The whimsical and adorable Pica Pau universe has been expanded with 5 new, free-to-download amigurumi patterns. We spoke with the designer behind the brand, Yan Schenkel. Read on to get her very best tips for creating adorable amigurumis with character.
Hold onto your crochet hook – it's time to meet a very special designer!
Five brand-new amigurumi patterns have arrived, making us want to drop all the other projects we're working on. 👀
The five new amigurumis include of Oliver the Frog, Madeleine the Dog, Luna the Cockatoo, Lenny the Cat, and Anita the Octopus. All are designed by Argentine Yan Schenkel, who is the creative spirit behind the playful and whimsical Pica Pau universe. Each of the animal friends have their own quirky and cute characters and stories to tell – and they are all dressed in wintry attire sprinkled with a touch of Christmas magic. ✨
We had a little chat with Yan about everything from her love for amigurumis to her Christmas traditions in Argentina. Read on – and pick up a few tips along the way!
1. What is the story behind Pica Pau?
“I started crocheting while commuting to college, between classes and while waiting on the curbside for my kid to get out of kindergarten. In 2009, I started mixing my drawings with the three-dimensional crochet technique and that's how Pica Pau was born.
I was born in Argentina, but my mother is from Brazil, so I chose a portuguese name, Pica Pau, which means woodpecker. The truth is that I didn't choose it for anything in particular, I just liked the sound of the word.
At first I gave all the toys I crocheted to my friends, then I started selling them in stores and from there I was lucky enough to participate in several projects with artists in museums and show my work in several publications.
In 2015 my first book in Spanish was published, and in 2017 my first book in English came out. It’s called ‘Animal Friends of Pica Pau’. And then I was even luckier, and my books were published in 10 languages – and at the beginning of this year, a third volume came out.”
2. Why are you drawn to amigurumi?
“Since I was a child, I’ve liked animal, fantasy and sci-fi characters in cartoons, children's books, comics, and movies, including all the merchandising that was around them, that is, dolls or toys. And I never stopped liking them, I still have almost all my childhood toys, haha!
So when I discovered that I could make my own toys and bring my own characters to life with just a hook and yarn, it was kind of life changing… In fact, it became my full-time job. Even though crochet has been my full-time job for many years (Pica Pau will be 15 years next March!), and it's had its ups and downs, it still continues to amaze me with all its possibilities.”
3. What characterizes the Pica Pau universe?
“The first things that come to mind are animals and a lot of stripes, haha. But, besides that, I always aim to create a really simple design but with character. I aim for simple lines, seeking out the little things that are essential to that character in particular (animal or being) and that it can be itself without many accessories. I mean, I love making accessories (who doesn’t love to make tiny clothes!), but I want the animals’ essence not to depend on that, so you can change their colors and some details and they’d still be recognizable.
I also think of them as part of the same universe, that’s why I like to make up stories for them, as if they all shared the same world and were friends with each other.”
4. What techniques would you recommend to someone new to amigurumi?
“Use the X-shaped single crochet, especially if you are making color changes or Jacquard. Start from the head to the legs to avoid sewing and, although I know most crocheters dislike it (and precisely for that reason) learn how to sew pieces properly.”
5. What are your top 3 tips for fellow amigurumi-lovers?
“1 – Keep practicing and learning new techniques.
2 – Don't sweat too much to create content for social media.
3 – Don't copy the work of your fellow amigurumi-crafters.”
6. What inspired you for the five new patterns?
“I looked for vintage Christmas illustrations and decorations, mid-century aesthetic, all mixed with ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ and my personal touch with stripes, haha.”
7. Can you tell us a bit more about the 5 amigurumi?
“Like all my characters, they are designed as a family, a group of friends, and they follow the same design style as all my other toys. Besides the obvious Christmas touch, all of them can stand on their feet thanks to their boots – or the Christmas wreath, in the case of the cockatoo.
I think there is a little something for everyone's taste. Some projects are very simple to make, others not so simple, a little Jacquard, lots of stripes and a touch of gold.”
8. What yarn did you choose for the projects?
“I worked with Friends Cotton 8/6. I’m used to working with a thicker yarn, but the truth is that I really liked working with this weight and I was able to adapt it to my favorite hook without problem! The yarn is super soft, yet it maintains the shape of the amigurumi very well.
It offers a very wide color palette, featuring both bright and pastel colors, and I particularly adore its opaque finish. So it was a real pleasure!”
9. What are your favorite tools for amigurumi?
“I absolutely love my 2.75 mm stainless steel hook! It’s super cheap and I love it so much that I’ve stocked up on two dozen of them, because I’m always afraid that they are going to stop making them.
I also use hairpins as stitch markers! And scissors, but I love scissors in general.”
10. How do you celebrate Christmas?
“I’m not a super Christmassy person, but I enjoy putting some Christmas lights in the house, and my youngest daughter loves to put homemade decorations on the tree. We have ones that I made in crochet a couple of years ago, and my daughters always add something made in their school.
As we live in Argentina in the South Hemisphere, we celebrate Christmas during summertime. We do the main celebration on Christmas Eve. Families usually gather to have dinner together, with tons of food (not always summer appropriated, haha) and we stay up until the wee hours of the morning. So I think one of my favorite traditions is making a lot of fresh salads (did I mention that it is really really hot here?), to have dinner outdoors with my family, and to eat a lot of ice cream with fruit salad before midnight, when we open the presents.”
Are you ready to get started on the 5 adorable patterns?
Ready to begin your next amigurumi project sprinkled with tales, adorable characters, and a little Christmas joy? Download the five Pica Pau amigurumi patterns for free: