Amigurumi - Tips, Tricks, & Things to Consider
Updated: Jul 6, 2021
Amigurumi, crocheted & stuffed toys/creatures, is a wonderful creative outlet for any crocheter. Amigurumi is both the name of the craft and of the final product.
Amigurumi can be made of any size & material and there are no limits on what you can create! However, if you’re trying Amigurumi for the first time and you’ve only ever made items that are worked flat (e.g. blankets), the task can seem a bit daunting. Have no fear! This post is all about tips & tricks for working Amigurumi. Whether you’re a beginner working in the round for the first time or have some experience and are wondering if gauge really will make a difference (hint: it will), this post is for you.
Tips & Tricks to start your project:
1) Choose your patterns wisely.
This is true for everyone, but especially true for beginners. It’s tempting to start with an ambitious and complex project, but far more valuable to scaffold your learning of this new craft by beginning with something simple (and working your way up). A suggested sequence:
First project: Amigurumi Pumpkins by Mevlinn Gusick
Skills: Working in the round, creating spherical & oblong shapes, attaching small accessories.
The pumpkins are quick and easy to make, change hook and yarn size to scale up! Experiment working with different gauges and textures while making your own pumpkin patch.
Second project: Theo the Bunny by Veronika Cromwell
Skills: Adding limbs without sewing, semispheres + tube = limbs, creating clothing, effects of stuffed vs. unstuffed pieces, stitched facial features
I love Theo so much I made two: Theo and Cleo, mailed to my cousin's children.
Theo the Bunny is a paid pattern - Pete the Cat by Kristel is another free pattern with similar skills.
Third project: Baby Yoda by Larissa Maced
Skills: Flatwork + shaping to make unusual pieces, adding toes and fingers, eyelids
The Child makes an excellent gift for anyone who enjoys The Mandalorian and is a great way to grow your skills!
In this example, I used felt eyes instead of the safety eyes recommended by the pattern.
Of course, this is merely a suggestion. If you have a specific project in mind as a goal project, consider making a list of the skills you need to complete the project and designing your own scaffolded project sequence. Many amigurumi are small and work up quick - this is not as big of a time commitment as you may think!
2. Read. The. Pattern. First.
This is a step SO tempting to skip, but is a step that you’ll always end up glad you took. Read the whole pattern before you begin the project. This will help you determine things like what skills you will need, how pieces will attach or be worked together, what materials will work best to create the look you want, and if anything needs to be adjusted.
While you read, try to picture how the pieces are shaped and assembled in your mind or draw out a quick sketch! This is immensely helpful and doesn’t take as long as you think.
3. Find a way to track your rounds and rows that works best for you.
When working in the flat, like with a blanket, sometimes the exact row you’re on doesn’t matter too much. Either because the pattern is a single row repeating or because there are only a few rows to repeat and by the time you’ve done a few, you’ve memorized them all. But in the round, each round is responsible for providing shape to the piece so it’s important to know where you are.
My personal favorite tool is an app called Row Counter (available on both the Google Play and iTunes Stores). This app lets you track the overall row as well as creating additional counters within the same project (e.g. arms, legs, ears, etc.) for when you start working on the side pieces. You can also track number of repeats on the smaller counters which is great when you need to make a bunch of things like scales for a dinosaur hat.
Of course, this is not the only app out there, it just happens to be the one I use.
Non-tech based options include the classic “clicker” style counters, making notations on a printed pattern, and good old fashioned tally marks. Play with different options and find out what works best for you!
4. Always mark the first stitch.
Working in the flat, you know exactly where the beginning and end of each row are. Working in the round, this can get a bit muddy. There are basically two ways of crocheting in the round:
a) Working a spiral - each round stacks directly on top of the previous round to create a spiraled pattern. If you don’t mark the first stitch of the round, you’re likely to lose it as there is no clear sign where the round began.
b) Chain to the correct height then start the round in the same stitch, complete the round, slip to close. This creates a stacked rows appearance. If you don’t mark the first actual stitch, it’s ridiculously easy to slip into the chain or even the slip from the previous round.
I like to use stitch markers that clip into the stitches, sort of like a plastic safety pin, but you can also use a piece of scrap yarn, a paperclip, or anything you have handy that will stay in place until the next round.
5. Learn how to make a Magic Ring
There are two ways to start working in the round: chain x stitches then slip into the first chain OR make a Magic Ring (MR) and work the first round into the ring. Both will create a work in the round. The difference is that the magic ring will create a tighter first round. Not important when working a granny square for a blanket, but definitely important when you’re making something that will need to hold stuffing later.
I like video below from MJ Carlos, but ther are tons of tutorial videos out there to suit your learning style. Once you’ve done it a few times, magic ring will be another useful tool in your crochet box.
6. Consider your gauge.
Whenever I start a project, I read the materials list and ask “does gauge really matter here?” If you’re making a scarf, probably not. If you’re making a blanket, gauge can be the difference between making a throw and a bedspread. With amigurumi, gauge can significantly change the size of your final project.
