CBS News has referred to him as “an 11-year-old with a grandmother’s soul” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has referred to him as “a prodigy.” He’s appeared on “Good Morning, America” and had so many media requests that he actually had to decline appearing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” But somehow, when we sent Jonah Larson a message to his Instagram account (@JonahHands) last week, he found time and was willing to answer questions about his crocheting and his business experiences for Craft Industry Alliance.
The La Crosse, Wisconsin-based middle schooler has become something of a celebrity and an ambassador for crocheting and for doing good deeds. After finding a hook in his aunt’s bag of craft items, Jonah taught himself to crochet at age 5 by watching a YouTube video, and in an hour, he had created a dishcloth. From there he was hooked (comparing crocheting to breathing, for him), creating more dishcloths, afghans, and table runners, and entering his items in the county fair (and winning ribbons). He also created his own YouTube account (Jonah’s Hands) so he could teach other children how to crochet, and once a local newspaper wrote about him, his videos and project went viral. (His YouTube channel currently has 25,000 subscribers; and the Instagram JonahHands account has 130,000 followers and counting).
Jonah now has a book contract with KWiL Publishing and a scheduled July 23 release date for the 48-page children’s book Hello, Crochet Friends!: Making Art, Being Mindful, Giving Back and Doing What Makes You Happy, co-authored with his mom Jennifer. The book is part memoir, part how-to, and part why it is important to give back. Jonah also has a partnership with Yarnspirations to, in his own words, “develop tutorials and also make various projects using their patterns.” And he will be appearing in Michael’s and Joann’s stores to promote the book and to give demonstrations.
In his spare time, Jonah and his mother raise funds through GoFundMe, for Roots Ethiopia and for the children in the Ethiopian village where he was born. As of March 10, his campaign had already surpassed its original goal of $10,000 and had been extended to $15,000. “I find giving back to the community, not just locally but internationally, is a part of who I am,” Jonah said. He often crochets afghans to donate to the orphanage from where he was adopted.
Jonah said that his inspiration for any project comes from the yarn. “I see a yarn that interests me, based on the color and texture of it,” he said. “Then I think, what would be a great project for this particular yarn?” He admits to looking for ideas on Pinterest sometimes and other times just starting to create.
His favorite project is “the one I’m currently working on because each project was chosen for a reason, and I like to see the outcome of it.” But forced to pick, he admits afghans are his favorite thing. It takes him about eight hours to make one. “There are so many types of yarn to make afghans with,” he said. “And my mind is overwhelmed with the opportunities to create so many unique designs. Plus, who doesn’t like an afghan? They make great gifts and they are also good for donating to a good cause.”
When asked about his goals for the future, Jonah said he wants to write more books and to continue to teach crochet to others, especially children. He said he’s learned from his own experiences that kids like to be taught by other kids and that not every child has the same learning style. He understands that some kids learn best by watching videos over and over again, while others may prefer one-on-one teaching so they can ask questions, and still others like to work alone with a how-to book. So he’s trying to create these ways for anyone who expresses an interest to learn.
Jill L. Ferguson is the author of seven books, an artist, editor, entrepreneur, and consultant. She is the founder of Women’s Wellness Weekends (www.womenswellnessweekends.