"Amigurwhaaaat?!" they asked me, and boy do I have a lot to say. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite things: the fun, colorful, and sometimes kitschy universe of amigurumi .
What in the world is amigurumi?
This term, which is derived from Japanese, refers to the beautiful and artful technique of crocheting and knitting stuffed animals, people and other 3D objects. The first part of the word means knit OR crochet (yes, both!) and the second part means stuffed doll/toy. Essentially, it means "knit/crocheted stuffed toy friend!" How awesome is that? Amigurumi : the art of literally MAKING friends.
How I fell for it
In the early 2000s, amigurumi made a splash on the Internet. Adorable little bears with huge heads, sleepy kitty cats with long arms, and other brightly colored, almost cartoonish creatures and patterns emerged. It was during this time that I learned to crochet. My mom taught me how to make a granny square and when I turned to the Internet for instructions on different stitches, I became enamored with amis of all sorts!
I started with the basics, practicing by making a stuffed ball. My kid LOVED it. Eventually, I taught myself to read the crochet charts in Japanese craft books and on Web sites. My first and favorite was the amineko ("neko" means cat, so that's "cat friend" — can you stand the cuteness?!). I made the same pattern over and over as gifts for family and friends. It was great practice and easily personalized with different colored yarn.
Getting started yourself
Most amigurumi are crocheted, but you CAN knit them. The reason it's more of a crochet trend is simply because of the fabric each craft makes. Knitting creates a stretchy fabric, where as crochet results in a dense, thick fabric that's a little more obviously suited to 3D work.
Either way, you start with a small ring of stitches (an adjustable or magic circle for crocheters). From there, a series of increases and decreases creates the shapes of your new friend. Amigurumi patterns can certainly look complicated, but most projects require you to know only one stitch, and how to increase and decrease that stitch. Your friend will likely be small, so the project can be made with little monetary investment.
In other words, you have nothing to be nervous about and everything to gain from this adorable craft, so go for it. Once you get started, I guarantee you're going to want to stitch up as many friends as you can. The more, the merrier!