Back in August of 2020, while scrolling through TikTok, a popular video-sharing social network service, Chang came across a video of a JW Anderson crocheted cardigan worn by famous pop singer Harry Styles. As a fan of the singer, Chang was inspired to try her hand at crocheting the cardigan. Chang said that she felt as if her “hands were missing something” when she finished, so she decided to explore the art of crochet in-depth. When creating new pieces, she drew inspiration from Vogue issues, along with other fashion magazines. Her older sister, Alexis Chang ’21, also inspired her sense of style and passion for making clothes.
Chang’s crochet process starts with “measuring and writing a pattern. I like to write my own patterns because I’m a very independent person who likes to start something and finish it by myself.” Chang’s patterns break each creation down into separate segments. When making a sweater, she crochets four individual segments first: the two sleeves, followed by the front and the back. Depending on the style, she then adds a collar, a bottom hem, and some sort of decoration. For Chang, adding details to each piece is important: “Every piece I do, I like to learn something new.” When she was making a piece inspired by Gucci’s “Mon Petit” sweater, Chang “had to learn how to embroider. For the Harry [Styles] cardigan, I had to learn how to do a neckline. That’s what makes me want to keep creating new stuff because it’s not fun doing the same thing over and over again.”
Chang posted a photo of her Harry-Styles-inspired cardigan on her personal Instagram account, @taliachangg, and received lots of positive feedback. She channeled the overwhelming support of her followers to sell the sweater raffle style, raising $1,650 for the National Black Justice Coalition. “I did a lot to participate in BLM over the summer. I set up a system to bring medical supplies to people, and set up buddy systems during protests, but I was never in a position to give anything financially. At that point in my life, I wasn’t employed. After posting an Instagram photo wearing [the cardigan], I realized there was a high demand for it, and decided to take advantage of that, ” said Chang.
After selling her first cardigan, Chang made an Instagram account devoted to her crochet journey, @crochetbytc. She now sells her pieces on that platform regularly. Chang shared, “I feel joy when seeing other people wearing my creations, and I think the reason I started selling them is because a lot of people volunteered to buy them.” She also pointed to the need to pay for college as a reason to sell her work.
Turning her hobby into a business did not diminish her love for crocheting, however. After completing a few “Harry Styles cardigan” orders, she decided to not make the same piece twice again: “It takes away the creative aspect for me. I don’t think I’m doing it for the money sense of it at all, really. I mostly do it because I want to keep creating, but there’s also no reason for me to keep it to myself if somebody else will enjoy wearing it.”
Chang’s crochet business functions entirely through Instagram, where she promotes all of her work and connects with other crochet artists. “When I was looking up tutorials on how to make the Harry [Styles] cardigan, I found a group chat on instagram with twenty other people from around the world in the comments who love to crochet. We all update each other on our projects and share patterns. I check in with them on every single project and ask for advice.” With the Covid-19 limiting her ability to meet people in person, Chang has found social media to be integral to maintaining her passion: “[Social media] makes me feel like I’m not alone while working on a project. On my Instagram stories, I video every single part of the process and when people encourage me it helps me put things back into perspective about not everything having to be perfect.”
Chang faced her biggest challenge when making her “Mon Petit Sweater,” based off of a Gucci sweater with the same name and design. Chang had to teach herself how to embroider a duck-shaped embellishment on the front, and stopped halfway through because she found the process of embroidery so frustrating. Although completing the sweater was a daunting task, Chang felt it “taught [her] to take a step back, look at the big picture, and reassess.” She continued, “I think for growing artists, no matter what kind of art they practice, whether it’s singing or painting, it’s important to take a step back, take a deep breath and then continue. In the big picture, battling my need for everything to be perfect, because I’m a perfectionist, was important for me to accept because I was creating something new for the first time. Not everything was going to turn out the way I wanted it to, and I had to be fine with that.”
Chang’s passion for crocheting altered her views about what society says regarding fashion and women. Chang said, “I think there was an unconscious bias in me growing up that making clothes and being interested in fashion isn’t a plausible occupation because there’s so much stigma around being a girl and pursuing traditionally feminine interests like clothes making.”
Chang hopes to expand her business in the future. “I really want to save [money] through making things, and crocheting genuinely brings me joy. In terms of a long-term plan I hope to move into sewing and actual clothes-making because there are limits to crocheting and knitwear.” Chang believes that there is “something for everyone,” in the world of fashion, and that she will have no problem marketing her products. However, she doesn’t see crocheting becoming a full-time occupation. She added, “I don’t think it’s a plausible career path for me to take, so it’s more just about having fun. There will always be people who think ‘that’s what I want.’”
In the near future, Chang plans to organize more fundraisers for the Black Lives Matter movement. She believes there will never be a time where she can’t give as long as she crochets, and encourages others to pursue it as well: “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me expressing their interest in wanting to start crocheting, and, I just want to say, if you want to start crocheting, you should do it!”