I hope you’re ready for more amigurumi goodness, because this post is jam-packed with all kinds of great information! Bookmark this, friend, because I promise that you’re going to want to come back to it.
In Part 1 of the Amigurumi Basics series, we talked about lots of important things, like how difficult amigurumi making actually is and what kinds of techniques/stitches are used, for example. In Part 2, we talked about the different tools and materials that are used for making amis of all sorts, as well as my favorite options of each item on the list!
In today’s post–the third and final segment of the Amigurumi Basics series–I’m sharing my top 5 tips for making amigurumi dolls and critters.
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Amigurumi Basics: 5 Essential Tips For Making Crocheted Dolls
(Part 3 of 3)
Let’s talk basics, shall we?
These five tips are only the tip of the iceberg that is amigurumi. I’m sure I’ve posted many other tips and tricks to ami-making in any number of my blog posts over the years, but I think the five tips below are perhaps the most important and most helpful.
Tip #1: Using Stitch Markers (and Working in Continuous Rounds)
This is something I still struggle with, because it seems like extra work. I’m a bit of a lazy crocheter–I’m always looking for shortcuts–so I really dread using stitch markers.
That being said, this is perhaps the most important tip on this list:
Always use stitch markers to mark the first stitch of your round, and remember to move the stitch marker up every round as you go!
Here’s why that’s so important:
When making amigurumi, you’re usually going to be working in the round. And when you’re working in the round, you have two options:
- Join your rounds together by working a slip stitch into the first stitch of the round, chain 1 (or however many stitches as indicated by the pattern), and then begin your next round, OR…
- don’t join your rounds and work instead in a continuous spiral.
By joining your rounds together, you’ll get a little bump at the point of that join, which can cause a “seam” that works its way all the way up/down your amigurumi doll or critter. But by working in a continuous spiral, you’ll avoid having that seam, which makes the surface of your amigurumi critter nice and smooth.
There are, however, two problems with working in a continuous spiral:
You need to use a stitch marker to show the first stitch of your round, and then you’ll have to move that stitch marker up every round as you go, always placing it in the first stitch of the round as an indication of where your rounds need to start.
- Because you’re working in a spiral, any color changes you make may not line up all the way around the doll.
- Example: You’re making a doll whose body is part “shirt” color and part “pants” color. When you change color for the pants round, the last stitch of the pants round might not line up flat with the first stitch of that round–it may be jogged a little.
- Solution: I’d recommend joining the round before and after your color changes. So in the example above, I’d work the last round of the shirt color as a joined round, then work the first round of the pants color as a joined round, and then resume working in a spiral for the rest of the doll (or at least until the next color change).
Using stitch markers can help take your amigurumi skills to a whole new level, giving your doll a smooth, finished look. It takes a tiny bit more of your time–and you have to remember to move your marker up every round–but it is well worth the effort. Besides, after a few rounds, you’ll get into the habit of it anyway!
Tip #2: How Much Stuffing You Should Use
Trying to determine how much stuffing you should use with your doll can be hard to determine, and there’s no one correct way to decide.
I recommend that you use enough stuffing so that when you press onto the doll with your thumb, the doll has just a little bit of give to it. It shouldn’t be completely firm (this means you may have over-stuffed your doll), and it shouldn’t give way too easily (this means you may not have enough stuffing).
Generally speaking, most people don’t stuff their doll’s enough because they’re afraid of having the stuffing show through (see tip #3 below). The danger of using less stuffing is that the doll will deflate over time as air escapes from the stuffing inside the doll.
As a sort of bonus-tip, I want to discuss stuffing specific parts of your amigurumi dolls and critters, as some areas may benefit from extra stuffing.
For example, it’s always a good idea to make sure your doll’s neck and legs have a little extra stuffing–so long as the stuffing isn’t trying to come out of the doll! This gives a little more stiffness and support to the neck and legs, which helps keep the head upright and helps give the legs the stability they need in order to support the weight of the whole doll (this is especially important if you want your doll or critter to stand on their own).
