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Made in St. Louis: Crochet creatures capture the imagination – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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The serpent god of the Aztecs, Quetzalacoatl, was the god of air, sun, wind and learning. Starbird captured him colorfully.
Magical creatures swarm the shelves, lounge on tables, grin, grimace and stare, with eyes sparkling. Sea slugs and cephalopods from ocean’s depths exist side by side with ancient dinosaurs frilled, horned and flying. Woodland rabbits and foxes hang with family pets. These peaceable kingdoms from crochet artist Jennifer Starbird enchanted young and old viewers alike at an early June Macklind Market.
Starbird, who holds a master’s degree in archaeology from the University of Illinois in Chicago, took up crocheting after the birth of her son. “I loved archaeology. My area of study was South America, but when I had kids it wasn’t realistic to leave the country every summer to go on a dig,” she says. “I needed something to keep myself occupied.”
A crochet stitch in time • She didn’t have a kindly grandmother who taught her to crochet. “My mother did a lot of sewing, but I wanted something more manageable, and without the big machine,” she says.
Given the whimsical nature of her work, we asked if “Starbird” was her given name, or one she chose. “My father gifted me with that name,” she says, “and he loves what I’m doing.”
portrait of Jennifer Starbird
She didn’t make yarn sculptures right out of the box. “I started with scarves, bags — the usual things. Three years ago I made a dragon using a Crafty Intentions pattern,” she says. “Megan Lapp, the owner and designer at Crafty Intentions, inspired me to branch out.”
Hooked on amigurumi • The articulated sculptural style Starbird used to make Lapp’s pattern, amigurumi, appealed to her. The style originated in Japan a few decades ago and quickly took hold with people who crocheted and knitted around the world.
Starbird wrote “Two fennec foxes hanging out in the garden” on an Instagram post. 
Starbird soon began creating her own patterns after she finished the dragon for various creatures on land and sea, for animals close at home and in the wild. She also makes patterns of extinct creatures and lesser-known animals as befits her scientific background.
Not all soft yarn critters are warm and fuzzy. Her current design in process and testing, the mosasaurus, has been fun for her and could end up a favorite. “It’s an extinct marine reptile,” she says. They last roamed the seas 62 to 88 million years ago, give or take a few.
Her collection of dinosaurs is impressive, too, and would make great stuffies for any little paleontologist, but she most often sells her pieces as sculptures. “The larger pieces have armatures of florist wire well-wrapped to prevent them from sticking through and to make them poseable,” she says.
Although many people purchase her handmade yarn sculptures, crochet enthusiasts download Starbird’s highly detailed patterns from her site on Ravelry, an online knit and crochet community where crafters can buy and sell patterns and find resources.
The easy-to-spot Stegasauraus is one of Starbird’s favorite dinosaurs, rendered in multiple colors from a pattern by Megan Lapp. 
Coloring her world • Starbird uses vibrant colors in her creations, often crocheting multiple colors into a piece. “I always use really good yarn,” she says. “The technique I use to for mixing colors is called intarsia. Most of my crochet work is done with a 4-millimeter hook while maintaining an even tension.”
Welcome to crochet world • “The crochet world is really a nice community,” she says. “I keep in touch through Facebook and Instagram with people who want to see what I’ll design next and what pieces are available,” she says. “When I have a new pattern, I’ll put out a call for testers. I use five or six people who have four weeks to make the piece and suggest edits. I want my patterns to be right.”
What started as a “keep busy” moment has turned into a business for Jennifer Starbird, one that allows her curiosity about the world and its creatures free reign for her to create. She also uses her talents close to home when she crochets her custom pet sculptures. “Cats, dogs, geckos, cockatiels, ferrets — I’ve made them all.” Her own pets, Mango the cat and Mira the dog, are much-loved members of her family.
On her Instagram post for this creepy cute monster, Starbird wrote: “Do these horns make me look fat?” The hand-painted eye by Darkside crochet sets off this tiny creature. 
Starbird Creations
Artist • Jennifer Starbird
Age • 42
Family • Starbird and her husband, Josh, have two children, a a 13-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. They have a large orange cat named Mango. They also live with Mira, a dog the family adopted who was rescued from a hoarding situation. Her name at the rescue group was “Miracle.”
Home • Webster Groves
What she makes • Three-dimensional yarn sculptures of common and uncommon animals, sea creatures, family pets, dragons, unicorns and more made in the Japanese amigurumi style. She also sells detailed downloads of her interesting crochet patterns for her creatures.
Where to buy • Starbird’s yarn sculptures and patterns are available at her Etsy store, Starbird Creations STL. She also answers inquiries on her Facebook page and on her Instagram page. She also sells at local markets and pop-up shows.
How much • Photo detailed patterns with complete directions sell for $5 to $6. Her amigurumi-style pieces range from $15 to $150. Larger pieces, like the big cat and dragon, are in the $200 range
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The serpent god of the Aztecs, Quetzalacoatl, was the god of air, sun, wind and learning. Starbird captured him colorfully.
The easy-to-spot Stegasauraus is one of Starbird’s favorite dinosaurs, rendered in multiple colors from a pattern by Megan Lapp. 
Starbird wrote “Two fennec foxes hanging out in the garden” on an Instagram post. 
On her Instagram post for this creepy cute monster, Starbird wrote: “Do these horns make me look fat?” The hand-painted eye by Darkside crochet sets off this tiny creature. 
portrait of Jennifer Starbird
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