This post is pretty link heavy - I tried to embed images from the web as a link, but they seem to be protected. If anyone has any advice on what I'm doing wrong, I'm all ears! Meanwhile, I hope you click through, there's a lot of great stuff :)
My Mom taught me to crochet when I was little, but I had not done it in probably 20 years, when I decided to pick it up again this past summer. This time my teacher was blog tutorials and YouTube videos. I think I got back into crochet because of amigurumi, which I had seen all over the internet and was in love with. That and I talked to an 11 year-old girl who had contributed to the crochet coral reef and "makes them all the time", NBD. If an 11 year-old can do it, so can I.
Amigurumi is the Japanese art of making [really freaking adorable] crocheted stuffed toys and other objects. You crochet in the round, using single crochet (small gaps help keep the stuffing from sneaking out) and mostly just increase or decrease to create the shape desired. Each piece is crocheted separately, stuffed, and then sewn together.
You can do this, whether you already know how to crochet or not. It's not as hard as it looks! I actually find crocheting in the round easier than in rows, and more fun. Changing colors gets a little tricky however - I still haven't figured out the best way to get a smooth transition. And if I tried to write my own pattern at this point, something seriously deranged would probably result. Maybe some day!
I wanted to make a stuffed animal for my friend Angela's son's first birthday in July, and chose this giraffe pattern from Etsy. There are plenty of free online patterns, but I have found that the ones you pay for are generally better - explained more clearly, have instructive photos, and are just nicer looking. This one was only $6, which I found reasonable. There is a really cute, free giraffe pattern from Lion Brand that I recommend you try too. Lion Brand is a fantastic website for tutorials and tons of great patterns for knitting and crochet - check it out.
I love animal amigurumis the best, and particularly ones that are basically caricatures: outsized heads/arms/legs, wrong proportions, anatomically incorrect creatures of pure deliciousness. Some are just hilarious. Of course you can crochet anything you set your mind to, including cupcakes, decorative gourds, carrots, an acorn, cacti in a pot, you get the idea. And while I admire the technique and artistry involved in these creations (truly, it's amazing), I don't have as much interest in making them, because really, what do you do with a plate of crocheted cookies? Luckily I have friends with mini humans running around, so there's an excuse to make stuffed toys for them.
You can also knit amigurumis, and they are pretty awesome. However, I think crochet is more suited to making the incredibly intricate and realistic shapes that are possible with crochet. One day I'll learn to knit again - there are some great patterns out there.
More on technique, and my experience with making my own amigurumi, on the next post.