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If you've done a lot of amigurumi or crocheting in the round with single crochet stitches, by now you're probably wondering if there is any way to avoid that diagonal seam that gets created when you join each successive round. Unfortunately, there is just no way to avoid that slanting seam, but there are some techniques for avoiding a seam or working around it. First, you can keep crocheting in a spiral without joining the successive rounds and use a stitch marker to keep track of where a round ends and the next one starts. Alternatively, you can try turning your work at the end of each round and crocheting in the opposite direction. You will have a straight seam using this method, but the resulting crochet fabric will look different from the traditional single crochet in the round look (which is similar to a knitted look).
Whether you are looking for an amigurumi pattern to make or you want to design one of your own, the possibilities can become overwhelming! For some help in focusing where you want to put your energies, take a look at some of these websites that can help you get started. First, there's www.flickr.com/groups/amigurumi/ where beautiful pictures are posted of amigurumi projects, and discussion groups you can join are available to answer your amigurumi questions. There's another group as well www.flickr.com/groups/amiani/ that also offers inspiration. Another great source for patterns and groups is www.Ravelry.com -- just go to the groups section and type in "amigurumi" and scroll through over 40 groups to visit or join. There are many wonderful free resources out there for patterns and inspiration -- let me know your favorites!
To create a flat circle with single crochets, start with 6 scs and increase 6 scs in each round so that the total stitch count in each round is a multiple of 6. With hdcs, it's a multiple of 8, and dcs are multiples of 12. If you increase the number of stitches per round faster than these multiples, the edge will start to ruffle like a hyperbolic plane; if you increase the stitch count more slowly, you'll be making a dome.
I love the look of amigurumi, it almost looks like knitting, especially if you are crocheting single crochet stitches in the round. How to get that look when crocheting back and forth? I just recently found out that some people were taught to crochet by inserting their hook from back to front rather than from front to back, which is considered the standard way of crocheting. So, if you crochet a row from front to back, then on the next row, switch to back to front, and continue alternating the rows, your finished piece should look like you didn't turn the work when you actually did!
"Amigurumi" is the Japanese art of crocheting small stuffed animals ("ami" means crochet and "nuigurumi" means stuffed doll). The emphasis here is definitely on achieving cuteness! And, the idea often is to attribute human features to the animal form (you'll hear references to "anthropomorphic" creatures). Amigurumi projects are usually worked in one continuous round or spiral of single crochet, to create the head and body. Typically, the head is oversized, with a cute, quirky face, and the torso and limbs are undersized. The limbs of the creature are usually crocheted separately and then attached. You might want to use a pellet-like stuffing rather than fiber to give it some heft and weight). And, it is often recommended that you use a crochet hook one size smaller than recommended for the yarn you've chosen for your project, in order to create a really tight fabric (but, if you're following an amigurumi pattern, you should follow the specific instructions given). Amigurumi projects can be a lot of fun, especially for beginners since only the single crochet stitch is used, and the recipient is usually really tickled!
Here's a more general tip for whenever you are crocheting in the round. If you place your increase stitches in the same place in each successive round, your work starts to lose its round shape and starts to look more like a pentagon or hexagon (depending on the spacing of the increases). To avoid, you might want to shift around where the increases are placed. For example, if there are 6 stitches in between increases on the previous row, then, on the next row, instead of stacking on an increase in the same place, try doing 3 stitches, an increase, then 6 stitches, to shift the placement of the increases. Shifting around the increases should not affect the overall stitch count of the round but should help retain that round shape of your work.
One question I get a lot involves how to close up the hole created at the beginning of an amigurumi project or any item being crocheted in the round. My suggestion is to try to avoid the hole to begin with! One way to do that is to chain 2 and then work the first row of crochet stitches into the second chain from the hook. Then, you can tug on the yarn tail to close the hole and then secure it on the wrong side of the fabric. Another way is to create the "magic loop" that Inside Crochet magazine describes in the February/March 2010 Issue # 6. The idea is to wrap the yarn around your finger twice to create a loop and then to work your first round of stitches into the loop. Then, you can pull the tail end of the loop (not the end feeding from your ball of yarn) to tighten the loop and close the hole.
It's really important to have a stitch marker for your amigurumi project. Since amigurumi is worked in the single crochet stitch continuously in the round, you need a way of keeping track of where you've finished one row and started another. Be sure to get a stitch marker made specifically for crochet -- unlike a knitting stitch marker, a crochet stitch marker has an opening that allows for it to be slipped onto a completed stitch and then removed and put onto another stitch.
So, you've finished your cute little amigurumi animal, and it's time to add on the finishing touches. One concern I've heard from many crocheters is what kind of eyes to put on to be baby safe. Unfortunately, the little plastic eyes that are available from craft stores can easily be yanked off by small hands. The best alternatives I've been able to come up with are either sewing/embroidering on the eyes or painting them on with fabric paint. With either technique, make the eyes as flat as possible so that, again, baby is not able to pull off a glob of thread or paint.