Stacey Trock is the designer for FreshStitches Amigurumi. You can see her designs at: www.freshstitches.com. Check out her newest book, Crocheted Softies, available online and in bookstores.
Hi there! I’m an amigurumi designer… which means that coming up with adorable stuffed animals is a major part of my job description! Even though I often say the ideas ‘just come to me’… there’s still quite a few steps involved in getting an animal from ‘idea’ to finished animal. I’m going to show you the process I go through in designing an animal, using my cuddly friend Milton the Snail (from my new book, Crocheted Softies) as an example. Who knows… maybe you’ll even want to give designing a go!
Steps for designing an awesome stuffed animal!
Step 1: Determine your audience: Who are you designing for? Are you making a wacky gift for a coworker to keep on her desk? Or a cuddly stuffed animal for a child?
You can make anything from a teeny tiny animal to a giant one! And since the size/purpose will affect all of the subsequent design decisions, it’s important to get this one nailed down. I designed all of the animals in my book to be kid-friendly and cuddly… but not too big that they’d take too long to crochet. So, I knew I wanted my finished animal to be about 8-12 inches tall when finished.
Step 2: Pick your animal: This seems like the obvious question, but what animal do you want to make?
And, once you pick your animal, you’ll want to do a bit of research. I usually browse around online and gather lots of photos of my animal (real and cartoon) for inspiration. I’m obsessed with snails (I even have a snail tattoo!), so I KNEW that I needed to design a snail for my book. Once I decided to make a snail, I looked around and made an ‘inspiration board’ of pictures.
Google images, Microsoft Clip art and Pinterest can all be great places to look for inspiration. Real animals, drawings and sketches can be great sources but don’t forget that your intent isn’t to copy, just to get ideas! You’ll come up with your own design!
Step 3: List your fave features: Once you’ve picked your animal and looked at some inspiration, you’ll want to pick out the features that are most important to you. What HAS to go in to your animal to make it awesome?
For my snail, I picked four features that were must-haves (you may have more or fewer features!): buggy-eyes (because they’re super-cute), tall antennae that would curve over a bit at the top, a snail shell with some interesting shape to it (I thought a ‘ball shell’ would be too plain), and a snail foot underneath the shell.
You might find yourself drawn back to your inspiration board. Notice that on my board there are snails with lots of different types/shapes of shells, some have a foot and others don’t, and some even have eyes on their antennae! Think about which features speak to you, and roll with them!
Step 4: Sketch: Now that you’ve picked out the most important features to you, it’s time to sketch!
Here’s my sketch of a snail that incorporates all of the features that I decided were important:
At sketching time, you’ll be making some decisions… and you may need to revise some of your features. Notice on my sketch that the shell is rotated to a 45 degree angle? I had pictured it laying horizontally, but it wasn’t until I sketched and fit the pieces together that I realized a tilt was necessary.
Step 5: Pick your yarn: Now that you have a sketch… you’ll need to decide which yarn you want to crochet your animal out of! This can be one of the most fun parts!
I’m really passionate about using quality yarns for making stuffed animals. Why? First of all, stuffed animals don’t use too much yarn, so it’s not too expensive to upgrade to the nice stuff. Second, if you’re making a stuffed animal for a child… don’t you want it to be soft?
And remember that, from the start, my goal was to create an animal that didn’t take too long to make? So, I knew I wanted a worsted (medium) weight yarn… something that wasn’t too tiny! I also wanted super-bright and fun colors… so I thought instantly of Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton. It’s a super-soft worsted weight yarn made from 100% organic cotton. And it comes in bright colors… perfect snail yarn!
Step 6: Start Crocheting: Now that you have your yarn and sketch, it’s time to turn the sketch into a crocheted animal!
I look at each part individually, and plan out where I’ll need to put increases and decreases to create the shape I want. (You might want to read this previous post on WhipUp for tips on designing shapes)
Below is an example of my planning for the snail shell:
Once I’ve got a plan, I start crocheting. Of course, you may find that your plan needs adjustments once you try it out in real life!
Step 7: Love: Once you’ve made your animal… all that’s left to do is love him!
Oh yeah… and take lots of lovely photos!