1. Use a hook that is smaller than what your yarn recommends.
When I’m making amigurumi, I want my stitches to be close together without being too tight. I don’t want to be able to see the stuffing through the stitches, but if I crochet too tightly it won’t be able to stretch as much and it will make crocheting difficult. Have you ever tried to get your hook through a stitch that’s just too tight?
Enter, the small hook!
I like to make amigurumi with Caron Simply Soft yarn. The packaging on the yarn recommends using a 5 mm hook (size H), but I like to use a 4 mm hook (size G). I get much closer stitches with the 4 mm hook, but they’re not too tight and I can easily fit my hook through.
2. Use a lighter weight yarn for more complex pieces.
When making a complex piece like a doll or something with a lot of small details, I like to use a lighter weight yarn and a smaller hook. This enables me to get a lot of details without ending up with a giant final piece. For most of my amigurumi I use medium-4 worsted weight yarn, but for dolls, I like to use light-3 baby weight yarn so that I can get in all the small details without increasing the size of the finished piece.
Of course, you can ignore this tip if you want a larger finished piece.
3. Know your multiples!
When I first started making amigurumi, I relied heavily on tutorials to make my projects, but the teacher usually did something that left me very confused. They’ll say something like “for this round we’re going to single crochet one, then increase one and repeat this pattern until the end of the round.” The end of the round? Where is the end of the round? How many stitches will I have when I’m done? How many times will I increase? The presenter usually relied on a stitch marker to know when the end of the round was.
Once I got more experienced, I began using multiples to help me keep track of my increase and decrease rounds. For example, if you are doing an increase round and you want to increase from 18 stitches to 24 stitches you would need to increase 6 times (24-18=6). What multiplied by 6 would give us 24? You guessed it, 4! 4 times 6 is 24, so we need to increase on every multiple of 4 until we reach 24. That would have us increasing at 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and 24. So you can count to yourself “one, two, three, increase for four, five, six, seven, increase for eight” and so on until you’ve reached 24; then you know for sure you have the right number of increases and the right number of final stitches. It’s still okay to use a stitch marker, but I prefer not to rely on it to tell me when my round is done.
4. Don’t start and end your rounds with a slip stitch and a chain.
Almost every tutorial I come across tells me to slip stitch and chain one to start my new round. The problem with this is it leaves a seam . . . a very unattractive seam. If you want to avoid the seam and have a nice continuous stitch pattern, ditch the slip stitch and chain one.
Now, you may be wondering, “what do I do instead, just a slip stitch?” NO! You do nothing, just continue on like nothing happened. We’re already counting on our multiples so we know where the round starts and ends, so instead of giving your round a distinct stitch to start and end, just keep going and restart your count for the new round.
Remember the example from tip 3? Let’s apply that to tip 4. If I count up to 24 stitches, I know my round is done, but I don’t slip stitch and chain one, I just keep single crocheting. Once I pass stitch 24 for the previous round, I would then start at 1 for the next round without doing anything in particular to finish it off. This leaves a nice, continuous, seam-free finished piece.
5. Think of your project in shapes.
This tip can be applied to almost any form of art and it’s something artistic people tend to do naturally and that is to think of things as shapes. Let’s imagine we’re crocheting a bear. The finished piece may look like a bear, but what does it look like before it’s done, before you’ve sewn all of the pieces together? You probably have a sphere for the head, a sphere for the body, two semi-circles for the ears, a semi-circle for the snout, and cylinders for the arms and legs. When we put those spheres, cylinders, and semi-circles together in a particular arrangement, we get something a resembles a bear. This technique is also what may artists use to draw so well, they don’t see the person/thing they are drawing, they see the shapes and the arrangement.
You can use this technique to help you make something you don’t have a pattern for. Once you’ve gained a little experience in crochet, making basic shapes like spheres and cylinders is a no-brainer, so let’s think about what we could make when we put those shapes together. Another way to think about it is to imagine the thing you want to make and what it would look like if it were made only of those basic shapes then sketch it on a piece of paper. Even the most uncoordinated among us can draw basic shapes. If the sketch looks about right, get your hook and give it a go!