Amigurumi is usually thought of as a crochet technique, but Hansi Singh proves it can be a great craft for knitters, too, with her Amigurumi Knits: Patterns for 20 Cute Mini Knits.
These projects range from the sweet to the downright silly (knit jackalope, anyone?), but they actually are all pretty darn cute.
Getting Started with Amigurumi
For those who haven't heard of amigurumi, it's a technique, or really more a style, of making cute little dolls that originated in Japan. According to Singh, the term actually means "encompassing knit," but in this country anyway it's been crocheters who have really embraced the style.
But that doesn't mean knitters can't get in on the fun, too. Amigurumi Knits explains all the techniques you need to get started, which are the same techniques you'd use to knit any other project: casting on, knitting, purling, binding off, increasing, decreasing and circular knitting. Many patterns also use short row shaping, so that technique is well explained, and all the concepts are illustrated with photographs.
There's also information on picking up stitches in various parts of your work and a multitude of seaming options for finishing projects.
The book also includes important information on making amigurumi, such as the fact that the gauge is tighter than you'd normally expect, how to "take care of yarn tails" and how to make the toys safe for kids -- many of the patterns use chenille stems (you might call them pipe cleaners) to made the limbs sturdy and moldable, but that's not safe for little ones.
Amigurumi Knits includes 20 patterns in the general categories of vegetables, underwater creatures, backyard critters and strange, mythical and cryptozoological specimens.
There's a knit eggplant, tomato, carrot and cucumber, among other veggies, stitched hermit crabs, jellyfish and starfish, a praying mantis, ants and a garden snail, a kraken, Nessie and a jackalope.
The patterns are all shown worked in Cascade 220, which is a great choice because of its wide range of colors, but you can use any medium weight yarn you like (the 220 Superwash would be a particularly good choice if you do make them as toys for kids).
Ten of the projects are ranked as good for beginner/intermediate knitters, one for intermediate knitters, seven for intermediate/experienced stitches and two for those with lots of experience.
These patterns use a lot of interesting techniques to shape the critters, often involving short rows, picking up stitches and circular knitting. I worked the carrot pattern, which is one of the beginner/intermediate projects, and almost the whole thing is short rows. It's ingeniously finished by picking up stitches along the cast on edge and grafting up the side, stuffing with fiberfill as you go.
When the patterns get complex, photographs illustrate the key steps, making it easier to see what's going on.
All of the patterns in this book are really cute, but some of my favorites are the sweet peas in a pod (the peas are knit right into the pod, so you don't have to worry about a little one taking them out and eating them), the colorful hermit crab and octopus, the gorgeous praying mantis, the super-cool garden snail with multicolored shell and the downright adorable Nessie.
These projects would be a great way to use up little bits of stash and make great gifts for little ones (or bigger folks with a sense of play) and are good conversation pieces for your desk at work.
The instructions are very clear, so if you're an experienced enough knitter to be comfortable with the techniques involved, you should have no problem completing these patterns. And once you knit one, you won't be able to stop, because they're so cute and relatively quick knitting.
Publication date: May 2009.