One thing I love that I learned how to make several years ago are amigurumi (amis, for short). I fell in love with the art! The delicate nature, strong stitches and amazing things one could make drew me to this whole new culture of fiber art. Amigurumi (あみぐるみ), is the Japanese fiber art of crocheting or knitting small, unique, anthropomorphic creatures. Miniature stuffed animals if you will. I love knowing the history of things like techniques and art forms, so when I started to learn how to make amis, I also learned about their evolution to today. Amis have been a popular phenomenon in Japan since the 1950s. During that time, Japanese culture gravitated towards cuteness, or “kawaii,“ inventing memorable characters like Hello Kitty. And really, Hello Kitty is unforgettable. During the ‘60s, economic expansion was encouraged over cultural preservation, dispersing communities and altering regionally distinct traditions. People left the rural areas more frequently opting to move to big cities to find employment, much like many nations’ industrial development. Hello Kitty and her newly recognized kawaii friends were mass marketed icons, creating a widespread cute and appeasing influence over her new city populations and subsequently expanding its market into other countries in the early 2000’s. By 2006, amis were among the most popular items sold ($10 – $100) on Etsy, a new company itself only having been established in 2005. Amigurumi are even more admired and loved today, giving people the desire to know more about these tiny crafted creatures. The first character for the Japanese word Amigurumi, あ means, “knit”. Except, with this character, it’s not just knitting, but both knitting and crocheting. Japanese doesn’t have two different words for knitting and crochet like many other languages do. To crochet in Japanese is “to knit with a hook”. So that whole knit or crochet argument (which is better… etc.) goes right out the window in Japan. The second, ぐる, has one of its meanings as “wrapped”. Wrapped in this way implies that there is something put inside the crocheted item, such as the fiber stuffing (stuffed animals meaning), rubber balls or plastic pellets for weighing the ami down. Amis need to be crocheted tightly, using very small crochet hooks to keep stuffing inside, preventing it from showing or come through the fabric. This is also why crochet is used more frequently than knitting since knitted fabric has more stretch to it and does not hold its shape nearly as well as if crocheted. If creating an animal, plastic safety eyes with hidden back grommets are typically used. A caution note: if the ami will be for a small child or a pet (dog/cat), these eyes should be avoided altogether and instead yarn stitched eyes should be made as even with safety eyes, a determined pup or child could manage to remove an eye, thus becoming a chocking hazard. Amis offer us cute unique characters, handmade with everyday fiber materials. Their appeasing power is still a part of their creations today for society. Amigurumi are thoughtful symbols without specific significance, fiber friends sharing imaginative, anthropological stories, which are a welcome reprieve during times when our shared happiness and humanity are often of lesser appeal in times of impossibility. So if you’re looking to enliven a dreary day, spice up a dull day or just put a smile on someone’s face who just might need it, simply Google “Amigurumi” or “あみぐるみ” and you’ll find lots of patterns to choose. Keep in mind a few things before you begin. You will need a very small hook (probably 2.00 mm) and many of the patterns will be in chart form. Which is great, because you don’t need to know Japanese to know how to read the pattern. Happy pattern hunting and I hope you enjoy amis just as much as I do!