The founders of the Woobles, Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang – photo courtesy of Shoott
Crochet has a moment. Crafting is cool again thanks to viral trends like Harry Styles’ patchwork cardigan, Tik Tok bumblebee, and crochet Bernie (not to mention the handcrafted mittens he wore to President Biden’s inauguration). And with so much time being spent at home, more people than ever have had the time to try it out.
The only problem is that the average person believes they can’t. They think it must be hard, or that they are not good at making things, or that they are just too clumsy.
Enter the wobbles.
How cute are these woobles? – Photo courtesy The Woobles
The Woobles, brainchild of millennials Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang, are irresistible amigurumi – Japanese crocheted plush toys – that you make from all-inclusive kits that have completely changed the game.
“I’m 40+ and, without exaggerating, I’ll say that I’ve tried learning to crochet my entire life,” one fan emailed the couple. “My grandma tried to teach me when I was ten, but I couldn’t get it. Every now and then I would take away books / samples that are said to be great for beginners. No luck. However, the two kits I bought from you taught me so much. Thanks very much!”
After more than two centuries of crocheting status, how did the Woobles revolutionize the industry and change the learning curve?
“Our focus has always been more on education than crochet,” says Tiu. “We really wanted to teach people something, and crocheting was a great option because 1) it’s something people expect to only learn from person to person, and 2) it just takes a few basics to be mastered in the To be able to do a wide variety of things. “
Justine with Fitzherbert the Bear – Photo courtesy Shoott
Both Tiu and Zhang – college buddies who were recently married – have strong backgrounds in education: she led UX design at Google for educational products like Google Classroom and Expeditions, and he was a director at Deutsche Bank and a tutor at Henry Street Settlement.
“We were inspired to start The Woobles by a woman named Emily,” recalls Tiu. “She had tried to learn to crochet for years but couldn’t figure it out because she was ‘too old’, ‘not coordinated enough’, ‘not smart’ and ‘not smart enough’. I offered to teach her, and after a lesson together, she got the hang of it. She spoke louder, sat up straighter, and couldn’t stop smiling. It was like she was a new person. “
Tiu says, “It wasn’t specifically crocheting that changed Emily’s self-image. Learning to crochet showed her that she still had the ability to learn. The experience had such an impact on her that she changed her posture outside of the crochet skills. Seeing her transformation has moved us to build other people’s self-confidence. “
Though Tiu had crocheted for about five years before starting The Woobles in the summer of 2020, Zhang learned from a Woobles crochet kit on the job.
Adrian with Sebastian the Lion and Pierre the Penguin – photo courtesy Shoott
“We start every project in advance so learners master the basics before attempting higher skills,” he explains. “Starting a crochet project is one of the trickiest things to do – to the point that it could put off a complete beginner. We set it up so that it would be impossible to untangle to create a safe space for failure. When a learner makes a mistake and has to start over, it’s less intimidating. “
Tiu also adds, “If you start the piece in advance it also creates the Endowed Progress Effect, which means you have a head start to encourage someone to achieve a goal. For this reason, customer cards are usually equipped with at least one free stamp. “
Loyalty is something the Woobles have humbly earned over the past year. “We thought that once people successfully learned from a kit, they would leave,” admits Tiu. “But we were surprised to see that every time we launched a new kit, we actually struggled to keep up with demand. We sold out the Nico the Cat kit in less than a day when our email subscribers bought all of our stocks before they were available to the general public. “
The Woobles now offer eight beginner and five advanced kits, with Pierre the Penguin beating them all.
Each kit – which beginners typically complete in three to eight hours – includes all of the tools you need to create your plushie, plus step-by-step video instructions. There are right- and left-handed versions for everyone, and Tiu and Zhang even offer unlimited help via email and through virtual crochet office hours.
The Woobles kits contain everything you need to crochet an adorable creature – photo courtesy of The Woobles
“One of the most important things we think about is reducing cognitive load,” says Zhang. “We divide the learning process into several bite-sized steps because we know that people learn better when they are confronted with small pieces of information at the same time.”
Over the past year, The Woobles have taught more than 60,000 people how to crochet and the business has grown from zero to seven digits. They have even hosted virtual team bonding events for clients like Google, Twitter, and Tufts University.
“Our goal is to teach people how to crochet, not just the ability to crochet a particular wooble,” says Tiu. “Our kits cover reading patterns so people can find each crochet pattern. We also have a number of free tutorials on our website to improve crochet skills outside of the sets. “
Many of The Woobles’ clients have opened Instagram accounts to show off their crochet creations, and some have even opened Etsy stores.
Moving forward, Tiu and Zhang are preparing their first batch of ready-to-sell kits for sale in stores. They also introduce what they call “the most beginner-friendly yarn ever” and test an even easier way of teaching crocheting with technology.
“Ultimately, we want to expand to teaching very small physical skills,” says Zhang. “But first we want to become the resource for everything crocheting.”