This year (2021) was the year I began making mini saints, small peg dolls that are about 3 inches in height and can either be converted into ornaments or stand on their own. As someone with little patience, I love how quickly they work up (usually just 2-3 hours) and how they make thoughtful little gifts for family and friends. (An added bonus is that because they are so small and therefore don’t require a lot of yarn, materials are inexpensive!)
While I include all essential directions for making each saint in my patterns, I thought it would be helpful to also include a few tricks I’ve learned along the way for making these saints look as cute (and neat!) as possible:
1. Use 100% cotton yarn.
Specifically, I use I Love this Cotton! From Hobby Lobby. Not only is it very soft (and therefore, nice to work with), but I believe the matte colors are preferable to the shine acrylic yarn provides. It’s also less fuzzy than acrylic. While shiny and fuzzy yarn might work better for crocheting animals (depending on your personal preferences), cotton yarn produces dolls that look neat with more defined stitches. (I have yet to find an 100% cotton weight 2 yarn I like for some of the accessories however, so I use alternatives as detailed later).
2. Use a weight 2 yarn for certain accessories.
One challenge of making tiny saints is that they require even tinier accessories. I first ran into this challenge when creating the cross with a rose for my mini St. Therese of Lisieux. I experimented with using I Love this Cotton! (which is worsted weight) and only doing rounds of 3 or 4 stitches. Not only was this challenging, but the final result was still too big and bulky looking.
For a more delicate and crisper look with more clearly defined edges, I opted for Yarn Art Jeans to complete the cross with rose. I also often use a smaller hook to achieve the desired look of tiny accessories (either 1.5 mm, 1.75 mm, or 2.0 mm). It can be a challenge in its own right to work with such a tiny hook, but I find it is still easier than trying to make bulkier yarn work and that the result is much cleaner.
I also used Yarn Art Jeans for St. Thomas Aquinas’s gold brooch and scroll. I keep a stash of Yarn Art Jeans of various colors since I have to order it (and therefore I can’t just conveniently pick it up at the store as I need it), which comes in handy for a variety of saint accessories.
Hobby Lobby’s Yarn Bee Yarntopia is another shinier weight 2 option that I used for Our Lady of Fatima’s crown.
3. Use poly beads and nylon socks to help the mini saints stand.
While the mini saints can make perfect Christmas ornaments, I personally prefer to make them able to stand on their own so I can enjoy them all-year-round. Because the bottom is only 24 sc around and the saints are so small and therefore lightweight, it helps to use poly beads to weigh them down. I purchased some little nylon socks (the type retail stores often carry for trying on shoes), fill them with poly beads, tie a knot at the top, trim the leftover piece at the top of the knot, and stuff them in the bodies of the little saint dolls.
When I’m finished with each saint, I flatten the bottom with my fingers to help create a flat surface for the saint to stand. You may also insert a small cardboard or plastic canvas circle in the bottom of the bodies (before adding the sock with poly beads) to create a harder, smoother surface to help your mini saint stand.
4. Instead of sewing, attach some pieces together by using glue.
No matter how many amigurumi I make, sewing neatly still remains a challenge for me! This year, however, I discovered that gluing certain pieces together is not only much faster and easier, but also looks neater.
I still recommend sewing some pieces together (such as sewing the arms onto the body). For other pieces, Tacky Glue can be a great alternative (and they have a clear one if you’re worried about it showing). Attaching the hair strands to the head and a veil onto hair via glue looks far neater than when I sew them. I’ve also began trying to attach certain accessories with glue. This can be trickier as these pieces are small and delicate, and I will only do so if I have a decently-sized, flat-ish surface to apply glue, ensuring enough glue can be applied for the items to stay in place. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas’s scroll is glued onto the body. I was also able to cradle both arms using glue (but this can be tricky so be careful!)
Of course, the downside of using glue is that it’s difficult to undo if you get it wrong. It requires a lot of care and attention which frankly, can be difficult for a person like me who makes lots of mistakes and likes to experiment. If you do need to reposition a piece, wipe off glue by dabbing it with a soapy paper towel, wait for it to dry (which will take a while– you can try leaving it outside in the sun to expedite this process), and try again. I can’t guarantee residual glue won’t linger in unwanted places, but I have done this a few times and it has worked fine for me.
5. Recycle and combine pieces of existing patterns to design your own saints.
Considering there are thousands of canonized saints, I think that it is safe to say I won’t get around to creating original designs for all of them! However, an enormous plus side of designing dolls is that I get to recycle the base patterns. A couple of my saints so far have an extra round. For example, Our Lady of Fatima is one round taller than most of the other dolls to make a little extra room for the rosary to hang off her arms without dangling too far past the bottom of the body. Besides this small discrepancy, all the bodies and arms are the same basic pattern template. (Similarly, the hair and veils on both Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Fatima are same pattern.) This frees up time and creative energy to make unique patterns for the other parts of each saint.
I get requests for particular saints that people want to crochet, but the truth is that many crocheters can probably recycle bits of my existing patterns and add a dash of their own creativity to design their own. I know designing can be intimidating for those who have not tried it yet, but take it from someone who typically struggles a lot with arts and crafts: If I can do it, anyone can! It truly just takes the willingness to set aside the time and effort to figure it out and some patience for the inevitable trial and error process. (However, once again– the benefit of these pieces being so small is that it will take comparatively significantly less time/effort to figure out than if you were designing bigger pieces).
And if you’re stuck on how to design a specific piece for your saint, feel free to shoot me a message and we can brainstorm together!
Overall, it’s such a joy making these little saints, reflecting upon the lives of the wonderful humans they represent while embarking upon mini creative journeys. As my New Year’s Resolution is to invest more time and effort in this blog, I’d love to hear which of the above tips you find the most helpful and answer any other questions you have about making your own mini saints.
God bless you!