What’s the Difference between Crochet and Amigurumi?

Amigurumi are a specific type of project under the general crochet umbrella, referring to crocheting 3D toys. The materials required for crochet and amigurumi are more or less the same, including yarn, a hook, and stitch markers for both. However, amigurumi also require some sort of toy stuffing in order to properly bring your animals to life. The techniques for both have a significant overlap; crocheters will be able to make amigurumi without much trouble.

Crochet is the art of using a hook to interlock loops of yarn or thread to create a variety of 2D textiles. Amigurumi is essentially the same as crochet, only it refers specifically to the process of making 3D toys. Crochet uses a range of techniques, whereas amigurumi almost always involves working in the round, making spheres which are then stuffed to form the limbs of some adorable little animals.

Since it only requires a single, simple stitching technique, amigurumi is actually far more accessible than crochet. A beginner crocheter would have to learn at least three stitching techniques in order to successfully assemble a basic scarf, while an amigurumist could create an entire menagerie with just one technique! This technique of working in the round, also known as the magic circle, is rarely used in crochet (but it certainly can be – more on that later!) Thus, if you are already a crocheter, learning amigurumi will help you to further broaden your skill set.

Amigurumi are a specific type of project under the general crochet umbrella, referring to crocheting 3D toys. The materials required for crochet and amigurumi are more or less the same, including yarn, a hook, and stitch markers for both. However, amigurumi also require some sort of toy stuffing in order to properly bring your animals to life. The techniques for both have a significant overlap; crocheters will be able to make amigurumi without much trouble.

Here’s one of my favorite designs, an amigurumi bear:

Waffle the Bear pattern here!

This project, like most amigurumi, uses only single crochet stitches since it results in the most even surface. More complex stitch patterns, like the alpine stitch, basketweave stitch, and cable stitch, are all built off of the single crochet stitch and are commonly used in crochet clothing and accessories. For the pattern to this bear, click here.

What Techniques Do I Need to Make Amigurumi?

For a full breakdown of the basic skills you’ll need to make amigurumi, click here!

  • Working in the round – Working in the round, also known as creating a magic ring or circle, is the bread and butter technique of amigurumi, and all you really need to get started. Start by making a magic ring, which is the process of making a loop and attaching your yarn to your hook. You can then loosen the tail, and work six single crochet stitches into the loop, creating a foundation ring. Then you’ll begin your rounds as the pattern illustrates. These will be done in a spiral motion, and will eventually form your 3D shape ready for stuffing. For a more detailed and visual explanation, here’s a video:
  • Stuffing – When stuffing your animal, the goal is to show off its shape without making it too firm or hard. Put little bits in at a time, then manipulate it by squishing and rolling to get the shape you want. With most animals, you will need to stuff everything: bodies, heads, ears, arms, legs, feet, and tails.
  • Sewing – Amigurumi is typically done by making each body part individually and then sewing them all together. Start by sewing the head to the body, then the arms, then the legs, then the ears, then the tail (if there is one). For a detailed guide on sewing body parts together, check out this video:
  • Counting stitches – Counting stitches is a basic skill which is required for both crochet and amigurumi. It involves counting the number of stitches at the end of a round. The pattern will specify how many stitches you should be working with on each round – if you complete a round and your count doesn’t match the one on the pattern, simply undo the round and rework it.
  • Right side and wrong side of fabric – Another basic yet important skill to learn is recognizing the right-side (RS) from the wrong-side (WS) of the fabric. You will soon learn which is which by looking at the patterns of the stitching. As long as you know which is the RS and which is the WS, you don’t need to worry about which side you are stitching on until right before you finish the individual shape. Once it’s done, before you stuff it, you can simply turn it inside out to the right-side.
  • Marking – Using a stitch marker is very helpful for keeping track of the end of each round as you work. You could use a piece of contrast yarn approximately 6 inches long, which you would tie into your stitching after the end of each round. Once you get back to it, pull it forwards or backwards over your stitches, weaving a marker up your fabric. This marker can then be easily removed when you finish. You can also use a plastic stitch marker, which is available here or at your local craft store. These are essentially blunt safety pins that you can insert into a stitch to mark which is the last stitch in the round.
  • Small Techniques to Make Amigurumi Cuter If you’ve finished your amigurumi already and want a few easy tips on how to make your amigurumi just that much cuter, click here for a fun and quick post about i!

Why Does Crocheting Amigurumi Require Special Techniques?

