Amigurumi: The art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. The word is formed from the Japanese words ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll. (Source: Wikipedia, which adds, “The prevailing aesthetic of amigurumi is cuteness”—a subject that merits its own Wikipedia entry.)
In “Zombies & Robots & Bears, Oh My!,” published in Crafts, Volume 1, Mary Belton writes that the stitched-doll trend started in 1997, when an art student named Sun-Min Kim created the first Uglydolls. By 2003, Belton writes, “Uglydolls were a bona fide hit.” Two years later, a new online crafts marketplace, Etsy, introduced a larger variety of amigurumi to online customers. Early in Etsy’s existence, company founder Robert Kalin organized an amigurumi contest in which he encouraged “mashups and mutants.” According to Belton,
Contest entries included butter & toast, a pirate squid, a turtle bird, an angry sheep, and a coffee bean. The pirate squid took first place.
A recent Etsy search found 17,865 matches for “amigurumi.”
Here’s an example from San Francisco amigurumi artist NerdJerk (“Inspiring smiles one geek at a time”).*
Bomb-Omb crocheted wind-up toy by NerdJerk.
*I discovered NerdJerk at one of the craft sales hosted by Berkeley craft studio Knit-One-One.
Previously on Word of the Week: Yarn bombing.