Welcome, dear reader, to the cozy world of crochet TikTok.
The term “safe space” gets a bad rap. Over the past few years, it’s become the mean-spirited punchline to jokes told by the sort of people who, even in a pandemic, struggle to be considerate of others. But for a group of sensitive souls finding comfort in crafts, a digital safe space is exactly what was needed when the country shut down last March. TikTok gave it to them.
“I don’t think I would’ve made it through, if not for the community on TikTok.”
“I have met and interacted with some amazing artists, not just other crocheters, but artists of all kinds, on TikTok. And that has meant everything.”
Sarah has been crocheting for nearly a decade, and currently does the craft full time. She had shown off her crocheting skills on social media in the past, but it wasn’t until Sarah arrived on TikTok that her following really took off. When we spoke, she was hard at work on a plush whale to show her nearly 494,000 followers — a nautical tribute to the internet’s ongoing obsession with .
“TikTok really catapulted everything to a whole new level,” Sarah says. “It’s just so much more visual than Instagram. Of course, you can make this beautiful photo layout on Instagram. But seeing the whole behind-the-scenes process on TikTok is what really captures people.”
“Chonks,” also known as the art of (a portmanteau of the Japanese words “ami,” meaning knitted or crocheted, and “nuigurumi” meaning stuffed doll) are Sarah’s specialty. When arrived on TikTok last year, Sarah wowed them with designs for adorable critters ripe for the snuggle. Her viral , posted in early November, has 7.9 million views at the time of writing — and rave reviews by customers who bought the design on Sarah’s Etsy store.
Instead of shipping physical products during the pandemic, Sarah has mostly been selling patterns (that’s crochet lingo for written instructions) to newbie crafters online. From the socially distant safety of home, TikTok users from around the world have recreated Sarah’s work, many of them finishing their first crochet project ever under her guidance.
“I love it when people share something that they’ve made, even if it’s not something that was inspired by something I made,” Sarah says. “I’m just so excited for them, because crocheting has been such a wonderful and rewarding hobby for me — even more than that now — and to be getting other people into it is something really special.”
“That project quite literally changed my life.”
Amy, a New York City-based undergraduate student, was one of those pandemic-era novices inspired by crochet masters like Sarah.
“I actually started crocheting as a quarantine hobby,” Amy says, recalling a YouTube tutorial for a crocheted crop top that randomly popped up in her recommendations.
“My grandma taught me how to knit years ago, and we had some leftover yarn. So I just bought a [crochet] hook from the 99-cent store, and got started.”
That was in August. Today, Amy has a flourishing following as BusyBeeAmy Crochet (@amyliang1) on TikTok, where over 354,000 people follow her crafting adventures. Like Sarah, Amy is a big fan of amigurumi. The first chonk she made for TikTok was, appropriately, a bee, based on a pattern designed by .
Just learning the crochet fundamentals back then, Amy only made a few changes to the pattern to make it her own. But her enthusiasm for the adorable creation shined through, and the video spring-boarded her social media crochet career. now has 16.4 million views on TikTok.
“That project quite literally changed my life,” Amy says. “It connected me with so many people, and kickstarted my small business, which was a goal of mine for a long time.”
“I love that the crochet community is a safe place for everyone.”
The 18-year-old student majoring in entrepreneurship had so much success with her crocheting so fast she knew she needed a storefront as soon as possible. So, instead of slowing down her crocheting endeavors to design a website, Amy started temporarily using her friend Ziyuan’s jewelry making website, .
There Amy sold out of ghost key chains for Halloween, tree ornaments for Christmas, and more. Celebrating holidays through crocheting, she says, made the past year feel a bit more normal — a tradition she plans to keep up in 2021.
Right now, Amy is working to expand her adorable offerings through her own website, but sharing with a friend in the meantime has been nice. That unbridled support, Amy says, is what makes crochet TikTok special.
“I love that the crochet community is a safe place for everyone,” Amy says. “There aren’t any dramas. It’s just a stress-free environment for everyone to relax and see how beautiful clothes and plushies can be made with a single strand of yarn.”
Caleb, who started crocheting in 2018 thanks to his aunt, feels the same.
“Everyone processes their negative feelings in different ways, right? For me, it’s crochet.”
“Everyone’s really, really friendly,” the 14-year-old high school freshman from Florida beams. “We’re all really supportive of each other, not competitive. And it’s cool because you get to know so many different people and the one thing we all have in common is crochet.”
