When my daughter Grace was little, she collected tiny objects, sometimes pilfered from her sister and squirreled away in her bedroom. Among the 4-year-old’s prized collection of teeny-tiny items were a Barbie suitcase, Hello Kitty erasers, a 1-inch plastic baby and animal figurines.
“It’s special to me,” she explained when an item of her sister’s was found in her room.
Everything tiny was special to this child, and the family came to refer to little objects as she did, as “little thingies.” We still do, even though Grace is 18 and graduating from high school.
Little thingies have caught on in the crafting world, so much so that stacks of books are dedicated to their creation. Most are crochet projects, but other mediums, such as needle felting and knitting, also bend toward the tiny.
The Japanese gave little thingies a name: amigurumi — small, adorable creatures that are usually crocheted. I’ve seen Hello Kitty and Star Wars characters, comic book superheroes and every animal under the sun in books touting amigurumi patterns.
What is the draw? Why spend hours hunched over a small, non-essential project? You can’t wear it like a scarf or a hat. You can’t decorate with it, as you would a pillow or a blanket. Albeit adorable, the inanimate object is a dust collector.
Crocheter Twinkie Chan of Ventura, California, attributes the attraction to this: babies.
“We’re naturally drawn to little, tiny things like a baby,” human or animal, she says. “Stick some big eyes on (a project) and people will love it.”
There are practical reasons, too.
“I don’t have the patience to make anything big,” says Cindy Wang, author of “Literary Yarns: Crochet Projects Inspired by Classic Books” (Quirk Books, 2017).
“I like being able to make something you can hold in your hand.”
Wang, who created patterns for Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Frankenstein and many more characters for “Literary Yarns,” began crocheting tiny figurines six years ago — mostly superheroes. Depending on its complexity, a project can take two to nine hours.
Wang likes to share her simpler creations, and makes a game of it, regularly leaving the figurines at San Diego Comic-Con and in her home city of Houston. She recently dropped off Marvel characters such as Spiderman and Iron Man in New York City, tweeting clues to their whereabouts.
She says that only basic crochet skills are required to make the simplest dolls, although learning how to shape them and adding embellishments takes more time.
“The crocheting part itself is the easy and quick part for me,” Wang says. “It’s the tiny details that take time.”
Taylor Hart of Bastrop, Texas, says beginner stitches and “the magic circle,” which works a project in the round, is all it takes.
Hart gravitated toward simple amigurami shapes for a lot of reasons. “It’s like…