Amigurumi toys, handmade and sustainable, find many homes

The crochet and stuffed toys are popular with customers who are looking for gifts to keep children away from screens

The crochet and stuffed toys are popular with customers who are looking for gifts to keep children away from screens

Amigurumi toys, cute, durable, handmade and colorful, became all the rage during the lockdown in Thiruvananthapuram. Amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting or knitting small cuddly toys, has appealed to those looking for gifts that will keep children away from screens.

Jaikumari Rajenesh first came across the cute toy made by Saraswathi Vasudevan, a math teacher turned entrepreneur. Saraswathi runs Tejas, an outlet for crafts and handmade products, in Thiruvananthapuram. Jai received a set of 15 finger puppets for her six-year-old granddaughter, Amaeya, and her great-nieces. †

Sparking imagination

Jai was charmed by the intricate work, time and thought that went into the toys. “When I saw how much fun the kids liked it, I got slightly larger Amigurumi toys as a Christmas present in 2021. Amaeya likes to play with her finger puppets, make up stories and let her imagination run wild. In the UK, her mother loves the handmade products more than my grandniece. What makes me happy is that the kids still love to play with their Amigurumi dolls and toys.”

Amigurumi toys made by Saraswathi Vasudevan

Amigurumi toys created by Saraswathi Vasudevan | Photo credit: special arrangement

Loving relatives and grandparents like Jai have ensured that there are many takers for the hugs. Speaking of the trend, Saraswathi says: “At the moment I am busy making Easter bunnies and eggs. Amigurumi may have been the only encouraging trend during the lockdown. My shop was closed and business was flat. I ventured into Amigurumi finger puppets, posted them on my Facebook page and they quickly became bestsellers. A kid wanted a set of sharks. We made a set for him, each about four to five centimeters high.”

Saraswathi had started her date with Amigurumi toys by making finger puppets with endearing expressions. She was pleasantly surprised to see buyers for the finger puppets and animal-shaped toys.

Amigurumi keychains made by Saraswathi Vasudevan

Amigurumi keychains made by Saraswathi Vasudevan | Photo credit: special arrangement

She is currently making two sets of five animal finger puppets (Jungle Friends and Safari) and Easter themed gifts. A crochet workshop she taught some time ago led some of her students to start making Amigurumi toys themselves.

Priya Ayyappan with her crochet Amigurumi toys

Priya Ayyappan with the Amigurumi toys she crocheted | Photo credit: special arrangement

Choice for children

One of those students who made the toys is Priya Ayyappan. She went online to learn how to make finger puppets for her 10-year-old son, Atharva, and shared them on her Facebook page. “Because Atharva loves animals, I made rhinoceroses, hippos and giraffes. Later I made toys for my nephew and my friends’ children,” she says. The animal-shaped dolls and stuffed animals had so many fans that Priya struggled to keep up with the demand.

Elizabeth Thomas Tharakan likes to make stuffed animals and dolls

Elizabeth Thomas Tharakan likes to make stuffed animals and dolls | Photo credit: special arrangement

The same was true for Elizabeth Thomas Tharakan, Sreeja Renjith and Lekshmi Balachandran from Kochi. When they started making the stuffed animals and dolls, they were inundated with requests for more. All three had started crocheting and knitting again during the long lockdown days.

After learning to crochet from her mother, Elizabeth decided to expand her repertoire by making toys from YouTube tutorials and books.

An Amigurumi doll made by Elizabeth Thomas Tharakan

An Amigurumi doll created by Elizabeth Thomas Tharakan | Photo credit: special arrangement

“I bought a few books about the craft. Initially it was difficult to find the eyes, nose, stuffing and satin ribbons for the toy. I had to buy everything online. Nevertheless, it was so much fun making those happy-looking toys that are so different from the mass-produced toys we get in the stores.”

Sreeja Renjith

Sreeja Renjith | Photo credit: special arrangement

Echoing her feelings, Sreeja says she revived her crochet skills learned from a cousin to make stuffed animals during the lockdown. She never thought it would have so many buyers.

Every stitch counts

“Each piece takes eight to ten hours to make. It depends on the shape and size of the toy. I notice that I have little time to serve all my customers.”

Amigurumi lizard created by Saraswathi Vasudevan

Amigurumi lizard created by Saraswathi Vasudevan | Photo credit: special arrangement

The price ranges from 100 to 2,000 and more. The price of custom toys depends on the complexity of the work and the size. Priya recalls making a “cute spider for a kid” who loved spiders and an 8-inch dragon, the “most complicated I’ve made.” Saraswathi had made a witch, a frog, a lizard, ducks and so on.

Elizabeth Thomas Tharakan likes to make Amigurumi toys

Elizabeth Thomas Tharakan likes to make Amigurumi toys | Photo credit: special arrangement

Value of handmade

However, Elizabeth regrets that some buyers do not understand the value of handmade gifts. “If they start talking about how to buy branded dolls for 250, I’ll stop involving them. This handmade toy takes a lot of time, skill and effort. With some dolls I made, I also gave a set of clothes to dress them up. Kids love to dress up the dolls so I give them little props like hats, ribbons, bags and so on to dress up their dolls. That will cost more than 250.”

In order to cater to customers, Saraswathi has started stocking accessories for the plush toys, such as the stuffing and different types of eyes, nose and mouth.

Unable to meet the demand, Saraswathi has taught her staff and students to make the toys and pays them separately for their efforts. Sreeja says: “These toys have a happy atmosphere and that’s why I enjoy making them.”

SOURCE : www.thehindu.com

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