This may or may not be a big deal, depending on what you want. Consider the final home of the project. If it will live on a desk, then you want something small. If it will be a child’s toy, you’d want it large enough to be a visual reminder not to leave it behind at a gas station.
Gauge can also affect the amount of materials you will need - including the amount of yarn, size of craft eyes/noses, and amount of stuffing.
Example: Take a look at this Baby Yoda amigurumi. The pattern calls for a 2.5mm hook which I do not own. Instead, I used a 3.5mm hook for the body and a 5mm hook for the robe (consistently 1mm larger than the sizes called for). The final project measures 7.75” high.
To demonstrate the importance of gauge (and because who doesn’t want a Baby Yoda plush for Christmas), I made a second Baby Yoda using a 3mm hook for the body and a 4mm hook for the robe. The final project measures just over 6.5” high. Note: Why not a 4.5mm hook? Because 4.5mm is not a standard hook size, so I used a 4mm and worked loosely.
If you know the hook size and the height of the project it will create, you can easily figure out the height for a different hook size using a simple proportion:
In this case, the math is spot on! Of course, this will be the most accurate if the yarn is the same. Even if you adjust the yarn but the yarn size stays the same, it should be pretty close.
Regardless of intended size, make sure you choose a hook size that will work with your yarn. For example, you wouldn’t want to work a super bulky yarn (size 6) with a D hook (3mm).
7. Be on the lookout for pieces that want to flip.
Working on spherical and semi spherical shapes, I often find that the piece really wants to be inside out (or wrong-side out, whichever never you like better). An example from working Baby Yoda's head on the left, where the piece wants to be inside out.
It’s OK to work a piece whichever side out is easiest for you, but be ready to flip to right side out when you start to decrease or begin to stuff. Also recognize that if there are any stitches worked front loop only (FLO) or back loop only (BLO) and you’re inside out, the loops will be wrong so it’s time to flip.
Choosing the Right Materials
When it comes to materials, there are (usually) three categories to consider:
The first is yarn. Most patterns will come with a recommendation, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it. In fact, because most amigurumi are small, I usually try to pick something out of my stash instead of buying new. When choosing your yarn, consider how you want the final project to look and behave. Color choice is a pretty obvious feature, but also think about shine and structure. A shiny yarn with beautiful drape (like something with silk) makes a great blanket but won’t hold its shape well.
Also think about the amigurum’s final destination: will it need to be washed? If it’s going to mostly hang out on a shelf, really any yarn will do. But if a child may end up carrying it around 24/7....consider choosing a yarn that can go through the washing machine.
My typical choice is a worsted or Aran weight yarn (weight 4) in an acrylic or acrylic blend. 100% cotton is also an excellent choice. I am generally trying to get away from new plastics, so I try to pick something from my stash or find a yarn with recycled content.
The second material you’ll use is facial features, particularly eyes. You can make these features yourself with some spare yarn or felt and stitch them on, use a plastic safety eye and/or nose, or embroider the features using either embroidery floss or yarn. So which to choose? Again, consider the destination.
A child’s toy needs to have eyes that will stay in place over time, even when chewed on. For very young children, I recommend going with embroidered or crocheted features stitched on to the toy. These will be the most secure as long as you weave in the ends. Embroidery is a also great choice to use up scrap yarn or create detailed features. Additionally, it survives the washing machine.
For other projects, including toys for older children, I often use safety eyes and noses. These are used in commercial toys and stay in place well. They also create a clean, professional appearance. Safety eyes and noses come in lots of colors and sizes so you can choose the right look for your project. These can go in the washing machine but never the dyer, even on accident, as the plastic could melt.
Finally, you need to choose the stuffing. The most common option is Polyfill - made of new polyester plastic, cheap, and available everywhere. Polyfill holds up fine in the wash and is not at risk for insect interference over time.
More environmentally friendly options also broaden the horizons for what your amigurumi can be. Some options to consider:
Fabric or yarn scraps - An excellent stash buster and a great way to give old fabrics or clothes new life. Cut the fabric into confetti-like pieces before using. All fabric stuffing can be a little heavy; if you want a lighter project, combine with a fluffier option to make a blend of stuffing materials.
Dried corn, dried rice, dried beans, or buckwheat hulls - Classical fillers for bean bags or corn hole bags, these fillers work great for amigurumi too! Rice and corn (as long as they’ve been sufficiently dried) can be heated in the microwave or chilled in the freezer to make therapy packs. You can even add a scent using essential oils. These options are, however, quite heavy. This makes them great for door stoppers, paper weights, and weighted therapy objects, but less great for cuddly toys. Also consider that they may attract insects or pests if left in unattended areas for long periods of time (looking at you, lake house). If you will use one of these, be sure your stitches are tight enough to keep the filling secure.
Eco-friendly fluffy fillers - It used to be that you could only find Polyfill, but now, thanks to internet shopping, there are a lot more options available online! A common choice is bamboo fibers (watch out, many are blended with polyester). Brands like Polyfill have also started making polyester fiber out of recycled PET like water bottles. This gives you all the pros of polyester with none of the guilt. Other options include Kapok fiber, cotton fiber, and shredded foam made from foam industry scraps (not recycled, but saved from the landfill).