Amigurumi is all about making toys in three-dimensions; they are never worked flat. The amigurumi animals we create are unique, so many of the techniques typically used in crocheting, or other stitching crafts, simply don’t apply. Amigurumi use a very specific set of techniques, many of which overlap with conventional crocheting. However, since amigurumi are always crocheted in the round and using very simple stitches, this means that it requires a very specific and special skill set that may or may not be the same as other crochet projects.

Crocheting amigurumi requires special techniques because amigurumi are always worked in the round using single crochet stitches. While these techniques are also used in general crochet patterns, these are exclusively the only techniques used in amigurumi projects. This means that amigurumi requires a specific and narrow skill set within the crochet umbrella which is not necessarily harder or easier to accomplish.

The art of amigurumi began in Japan at the beginning of the 17th century. Japanese craftsmen and women started to crochet dolls, and a new art form was born. During the Edo period (1603 – 1867), the Japanese traded with the Dutch, who introduced knitting as a technique. These knitting techniques were then further developed by the Samurai, who became experts in creating garments, winter wear, and decorations for their katana.

Following this period, Japan began to industrialize. Education was reformed, with over 3,000 westerners hired to teach in Japan, and as a result, Japanese women were pushed to learn western-style needlework. This would prove to stifle the popularity of amigurumi — Western techniques weren’t quite up to scratch when it came to the unique charm of crochet.

Fortunately, this all changed in 1970 with the rise of kawaii culture. Characters such as Hello Kitty and Pikachu endeared the world to this unique style of stuffed animal, and amigurumi proved to be the perfect craft for people to create their own. In 2003, free online patterns and video tutorials started to appear on the internet, and the popularity of amigurumi – albeit now a stylistically different craft from its early Japanese routes – reached new heights.

What Crochet Techniques Are There That Aren’t Used in Amigurumi?

Apart from magic rings, there are many crochet techniques that are not used to make amigurumi. Many of these are used to finish or elaborate on crochet garments or accessories, and are not traditionally used when making amigurumi.

  • Whip stitch – A simple sewing stitch in which the needle is passed in and out of the fabric, creating a series of stitches that go around the edge of a fabric. This allows two separate pieces, for example granny squares, to be joined together. They also create a nice edge, preventing the fabric from unraveling. Here’s a video guide on how to whip stitch:
  • Cable stitch – Made simply by skipping a set of stitches, then crossing the front and back over to create the twisted quality of a cable, cable stitches look complex but they aren’t as hard as they look. This is a great technique for making anything from blankets to hats.
  • Tunisian crochet technique – A popular technique that has a lot in common with knitting. It uses a slightly different hook (it looks like a cross between a crochet hook and a knitting needle), and can create some vibrantly unique patterns, allowing you to add further depth and detail to your crochet projects. You can learn more about Tunisian crochet here:
  • Tapestry crochet technique – An especially playful technique that allows you to create colorful patterns, incorporating pictures and motifs. The possibilities are endless with tapestry crochet; get your creative juices flowing! Learn more here:
  • Bead crochet techniques –  If you’re into hand-crafting your own jewelry, crochet beads might be the icing on the cake you’ve been looking for. Beads usually require a fair bit of crocheting experience, but once you get in the swing of them, they’re really not too difficult.
  • Fabric crochet techniques – Also known as ‘rag crochet’, these techniques are commonly used to create rugs or bags. They involve crocheting with long strips of fabric, allowing you to mix and match colors to undertake a variety of different projects.
  • Surface crochet techniques – Once you’ve got your base crochet patterns, you can work in some additional imagery, such as hearts and stars, using surface crochet techniques.

Can I Use Amigurumi Techniques to Crochet Other Things?

Absolutely! Magic rings aren’t just limited to animals – they can provide the basis for, and be woven into all kinds of other crochet projects. There’s quite a lot of overlap between the two skills, with amigurumi being a subsection of the umbrella discipline of crochet.

Many common crochet projects, such as hats, bags, and ornaments, can be made by working in the round. Basically anything that involves some sort of a circle can benefit from this technique. When crocheting amigurumi, the goal is to make your rings into 3D shapes ready to be stuffed, but you can just as easily keep your patterns 2D to make them work in a variety of crochet projects. For instance, a hat is basically half of an amigurumi head, just made with significantly thicker yarn.

You can also apply the stuffing and sewing techniques of amigurumi to crochet. Perhaps you are making a decorative cushion, which would need to be stuffed. Or maybe you are trying out some Tunisian crochet techniques, for which the sewing skills you acquired with amigurumi will come in handy.

It’s all about getting creative, experimenting, thinking outside the box, and just having fun with it. Amigurumi will provide endless hours of fun, during which you could craft hundreds of animals and other fabulous toys. Then, using what you’ve learned, you can enhance your grasp of crochet as a whole. Happy crocheting!