Following amigurumi patterns is fun and straightforward, but have you ever wanted to create an image that was living inside your head? Before I started designing my own amigurumi patterns, I used to scour the internet looking for patterns or pictures that matched the exact kind of stuffie that I wanted to make. It could take hours and often, there just wasn’t a pattern that existed, because everyone out there has their own unique style!
Following amigurumi patterns is fun and straightforward, but have you ever wanted to design amigurumi yourself? Before I started to design amigurumi patterns, I used to scour the internet looking for patterns or pictures that matched the exact kind of stuffie that I wanted to make. It could take hours and often, there just wasn’t a pattern that existed, because everyone out there has their own unique style!
How to design amigurumi in 7 steps:
- Get inspired from the world.
- Understand the building blocks of amigurumi.
- Draw a sketch of the amigurumi design.
- Crochet shapes that match the sketch.
- Make a second version to ensure accuracy.
- Get the pattern tested by a volunteer.
- Type up the final pattern, and publish the final amigurumi design.
These are steps that I’ve come up with from my own hands-on experience of designing amigurumi. I’ll be the first to say that I’m no expert and still have a lot to learn, but I want to share what I’ve learned so far so that you can also create your own amigurumi!
As a general rule, designing amigurumi is a process that begins with inspiration. Next, understand the basic shapes and stitches of amigurumi and draw a rough sketch of the idea. After crocheting shapes that correspond with the sketch, get the pattern tested and then publish.
Why design amigurumi?
If you want to design amigurumi yourself, you’re probably someone who has been crocheting amigurumi for a little while and are excited to make some ideas of your own come to reality.
Are you wondering what the difference between amigurumi and crochet is? Check out this in depth blog post that breaks down all the differences and similarities here.
If you aren’t familiar with amigurumi, no worries—but you’re probably going to want to have some practice following other people’s amigurumi patterns (here’s a good beginner pattern of a cute polar bear) before attempting your own.
For a breakdown of what amigurumi is, whether it’s easy, and what you need to get started, check out my blog post here!
This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to design amigurumi without having made one before, just that it’ll be a lot harder because you won’t be as familiar with the shapes.
Learning to design amigurumi yourself can seem a little intimidating at first—it definitely was that for me—but the reality is that the actual mechanics are merely a function of a lot of trial and error and nowhere near impossible. Sometimes a pattern can take a while to come together, especially if you’re a perfectionist, but it’s really worth it to hold something that you really truly created all by yourself.
But never fear! I’ve compiled an in-depth breakdown to help you get through your first amigurumi design. Each one after that will be easier, I promise! The steps listed down below are a good guideline for a start to finish process on how to design your first amigurumi. Not every step is necessary, but I’ve tried to be as detailed as possible to ensure success. I’ll also walk you through my process of designing one of my patterns to help you understand my thought process. Read on!
1. Get inspired from the world
This might be the most tricky step when getting ready to design amigurumi—but also the most exciting! Getting inspired just means coming up with a general idea for what you might want to make.
This process might start with a general idea, like an object or animal. Then, you might think about some smaller elements you can add to that animal to make it unique or interesting, to create some personality. However, if you’re just starting out, it’s totally fine to just have an animal or object in mind that you want to create.
Your inspiration can come from anywhere, and I usually find my inspiration by noting cute images I see around me in the world or online that I want to translate into crochet. I keep a list on my phone of ideas that I have so that when I’m ready to move to the next step of the process, I have lots of ideas already at hand to look through!
A few examples from my notes app are:
- chubby ducklings
- huge carrot
- little girl in a red rain jacket
These are all just ideas that I came up with from reading books, looking outside, and scrolling Instagram. In reality, I’m always looking for pattern ideas, so it’s always in the back of my mind to keep an eye out them. Once you flip that switch, it’s much easier to get in the habit of gathering ideas at all times.
If you already have a rough idea of what you want to make, like an animal or character, you can get a more specific idea of what it looks like by searching it on Google Images to look at actual pictures of it or see drawings and other interpretations.
A note on intellectual property:
A note of caution: there’s a fine line between getting inspiration and straight up copying. Plagiarism is never okay, so make sure to never represent someone else’s amigurumi design or pattern instructions as your own.
