Well, I thought that I was the last to discover this craft, but I've spoken to several people who also hadn't heard of it.
It's a Japanese form of crochet or knitting that literally means, 'knitted stuffed toy'. Crocheted amigurumi are the most popular. Although any small toy could pass off as one, what really makes it the amigurumi of popularity is that the toy is often anthropomorphic and definitely cute. So big heads often prevail, or just small.
The technique is about as simple as crochet gets. Once you know basic crochet, you can make these toys. It's single stitch working in a spiral, and using increases and decreases to form the shape.
I was crocheting for about 1 week and had only done one scarf before I gave these a try. It's single stitch all the way so it was great practice. I like to practice while still making something.
Oh, and another aspect of this craft that makes it appealing fr beginner's is that like scarves, guage isn't important.
Like all crochet though, complexitiy is up to the person who creates the pattern. there are very simple beginner patterns and then there are elaborate ones. However, the technique remains simple, it's just that there is more work involved.
I created this tiny turtle over a couple of days. Probably took me about 2 hrs. I didn't have an alternate colour like the pattern suggested so just worked it in the one.
Sorry, awful photo, there was very little light that day and baby was about to wake.
If you've never crocheted before, here's a quickie pattern-reading tutorial (from tiny turtle):
Rnd 3: *2 sc in next sc, sc in next sc; rep from * around – 18 sc.
It's the third round (or row).
You do 2 single stitches into the next single stitch loop (the 'next' is the first of that round).
Then a single stitch into the following loop.
Repeat that again until you finish the round.
You should have 18 stitches.
When you do two stitches into one loop, you have increased. When you do one stitch using two loops, you have decreased. Easy!
And you absolutely need a marker. Even if it's just a different coloured thread or the yarn you're using. I am terrible at remembering here I left off, and any mother with a child around knows you can't keep track of stitches!