It’s transfixing to watch Jonah Larson crochet. The 12 year old loops yarn at lightning speed, often while he is talking or doing another task. His creations vary from simple to difficult: on the easier end is a nubby olive green beanie which he can make in 30 minutes flat, but his more challenging creations include a flower afghan that he created at the age of 7 and out of 800 flowers stitched together. Larson has become a bit of a celebrity with his magnetic touch and sweet demeanor. “Most people have to look down and count their stitches, but I just developed the ability and my fingers do it for me without thinking. I do a certain repetition of stitches and rows in my crochet and my fingers just know exactly where I am so they know exactly what to do with the hook and the yarn,” he says. “I can do other things, like watch historical documentaries. That is my favorite thing about being able to not look [while crocheting] is that you can get other things done like your schoolwork.” Drew Barrymore, who recently sang the praises of local artisans is a fan and has appeared on her Instagram wearing one of Larson’s hats.

While speaking to Larson on the phone, who is, in fact, crocheting as we talk, he tells me that he began crocheting at the age of seven. At the time, he had been having issues in school, “I was a bit of a rascal,” he says. His mother Jennifer notes that he has an “overactive mind,” and would receive calls to pick up Larson from school due to his behavior. (His mind is so overactive that he just completed a high school honors geometry course at the age of 12.) When Larson discovered crochet, it allowed him to keep busy once he had finished his work. “One day when my aunt gave crafts to me and two other siblings, and I was going through them and I found a crochet hook. My mom found a video on how to crochet and it was for a dishcloth,” he says. “I sat there at the table with some yarn in a bag and in about an hour. I had a pretty well-made dishcloth. I still have it seven years later.” From then on, Larson no longer had issues in school and has since taught his teachers and fellow students how to crochet.

When friends and neighbors wanted to see his creations, he launched an Instagram. After that, a local newspaper from his town of La Crosse, Wisconsin interviewed him and according to his mother. “It went viral and since then it was nonstop.” Since then, Larson has gone on to publish a book Hello, Crochet Friends! and has a second book, Giving Back Crochet that will be released in July. The concept of “giving back” has long been a philosophy for Larson when he crochets and he donates a portion of the crochet proceeds to build a library, and eventually a science lab from the small village in Ethiopia from where he was adopted from. “I’m doing what I can do to give back,” he says.

While there is a philanthropic aspect to Larson’s crocheting, he aims to share other messages with his craft. Recently, he crocheted an entire quilt that read “BLM” for Black Lives Matter and another that boasted the statement “Stay Home” in response to COVID-19—both difficult crochet processes that Larson had to map out on graph paper beforehand. (“I don’t really follow patterns,” he says. “I just picture it in my mind, and I think about it for a little bit and I can put it down into a crochet. To make large elaborate things, it takes me a little more time.”) Nevertheless, creating these pieces was an enjoyable process for the prodigy. “I like to say that crochet brings the world together one stitch at the time,” he says. “I can use my platform to make a statement and create change for the better.”

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