A good way to avoid this is to not look up crocheted versions of your idea. For instance, if you wanted to make a crochet strawberry, look up pictures of real or cartoon strawberries instead of crochet strawberries. That way, you get ideas for elements you could incorporate, but ensure that your design wasn’t based off another amigurumi design.
The Little Prince Example: Inspiration
For example, when I designed the little prince pattern, I was inspired by the children’s book that I adore. I loved the idea of the little prince and I wanted to make a little crochet doll of him. To get more definite idea of what I wanted my crochet doll to look like, I knew I wanted to incorporate chibi body proportions. That way, my amigurumi design would have unique elements that came from my own style as well as being inspired by the book character. I also decided which outfit I wanted him to be wearing, as well as how I was going to represent that in crochet.
For instance, I knew that the green jacket was doable, but it wasn’t going to look like a full on bodysuit that often appears in the pictures, since that would be too bulky for my small doll.
2. Know your shapes and stitches!
Before you move further in your amigurumi design journey, make sure that you have a few basic shapes and stitches in your arsenal.
All amigurumi can be broken down into a collection of basic shapes, on top of which there are some embellishments. If you’ve crocheted amigurumi before, you know that most legs and arms are formed the same way—they’re essentially cylinders of different lengths. Heads are all variations of spheres, and ears are hemispheres.
The most basic shapes used in amigurumi design are:
- heads, or other round elements.
- arms, legs, essentially anything that’s an elongated sphere. This can be extremely long, like for a monkey tail, or it can be extremely short and flattened for ears.
- spheres that are half finished, usually to make ears.
- these are flat and worked in rows instead of rounds, and used to make clothing items or detail work/accessories
- usually made with foundation crochet stitches or chains and used for hair, suspender straps, bag straps (for dolls), scarves, and other accessories.
- flat circles worked in a round from a magic ring are used for detail work on amigurumi, such as spots or a white belly
- similar to circles, but requires working around a foundation chain in the beginning to achieve an ovular shape
A few examples from my patterns:
Being able to recognize basic shapes in amigurumi is key to be able to create your own. Without knowing that each structure is made up of a bunch of basic shapes, amigurumi design can be overwhelming and confusing. But it really isn’t!
Before you move on to the next stage, make sure that you can reimagine your idea as a collection of shapes. Figure out structural elements you’ll be using, and then practice making them in isolation.
Trying to make a ball in various sizes is a lot more manageable than trying to make a perfectly sized fox head, so just start with making balls of various sizes without looking at a pattern. Once you’re able to do this, continue with other basic shapes so that you develop a sense of how many stitches it takes to produces a certain size of cylinder or square.
Knowing stitches is a little less complicated. Amigurumi usually only require single crochet stitches, but sometimes half double and double crochet stitches will be necessary. These are incorporated mostly into clothing items or other accessories that don’t require as much rigidity.
Stitches and… pixels?
Getting familiar with stitches just means getting a basic feel for how big each stitch is. Every single crochet stitch is about the size of a square, so amigurumi design is a little like creating pixel art, but in 3D. If you use fewer crochet stitches in the round, then the sphere or cylinder will look very jagged (imagine if you were watching a YouTube video in 144p). However, if you use many stitches in the round then the overall effect will be much smoother (think 1080p!).
Of course, all this also depends on the weight of your yarn and how big you want your amigurumi to be in the end. Thin yarn will make your amigurumi look more clean and detailed, but will take a long time. Getting familiar with crochet stitches means developing an understanding for how much space each crochet stitch will take up, which can only be attained through trial and error.
The Little Prince: Amigurumi Design Example
To continue my example of the little prince, I broke my design of him down like this:
- sphere for the head
- five cylinders for the two arms and legs, plus the body
- square for the jacket
- many lines for the belt, bowtie, and hair
3. Draw a sketch
The next step is to draw a rough sketch of your idea using the basic shapes and stitches in your crocheting vocabulary. If you’re a little iffy about your drawing skills, never fear! I am the least artistically talented when it comes to drawing, but you don’t need to know anything about it to do this step.
The purpose of this step is to get your idea down on paper in a way that you can visualize your amigurumi and begin to get a sense of its proportions. Using the basic shapes as building blocks, break your design down into spheres, cylinders, and lines in your sketch.
