Five years ago, military spouse Jennifer Nolan found herself at home, wanting to pass the time while her husband was on deployment. She fired up YouTube and started watching instructional videos on the Japanese art of crocheting dolls, amigurumi, and before she knew it, she had a created a soft little octopus toy. It was her first — as a Star Wars fan, she soon moved on to crocheting tiny AT-ATs and droids.
Now, Nolan sells original patterns for geek-themed amigurumi dolls on her Etsy shop and blog, turning beloved characters from Pokémon, Disney films, Miyazaki movies, and Star Wars into lovable, huggable yarn critters. She says her favorite way to unveil a new design is to bring it to a comic convention. "Mostly I sell online, so I don't get to see the reactions people have," Nolan tells SYFY WIRE, but when she runs a table at cons, "people's faces just light up when they see my work. I've also had people run up to my table and act like they're meeting a celebrity, which is always a lot of fun! I am still amazed that I have a following of genuine fans."
Nolan knows fandom well; she's a lifelong viewer of geeky properties and now allows her love of sci-fi to inform which crochet patterns she uses. "I also love Vikings and so many superheroes," she says. "My favorite shows as a kid were The New Adventures of Superman and The X-Files.”
There's a guerilla art element to Nolan's work as well; because she was a big fan of Pokémon Go, she participates in an initiative called Crochet Go. "We drop crocheted Pokemon along popular playing areas for people to find," she explains gleefully. "I do that at cons too, as part of Critter Drop, started by Geeky Hooker. We post Twitter alerts and people literally run out of panels and run around downtown trying to track them down!"
Nolan doesn't just work on geeky projects; she creates custom apparel and decorative pieces for Etsy buyers. She's also constantly at work on a huge dragon project. He's "over four feet long," Nolan admits, and although the dragon's body is complete, she's still working on getting his wings to stand up the way they do in her head. "If I ever get any free time, I plan to build a wire frame for them, but for now he is guarding the yarn stash in my closet."
As for blending her skills with other art forms, Nolan is hard at work on a book of geeky crochet patterns, and an original children's book with her friends. "There's a space-traveling dinosaur and a little girl," she explains, and she's working on amigurumi versions of them. "It would be really neat if our book characters could become famous!"