When choosing your stuffing, think about how cuddly or heavy you want the final project to be, its final destination, and whether it will need to be washable.
Creating Your Amigurum: A general structure
When you read through your pattern(s), you’ll start to notice the general steps to make any amigurumi are the same.
(Step 1) Make the head and body.
Sometimes these are two separate pieces, but they are often one, especially for simpler patterns like the ones linked above. Remember to add safety eyes (if you’re using them) and stuff before closing!
(Step 2) Make the limbs
This could be arms, legs, tentacles, tires, whatever. Depends on what creature or object you’re assembling. Sometimes these pieces are worked directly onto the body via open stitches (like Theo the Bunny above), but more often, they are worked separately and then sewn onto the body later.
(Step 3) Ears, hair, & other decorations
Similar to the limbs, these pieces can either be worked right onto the body (much easier when working something with a lot of separate pieces like hair) or made separately and sewn on. Accessories like clothing might be sewn on (like Theo the Bunny above) or might be pieces that go on and come off (like Baby Yoda’s robe above).
(Step 4) Stuffing & Assembly
Personally, I like to make all the pieces, then stuff and sew everything on all at once. Of course, you can also stuff and sew as you work, according to your personal preference. Take care in stuffing your pieces - the amount of stuffing you use can affect the shaping of the pieces and also the snuggle factor of the final project. Consider how you want each piece to behave.
For sewing on pieces, I use a plain whip stitch (sometimes called a felling stitch in sewing). You can create a lot of shape when sewing, especially for flat pieces. Baby Yoda’s ears which I stitched on in a rounded shape are a good example, as are his arms which I smushed and stitched on as a flat piece to create more movement in the arms.
Wix will not allow alt text on a gallery, so here it is for the above photos:
On the left - Baby Yoda's ear after being attached. The piece was originally triangular but the ends have been connected and the piece sew on as a round shape with a slight gap in the middle to create shape.
In the middle - Baby Yoda's arm is being stitched on using a whip stitch. The arm has been compressed to form a straight line of material and is being sewn on as though flat.
On the right - Baby Yoda's leg is being stitched on using a whip stitch. The leg has been stuffed and is being sewn on in the round.
Taking care of your Finished Amigurumi
How to care for your amigurumi depends on the materials used in its construction. First, check and see if the materials used can be put through a washing machine.
Acrylic yarn + Polyfill stuffing —> ✔️ Yes, washing machine safe
Wool yarn + bamboo stuffing —> 🤷 Maybe - check to see if the wool is super wash or not. If not, hand wash only.
Acrylic yarn + rice filling —> ❌ NO. The rice will soak up the water and ruin the toy. Spot clean only.
If the amigurumi can go through the washing machine, you can go ahead and machine wash according to the instructions from the yarn. If you don’t have the instructions, machine wash cold on a gentle cycle should be safe. Never use softener or bleach when washing your amigurumi. To further protect your amigurumi, I recommend washing it in a laundry bag to keep it separated from the rest of the load. If you don’t have a laundry bag, pillow cases work great! Just toss in the case and tie shut with a hair tie or rubber band.
After the washing machine, you can squeeze out any extra water (if needed), and set somewhere to dry. Try to choose a place with good airflow, like near a fan, to help speed the drying process.
If your amigurumi is not OK to go in the washing machine, you may be able to hand wash safely. To hand wash:
Fill a small bin with cold water (I like those $1 dish washing tubs you can get in any big box store). Add a small amount of detergent that’s safe for your fiber and mix in.
Put your amigurumi in the water and let it soak through. Scrub (with caution!) to clean.
Let soak for 20 mins in the soapy water.
Dump the water and refill with clean, cold water. Rinse all the soap out of the amigurumi.
Let soak 20 mins in the clean water.
Dump the water and gently squeeze the amigurumi to remove the excess water.
Set somewhere to dry. Try to choose a place with good airflow, like near a fan, to help speed the drying process.
If your amigurumi can’t go in the washing machine AND can’t be safely hand washed, then the last option is to spot clean. To do this, choose a spot cleaner like water or a commercial spot cleaner that’s safe for your fiber choice. Spray onto the amigurumi where needed and dab with a clean rag. Try not to rub too much as you may split the yarn. Set out to dry in a place with good airflow.
Lastly, if you think the stuffing may be harboring some nasties (e.g. mold spores, insects, etc.), try tossing it in the deep freeze for a few days. As long as your freezer is sufficiently cold, it should kill off whatever is in there. You can also try the microwave for something like 2 minutes if it’s safe for your material choices. Remember to never microwave acrylic yarns, craft eyes, or polyester fiberfill as the plastic may start to melt.
I hope you’ve learned something about amigurumi today - remember to keep your goals in mind and don’t let mistakes stop you, learning means making mistakes and that takes time!
Questions not addressed above? Leave a comment or drop me a line on the About page!