Monday, April 9, 2012

How to Write Your Own Crochet Patterns for Plushies (Amigurumi)

     I thought I would make a post with some tips on making your own Amigurumi/plush. I'm just starting out doing this myself so I know how hard and intimidating it can be to start. For me making my own pattern seemed kind of daunting if not impossible but I'm gaining more confidence as I go along, I'm sure you can do it too! Don't underestimate yourself! ^_^

1. Research

     First, what do you want to make? Find pictures of as many angles as you can and see if you can find pictures of a figurine of what you're making. I find it particularly helpful to go on DeviantArt and see if anyone has made a sewn plush of what I want to make. I usually use the program Evernote (it's great for taking notes, helps you organize patterns, and it's free. Link here. Also good for those of you who are in school!) to gather pictures and write down any notes about how I might make the plush. Finding all these pictures helps you get ready for the next step: breaking it down into shapes.

2. Break the design into basic shapes

     Now that you know what you want to make and you have your reference pictures, try your best to break down the design into simpler shapes. Look at the head, is it round like a perfect circle or is it more of an oval shape? Even complex shapes like Pikachu's lightning bolt tail can be broken down into a few rectangles which are simply offset from one another. Think about the shapes you know how to make and try to find those in the design. Can you combine two different shapes to make a third, more complex one? Be as creative and resourceful as possible. Brainstorm and write down all your ideas about how you might make the different parts, come up with as many ways as you can think of.This will be helpful later on if you have trouble with your first attempt at a shape.

     Something else that will help with breaking your design down is sketching it out. Now, I'm not an artist, I can barely draw a straight line, but sketching your design is extremely helpful! Even if it looks a little silly or cartoonish that can actually be a good thing! By sketching out your simple, maybe childish version of the character, you are making it easier to break into those simple shapes which you will crochet later. You're stripping it of all the details which may at first overwhelm you, you look at the design as drawn by the creator and it seems impossible. However, once you sketch it yourself it becomes more familiar and approachable. As you draw the head you see it is nothing more than a circle with a few triangles attached, not really so complex after all. This step can give you the confidence you need to continue onward.

A page from my pattern book, this is the sketch I did before starting my Joltik plush. Please forgive the awful drawing, an artist I am not lol! >_< As you can also see, the spikes ended up a little different on the finished plush, I decided all those spikes weren't needed, plus I really didn't want to make all of those ^_^;

3. Sketch out your pattern on graph paper

     Now that you've drawn your design, hopefully from a few angles, you can begin to work on the pattern in earnest. If your pattern is less complex you may not need this step at all, when I made Joltik I simply did a few sketches in a notebook and just went from there. For something more complex you may wish to sketch an actual pattern out before you begin. Graph paper is particularly useful for this. Try to draw the design so that everything is in proportion to how you want the final plush to be (this is a bit of a challenge for people who cannot draw such as myself!). When you're done you can now use the graph paper to help you create the pattern. For example, look at the head, how many squares is it across at it's widest point? How many squares long is it? How does this compare to the body? For example if the head is 6 squares wide and the body is 12, we know that the body will need twice as many stitches at it's widest point than the head will. Drawing on graph paper can give you some idea of the proportions you'll be working with. One thing you shouldn't over look is that you're drawing a 2d pattern for what will be a 3d design! This is why looking at pictures of plushes or your own plushes can really come in handy, as well as drawing the plush from different angles.

     When working with a complex design remember you don't need to include every single detail, there are no design police that will come for you if you don't. ^_^ You need just enough detail to suggest the character or design you are making. Look at other plushes for reference if need be. You can also make a design more 'chibi' or simplified to help with parts that may be too hard or detailed to make, this will only serve to make the final product that much cuter. Remember it's your design, it can be however complex or simple  as you like as long as it makes you happy in the end!

Who's that Pokemon? This is the next pattern I'm attempting to make, an example of drawing your pattern out on graph paper. Hopefully I can manage such a complex design! Again, forgive the quality of my drawing! >_<;

4. Begin the pattern

     Admittedly this is the scariest step, actually starting to make your plush. Making your own plush isn't as easy as just following a pattern, it takes a lot of experimenting and trial and error. But it's not as bad as you think either, if you've made plushes before then you already have the skill tool kit you need to do this. You'll end up redoing some pieces before you have it all just the way you like it but that makes it that much of a greater victory when you're done. When starting your pattern, write down every row so you don't forget later, especially if you have to make more than one of that piece, like an arm or a leg. It's good to do this in the same notebook you were sketching in so you can refer to your design often. It's also good to write a pattern down so you can share it with others! (I know I've used so many free patterns over the years, it's really a great feeling to share your pattern with others and give back to the community. I'm sure there is someone out there who is wishing for a pattern for that character too! ^_^) Having actual pictures of the character as well as your design close by are essential as you work, so you can check your proportions and positions of pieces as you go. It's best to start with either the head or the body before working on arms, tails, ect. so you can use that first piece as a frame of reference for the others.

