Monday, April 1, 2013

How to Read Amigurumi Patterns

I used to work with a woman who was a very skilled crocheter- she made embellished girl's socks with crocheted cuffs, kitchen towels, scarves, etc, but she always said, "I can't read patterns!" I'm here to tell you that reading patterns is very easy, once you take a few moments to decipher crochet pattern terms.

Basically, all crochet patterns have shorthand that attempt to explain how to make a finished piece. Unfortunately, some patterns are better-written than others.

I'm going to walk you through one of my free patterns, explain what all the terms mean, and hopefully, by the end, you will have a better understanding of patterns!

Let's start by going over the materials list, stitches and techniques. Most patterns will provide this information before you purchase the pattern- it's important to know what you need to make the piece and if it's beyond your skill level.

Most of my patterns are beginner or beginner-intermediate level, using mainly single crochet stitches and whipstitching to finish the piece. Basically, great for beginners!

This is what my materials list and stitches and techniques look like on all my patterns (obviously, they are unique to each pattern, but this is what you can expect). For more of my thoughts on materials you need to get started in amigurumi, read this.

I spell out what abbreviations are going to be used in the pattern- think of this as a key on a map. Every time you see "sc" you will know it means to single crochet. You know how to single crochet, right? (If not, here's a link to a youtube video- not mine, really good!)

Now, let's take a look at what the actual pattern looks like:

We'll go through the first few rounds together and break down what each means.

Rnd (Round) 1: 
Make magic ring (mr), 6 sc in ring (6 sts).
Okay, deep breath, this is easy, you can do this. If you haven't mastered the magic ring yet, I'd encourage you to keep trying- it creates a really nice beginning to your amigurumi pieces that you just can't get with a [ch 2, 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook] start. Here's a great video (again, not mine) about the magic ring.

6 sc in ring: All this means is you make 6 single crochets in your ring. Most amigurumis are worked in circles, so the next round will start in the top of your first stitch of this round.

(6 sts) tells you how many stitches there are in this particular round. This becomes more important when you start adding and subtracting stitches- helps you keep track and make sure you're doing the pattern correctly.

I have a note in my pattern to move the marker at the start of each new round- basically, you take the marker out of the stitch you were marking, make your stitch to start the next round, and put the marker into that stitch. Stitch markers are essential for amigurumi!!

(Sidenote: I HATE patterns that do not tell you where to make your increases/decreases or how many stitches are in each round. I bought the pattern because I wanted somebody to tell me how to do it, not to have to sit down and figure it out before I make it. Urgh!)

Rnd 2:
2 sc in each st around (12 sts). All this means is you work 2 single crochets into each stitch of round 1. This is an increase round. You will have 12 stitches at the end of this round. You can even count them if you don't believe me!

Rnd 3: 
*2 sc in next st, sc in next st; rep from * around (18 sts). Okay, deep breath. This looks like a lot going on, but if you read it out loud, it's not all that complicated.

The * means there is a series of steps to be followed. So... you are going to make 2 single crochet in the next stitch, just like you did in round 2. Then, in the next stitch, you are going to make only one single crochet. You will repeat this pattern of 2 single crochets, then 1 single crochet for the entire round. At the end of the round, you will have 18 stitches. See, easy!

Rnd 4:
*2 sc in next st, sc in next 2 sts; rep from * around (24 sts). This is just like round 3, except that you will be working 2 single crochets in your first stitch of the round, then single crocheting in the next 2 stitches. Is the pattern starting to make sense to you?

Let's skip ahead to Round 16.

Rnd 16: *Invdc over next 2 sts; sc in next 3 sts; rep from * around (24 sts). The invisible decrease is a pretty easy stitch to master, and it makes a very clean/invisible decrease between two stitches. (Here's a video showing how to do it...not mine, again!) The invisible decrease uses 2 stitches, so that's why it says "invdc over next 2 sts." Then, you single crochet in the next 3 stitches before you repeat the decrease.

You will decrease the number of stitches in your round by 6 (according to this pattern- sometimes it's more, sometimes less- that's why it's important to know how many stitches you will have at the end of the round!!).

And that, in a nutshell, is how to read a crochet pattern. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by complicated terminology or abbreviations. There are really only a handful of crochet stitches in the world, and how they get combined is what creates a pattern. Just break it down into it's individual components. And don't be afraid to email your pattern writer if something doesn't make sense or if you notice a mistake. I'm not perfect, and occasionally there is a typo in a pattern, believe it or not. (gasp!!)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

So You Wanna Start Crocheting, Huh?

