Top Tech Tips – shaping Amigurumi

This post is otherwise known as ‘getting a bit further beyond trial and error’! Whenever I sit down to start shaping part of an amigurumi figure, there is always a certain amount of undoing and re-doing that goes on. I have in mind the shape I am trying to achieve, but there is often more luck than judgement involved as to whether it will turn out as I expected on the first attempt, and sometimes even the second, or third….

The basic technical points are these, as will be familiar to anyone who has done a little amigurumi-type crochet. If you start working in the round with double crochet (US single crochet), and increase by 6 stitches evenly every round, then you will end up with a flat circle. If you start with 6 stitches and work evenly on those 6 stitches without any increasing or decreasing, you will have a tube. In between those two extremes, if you increase by the same number of stitches every round, choosing a number between 1 and 5, you will get a cone. So if you increase by only 1 stitch every round you will get a narrower cone (closer to the tube), and if you increase by 5 stitches every round you will get a much wider cone (closer to the flat circle). If you need to brush up on the basics, try this Basic Guide to Amigurumi Part 1, and Basic Guide to Amigurumi Part 2.

I know this in theory, but what I want to be able to do is to visualise what a ‘1-stitch’ cone looks like, and what a ‘3-stitch’ cone looks like. In my mind they always translate into various kinds of hat, as that is often what I am making when I want to form a cone! Is this a wizard hat (narrow and pointy), a gnome hat (slightly less pointy), or an Asian-style rice hat (altogether much flatter)? Now this isn’t rocket science, but it occurred to me that if I make versions of all these cones then I can use them for reference later, and I will be able to judge what kind of gradient each number of increases will give me.

For each cone I worked 8 rounds. For the 1-stitch cone I started with 6 sts into a magic loop. You could always start with fewer stitches than this for a more pointy-ended cone, but any fewer than 4 is tricky to work with. Each round is listed on the picture, with the total number of stitches at the end of the round in red.

1-stitch increase Amigurumi coneHere’s the 2-stitch cone. Where the section is shown in brackets (), you repeat this again to complete the round, so for each round the section in brackets is worked twice:

2-stitch increase Amigurumi coneAnd the 3-stitch. The maths tells me that this should be half-way between the tube and the flat circle. If you folded a flat circle in half you would get a semi-circle with 180 degrees angle at the top, and the 3-stitch cone, being half way to this has an angle of approx. 90 degrees at the top:

3-stitch increase Amigurumi coneThese are the three I think I would use most often for ‘hat-type’ shapes, so these are the ones I have written out in full. Here are all the cones from 1-stitch to 5-stitch together. Looking at the gradients for the larger cones could help in trying to judge increases on more complicated shapes, even if they weren’t used as often as cones. A note about the 4-stitch and 5-stitch cones; it’s difficult to start a 4-stitch and a 5-stitch increase round from a base of 6 sts, as I used for the others. Guess what? Start with 4 stitches in the first round of the 4-stitch cone and 5 stitches for the first round of the 5-stitch cone. Easy!

Amigurumi cones of various shapesAnd finally, this is what happens when you start playing around! My son picked up 2, 3 and 4 and put them inside one another. The beginnings of a Christmas tree, perhaps?

Amigurumi cones to make Christmas tree

Hedgehog and friends

Well, Part 2 was a little longer coming than I had hoped for, but better late than never! I posted a pattern for a Hedgehog purse last week, based on the pattern I had used in Simply Crochet magazine. This was for the basic hedgehog, but I thought it would be fun to come up with a few alternatives. Here is girly hedgehog, complete with fetching ribbon and bow:

Hedgehog girlAnd this is Grandpa hedgehog, with two brass curtain rings for spectacles:

Grandpa hedgehog

I used some Gold DMC embroidery thread – all six strands, and worked some double crochet stitches half way around one ring, a few chain stitches and then the same in the other ring. A bit of red felt gives him a bow tie.

I also had an idea that the flap for the purse could be used as a flap for a pocket, say on a child’s garment. And it would be easy to turn the purse into a slightly bigger bag by attaching a longer chain and double crochet cord on the top:

Hedgehog pocketIf you were using the button loop method of fastening you’d have to remember to attach the button to the pocket, and put a loop on the end of the hedgehog’s nose. TTFN!

Hedgehog quartet

Hook a hedgehog!

