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What I learned from Simon the Sheep...

By Meg Gordon

(“Amigurumi” is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals.)

Toward the end of my time at Yarnia this summer, I was so excited to see the arrival of TOFT stuffed animal kits in the store! As mentioned in the podcast, Yarnia started carrying crochet kits for Simon the Sheep, Rufus the Lion, Bridget the Elephant, and Lucy the Hare. So sweet, right? The kits all come with a pattern; a crochet hook; a skein of yarn; a tapestry needle; and a bit of stuffing.

I simply fell in love with the Simon the Sheep kit, and though I had never crocheted before, I decided it would be a challenge well-worth accepting. So without further ado, here are ten tips and tricks for amigurumi I learned along the way, as well as a picture of my finished object!

1. Don’t be afraid to change your hook size

My Simon the Sheep kit came with a skein of white wool in a DK weight, along with a 3.0 mm crochet hook, which is right in-between a standard C2 and D3 hook. So tiny! Especially with it being my first time crocheting. Between the small hook size and the light-colored wool, it was really hard for me to see my stitches, especially in the beginning of magic circle. My recommendation for those of us with less experience would be this:  if you’re having a hard time seeing your stitches, go up a hook size, maybe even two. It will also give the stitches a bit of a bubbly effect. 

2. Watch your gauge

I found out very early on into this project that I am an extremely tight crocheter. I feel like this is a common experience for beginners, since the natural tendency is to pull the stitches tight. For this reason, I forced myself to chain and single crochet the beginning of my magic circle as loosely as possible. That way, it was much easier for me to see my stitches, which came in handy for those increases and decreases!

3. Place a stitch marker at the beginning of the round for magic circle

So easy to overlook, but also so important. Keeping a marker at the beginning of the round lets you know when you should start counting your single crochet repetitions. It also lets you know when to count your stitches to make sure you are on track with the pattern. Whatever you do, do not rely on your tail to keep track of the beginning of the round – it will likely get lost in the middle of your shape (especially spheres!) as you work your way upwards. 

4. Use the invisible increase and decrease

Using invisible increases and decreases are good habits to fall into. These techniques prevent any noticeable patterns from emerging in your work, which can be especially problematic if you miss an increase or a decrease.

5. Increase and decrease evenly

Going even further, definitely make sure that you increase and decrease evenly in each round…don’t clump increases right next to each other. While it may be natural to miss a few increases and decreases, especially as a beginner, try not to make it too much of a habit, because it will result in a lopsided shape. And spheres? Forget about it!

6. Use the ultimate finish

This blog post by PlanetJune is great for illustrating this technique. The ultimate finish prevents any holes from emerging at the end of the work, and it gives a nicely rounded finish. Keeping shapes even is crucial in amigurumi, and it will prevent any stuffing from poking out.

7. Don’t be afraid to stuff it full

I recommend taking a handful of stuffing and pulling it apart with your hands before placing it inside your amigurumi. While the sheer volume of stuffing may seem overwhelming, remember that you want it dense, once inside the animal. Stuffing your amigurumi full allows it to maintain its shape. Be careful when placing your stuffing, though – it usually looks better to be denser on the end of an arm or a leg and a little more flexible in the middle! 

8. Use safety pins or stitch markers to keep pieces in place

Placing safety pins or stitch markers frequently around the intended seam of two pieces allows for a more controlled join. These notions also allow for you to get the angle you desire, which was super useful for my Simon the Sheep, whose head is supposed to be just a little bit sideways.

9. Use the seamless join

Red alert! You can’t really use the mattress stitch for crocheted pieces! I mean, you can try. But these video techniques are much more helpful (and realistic!) when it comes to making polished and consistent seams. Also, use an equivalent weight of yarn with a tapestry needle to make your seams. You definitely wouldn’t want a piece of your amigurumi to fall off. No one wants a headless sheep….

10. Get creative with weaving in ends

The easiest way to weave in ends is to hide them in the middle of a stuffed amigurumi. For parts like snouts, it is a good idea to leave a long piece of yarn at the front and pull it back inwards, securing it at the back of the head. This will leave you with a flat, rather than a pointed, finish.

And that’s everything! Like with any other project, practice makes perfect. So don’t be too hard on yourself if your first (or second, or n-teenth) amigurumi just doesn’t look quite right. Each animal has its own character. And, if you are ever in doubt, I highly recommend searching through the project-specific videos TOFT posted on their website. This was especially helpful for me when I was doing Simon’s fleece.

I ended up giving Simon to my boyfriend, Greg, before the two of us left for college. He renamed him “Lamby.” Please enjoy this picture of Lamby with his Hula lady. They kept each other good company over the course of Greg’s drive to Texas.

You just never really know when amigurumi will make the difference for either you or someone you really love.

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