So you've finally seen enough adorable, crafty, beautiful crocheted things on Pinterest and you're ready to take the plunge into crocheting, huh? Well, congratulations! It's an awesome hobby/craft/career that is relatively cheap and easy to get started in. In fact, for about $20, you can buy everything you need to get started, and have enough supplies left over from your first project to keep you going for a while! So, welcome!

I've put together a couple of photos/reviews/advice for each of the things I believe you need to get started making amigurumis (the cute crocheted dolls you've been seeing all over Pinterest). My opinions are based on several years of trial and error- learn from my mistakes, save yourself money, time and aggravation.

First of all, if you are just getting started, do not think that you need to buy every single crochet hook, skein of yarn and notion out there. Start out small, by purchasing the basics, and USE COUPONS! Every craft store has coupons online and most of them will honor competitor's coupons, so there's no reason to pay full price for any of this! 

Let's Talk Hooks

As a first-time crocheter, you might be tempted to buy one of those really cheap aluminum Boye hooks for $1. I know I did- I figured if I didn't enjoy crocheting or couldn't figure it out, then I hadn't really lost any money investing in an expensive hook. This is just wrong. If you are going to take the time to learn a new craft and really stick with it, spend a few dollars more and invest in a quality hook that will not make your hand cramp or give you calluses. Plus, if you are a smart shopper, you can use 40% off coupons and then it really won't end up costing you all that much anyway.

Spend the $8. Trust me.
I cannot recommend enough the Clover Amour hook, size F/3.75mm. Amazon has it listed right now for $7.47, so even if you buy it full price, it's under $10 and totally worth every penny. The handle is a soft rubber with no seams to rub against your skin and create annoying calluses (a problem I encountered when I was using the Clover Soft Touch hooks, which are still an upgrade from the Boye hooks). The aluminum hook is smooth and won't split your yarn. You want an F-hook to start out with when making amigurumis because your stitches won't be so small you can't see them, and if your tension isn't very tight yet, your finished piece won't be so loose that you can see the stuffing between the stitches. I use an F hook for 99% of my amigurumi pieces. You might also want to invest in a D-hook, for smaller, more detailed pieces, but that can always wait.

What about Yarn?
A few weeks ago, a customer emailed me asking what kind of yarn I recommended for my patterns. The easy answer is "acrylic worsted weight." However, not all yarns are created equal. I have several brands of yarn that I use for different purposes, so I'll try to run through what I use and why.

Red Heart Super Saver
Pros: I like this yarn because it is cheap and indestructible. Most of my toys and blankets are designed to be USED by kids, so I want something that is going to hold up to being dragged around, drooled (or spit up) on, and washed...repeatedly. You can find this yarn in just about every store, too. 

Cons: Did I mention it's cheap? It's really cheap. It might feel scratchy in your hands when you're working with it, so if you're thinking of making a blanket for a newborn or a scarf you're going to wear every day, you might want to consider upgrading. Also, not the most sophisticated color palate out there.

Vanna's Choice
Pros: I really like this yarn. It's a nice, soft acrylic that comes in a wide array of really pretty colors, and it's pretty affordable. 

Cons: It's a little on the thin side of worsted, and sometimes I want my yarn to be a little more...beefy, especially for body parts, like heads, arms and legs. Also, I find it's more prone to splitting (when the individual strands of the yarn get separated when you're working with it), which is kind of a drag.

Loops and Threads
Pros: Remember how I said I like my yarn to be more beefy? Well, this is what I'm talking about. I use this yarn for all of my skin-toned body parts (heads, arms, legs, ears, noses, etc). 

Cons: It's only available at Micheal's, and you can't buy it online. Limited color palate.

The long and short of it is, the more you work with yarn, the more you will learn about each brand's strengths and weaknesses. You can mix and match brands (I do in almost every project), just be aware that they will be different.  You can use cotton or wool, too, but those come with their own special challenges (I hate the way cotton feels when I stitch with it, and pills when it gets washed a lot, and wool has a tendency to felt when washed, and kids can be allergic to it, for example...).

You're really going to tell me about scissors, huh?

Yes. Get yourself a pair of sharp scissors, and hide them from your family. There is nothing more annoying then going to neatly snip off the ends of a piece of yarn and finding your scissors have left it a shreddy yarny mess. You can spend a LOT of money (more than I thought was possible, honestly) on a really quality pair of scissors, or you can be like me and just realize that you will have to replace your worn out scissors every year or so. My husband has been known to grab mine off the table to cut open a package and hand them back to me casually while I stare daggers at him, so expensive scissors that are going to abused are just not in my budget.