Hedgehog plain

Hot on the heels of Mr.Fox and Mr.Raccoon, here is Hedgehog, another variation on my foxy purse in Issue 10 of Simply Crochet. He’s a little more tricky than the Fox and Raccoon, but not much – it’s only his spines that require a bit more effort, and a bit of surface crochet worked onto the existing triangle shape. Again, you will need the pattern from Simply Crochet for the basic triangle shape, but of course, if you’re a crochet whizz, you’ll probably be able to work out how to do the shape for yourself! 😉

You will need to make 2 triangles in dark brown for the purse pocket (this is the shape given for the Head in the original Fox pattern), and below is the pattern for the hedgehog-y Head, to be used as the purse flap.

UK crochet terms used throughout.

Hedgehog Head

With a 3.5mm (US E/4) hook and light brown DK yarn, follow the Head pattern of the Fox until the point where you dc along the top straight edge of the triangle. Fasten off the light brown yarn, and join dark brown DK into the first st of the top edge.

Row 1 (RS) Ch1 (does not count as st), work 1 row of double crochet evenly along the top straight edge, turn.

Row 2 Ch1 (does not count as st), dc in the front loop only of each st across, turn.

With the RS facing, you will now be able to see the remaining loops of each st from Row 1. Work each st of the following row in each of those loops:

Row 3 Ss in first loop, (ch6, ss in next loop) repeat to end of row, turn.

For the next row, you will be working in the dc stitches from Row 2:

Row 4 Ch1 (does not count as st), dc in the front loop only of each st across, turn.

Row 5 As Row 3, working in the remaining loops of each st from Row 2.

For the following two rows, you will be working across the central stitches of the head only. Calculate half of the number of stitches across the Head, and identify that number of stitches in the centre of the Head. For example, if there are 24 sts in your Row 4, half is 12, and in order to position those 12 sts centrally, you will need to skip the first 6 sts, work 12 sts, and skip the last 6 sts. If you have an odd number of sts it won’t quite work out evenly so as to be exactly symmetrical, but it won’t show on the finished Head. Either fasten off your dark brown yarn and rejoin it in the first st you will be working on the next row, or slip st in each st across to the point where you will begin working. Working this extra half row in the centre rounds off the shape of the Head a little bit, so that it isn’t so flat.

Rows 6 and 7 Repeat Rows 4 and 5 working on the central sts only, and working in the remaining loops of Row 4 for Row 7, fasten off and weave in ends.

At this point, you will have a light brown triangle with 2½ rows of chain loops for spines across the top. In order to round out the face, you need to work more spines on the light brown triangle. To do this, first work lines of slip stitch surface crochet as shown on the diagram below. Then repeat Row 3 to make the spines, inserting your hook underneath both strands of the ss loop on the surface of the triangle for each st.

Hedgehog surface crochet diagram
Hmm..this does look a bit like a pair of y-fronts!

Now all that remains is to add the eyes – I used small circles of white felt and tiny brown buttons – and a button for the nose. Coming in Part 2 – a host of hedgehog ideas!

Mr.Fox and Mr.Raccoon

Fox Purse

In Issue 10 of Simply Crochet, there’s a foxy purse that I designed on p.85. I love doing fun things like this, and given my poor record at finishing projects, it’s nice to be able to do something that doesn’t take very long! If you’d like to see how to make him, you can buy an issue at My Favourite Magazines – this link is for the subscriptions page, but there is also a link top right of the central column for buying a single issue – or search the digital magazines page for Simply Crochet in your format of choice.

The simple shape of the basic purse lends itself to some cute animal variations, so I thought I’d have a go at some others based on these shapes. So, without further ado, may I introduce Mr. Raccoon…Mr.Raccoon

You will need the pattern from Simply Crochet to make the basic semi-circle shape, but instead of making 2 semi-circles for the purse pocket and 1 triangle for the flap, you will need to make 3 semi-circles in grey in total; 2 for the pocket and 1 for the flap. You will then need 2 ‘patches’ for the eyes, and 2 ears:

UK crochet terms used throughout.

Eye Patches (make 2)

With black DK yarn and a 3.5mm (US E/4) hook, ch5.

Row 1 Dc in second ch from hook, dc in each of next 2 ch, 3dc in next ch, dc in each of next 3 ch, turn. [9 sts]

Row 2 Ch1 (doesn’t count as st), 4dc, 3dc in next dc, 4dc, turn. [11 sts]

Row 3 Ch1 (doesn’t count as st), 5dc, 3dc in next dc, 2dc, 3htr, fasten off black, turn. [13 sts]

Row 4 Join white DK in first st, ch1 (doesn’t count as st), 6dc, 3dc in next dc, 6dc, turn. [15 sts]

Row 5 Ch1 (doesn’t count as st), 6dc, 2dc in next st, 1dc, 2dc in next st, 6dc. [17 sts]

Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing, and weave in starting end.

