doing them by hand rather than having them printed. I can personalize them so much easier that way. I also always add who the designer is to the backside of the tag.

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Ribbon

Ribbon can be used to solidify the style you’re going for. I love that rustic look and choose ginghams and twine to hammer my style home. There are so many affordable ribbon options that coordinate with any project! Changing the ribbon could easily change the entire design aesthetic! You could also add ribbon that have a holiday or even a sports team theme.

IMG_3691Amigurumi details are what make projects truly personal and unique.I hope that you have found this post useful! I would love to hear what your tips are for adding those special touches to your amigurumi projects!