Bits and Pieces

Locking Stitch Markers
You can get these in any craft store by the crocheting/knitting notions. They come in a couple different varieties, but I recommend the kind that lock, so they don't accidentally slip out of place while you're working or when your child grabs your unfinished piece off the table and drags across the living room floor. They come in a package of about a dozen, so you will have more than you need. Make sure you are buying crochet markers, not knitting ones, because knitting markers will never work for crochet.

Tapestry Needle
This is used for weaving in your ends and sewing together your amigurumi pieces. I used to use the plastic needles because I liked the flexibility, but then I lost them and the store only had metal ones, so now I used metal. I don't really have super-strong feelings about this. Just make sure they're big enough that your yarn fits through the eye. I usually just pick the biggest one available.

A lot of my patterns call for "jingle bells or other rattle-y devices." At the request of one of my customers, I upgraded from standard jingle bells to child-safe plastic rattles. I get mine through American Felt and Craft on Etsy, and they're a little pricey (about a dollar each), but they will give your finished piece a really professional sounding rattle. I think they're worth it.

Safety Eyes
I prefer Darice safety eyes to all others. They come in a variety of sizes, and they lock together really well. I use 6mm, 9mm and 12mm the most often- check what size your pattern recommends before buying. If you are making a doll for a baby and are worried the eyes might come loose and create a choking hazard, save yourself the heartache and embroider the eyes instead. I have been making amigurumis for about 4 years and have never experienced eyes coming loose, so I feel comfortable with them, but you may feel differently.

Fiberfill Stuffing
So...I forgot to take a picture of this. I use Poly-Fil stuffing. One bag will last you through multiple projects.

Crochet Pattern
Did I mention I sell patterns in my Etsy shop? They're pretty affordable and created with the beginning crocheter in mind. You should try them out.

And that's about it. Like I said, you can get everything you need to get going with minimal investment. If you have ANY questions about my recommendations, or have some ideas of your own, please, please, please leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Seeded Oat Bread

Seeded Oat Bread by ham_and_eggs
Seeded Oat Bread, a photo by ham_and_eggs on Flickr.
Adapted from "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day."

Makes enough dough for two 1-lb loaves.

dry ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup flax seed (not ground)
1 tbsp granulated yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 cup vital wheat gluten

wet ingredients

1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup coconut oil (melted, substitute with other neutral flavored oil)

1. whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl with a lid.

2. combine liquid ingredients in smaller bowl and mix them into the dry ingredients, using a spoon (you can use a food processor with a dough hook or a stand mixer with a paddle, but i prefer the old-fashioned way). if you have to add a little bit more water to incorporate all the dry ingredients, that's ok. i almost always do and my bread turns out just fine.

3. cover, not airtight, allow dough to rest app. 2 hours (longer, if you can wait)

you can use the dough immediately after the initial rise, but it's better to refrigerate for 24 hours.

take about half the dough, sprinkle with flour and quickly shape into a ball. avoid kneading the dough. using a sharp knife, cut an X into the top of the bread. let rest on a parchment lined baking sheet. (if you're using a baking stone, you'll need a pizza peel, and you probably already know how to do this part and don't need me to tell you how to do it... OR, buy the book.)

heat oven to 400 degrees. let dough rest 40 minutes. bake app. 35-40 minutes. keep an eye on your bread during the last 10 minutes so it doesn't burn. also, don't leave your beautiful bread on the bottom rack. bread is done when the crust is nice and firm, and has a hollow "knock" when you...knock on it.

using all your will-power, let your bread cool. it will smell delicious and you will want to tear into it right away, but that is a mistake. you'll have a gummy crumb (inside of the bread) and it'll be too hot to eat right away anyway.

this bread is probably one of the best i've ever made. it's dense and hearty, slightly sweet and has a pleasing texture (i think chefs and bakers call that 'mouth feel,' which just sounds weird to me) from all the seeds. it would impress all your friends, even the ones who bake, and it's super easy to make, so why not give it a shot?

Friday, March 22, 2013

I'm all over the place!

Seriously. You can find me all over the web. Let's run down the list of sites, just in case you don't know where I'm at!

Facebook (go like me now!)





Sheesh! It's tough for a gal to be connected these days.

The Bunny Ball

As my first official blog of Ham and Eggs Crochet, I'm going to bore you all with my free bunny ball pattern. (Kidding! This blog is going to be downright thrilling!)

I love all my fans on Facebook, my numerous Twitter followers and people who just buy a pattern and never interact with me via social media (it's not for everyone). And while I try to keep my patterns reasonably priced (more on this later), I understand some people are not interested in paying for crochet patterns. Lord knows there are enough free patterns out there to keep us all busy til we run out of yarn (thanks a lot, jerks! ha, kidding. sort of). So every once in a while, I'll release a freebie out into the world, as a thank-you to my loyal fans, and as a "hey, come check me out!" to newbies. This is one of those patterns.

