One of my closest friends is having a baby. So, when I found out in May I started working on a lap blanket for her. I initially tried to follow a pattern in Debbie Stoller’s the Happy Hooker but then just decided to make a simple, striped, blanket out of TLC Cotton Plus.
I love the sheen of this yarn and I had a lot left over, so I indulged in one of my latest obessions — amigurumi.
Amigurumi, from the Japanese meaning knit or crocheted dolls, are nothing new. I remember my mom getting me a pattern book back in the 80’s with all sorts of crocheted animals. Back then, though, knitted toys were really uncool. So, I never really considered making any until about 4 years ago when a friend of mine had a baby. I found a pattern book with critters similar to the ones from the 80’s, but somehow they seemed cooler than when I was a kid (which might have been the resurrection of 70’s-inspired fashion and the retro boom rearing its head). So, I started making animals from patterns and giving them as baby presents.
Only once did I try to make up my own pattern — a duck. It turned out so funky, that I thought I would have to always follow a pattern (something I really have trouble doing…). That is, until I started reading about the amigurumi craze in Japan.
The Japanese have updated crocheted dolls so that they are much more anime- or character-good like. They are part of the latest vinyl doll craze and there is something about the larger heads and smaller bodies that make them look so much more fun and funky than the earlier dolls. There are a few websites devoted only to amigurumi and a tutorial . I also saw a lot of really cute patterns for sale online, but really wanted to know how to design them so that they’d look more fun and creative. So, during Christmas break, my boyfriend and I went to Kinokuniya (a book store) in Little Tokyo and I got a book about amigurumi with a lot of cute patterns. I don’t know what it is, but the way the book was laid out and the diagrams really made it clear not only how to make these but also how to design them so that they won’t turn out too strange or lopsided. I think that the books I saw would be accessible even for people who don’t know Japanese, although it helped that I remembered some of my now fast-dwindling nihongo (Japanese).
The first pattern I made was a little bear from the book. He turned out really well and is sitting on Doug’s desk at work. I decided that none of the other patterns were really things I wanted to make just yet, so I used my new-found skills to make a few toys for my friend’s soon-to-be new baby using the leftover yarn.
Nowadays people are freaked out about the small bits on crocheted toys, so I always embroider the faces to reduce the smaller parts. But one thing I noticed is that many of my friends put the toys up on the dresser — they look cute but have no real purpose. So, I decided this time to make three little bugs (mushi, in Japanese) and put them together in a mobile.
The first one I made was a bumblebee…
the second a butterfly
Making these guys was the easy part. Trying to figure out how to balance them on a mobile was a little more challenging. I tried wrapping wire in yarn, but realized that it the wire would poke through. I then put the wrapped wire in a small tube I crocheted in the back loops. I tried both 20 gauge wire and pipe cleaners — the 20 gauge wire doubled worked best. A crocheted chain was too heavy-looking to hang each doll and thread or fishing line wouldn’t look right, so I just used plain cotton yarn (embroidery floss would work as well) and finally found a way to balance them on the single yarn-rod with a simple loop at the top for hanging and a few crocheted flowers for the butterfly and the bee.
It turned out pretty well — I don’t really want to give it away!