Mollie Makes meets: Twinkie Chan

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Quirky crochet queen, Twinkie Chan talks crafty carrots, colourful yarn and reveals what it’s like to run a business from home

If you haven’t seen it already, issue 18 of Mollie Makes includes an amazing crochet toast scarf by Twinkie Chan. We decided to catch up with this fab crafter to find out more

Mollie Makes: Hello there! Please tell us a little bit about yourself
Twinkie Chan: Hi! I live in San Francisco, California, between a lake, the ocean, and a bunch of fog. I love pink, polka dots and Peter Pan collars. I also think we’re never too old to celebrate all the cute and colour in the world!

How did you learn to crochet?
My best friend’s grandmother taught us when we were little and I learned more stitches later from one of my babysitters. At some point, I taught myself to read patterns and then picked up everything else from brochures and booklets. This was before video tutorials on YouTube!

What do you enjoy about it?
I really love buying yarn. It’s like you have a shopping addiction, except that after you shop you can also go and create something awesome instead of feeling guilty… thus further feeding said addiction!

Crocheting not only makes you feel productive, but it’s also extremely meditative and soothing. Plus, I love how portable it is. I can take a project with me everywhere I go.

Why food? What was the first morsel you made?
When I was little, I was really drawn to playing with toy food and making my own out of paper of Play doh. Then, when I learned to crochet, I crocheted my own play food too. I think the very first food item I ever made when I was younger was a little Chinese pork bun or custard tart. Fast-forward 20 years or so, I became really obsessed with richly coloured hand-spun yarn, which already looked like food to me.

I then decided to try making accessories that were actually shaped like food! One of the first food scarves I made was a peas ‘n’ carrots scarf. I wonder if someone in the world still has that one!

How do you tackle a new project or design?
I start by doodling sketches in my notebook. If lots of colours are involved, I’ll then draw out a design in Photoshop so I can lay it all out and make sure it looks good. Doing this helps me break designs down into simple shapes that I can then translate into crochet.

Then it’s all about trial, error and taking lots of notes while crocheting. Sometimes I’ll crochet something for six hours, decide it’s not quite right, frog it and start over again.

What inspires you?
Everything! The world in general, as well as my talented and creative friends. Inspiration for ideas comes easily; however, making those ideas come to life and/or having the time to execute all of them can be a bit more difficult sometimes.

What are your favourite blogs to read?
I like A Beautiful Mess by Elsie & Emma for getting inspired to just do stuff. Howie Woo‘s WooWork is amazing for super-creative crochet photos and videos. Plus Drop Dead Cute is a constant source of amazing stuff to dazzle your cute-sensors and empty your wallet!

Tell us about your workspace – where do you do most of your crafting?
I finally have my own craft room! Yay! It has yolky, sunshine-y yellow walls and a rainbow array of yarn. It’s one of the rooms in the house that gets the most light and it’s just a warm and happy place. I’ll pack all my orders in there, lay out all my projects involving glue or beading and do design and Photoshop work there.

But I do most of my crocheting in my living room, so I can snuggle up in front of the heater with my puppies and the television! My coffee table is always a mess of yarn balls and crochet scraps. It’s kind of hard for me to keep a tidy house!

What’s it like to work for yourself?
I love setting my own hours, but I also basically work all day every day. I get antsy if I’m not working. I’m extremely self-motivated, so I thrive on making my own schedule and my own deadlines. I also like being able to hang out with my doggies all day and I wouldn’t have gotten them if I still worked in an office.

There some cons, though. It feels like too much responsibility sometimes – the income is not regular and, at times, I feel overwhelmed by having to do absolutely everything by myself. I’ll have days when I feel confused and really wish I had a mentor, but then I’ll reach out to a fellow crafter/small business owner and feel a bit better.

It’s good to remember there is a community out there. We need to come together more!

Could you offer any words of advice for fellow crafters eager to set up their own business?
I crafted for a long time before feeling I had something to offer to sell. I think it’s important to brand yourself in the beginning. You should also create items with your own unique twist, so that when someone sees one of your items, they know it’s yours and the only place they can get that awesome, must-have item is from you.

Tell us the best-kept crochet secret
My first reaction was to say that if I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret any more! The only thing I can think of is that there are no secrets and there aren’t any rules. If your project turns out the way you wanted it to, I wouldn’t worry too much about how you got there, just have fun with it!

What’s next for you?
I kind of see two paths I’d like to pursue. One is working on making Yummy You! bigger and bigger, producing more products and getting into more stores. The other is trying to do more art shows with my crochet paintings. Maybe also making a hand/wrist-workout-and-stretch video with a killer Eighties soundtrack for rabid crocheters and knitters… just starring people’s hands!

For more of Twinkie’s crocheting antics, visit her website. To make a toast and jam scarf, check out issue 18 of Mollie Makes.

All images © Twinkie Chan