How to assemble amigurumi: Attaching arms and legs

How often has this happened to you? You are crocheting an amigurumi. You have the head and body done – so far, so good — and now it is time to make the arms and legs. You work through the pattern and then hit the all-too-familiar brick wall: “Fasten off and attach to the body”. There is no guidance about where on the body the arm or leg should be attached or how to attach it (the pattern might include a cryptic reference to sewing). I believe the assumption is that the process for sewing on the arms and legs is either common knowledge or is so patently obvious that it doesn’t require a detailed explanation. I disagree with that assumption.

If you are new to amigurumi, the minimal instruction in most patterns will be especially frustrating for you. I know it was for me, which is why the majority of my first attempts at amigurumi are still hidden away in a shoebox – a small pile of disembodied limbs surrounded by lop-sided little heads.

Not one to give up easily, I practiced until I found a system that results in neat, strong joins.  There are two types of limbs in amigurumi: limbs that are pinched closed before they are sewn on (“closed” limbs) and those that are left open (“open” limbs).  You use a different method to sew on each type, both of which I will describe below.

Phantom Limbs 

As I was preparing this post, I realized that I was facing a challenge.  I could show the steps for sewing on the limbs, but it would be difficult for you to see how the stitches were made into the body since the limb would cover them up.

Therefore, I used a contrasting yarn to show what the body stitches would look like if you took the limbs away.  In the picture below, note that the yarn makes two distinct patterns.  On the top of the body is the pattern that would be made by attaching a closed limb.  The stitches are made across one row of single crochet.

"Phantom Limbs" On the bottom of the body is the pattern made by sewing on an open limb.  Note that the stitches form a roughly circular shape, and that the limb attaches across multiple rows of single crochet.

Attaching a closed limb

1. Remember that long tail of yarn you left when you fastened off?  Thread it on to a yarn needle – it is the yarn you will use to sew on the limb.  Roll the limb a bit so that the yarn tail will be roughly in the “2 o’clock” position when the limb is pinched closed (I used a contrasting yarn for the yarn tail).  Make sure that the stitches on the front and back of the limb line up in pairs.

 2. Insert the yarn needle into one of the holes in the body above the row of stitches where the limb will sit against the body, and then bring the needle out of one of the holes below the same row of stitches.  Keep tension on the yarn.

3. Insert the needle under a pair of stitches on the limb as illustrated below.  Make sure the needle passes under both the front and back loops of each stitch.

4. Alternate stitches into the body and limb until you reach the end of the limb.  If you are making the amigurumi for a child, consider making each stitch twice to make sure the limb is very securely fastened.

Binding off

To make sure that the limb is really secure, I developed a way to bind off the yarn.  Insert the yarn needle behind one of the stitches on the underside of the limb and draw through until a small loop remains.  Pass the needle through this loop and tighten.  A small knot will form.  Insert the needle into the hole closest to the knot, pass the needle through the body and come out several inches away.  Pull tightly and the knot will pull into the body and disappear.  Cut the yarn and the end will retract into the body.

Setting up the knot for binding off

Attaching an open limb

1. Once again, thread the yarn tail on to the needle.  Throughout the process, be aware of the shape of the limb – it is easy to distort an open limb while sewing it on.

2. Insert the needle into one of the holes in the body that is close to the spot where the edge of the limb will touch the body.  Then bring the needle out of a nearby hole that is behind the spot where the limb will touch.  Try to have only one single crochet post between the entry and exit points (this is like making a front post stitch).

3. Now, moving from the inside of the limb toward the outside, insert the needle under both the front and back loops of the next stitch on the limb.  Pull taut and the edge of the limb will move up against the body.

4. Alternate stitches into the body and the limb.

5. Bind off as described for the closed limb.

The closed limb technique is also helpful for attaching ears and wings.
The open limb technique is good for tails, snouts, and attaching the body to the head.

Samples for this post were made using Paton’s Canadiana yarn in white and cherished yellow, and Red Heart Soft yarn in tangerine.

About Erich

I am a crochet designer who lives in Portland, Oregon. Although I love all types of crochet, the focus of my design work is amigurumi and toys.
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