For the eyes, you can either embroider a circle using small chain stitches and white yarn with a black French knot in the centre, or use 2 small circles of white felt and a French knot in black. I cheated a bit in the photo because I couldn’t lay my hands on my scraps of white felt, so I used a bit of craft foam and made a dot in pen for the eyes.

When you sew the two patches to the flap, turn one over so that they will be symmetrical.

Ears (make 2)

With grey DK yarn and a 3.5mm (US E/4) hook, ch2.

Row 1 (RS) 3dc in the second ch from the hook, turn. [3 sts]

Row 2 Ch1 (doesn’t count as st), 2dc in each dc, turn. [6 sts]

Row 3 Ch1 (doesn’t count as st), (1dc, 2dc in next st) 3 times. [9 sts]

Fasten off, leaving a long tail, and weave in starting end.

Use the long tail to sew each ear to the top of the flap. With white DK yarn, ss around the outside edge of each ear, fasten off and weave in all ends.

Sew a black button centre bottom for the nose.

That’s him sorted! There may even be a Mr.Hedgehog to bring up the rear. I’ll keep you posted.

Birth announcements!

Adam's birth announcementsBefore anyone wonders, I’m not announcing any births of my own! I’ve recently completed a picture for one of my nephews – a bit belatedly as you will see! I originally made one for both of my nieces (twins), when they were born nearly 3 years ago, and Adam is their elder brother. I hadn’t done one for Adam, and my sister-in-law asked me if I could complete the set, hence why it is so late after the event. It had to go with the other two I had done, and I also had a bit of a brief for this one, as Adam is now old enough to have developed some interests of his own. It had to include trains, bunnies, maps and possibly pipes. Pipes? Yes, plumbing-type pipes. I didn’t ask, but you know how young children can be sometimes ;-). This was a bit of a challenge, but I managed three out of the four. My No.1 son also contributed to this. He drew his own bunny picture – you can see him hiding behind the bush. The reason he is hiding behind the bush is because he was holding an orange carrot, and as orange did not exactly go with the colour scheme, the carrot had to be hidden somewhere…

The other two for Amy and Megan are below. These will be forever associated in my mind with the fact that I fell and broke my wrist on the way to collect them from the printer’s. No such mishaps this time fortunately!

Amy's birth announcement


Megan's birth announcement

Mollie Makes Crochet Book

Mollie Makes Crochet Cover

I am very excited to be featured in the latest Mollie Makes book about Crochet. Mollie Makes Crochet, published by Collins and Brown, has just been released, so at last I am able to shout about it! The book has lots of helpful info on learning to crochet, and some beautiful projects for inspiration to boot. I love the layout of the book too – it’s really clear and easy to follow and has some great technical illustrations (I love technical illustrations – sad but true!).

I designed three monster gadget covers and a set of Russian dolls. I think it was nearly a year ago that I was actually making these I was just going to write that the Russian dolls were fairly straightforward to make, and then I remembered what actually happened! The shape was quite tricky and involved a bit of trial and error, and getting the three to be similar proportions was also a bit of a challenge. I had drawn a sketch first, which was what I submitted after being asked to contribute, and it actually helped quite a bit when designing them as I used measurements from the sketch to help with the proportions.

Russian Dolls Sketch
The sketch I sumbitted at the beginning of the commissioning process
Mollie Makes Crochet Russian Dolls
The finished dolls in the book

In theory the gadget covers should have been easy too, but I didn’t have an iPad or a Kindle to gauge the size with. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this at the start of the process, but I ploughed in by just using the measurements, spent three quarters of the time worrying about whether they would fit, and then decided to make a cardboard mock-up of the gadget which helped a lot! They did work out ok, but I think it’s the pressure of having such short deadlines for these kind of projects that makes one a little crazy and not think straight. The thought of having to rip out a project that has already taken 10+ hours in order to make it fit is not a good one… Speed crocheting being of the essence, I also completely bodged the tension on the iPad cover, and it ended up a very wonky shape. Fortunately a bit of severe blocking and bullying it into shape remedied the problem.

My boys loved the iPod covers when I was making them, so I decided to make a couple for them for Christmas. I did one in the same colours as in the book, and another in purple and green stripes. They have been very popular!

Mollie Makes Crochet gadget covers