CROCHETING 101 WITH INSTAGRAM’S CROCHET KING CHILIPHILLY

You might not know this, but there’s crocheting and then there’s crocheting. If you need clarification on the latter, look no further than Phil ‘ChiliPhilly’ Ferguson. Known for donning hilariously charming and immaculately crocheted food-themed headpieces and outfits, he’s made a name for himself as Instagram’s resident Australian crochet king.

In fact, you’ve probably seen him before. A quick look at his 135k-strong Instagram, Ferguson has an exceptional knack for crocheting everyday foods to life, turning them into wearable art. And, let us just say, before now, we never knew we needed to wear a crocheted burger on our heads.

Still curious? Think: a two-piece outfit in the style of a packet of Smith’s original flavour chips, fish and chips-inspired everyday fit, a taco outfit with a tearaway reveal that transforms it into a salad dress, and a neon light up look that screens nightlife extravaganza, just to name a few.

But, just how does he do it and how do I become as good as crocheting as him? Well, with us self-isolating for the next few months and wanting to come out of this with a few new skills, we asked the crochet king how to get into crocheting and just how he comes up with those amazing food-based snacky looks.

The man behind the snack-tastic crocheted outfits

WHAT FIRST GOT YOU INTO CROCHETING AND WHAT WERE THE KIND OF THINGS YOU WERE MAKING?

I studied fine art at uni, mainly in sculpture, and have always had an interest in craft so teaching myself crochet as a skill was just natural. And back then I was making small toys and wearable things when I first started. 

The things I made were just small soft toys that I improvised, actually everything was just an improvised shape. That was how I taught myself how to make shapes and forms when I first started.

WHEN DID YOU START TO EXPERIMENT AND MAKE LESS CONVENTIONAL THINGS?

If anything I feel like I started off more experimental making large shapes and forms, and then decided to apply those developed skills to very conventional shapes like food. 

YOU HAVE SUCH OUT OF THE BOX IDEAS, WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?

I guess I have a fashion mindset, so I always think of silhouettes and how I can apply them in fun ways. Then I just immediately make, no planning.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever created?

I think the craziest thing I’ve made was my giant taco outfit that revealed into a salad inspired outfit underneath. It was the first time I made a reveal and I think people really gravitated towards it!

And, given your style, what’s the most tame?​

I guess because I keep the same theme amongst my work so almost everything else is more tame!

TELL US A BIT ABOUT HOW INSTAGRAM HAS HELPED YOU SHARE YOUR CROCHETING?

If I hadn’t started my Instagram and gotten a large following in a few months, I don’t think I would’ve had the incentive to keep up the momentum and continue making. It’s nice to have that validation from others who appreciate your work and lucky for me, I’ve had so many experiences come out of it that it has only ever been worthwhile sharing my work.

[Quick side note: Some of those experiences include being Australian of the Day at Commonwealth bank, where his face was on the giant plasma screens of offices nationwide, presenting his crocheted looks on morning shows, and, even, marching in Instagram’s float at this year’s Mardi Gras, alongside fellow Syrup fave and Animal Crossing stan, AJ Clementine.]

HOW DO I CROCHET JUST LIKE CHILIPHILLY?

What’s the number one thing people ask you about crocheting?

How long it takes! A hat takes a day or two, outfits take weeks.

What would you say is the biggest misunderstanding about crocheting?

That people confuse it with knitting, they are VERY different. 

Crochet uses one crochet hook and knitting uses two knitting needles. Crochet is faster and can create shapes easier, knitting takes a bit more time but is probably better for making clothes etc.

What do you recommend people start off making and why?

I think people should do the basics, learn granny squares, make soft toys, anything that already has the information out there. Then you can develop those skills to make whatever you want later on, it takes time.

What kind of needles and equipment should I be buying? Does it make a difference?

To be honest, I use all size needles and cheap yarn. Obviously yarn quality is very specific for practicality and the environment but I use it just for visuals so I’m not too dependent on those things.

What kind of resources should I be using?

I just used video tutorials to make one thing and the rest was my own experimentation, so I encourage everyone to use people around them, books, videos, we have so many resources.

WANT MORE SKILL SHARING?

For other tips and how-to guides on other skills you can do from home during the self-isolation period, stay tuned to our Instagram where we’re inviting pals of the Syrup team to share some skills. We’re talking how to make a tote bag, how to be a (responsible) plant parent, basic yoga stretches for when you’re sitting in bed all day, and how to make pickled goodies from our resident fermentation queen, Monisha Rudhran.

Julian Rizzo-Smith is a writer and producer. He also claims to be a vine historian, avid connoisseur of low-fi beats, indie hip hop and Kermit memes. In a perfect world, he’d be married to Tyler the Creator, own an Arcanine and a Lapras, and don his own Sailor Scouts uniform. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster, which is also, coincidentally, how one might describe him.

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