There has been a literal explosion of amigurumi crochet all over the Internet. This is an explosion of extreme cuteness because amigurumi are miniature animals or dolls that are made with yarn and stuffed. They were first made in Japan but now are made just about everywhere. Just check online craft stores and you will see all kinds of cute little animals crocheted from yarn. In Japanese ami means things made from yarn and nuigurumi is the name of a specific doll that has no arms and legs, just a large head and torso. The first amigurumi are patterned after these dolls. These are probably the easiest things to make and are appropriate for a beginner to try.
Using yarn was not something that has come down from the ancestors of the Japanese. Making Kimonos and beautiful calligraphy and sculpture was within the culture. Only the Samurai had the knowledge of knitting because they made their own socks that had toes in them so that they has a greater range of movement. It was not something a Japanese grandmother knew how to do. When they started to make the cute little animals they did not know how to read regular directions so they made charts with all kinds of symbols and included their calligraphy. Some the these charts are exceptionally detailed and beautiful and suitable to hang on the wall for art.
Amigurumi were first made when it was culturally acceptable for things to be cute during the fifties. During this time Hello Kitty, the white large headed cat with pink bows, made its debut in Japan. In the sixties Hello Kitty was even more popular. She was mass produced along with other sweet little cartoonish animals. At this point in time the office revolution was happening in Japan. Many families were moving to the big cities and children did not see their parents often because they were dedicated to work rather than family. Kitty and other cartoon characters were a way to keep that element of cuteness in life. The crochet animals were made and used like greeting cards to lift the spirits.
The animals only take a few hours to make. Regular yarn is used but with a smaller crochet hook than would normally be used to obtain a tighter gauge so that the stuffing will stay inside. You start with one knot and chain and then you make single crochet stitches in a spiral like manner. In Western patterns you would go to the end of the row, make a chain, then go back across the row in the other direction. This is not true with amigurumi. Instead you keep going in a spiral like manner marking the beginning of each row so you do not loose yourself in the pattern. Charts are suggestions of how to make the animal and it is common for the creator to make changes to that pattern to create a unique animal.
Today you can find patterns that are written out just like regular patterns for crochet sweaters or other items. It is very easy to make because you only use a few stitches. One is a single crochet and the other is a chain. The only thing you do is either increase or decrease the amount of stitches in a row that make the animal take shape.
Making Amigurumi is environmentally friendly because you use up all scraps of yarn and can use recycled yarn. They do not use many materials and only a few yards of yarn. Some people dress up their little animals with sequins and beads. They can be filled with old stockings, clean rags, and poly fiberfill or make them into a bean bag by using dried beans or beads. Popular patterns include making food items like cupcakes and animals such as birds, kittens, dogs and then there are the dolls that take human form. Just search for patterns online and you will find thousands that you can try. Just a warning; these little animals get very addictive and you can not just make one.
Check out these free amigurumi crochet patterns