When Lizzo gives you a shout out on Instagram, you know you’ve made it.
That’s exactly the situation Allison Hoffman was in last year when the "Truth Hurts" singer and Austin City Limits Music Festival stunner shared a photo of herself posing with her miniature crocheted likeness and tagged @craftyiscool, Hoffman’s crochet art business.
Since becoming a crochet artist in the mid-2000s, Hoffman, 42, has amassed an international following drawn to her adorable creations and doable patterns, many of which have pop culture ties. In addition to her over 43,000 Instagram followers, she’s received attention from a host of celebrities ranging from Martha Stewart to Post Malone.
We recently caught up with Hoffman in her South Austin home studio — complete with a functional rainbow yarn wall — to chat about the reasons being crafty is, indeed, cool. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.
American-Statesman: Have you always been artistic?
Allison Hoffman: Yeah, I’ve always been crafty and tried different things. I always said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I would draw a lot, and I was in dance and ballet. I took art classes, but I kind of wish I would have gone to art school. It didn’t seem like something that was possible as a profession, so I just never really considered it.
You got a degree in communication sciences and disorders from the University of Texas and worked in tech before getting married and having children in the mid-2000s. When did you know it was time to focus on getting crafty?
(In 2007) I was home and looking for stuff to do. I started knitting first and then I started crocheting. I found some pictures of amigurumi, like little crochet stuffed animals, and I thought, "Those are so cute! I’m going to teach myself how to do it." So I got a book and I taught myself. I didn’t want to make whatever people were designing, so I figured out how to write a crochet pattern and I would post pictures of stuff I made on a website called Craftster. People would be like, "Could you write the pattern for that?" So I would write the pattern and post it for free and all these people would say, "I made it, look!" and it would look just like what I made! It was cool. It was rewarding. My husband was like, "You know, you could probably sell the patterns, have people pay you for them." I thought, "OK, I’ll try," So I opened an Etsy shop, etsy.com/shop/craftyiscoolcrochet, and people started buying them!
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When did you first receive celebrity attention?
I did "Yo Gabba Gabba" characters from the TV show. ... They actually used some of (my creations) on the TV show. It was really cool.
The first person doll that I did was Conan O’Brien. This was when he left "The Tonight Show." There was like a whole movement, "I’m with Coco." They had an "I’m with Coco" Facebook page and one day they posted a picture of my Conan doll. That day I sold like 150 Conan dolls. I took orders. It was really exciting because that was the first time I had something go viral.
How do you describe your online business, Crafty is Cool?
It’s always a weird thing. People are like, "What do you do?" I guess I say that I’m a crochet designer, but then when you say "crochet" people have kind of a misconception about it, like I’m making blankets. I like to call myself an artist. That gives it a little more value I think. An artist/designer of crocheted people and toys. Although they’re not really toys.
What’s the primary way you make money?
I sell a lot of patterns. It takes a week or two weeks to design something, write the pattern, test the pattern, proofread the pattern and then format the pattern, take pictures and do all that stuff that I have to do to promote it. But I only have to do it one time and then people can download the pattern from me as opposed to me doing all that other stuff and making the doll over and over. It just takes too much time and I don’t really like to make the same thing over and over. It gets really tedious.
What’s your most popular pattern?
The Baby Yoda I made, that’s like the most popular thing I’ve ever done. Baby Yoda made its first appearance on "The Mandalorian" TV show and my husband was like, "Oh, you should crochet that!" I finally started finishing it and I was posting pictures on Instagram and a ton of people were like, "Oh, I can’t wait for the pattern, please tell me you’re going to sell the pattern!" I posted the pattern the night before Thanksgiving and it started getting shared and reposted and all these pop culture websites like Buzzfeed and Boing Boing started posting about it and doing articles about it. My phone was blowing up about pattern sales. Then someone told me it was on (the website) Bored Panda — they have a huge number of followers and their posts get shared a lot. It went viral. That evening I was sitting here and my phone rang and it said Burbank, Calif. It was a lawyer for Disney. So I took it off of Etsy and took it off of Ravelry, which were the only two places I was selling it, and I took it off of social media. Still I get questions from people asking me for that pattern.
You’ve written books, too, right?
I have a literary agent and I’ve published several books ("AmiguruME: Make Cute Crochet People," "AmiguruME Pets: Make Cute Crochet Animals" and "AmiguruMe Eats: Make Cute Scented Crochet Foods"). I’m about to have a "Golden Girls" book come out and a "Friends" one, too, in the fall. It’s a book and kit. It’ll come with the yarn (to make the characters).
What was it like getting a shoutout from Lizzo?
I made the doll just because I liked Lizzo so much and I thought that would be an awesome doll. I wanted to make her and her flute so I just made it. When I posted it, a girl I know who works for "The Daily Show" who was friends with one of Lizzo’s publicists tagged her friend and was like, "Hey, did you see this?" A couple days later the publicist was like, "Hey, I work for Lizzo, can you send it to me? I want to give it to her." She asked to buy it, but I gave it to her. Then Lizzo posted it and that was on my birthday, too. I was really excited. Lizzo is so huge, and she tagged me — she went out of her way. It was just really cool.
You’ve met Post Malone, Martha Stewart, Richard Simmons, Questlove, Angela Kinsey and many others. What’s the key to getting their attention?
I feel like I’m good at tagging. I see people post things and I’m like, "Why didn’t you tag the celebrity?" People think they don’t see that, but I think they really do see it. And if you tag somebody, other people are going to tag the person, too. It’s a lot of social media know-how. And I’ve been lucky.
What’s your dream project?
I have a list of things I would love to do, but some of them I don’t know if anyone would care. I’d love to do the cast of "The Office," a book of that. I think that would be really popular.
What do you love about your job?
I can work whenever I want and I can not work whenever I want. I didn’t think that was an attainable thing, but I’m doing it now. That usually means that I work way more than 40 hours, but it’s just really nice to be able to say I need to take this day off to take my mom to the doctor. And pretty much whatever I earn is completely depending on me. If I check out for a couple of weeks I just won’t really make that much money, but if I really promote myself and do a lot then it reflects in what I earn. I never really get tired of doing it. I wake in the morning and I can be totally looking forward to sitting down and starting work.