Figuring out the body proportions now will save you lots of trial and error time later on and help you get a good idea of what your amigurumi will look like. For more about why proportions are important, click here for a blog post I wrote on making amigurumi cute!
What should I draw?
The most important details to incorporate are any elements that you want to crochet. During this process, you also need to think about how you’re going to actually crochet an element of your idea, and what shape you’re going to base it on, so that you can sketch the shape and size. If you don’t have a definite plan for how you’re going to actually make that jacket or flower out of yarn, then don’t sketch it.
Once you have all the elements down on the page, keep playing around with proportions until it looks the way you imagined it in your mind. If possible, make the drawing to scale. However, if your amigurumi idea is really large, then just make it as proportionally accurate as possible, thought it might take a little more skill to make everything the right size.
The Little Prince Amigurumi Design Example: Sketch
Here’s my sketch for the little prince. As you can see, it’s super rough from an artistic standpoint, but the most important pieces are there.
If you’re finding this blog post helpful, pin it to your Pinterest boards here!
4. Crochet and write down the steps
Now it’s time to finally create your vision in yarn! Create each part of your design, following the sketch you made to get an idea of the proportions of each piece.
Write down the exact steps that you’re taking on a piece of paper or Word document as you go along. Include the round/row number, number of stitches, increases or decreases, and total number of stitches at the end. You may create some kind of shorthand after a while, but it’s totally fine to write every single stitch down at first.
Make sure to check that all the numbers make sense as you go along. This is why it’s important to note the total number of stitches, because you can easily do basic multiplication to check whether your pattern is internally consistent and also check against the actual crochet piece in your hands.
As you work your way through with trial and error you may notice that the head is accidentally too big, or you didn’t start decreasing soon enough and now the head piece looks too oblong to be a sphere.
If and when this happens, don’t worry! It happens to everyone all the time. Just frog back to where you were happy with how it looked, cross off a few lines in your pattern, and keep going.
This is where your practice with basic shapes will pay off. If you have a better idea of how much to increase and decrease to get the exact size of head that you want, then you might be able to make what you’re envisioning on the first or second try.
If you’re mostly going in blind, it could take a lot more tries before you get it right. However, all of those tries count as practice, and every single time you’re learning something valuable that will help you make faster progress in the future.
About the elephant in the room (the math!)
I highly recommend that the total number of stitches always be a number that is very easily divided (e.g. 16, 24, 30), because that means that you have a lot of control over how much to increase or decrease. To do this, you should also increase and decrease by even/easily divided numbers.
For instance, if my current round had 24 stitches, and I wanted the round to get a lot larger in the next row, I can (sc, inc) x12, adding 12 stitches, to get a total of 36 stitches in the next round. That was easy because 24 is an even number that can be divided by 2, a feat not so easily achieved by odd numbers.
If I wanted to just increase by a little bit, I still have some options. I can (sc3, inc) x6, adding 6 stitches, to get 30 stitches in the next round. I can even (sc5, inc) x4, adding 4 stitches for a total of 28.
Finally, I could add a very small number of stitches by crocheting (sc11, inc) x2, just adding 2 stitches to gain a total of 26 stitches in the next round.
However, most numbers are not so nice. All odd numbers are very ugly to deal with, and some even numbers that do not have many divisors can also be annoying (22, 26, 32, etc.).
Basically, I strongly suggest sticking to multiples of 4 and 6 for total number of stitches per round. It’ll make your life easier and save a lot of math headaches (the worst kind)!
A note for those who want to publish a pattern:
If your goal is to eventually publish a pattern based on this design, then during this step you should take some process photos. This means getting pictures of each part as you make it, as well as steps during assembly.
Taking pictures as you go eliminates the need to redo the entire pattern for the sake of getting process shots, which can save you a lot of time, especially if your amigurumi is very large or otherwise time consuming to make.
However, if you’re very unconfident about designing amigurumi, then making a second version of your amigurumi for the purpose of taking process shots and reviewing the pattern is not a bad idea (more on this below). This note is just for those who know that they want to publish the pattern and are confident that they will get it right on their first try.
This what my notebook looks like when I’m going through this process!