During the pandemic, Caleb has grown his @crochetingworlds TikTok audience to nearly 140,000 followers — thanks, in part, to his viral “Strawberry Cow” that now has 2.6 million views and was inspired by the popular song of the same name. Keeping up with TikTok trends, whether it’s crafting to a trending song or making a pop culture reference like crew mates from the online multiplayer game Among Us, is an essential part to gaining followers, Caleb says. But that’s not why he crochets.
“Whenever I’m feeling stressed out or angry, I’ll crochet. It’s just so soothing. Everyone processes their negative feelings in different ways, right? Some people do painting, some people try working out and running or punching a bag. For me, it’s crochet.”
Researchers have presented evidence that crafting can help with emotional health, mimicking some of the positive effects of meditation and acting as a natural antidepressant for some. Studies have even concluded that crafting can help stave off cognitive impairment.
“First of all, grandmas are amazing. So I am going to take that as a compliment. And second of all, you should try it though!”
Caleb regularly takes his admirers on shopping haul videos, in which he joyously selects yarn at Michael’s while gliding around on the back of a shopping cart. His exuberant personality and sheer love of crocheting is so apparent his followers make fan art portraits of him — always smiling and surrounded by yarn.
The prodigy crafter has an Etsy shop where he’s happy to sell his work, but Caleb also enjoys teaching newcomers how to make their own art through his “CrochetingWorlds” podcast. Caleb says starting a podcast was a simple way to deliver crochet and small business tips to more people, but it also signifies another way the ancient art of crocheting has been modernized online.
“Crocheting used to be a granny joke,” he says. “People would be like, ‘Oh, you’re a grandma now!’ And I’d be like, ‘First of all, grandmas are amazing. So I am going to take that as a compliment. And second of all, you should try it though!'”
Few crochet projects capture just how much the craft has changed like TikTok star Kaylee’s recent “b00bie” pillows. Made with suggestions from fellow crochet TikToker @corrinescraftsshop1, The 21-year-old Missourian’s pillow design uses traditional, lace-like “granny squares” — but adds a nipple at the center. Making hilarious original work like that, Kaylee says, takes years of practice.
“I have a section of my room now that is just overflowing with cows and frogs and blueberries.”
“I taught myself to crochet by watching YouTube videos in like 2014 or 2015,” she recalls.
“When I first started crocheting, I would only use patterns. But eventually you get a feel for it and grasp the concept of how something is designed. So now, in 2021, I can look at something and know, ‘Oh, yes, that is how that is made. This is how I’ll change it. OK, let’s do it.'”
With nearly 158,000 followers, Kaylee’s account, @kayleeeet420, lives up to its name through an eclectic collection of projects. An avid roller skater (another of 2020’s massive TikTok trends), Kaylee understands the ebb and flow across social media communities and does her best to keep up with TikTok’s algorithm and crochet trends. When she first joined the platform last March, she started posting videos of crocheted outfits, but eventually got into the big new thing, amigurumi.
“I have a section of my room now that is just overflowing with cows and frogs and blueberries,” Kaylee says, referencing her super popular fruit chonks. “With all the yarn and everything, it gets a little crazy sometimes. But what’s good is that I’ll sell out pretty quick, so I can get it out of here.”
How quick? Kaylee’s says her Etsy shop regularly sees new products vanish in just one or two days. Once, she says, everything she had available was claimed in under five minutes.
“The pandemic definitely helped me as a small business,” she says. “Of course, it’s a terrible thing and we all hate it, but for some online creators it has actually opened up a space for growth.”
The soft and cuddly world of crochet TikTok has provided Kaylee and others like her with opportunities for economic success and creative collaboration. Now, new platforms like Ribblr are aiming to create additional spaces for crocheters, knitters, and other fiber artists to meet.
“The cool thing about Ribblr is that it’s actually designed to be like an interactive pattern,” Kaylee tells me. She posted a video explaining the platform to her followers a few weeks ago. “There are so many cool tools on there, and honestly we need it … It is crazy how many people I have seen get on TikTok specifically to crochet.”
If you want to join the magical world of crochet TikTok, Kaylee says you should. Do it now even.
“I always tell people to never give up because crocheting is definitely a hard thing to learn, but anyone can do it,” Kaylee says. “What’s awesome is that it just takes a lot of practice and determination and patience. Seriously, all you have to do is learn it on the internet.”