By Judith Munson —
A La Crosse Tribune article published Jan. 15 of this year blew up the brand for an 11-year-old local boy. Yes, in today’s business lingo, Jonah Larson has a brand. Initially it consisted of a strong following on social media; people are drawn to his amazing, prodigious talent for crocheting. Since the article ran, worldwide media interest has exploded and shows no sign of slowing down.
The first time the life of Jonah and his younger sister, Mercy, changed completely was when they were adopted from Ethiopia by his parents, Jennifer and Christopher Larson. Then, at the age of 5, Jonah was rummaging through a bag of old craft items his aunt gave them when he asked his mom, “What’s this?”
“This” was a crochet hook. Another significant change in Jonah’s life was about to take place. After finding a tutorial on YouTube, Jonah took to crocheting like yarn to a loom and hasn’t stopped since. Seriously. Crocheting is a part of Jonah’s life almost every. single. day.
“I’d say I crochet about four to five hours a day—two to three in the summer,” says Jonah. “It’s a great way for me to unwind from school, and I like to sit on the couch with my mom and talk.”
People who are among the fiber-arts impaired would use all kinds of words other than “relaxing” to describe crocheting or knitting. For us, an attempt to cast a needle is a sorrowful mess of knots and runaway loops with the scissors always close at hand. Video of Jonah at work shows fingers flying while he’s looking at the camera, peeking down at his work for a quick second. It’s as if crocheting comes as naturally to him as breathing.
His collection features a fabulously colorful, intricately designed collection of scarves, table runners, baskets, afghans and much more—all belying his 11 years. But just like lots of other 11-year-olds, Jonah is in 4H and enters his work into the county fair. He’s won more than 50 ribbons, but at first he had to prove to the grandmas that it was really his work by demonstrating his talents on the spot.
Jonah says his favorite crochet project is the afghan, and he typically finishes one in about eight hours. He’s completed approximately 100 to date. His skills and generous spirit led him to start Jonah’s Hands, a business that donates some of the funds from sales of his crocheted items to help support families in the Ethiopian village where he and his sister were born.
Jonah’s Hands GoFundMe page also accepts donations from the public to support Roots Ethiopia, an organization that provides educational resources for rural Ethiopian schools and pathways for mothers to start their own businesses.
Although he used to buy his own yarn, Jonah’s supply is replenished every day when the mail comes. “We get about two to three boxes a day from all over the world,” he says, as people want to encourage his passion and ability to breathe new life into an art some fear is dying.
Ever since the first La Crosse Tribune article ran, the Larson household has seen a whole new level of busy: “We’ve heard from just about every country on the planet!” Jonah says.
News people from Turkey, England, Germany, Ethiopia, Norway, China, Lebanon and several other nations were calling, emailing and FaceTiming with Jonah to share his story. U.S. media outlets that featured his story include Inside Edition, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NPR, Good Morning America, USA Today, People, ABC News, CBS News and on and on. He’s so booked, he had to turn down Ellen.
Jonah’s story has also garnered a book deal: “Hello, Crochet Friends! Making Art, Being Mindful, Giving Back: Do What Makes You Happy” is scheduled for release this summer.
With all this attention, it’s no wonder orders for his goods are also streaming in from all four corners. As for Jonah, he’s taking it all in stride. “I never get sick of the calls,” he says. “It never gets tiring. I just go back to my normal life.”
And it appears the crochet hooks will not be slowing down anytime soon. “It’s really beautiful to just relax and see what heights you can push yourself to next.”
For more information about Jonah and Jonah’s Hands, visit www.facebook.com/jonahhands or
@jonahhands on Instagram. To support the Jonah’s Hands GoFundMe campaign, visit www.gofundme.com/jonahshands.