I hope you'll download it and find that my patterns are thorough, well-written and nicely designed and maybe want to pony up the $1.99 (or less!) for one of my other patterns. This little bunny ball is cute and easy to make- even with stopping to make notes on the pattern, I was able to finish this guy in less than an hour. He's a great scrap-busting pattern, too, because he's so small you can use the leftovers from bigger projects to make him. Stuff him with a rattle and it's a great baby toy. Stuff him with catnip and he's an even greater cat toy.

To make the bunny ball, you'll need the following materials:
  • Size F crochet hook 
  • Worsted weight yarn in three colors (I used beige, white and pink)
  • (2) 12-mm black safety eyes
  • Fiberfill stuffing
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry Needle
  • Rattle (optional)
  • Pom-pom maker
You'll also need to know these stitches and techniques:
  • Sc: single crochet 
  • Invdc: invisible decrease (similar to sc2tog, but uses only front loops of the stitches)
  • Mr: make magic ring (You can [ch 2, 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook] if you aren’t comfortable with the magic ring, but I’d really recommend giving it a try!)
  • Whipstitch
  •  F/o: Fasten off

If you're an active crocheter (especially of amigurumi), odds are you probably have all of these supplies already. If not, you can get everything you need to make this guy for under $20 (and have materials leftover to make about 100 more).

Bunny Ball Pattern

Head/Body (With Taupe and F hook)

Rnd 1: Make magic ring (mr), 6 sc in ring (6 sts). Place marker in first st for beg of Rnd; move marker up as each Rnd is completed.
Rnd 2: 2 sc in each st around (12 sts).
Rnd 3: *2 sc in next st, sc in next st; rep from * around (18 sts).
Rnd 4: *2 sc in next st, sc in next 2 sts; rep from * around (24 sts).
Rnd 5: *2 sc in next st, sc in next 3 sts; rep from * around (30 sts).
Rnds 6-15: Sc in each st around (30 sts). Insert 12mm eyes in between rnds 10-11, 7 stitches apart.
Rnd 16: *Invdc over next 2 sts, sc in next 3 sts; rep from * around (24 sts).
Rnd 17: *Invdc over next 2 sts, sc in next 2 sts; rep from * around (18 sts).
Rnd 18: *Invdc over next 2 sts, sc in next st; rep from * around (12 sts). Stuff head firmly.
Rnd 19: *Invdc over next 2 sts; rep from * around (6 sts).  
Fasten off, close up hole and weave in ends.

Nose (Using Pink and F hook.)

Rnd 1: Mr, 6 sc in ring (6 sts).
Rnd 2: *2 sc in next st, sc in next; rep from * around (9 sts).
Rnd 3: Sc in each st around (9 sts). 

Fasten off, leaving long tail for sewing to face. Whipstitch to body between the eyes, weave in ends.

Ears (Using Taupe and F hook. Make 2)

Rnd 1: Make magic ring (mr), 6 sc in ring (6 sts).
Rnd 2: 2 sc in each st around (12 sts).
Rnd 3: *2 sc in next st, sc in next st; rep from * around (18 sts).
Rnds 4-7: Sc in each st around. (18 sts)
Rnd 8: *Invdc over next 2 sts, sc in next 4 sts; rept from * around (15 sts).
Rnd 9: *Invdc over next 2 sts, sc in next 3 sts; rept from * around (12 sts).
Rnd 10: *Invdc over next 2 sts, sc in next 2 sts; rept from * around (9 sts).
Rnds 11-12: Sc in each st around (9 sts).
Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing. Whipstitch closed. Whipstitch to the top of the bunny’s head (using photo as a guide). Fasten off and weave in ends.

Bunny Tail (Using White)

Using the directions for your pom-pom maker, create a white pom-pom and sew to the back of the bunny ball. Weave in ends.

Looking for other adorable patterns that match the Bunny Ball? Check out my Etsy shop, where you can find a matching security blanket lovey and Bunny Rabbit doll!

Copyright and Permissions
This pattern is © copyright 2013 Heather Jarmusz for Ham and Eggs. Do not resell or distribute this pattern (that’s stealing, after all!). You may use this pattern for your own personal use and sell your finished items created from this pattern, but you cannot claim the pattern as your own. I politely ask that you credit me, Heather Jarmusz, as the designer of this pattern, and that you include a link to my Etsy shop if you sell your items online. You can even copy/paste this text: For this and other crochet patterns, please visit Thank you so much for respecting my work and copyright. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me through Etsy. Thank you so much for your purchase! Enjoy!!