5. Redo based on the pattern
Now that you have a finished amigurumi that you’re happy with and have a copy of the pattern written down, congratulations! The hard part is over and all that’s left is tying up loose ends.
This step is technically optional if you’re extremely confident in your pattern, but I highly recommend redoing your design based on your newly written pattern. For new amigurumi pattern designers, the new notation system and unfamiliarity with recording crochet stitches can lead to lots of math mistakes or incongruences between pattern and product.
If this is your first pattern, it’s really worth it to go back and check it yourself to see if there’s something wrong before sending it to anyone else. That way, there are multiple layers to make sure that your pattern is the best that it could possibly be.
However, if you already have a few amigurumi under your belt and are reasonably sure that the pattern you’ve written represents the amigurumi you have just made, it’s okay to skip this step.
6. Pattern testing!
Pattern testing is the main way that I double check my patterns. Create your first draft on a Word or Google document and include the pictures you took along the way along with any extra instructions, making sure to include abbreviations you use and materials. (For the full breakdown of what I put in my amigurumi patterns, click here!)
I usually send my first draft off to two makers who check my pattern for math mistakes and places which need more explanation or pictures.
This is a helpful process because fresh eyes and different experiences can help see technical problems I may have missed my first time around, as well as point out areas that I didn’t explain very well or were otherwise confusing.
How can I find pattern testers?
A pattern tester is just someone who is willing to follow your pattern and recreate your design. The ideal pattern designer should be the skill level of your target audience. If the pattern is more challenging, make sure that the pattern tester has some experience, and vice versa.
You can find pattern testers by asking your friends or anyone you know who crochets and is willing to test your pattern for you. Alternatively, you can advertise on social media that you’re looking for pattern testers. Instagram is best for this and already has a community of crafters who are familiar with what pattern testing looks like and demands from them.
All the same, if you’re looking to reach out to the community on Instagram, here are some guidelines:
Finding pattern testers on Instagram
- Use appropriate hashtags (e.g. #crochet, #crochetersofinstagram) to reach a wider audience of people who might be willing and excited to pattern test for you
- When you have determined who your pattern testers will be, let them know how soon you expect them to finish (eg. 48 hours, 72 hours, a week), and what kind of feedback you want to hear. This is important because some people might feel hesitant about giving constructive criticism. However, if you make it clear that you want them to point out as many areas of improvement as possible, both of you will be more comfortable and happy with the process. Also, ask them for their email so that you can email a PDF copy of your pattern to them (Instagram does not allow file sharing).
- As they give you feedback, take it into consideration. Remember, not all feedback needs to be implemented in some way, but everything is good to consider and take into account when you revise your pattern.
- Gift the pattern tester the final version of your pattern as a thank you!
Here’s an example of the most recent tester call I made. You can’t see the hashtags, but rest assured there are many of them later on in the caption. If you want to see them, find that post on my Instagram feed!
7. Finalize and publish your amigurumi design
Finalize your pattern by making any edits that your pattern testers brought up. This may include taking a few more process photos, rearranging the order of construction, and correcting any math mistakes.
If you plan to publish your pattern, you should consider what platform you want to do it on and whether you want it to be free or paid.
Making patterns freely available is a good option if you’re building a blog and want to drive traffic to a site with advertisements, but it might mean that you won’t see much compensation in the short run. The upside is that you will be able to share your pattern with many more people and that can be very rewarding!
Listing your pattern on Etsy is the easiest option for paid patterns because Etsy itself is a search engine, allowing your pattern to be discovered more easily. However, Etsy does take a percentage off every sale and you need to pay a small fee for every month that your listing is up. That said, it is still the method of choice, even though some pattern designers have begun listing their patterns on their own websites to avoid the Etsy costs.
For a more in depth breakdown on how to write a PDF pattern (and what to include in it), check out this blog post here and grab my free template!
And there you have it! This is my 7 step process for designing amigurumi yourself. Although I’ve covered a lot in this guide, it is by no means exhaustive. If you have questions about any specific parts of this blog post or requests for topics for me to cover in the future, let me know in the comments below and I’d love to address them in the future.
If you’re thinking of making some extra income through crochet, check out my analysis here on the best (and worst) methods to make money from crocheting and how you can do it full time!
Some other topics I’ve blogged about recently:
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