Meet Twinkie Chan, Celebrity Crocheter

When one hears the name Twinkie they automatically think of snack food, so it’s only fitting that Twinkie Chan should specialize in crocheting the fun foods from her childhood.  Since 2005 Twinkie has been a fresh force in the fiber world with her cute creations of all types of foods, from cupcakes, to pizza, to hot buttered toast.  Her unique designs are instantly recognizable and her whimsical sensibility earned her a fan base that was unexpected. JOTwinkie1

Twinkie started selling her signature cupcake scarves on EBAY, and to her surprise they sold for $200 to $300 dollars each.  Now just 8 years later she has a book of original patterns, started her own line of signature accessories called Yummy You, and is a celebrity in the crochet world.

I caught up with Twinkie Chan at the Japan LA boutique in Los Angeles where they carry her Yummy You brand.  I had a chance to interview her and ask some burning questions that had been on my mind since I met her on MySpace several years ago.  I started following her blog and I transitioned with her to Facebook.  The power of social media, and our love of crochet brought us together.

Q:    How did you get your start?

A:  I’m an English major and I worked in publishing as a literary agent for 10 years, I learned to crochet when I was really young so it was always a skill that I fell back on to make presents for people.  I made a lot of presents for my boss because she was the woman who had everything so you have to be creative and make something.  When I moved to San Francisco in 2005, it gets cold at night, the fog comes in , so I wanted to make myself scarves that were cute and fun because I couldn’t find them in stores, so that’s how it started.  I just started making them for myself.

Q:   Why did you concentrate on food instead of animals or other stuff?

A:    I  kind of  always had an obsession for fake food.  When I was little I would save my allowance to buy fake Fisher Price toy food, so I don’t know what it is, I think it’s really nostalgic, because I love food imagery.  I kind of gravitated towards yarn that looked like food, like this looks like Cotton Candy, this looks like Peppermint.  My brain was already turning the yarn into food, so I just took it a step further and started creating the food shapes.

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Q:  You started to put your stuff on EBAY and I notice you got a lot of reaction and your items started selling, from EBAY did you open an ETSY store?

A:  When I started selling my stuff, EBAY was the place to go.  ETSY may have existed but it wasn’t the phenomenon that it is now.  So a lot of the DIY girls that I knew were selling on EBAY, but I notice that on EBAY a lot of the times it was the same person, some woman in France would keep winning the auctions.  It’s whoever could bid the highest would get your goods, I kind of wanted more people to be able to have access.  When ETSY started to get more popular I decided to give that a try, and lower the prices from what they would normally sell on EBAY and kind of make it a little more accessible.  Even then I know the cost of handmade is too high for many people so that’s why I looked into creating my licensed brand YUMMY YOU so we can bring the price point down even more.

Q:  How did YUMMY YOU come about?  Did they approach you, did you know someone?

A:  YUMMY YOU is something I created with a business partner, he’s a branding and licensing guy here in Los Angeles.  GIANT ROBOT magazine did a really nice spread of me and my work in 2006, he read it and he emailed me and said, “What do you think about trying to go bigger with this?  I didn’t know who he was, am I going to be a sell out?  So I didn’t really go forward with this until about 2009 and just to separate my Twinkie Chan brand with my more mass-produced brand, we then created YUMMY YOU.

Q:  If social media didn’t exist, if there were no MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, do you think you’d be able to have had YUMMY YOU?  Would you have eventually gotten there, but maybe it would have taken longer?

A:  It would have been much more difficult, I would have had to hoof it around in person from boutique to boutique and I’m kind of an introverted person.  So that would have been a big challenge for me, but ultimately if that was my goal I would have to get over it.

Q:  Introverted? I find that surprising, because you’re pink and fluffy and everything is so cute.

A:  You evolve with your brand, you have to put yourself out there to be successful.  So you try to be more talkative and connect with people and eventually you find it’s fun.

Q:  How did you go from just thinking about cake, cupcakes and pies to making a pattern?  How did you figure out how to write all of that down and form your book?

A:  There’s a little bit of math involved with the patterns. I read a book about drawing for children, if you want to draw a lamp you break it down into basic shapes that you know.  A lamp is a triangle on top of a circle.  So that’s what I do today.  What is a carrot?  It’s an elongated triangle.  What’s a cookie?  It’s a circle in the center with half circle scallops on the edge.  I just break things down into simpler shapes.  If you know how to crochet a circle, rectangle, triangle, you can develop the skill to break down shapes to figure things out.

Q:  How do you determine what yarns you are going to use for the actual finished product?  Do you play with a lot of yarns, touch them feel them, make stuff, take it apart? What is your creative process?

A:  There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning when I first started, because there’s so much yarn out there.  I didn’t know if I waned to do acrylic or wool.  It all comes down to what I personally would wear myself.  I’m really sensitive to animal fiber, it’s really itchy to me, it has to be really fine, fine wool for me to wear it and also it’s expensive, you know crochet is denser than knitting.  It takes up more yarn.  So that’s why I used a lot of acrylic, it’s comfortable to me it’s what I would wear and it’s also about finding the right weight that worked for me.  It took me a while to figure out worsted or heavy worsted is where I’m comfortable and holds my food shapes.  It did take trial and error.  I bought all kinds off yarns and ultimately the basic acrylic yarn works for me.TwinkieYarn

Q:  Now that you have the food world conquered, are you going to branch out and make other things?  Like cats or dogs?

A:  My whole philosophy with the food theme is at that point so very few people were doing it, and there had been a lot of animal scarves out there already so I doubt that I would really circle back to that.  There’s still tons of different food in the world, so I don’t’ think I’ve quite exhausted it yet, I don’t think I’m ready to let go of it yet.  I think eventually something will evolve, but I’m not sure where it will go yet.  I still have a lot of foods to cover.

For more information on Twinkie Chan, please visit her official website: www.twinkiechan.com

Don’t forget to check out her book:  Twinkie Chan’s Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies.  Inside the book there are patterns for scarves, hats, and mittens.