Amigurumi are crocheted or knitted stuffed toys, usually worked in the round. Amigurumi is a compound word made up of the Japanese words 'ami' (knit, crochet or braid) and 'nuigurumi' (literally 'sew and wrap' - refers to many kinds of sewn stuffed toys).
Amigurumi are most often dolls or animals, but can also be made in the form of inanimate objects of all kinds, often with cute faces and features added.
Amigurumi are crocheted - or sometimes knit - from yarn. Some prefer cotton as it makes a firm structured fabric, others favour acrylic due to its cheapness and bright colours, along with being easier on the hands than cotton. They can also be made from wool, which is sometimes felted after crocheting for an even firmer fabric, or novelty yarns to get a particular effect. For example, furry animals can be crocheted from eyelash or fun-fur yarns.
Really, any kind of yarn can be used, provided it isn't too stretchy. The real key is to use a hook or needles 2-3 sizes smaller than would normally be used for that yarn. A tight gauge is important, giving a firm fabric that won't leak stuffing.
Amigurumi are generally stuffed with polyfil or other synthetic fibres, though some people use fabric scraps, wool, or other improvised stuffing. Sometimes polyester beads are added inside the base of the toy to give it weight and stability.
Other materials used can include felt, buttons and beads, for adding features, and pipecleaners (chenille stems) to make thin pieces such as skinny arms and legs more rigid and poseable.
How to crochet an amigurumi - basic techniques
Magic ring - Many amigurumi are cast on with a magic ring. This involves wrapping the yarn round your finger, then making your first round of stitches into the looped yarn. Once the first round is complete, you can pull the yarn tight, closing the ring.
Single crochet - the basic stitch for all crochet amigurumi. Put your hook through the next stitch and yarn over the hook. Pull the yarn through the stitch. Yarn over again, and pull the yarn through both loops on the hook. You've completed one single crochet!
Single crochet increase - increasing involves making two or more single crochet stitches into the same stitch.
Single crochet decrease - Insert the hook through the next stitch and pull the yarn through. Insert the hook through the following stitch, and yarn through that as well, so that you have three loops on your hook. Yarn over, and pull through all three loops.
So now you know what you need and the basic stitches, why not try making an amigurumi of your own?