Other areas of your doll might not need as much stuffing. For example, I like to leave the arms on my mini amigurumi dolls empty–no stuffing whatsoever! This gives them more flexibility and almost makes them pose-able. You could also apply this same principle to tails or the bodies of snakes–anything that you’d want to be a little more flexible and not so stiff.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you, the crafter. In time, you’ll figure out how much stuffing your dolls require. I’ve made so many of my mini amigurumi dolls, for instance, that I can almost guess exactly how much stuffing one will require. It takes a bit of practice, but you’ll definitely get the hang of it with the more amigurumi critters you make!
If you’re having trouble with the stuffing showing through, it could be that you’re using too much stuffing. It could also be due to a few other reasons, but I’ve provided a few ideas on how to fix those issues in tip #3 below.
Tip #3: How to Avoid Holes (Don’t Let the Stuffing Show Through!)
This is a common problem for those who are new to making amigurumi, and it’s a problem that is impacted by many variables, such as hook size, yarn weight, and tension.
One trick I can offer is to make sure you’ve paired the right hook with the right yarn.
My favorite combination is to use a D/3.25mm hook with worsted-weight yarn. With this yarn and hook, I’ve found that the “holes” of my stitches are small enough and tight enough that I don’t usually have stuffing that shows through my dolls.
You can experiment with the hook and yarn combinations until you determine what works best for you. Obviously everyone’s tension is different, so you may need to use a larger or smaller hook, depending. Personally, my tension is usually fairly tight, and the size D hook helps minimize the size of my stitches (and thus the size of the holes).
If you want to use a larger hook, or if you’re still having trouble with the stuffing showing through your stitches, there’s a secret I recently learned about that can make a ton of difference in the size of your holes:
Replace your yarn overs (YO) with yarn unders (YU).
The yarn under is pretty much the opposite of the yarn over, and it makes for tighter crochet fabric, which means smaller stitches and smaller holes! It’s pretty simple to learn, but it will take a little bit of practice to retrain yourself not to automatically yarn over!
I don’t have a tutorial on the yarn under here on my site, but I encourage you to check out this wonderful photo tutorial from PlantetJune–it even includes instructions for left-handed crocheters!
Of course, tension plays a major role in crochet, and you can really start to see that when working with amigurumi. In order to make sure your doll’s arms or legs–or any other pieces that are made of multiples–are the same size, I recommend that you work those pieces in the same crochet session. For example, I always make my doll’s arms at the same time, without interruptions if possible! This helps me ensure that my tension won’t change between working from one arm to the other. The same principle applies to legs, ears, horns, etc. (basically anything that you make more than once for your doll or critter).
Tip #4: Using Your Ami’s Natural Guide Lines
This tip is especially useful when you’re sewing your amigurumi pieces together. It’s also very helpful when stitching on finishing details like eyebrows and eyelashes!
You’ve probably noticed that when you’re making amigurumi dolls and critters, your single crochet stitches form tiny holes in the fabric of your work. These are the same holes we talked about in tip #3. But here’s something you may not know about them:
These holes form a very important grid and structure which can help you plan where exactly to stitch together your amigurumi limbs, horns, and any other details!
Take Leia, for example. See those little holes where my needle is pointing? Notice that they line up nice and even?
I used these holes as a guide to show me where I wanted to sew on her arms. Obviously, my hope was to sew her arms on so that they were level with each other–I didn’t want her to be lopsided!
In the photo above, I’ve placed my needle through a few stitches of the same round of her body. Now you can see that the needle runs parallel through the row. By using those little holes as a guide, I was able to stitch her arms onto the same row, making them sit nice and level with each other.
I followed the same plan for her hair buns! You can see in the photos below that my needle sticks out at the same (mirror-image) point between the outer edge of the main hair piece and the tops of each hair bun, meaning my buns were stitched on so that they were level with each other.
I find it particularly helpful to place my needle (or a thin dowel or long pin, if I’m working on a larger project) through my doll whenever I have pieces that need to be sewn parallel with each other onto the main part of my doll.
