Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amigurumi Fun

According to Wikipedia “Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures …they are created and collected for aesthetic reasons. The pervading aesthetic of amigurumi is cuteness.”

And they are. Actually they have some purpose too. You can use them for decorating packages, include them as tiny gifts in a greeting card, make a pin, bracelet or necklace of tiny creatures or add them to a keychain. I am sure you can think of other ways to use them – holiday ornaments, birthday parties, adorn your computer so you can smile every day. Here is our Amigurumi Southwest Halloween complete with adobe house, coyotes and cactus with tiny ghosts, pumpkin and cat.

Patterns are everywhere. There are lots of free patterns on the Internet. Here are a few of my favorite books with Amigurumi characters:

The interesting thing about making these critters is that you can learn a number of new techniques regarding shaping, increasing and decreasing in both knitting and crochet. You can make them larger by using a heavier yarn. They are also just fun to make – quick and no sizing required. This gives some perspective about the size of the mermaid and dinosaur in the island picture. That is a crochet hook in laying across the island. These were done in fingering weight yarn. They would be at four times larger if worked in a worsted weight yarn.

At Kiwi Knitting every Tuesday in June from 10-12 noon we will be knitting and crocheting Amigurumi. Come with a pattern your would like to make–there are lots of free patterns on the internet- and yarn and join the fun. Please sign up so a teacher will be there. Call 520-881-1319. Cost is $20.

If we get enough Amigurumi fans we can start an Amigurumi group at Kiwi Knitting.

Special note: The Madelinetosh lace weight yarn is in. Lace weight yarn makes even tinier critters.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What inspires you to knit?

Knitting patterns are a common inspiration.There are some fabulous designers and patterns available to knitters. It may be the color that first attracts us to a knitting pattern or just how attractive it looks on the model or maybe the stitch pattern, the garment shape, the structure or the style. Even just one of these may inspire us to knit the whole garment or use just one to design our own.

Another common inspiration is yarn. Are you attracted to color first or the way the yarn feels? Color is what entices me the most. If the color is wonderful and the yarn is soft I cannot resist buying the yarn. Then I have to figure out what to do with it – look for a pattern, make something simple like a scarf or better – a shawl. If I am truly inspired I will design a sweater around the yarn.

Look at these inspiring yarns:
Buttons can be inspiring too. An entire garment or colorway can be built around a button. This is a good exercise even if you don't make the garment.  Or maybe the button is so wonderful you just want a garment to showcase it.

Family, friends and great knitting teachers inspire knitters to make something warm and cuddly or  a gift of love or something fabulous:
Jennifer Urbin Photography

Inspiration is everywhere – the subtle colors in a rock, a sunset, a flower. Advertisements are great places to look for color combinations. So are greeting cards. Look for garment designs in shapes in nature and what people around you are wearing. Movies of any genre are fun to watch for sweaters and interesting clothing. Museums are wonderful for all kinds of inspiration. Interpreting music or emotions into colors or even a garment can be challenging and entertaining.

Looking for inspirations around you can change the way you look at the world.
Cholla Cactus in Bloom in Arizona
Fall on a Pond in Maine

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Bit of Crochet

I learned to crochet years ago but I still remember feeling very awkward when I was learning. I felt I suddenly had 10 thumbs and could not hold the hook, the yarn, and the piece I was working on all at the same time. I really wanted to learn to crochet to do crocheted edgings on knitting or maybe to crochet knitted pieces together. Now after a gazillion baby blankets, baby buntings, toys, afghans and a crocheted sweater or two (note no crocheted edgings or seams) I don’t have to think about how to hold the hook or the yarn. Now I am teaching beginning crochet and many of my students have the same problem I did. Here are a few pictures and tips to help those starting out. If you are a comfortable crocheter and have any suggestions or tips to share please add a comment.
The left hand holds the yarn

Holding the yarn, the hook and the beginning chain
I strongly recommend that this is how you hold your yarn and your hook even if you are left handed. In crochet like knitting you will be working right to left. Patterns assume working right to left. If you try to crochet with the hook in the left hand, the natural way to work will be from left to right. That means you will either never be able to follow a pattern or you will have to figure out how to work the pattern backwards. It will also make it a lot harder for right handed teachers to help you. Crochet requires two hands. Once you teach the muscles in your hands how to crochet, muscle memory will make it easy. My best advice is to accept the awkwardness as part of the learning process and not that you are left handed and need to work in the other direction. So hold your hook in the right hand and the yarn in the left hand. The left hand has just as much work to do. In fact if you do not hold the yarn with tension and at the same time hold what you are crocheting you will not be able to work evenly. All the right hand does is direct the hook.  
Additional advice:
1.       Start with a relatively large hook – about an H (5mm) and light colored worsted weight (4) wool yarn.
2.       Get a book on crochet.  There are lots of beginning crochet books. The Teach Yourself Visually series are usually very good. The Crocheter’s Companion  by Nancy Brown has information for beginners and a ton of helpful information for any crocheter.
3.       Find a simple pattern. There are lots of simple patterns available in books or the internet as well as in the beginning crochet books.
4.       Find a friend who crochets or go to your local yarn shop for help. Most yarn shops have beginner crochet classes or someone willing to help you.

Is it worth it to learn? If you have any doubt check out all the beautiful books and magazines on crochet coming out monthly. Lily Chin’s book offers truly lovely garments to crochet. Then there are the adorable Amigurumi tiny critters to crochet like the Ami Ami Dogs and many others. Learning a new skill is good for your brain. Crochet is faster than knitting. It is a wonderful skill to have even if you never crochet an edging.