An example of how to write down your pattern, it doesn't have to be detailed, I just write the number of stitches at the end of each round. It takes just a few seconds at the end of each round and can save you lots of time and trouble later! Ignore the silly drawing of umbreon, this was the last page of my pattern and I was so happy to have finished it all! ^_^

     Another tip for working on the pattern is to use stitch markers often. I usually use my scrap yarn pieces for this, I save them and pull the strand into two thinner halves (by separating the fibers). They also sell locking stitch markers for very cheap at your local craft store if you don't trust yourself to not pull out the yarn markers. Whenever I'm going from increasing to working some rounds even (for example you've just increased to 12 stitches and now you'll do 5 rounds with 12 stitches to make the piece longer but not wider) I'll put a marker in the last stitch of my increase round. This is helpful later if I find out that I should have made the part wider or narrower I can pull out my stitches to that last increase row and still know where I am, this is much better than counting each stitch as you pull it out to try to backtrack to that increase round. It takes a few seconds to put a marker in and it can save you a lot of headache in the long run! Basically every time you decide to work some rows even (sc in each sc with no inc or dec) you should add a marker.The reverse is also true: if you go from working lots of rows even to inc or dec, you should add a marker. So whenever you're about to make a big change in the piece, add a marker and save yourself some trouble! This makes changes in design simpler and less stressful. Also it's good to become familiar with counting rounds on a piece so that in the event you accidentally pull out a marker you can figure out where it was. If you need help counting rounds, try googling it for pictures and explanation.

5. Continue the pattern using your first piece as reference

     Ok, you've made the head, awesome! Now what? Use the pattern from the first piece you made to help create the body, refer to your drawings and keep the proportions in mind. It's best to have the first part you made stuffed and finished off so you can use it's final shape to help you with the other pieces. Once you know how big the head is you can decide how big to make the body ect. There is no right or wrong size when making the first piece, it will be the base line from which you will make all the other parts. Just remember to stop every now and then to make sure your proportions are correct and look at your reference pictures. It doesn't hurt to stuff the piece you're working on and compare it to the one's you've completed either! 

6. Pin your plush together and make any adjustments

     Once you've finished all the pieces it's tempting to just sew them all together quickly and finally be done. However this is the part that needs the most care! Once you've stuffed and finished all the parts pin them to the plush. How does it look? Is it missing anything? Are your proportions ok? Now is the time to make any adjustments in the pattern or change the position of the pieces. Be happy with what you've done, it's your creation and above all it is important that you love it and you're proud of it!

Resources for making shapes:

     Here are some websites I use to help me make shapes when crocheting. I hope they will be useful in making your pattern as well.
Remember that different shapes can be used to make different things depending on if they're stuffed or not! For example a stuffed cone can be a spike but unstuffed it can be shaped into a cat-like ear. A stuffed cylinder can be a leg but unstuffed it can be a flipper or rabbit ear. Experiment and stay creative!

How to make a magic ring and a basic flat circle (you need to know how to make a circle to make most round shapes, this is what you start with):

Cones, spheres, cylinders, tubes, ovals, ect:

     I wish you luck on your pattern making and hope this article will help you in some way. If you ever get stuck, take a break or look at your reference pictures. At times it can be best to set your project aside so you don't get too frustrated, pick it back up later with a fresh perspective. You don't need to get a pattern done all in one day! Or go to old patterns made by others that you have done, have you ever made a shape similar to this before? How could that shape be altered to get what you're looking for? Be creative and resourceful in your pattern making. Above all don't give up, even complex patterns can be done with a little perseverance and creativity. When I get frustrated I doodle silly pictures of Pokemon on my pattern pages to cheer me up. What's most important is that you are happy with the final product, apart from that nothing else really matters. Be sure to capture the spirit of the character you're working on. How do you feel when you look at your design, does it convey the same emotions you get when you look at the original? I guess that sounds a little silly maybe but that's how I know I've done a good job with a plush. Do your best and don't give up! Thank you for reading this and I'd love to hear about any patterns/plushes you make as a result! ^_^

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!


  1. Are you going to make a pansage like in the picture?

    1. Yes, that's what I'm working on right now. ^_^ I have the head done (just the head not the ears or anything) and I'm working on the body right now. I'm not sure if I'll be able to do it all or not but I'm going to give it my best! It's definitely more complicated than Joltik >_< I'm writing the pattern down as I go so I'll post it just as soon as I'm done (assuming I can get it done lol!). Wish me luck!

  2. Hey, great job on the guide! I'm sure it will be a great resource for beginners :D
    Also glad to see that I'm not the only one with pages full of random very silly looking doodles for crochet :p
    Also also, good luck with the blog and making Pokemon patterns.

    1. Thanks! I'm glad I'm not the only one who doodles too ^_^

  3. I stumbled across your blog via Google and I'd like to thank you for this little beginner's guide! It's really gotten me motivated to begin working on my own patterns (something I've been absolutely terrified of doing), and I can't wait to get started. The amigurumi's you've made are also very good and you're extremely talented! Thank you again and Happy Holidays! :)

    1. Thank you so much for your message, please forgive the late reply! >_<
      I love hearing things like this ^_^

  4. Thank you very much for this! I hope to make my own Mewtwo pattern someday! I wish someone would post another pattern for him!

    1. Glad you like it! Best of luck on your Mewtwo pattern!

  5. I think I will try my very first crochet pattern, Greninja! I have never tried making my own pattern so I will first try a Chibi Greninja first I think ;) Thank you SO much for all the tips, they are really helpful, and I will start my pattern when I get free time! Again, thank you!

  6. Thankyou so much for this guide :) I thought I was just creating a messy note book! Now I have more confidence to create more exciting patterns thanks to you.

  7. I was wondering how to make a certain type of dog ear. Kinda flat and wide on top and then tapers down. What do you recommend?

  8. Oh many thanks!! What if i want to make a dolls head....but wanted also to have the chin the dolls made by Oksana?