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! Iâ€™m an amigurumi designerâ€¦ which means that coming up with adorable stuffed animals is a major part of my job description! Even though I often say the ideas â€˜just come to meâ€™â€¦ thereâ€™s still quite a few steps involved in getting an animal from â€˜ideaâ€™ to finished animal.Â Iâ€™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.Â Who knowsâ€¦ maybe youâ€™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, itâ€™s important to get this one nailed down. I designed all of the animals in my book to be kid-friendly and cuddlyâ€¦ but not too big that theyâ€™d take too long to crochet.Â 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, youâ€™ll want to do a bit of research.Â I usually browse around online and gather lots of photos of my animal (real and cartoon) for inspiration. Iâ€™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 â€˜inspiration boardâ€™ of pictures.
Google images, Microsoft Clip art and Pinterest can all be great places to look for inspiration.Â Real animals, drawings and sketches can be great sources but donâ€™t forget that your intent isnâ€™t to copy, just to get ideas! Youâ€™ll come up with your own design!
Step 3: List your fave features: Once youâ€™ve picked your animal and looked at some inspiration, youâ€™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 theyâ€™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 â€˜ball shellâ€™ would be too plain), and a snail foot underneath the shell.
You might find yourself drawn back to your inspiration board.Â Notice that on my board there are snails with lots of different types/shapes of shells, some have a foot and others donâ€™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 youâ€™ve picked out the most important features to you, itâ€™s time to sketch!
Hereâ€™s my sketch of a snail that incorporates all of the features that I decided were important:
At sketching time, youâ€™ll be making some decisionsâ€¦ and you may need to revise some of your features.Â Notice on my sketch that the shell is rotated to a 45 degree angle? I had pictured it laying horizontally, but it wasnâ€™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 sketchâ€¦ youâ€™ll need to decide which yarn you want to crochet your animal out of! This can be one of the most fun parts!
Iâ€™m really passionate about using quality yarns for making stuffed animals. Why? First of all, stuffed animals donâ€™t use too much yarn, so itâ€™s not too expensive to upgrade to the nice stuff.Â Second, if youâ€™re making a stuffed animal for a childâ€¦ donâ€™t you want it to be soft?
And remember that, from the start, my goal was to create an animal that didnâ€™t take too long to make? So, I knew I wanted a worsted (medium) weight yarnâ€¦ something that wasnâ€™t too tiny! I also wanted super-bright and fun colorsâ€¦ so I thought instantly of Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton. Itâ€™s a super-soft worsted weight yarn made from 100% organic cotton. And it comes in bright colorsâ€¦ perfect snail yarn!
Step 6: Start Crocheting: Now that you have your yarn and sketch, itâ€™s time to turn the sketch into a crocheted animal!
I look at each part individually, and plan out where Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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 youâ€™ve made your animalâ€¦ all thatâ€™s left to do is love him!
Oh yeahâ€¦ and take lots of lovely photos!