For the September session of the Bath Knitting & Crochet Guild Karina talked us through the history of knitting and crochet in Japan, and how this evolved into the craft known as amigurumi.
So, what is it? Well, the name is made up of a combination of words: ami = knitted/crocheted, nuigurumi = stuffed doll, and together they make amigurumi. This gives you a few clues about how they’re made. The other key elements of amigurumi creatures are that they must be SMALL and CUTE.
The term first appeared in 1951 and by 2006 amigurumi items were reported to be the most popular items sold on Etsy. This popularity isn’t reflected in the number of books on the subject, however if you put the term into Google you’ll get over 14 million results!
In Japan, ‘kawaii’ is the word used to denote how lovable, cute, or adorable something is and is ‘the quality of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture’ and this too gained popularity in the early 1950s. This love of things small and cute was promoted as a distraction from and to cover up the atrocities of the atomic bomb as Japan regrouped and reformed as a nation and a political power.
The way the Japanese use the skills of knitting and crocheting to create amigurumi are very different to the traditional, functional, uses in the West. However, some of the first knitters in Japan were Samurai warriors who would make their own socks with individual toes to aid movement – which is very functional indeed.
After Karina’s introduction to all things amigurumi, it was time for us to have a go and there were many dragons, birds, bears and bunnies to choose from. It was one of our quietest sessions ever as everyone was concentrating so hard on making tiny pieces or attempting a new technique. While the Japanese may have distracted themselves from the atomic bomb with the ‘kawaii-ness’ of the crafted creatures, I think perhaps the level of concentration required also helped to focus the mind!