Here’s another example of how this works: take a look at my 13th Doctor‘s shirt stripes. See how they run parallel to each other? By following the natural guide lines made by the holes of my stitches in the round, I was able to stitch these stripes of color one on top of the other so that they ran horizontally across the doll’s “shirt”. Then I sewed her suspenders and jacket on top!
And yet another example: I followed the natural guide lines of the holes of my stitches to sew Belle‘s apron strings along the back side of the doll in a nice, even line.
You can even use this same method to help stitch on finer details, like eyebrows! In the photos below, you can see that the top line of Belle’s eyebrows are stitched along the same row, making her eyebrows level with each other. Then the lower/outer line of her eyebrows was stitched just slightly further down and back (away from the front of the face) from the top line.
By using these guide lines, you can make sure your limbs, tails, detail pieces, etc. are all sewn onto your doll nice and evenly–no matter what you’re making!
Tip #5: The Finishing Touches
Tell me…which of these dolls looks more complete? Wonder Woman, right? Now can you say why?
Well, for starters, Belle’s eyes are placed a little too close together. Aside from that (and more to the point), Wonder Woman has so many more little details that really let you know who she is! Just look at those eyebrows, the eyelashes–heck, check out that Lasso of Truth!
Here’s the important point I’m trying to make:
The finishing details–like eyebrows, eyelashes, outfit embroidery, etc.–can take a dull doll and make her shine.
When I first started making dolls, I didn’t even have safety eyes. I didn’t give them eyebrows (or any facial details, actually), and I avoided embroidery work at all costs. In time, I started added minimal stitchwork to my dolls. I stuck to the same yarns that I’d been using for everything else, and I didn’t really branch out.
About two years ago now, I decided to branch out and try new materials. Now I have a small collection of crochet threads, embroidery floss, and different weight yarns in all sorts of colors, which I use to add small embellishments to my dolls. Using bent-tip needles and sharper sewing needles (read more about the tools and materials that work best for ami-making here) really made a difference and allowed me to place my stitches exactly where I wanted them.
Like all things, it took a little bit of practice, but I’m not confident enough in my stitchwork to add small details like buttons, glasses, and even little vampire teeth! Here’s a few of some of my favorite little details:
Here’s another example, just to show you how much of a difference these small finishing touches can make to make a doll’s identity really shine through in your crochet work: Iron Man.
Below are three photos: the first one (left) shows Iron Man with his mask, but without any other small details. The second photo (top right) shows him with some details–and you can see this doll’s identity really start to take shape. The last photo (bottom right) shows a finished Iron Man, complete with all of his armor stitch details and details on the mask.
You could probably tell who he was based just on the second photo, but you can see how those last couple of details on the mask really make a difference!
And here’s my favorite example of how just a few steps can take a doll from unfinished to finished: Chewbacca.
See how new and shiny (and not at all like a Wookiee) he looks in the left-hand photo? By using a slicker brush, I was able to brush out the fibers of the yarn that I used to make him, which gave him that nice furry look. And I absolutely love how he turned out!
I can’t stress the importance of these fine details enough. As with any part of the fiber arts, these little details take time to get right. Don’t get discouraged if you have to tear your doll’s eyebrows out five or six times before you get them just right–goodness knows I’ve had to do that many times!
These small finishing touches are so worth the time and effort you’ll put into them, especially if you’re making a doll or animal that is based off of some specific character or person. The details you add, the more complete your amigurumi critter will look–plus, I think it’s half the fun of making amis!
Interested in learning more about amigurumi-making?
Good news: I’m teaching a course that starts NOW, and you can enroll today!
The Amigurumi Crash Course will show you step-by-step how to make these mini amigurumi dolls. The course includes hours of detailed video tutorials and a bunch of free patterns, which you can use to mix-and-match and make your own custom dolls!
Registration for the Amigurumi Crash Course will end soon, so sign up today to save your spot in this course! For more info (and to sign up):