She isn’t afraid of the creepy, the horrifying or the eerie. Local crafter Kim Sofia thrives on all three. Finding inspiration from the not-quite-normal, Kim creates crocheted zombie dolls and other “creepies,” selling them under the moniker Kim’s Sticks and Strings. These one-of-a-kind, completely customizable crafts are not your grandma’s handiwork. Here, Sofia expounds on the nature of her craft and what it’s like to trade in the undead.
What was the first creepy thing you ever made?
If it was my crocheted dolls, it would be a zombie. But I remember taking some rubber doll as a kid and morphing it into things—cutting off its hands and all that stuff.
How did you begin making zombie dolls?
It started because my friend gave me a book [Creepy Cute Crochet], and I made some stuff out of the book and I thought I’d make them more … different. I made two or three per the instructions, which is just about what I do, and then change it.
What inspires you?
Mostly movies. Creepy horror movies. It doesn’t have to be zombies, because I’m not all zombie all the time. [With commissions,] it’s my favorite when someone has a little bit of an idea and leaves it to me for what it looks like.
Is it a requirement for your commissions to be creepy?
It’s not. Though the dolls that aren’t zombies end up looking a little snarky; they have an attitude. The joke is that I can’t make anything not slightly off or twisted. So, it’s not a requirement; it’s just the way it works out.
How did you learn to crochet and knit?
My grandma. I’m a lefty and she bought me everything left-handed—books for crochet, knit, calligraphy, sewing and all kinds of stuff. It was scarves, blankets and gloves, but I like creepy things.
That’s more fun! What do you think your grandma would think about your current projects?
She’d probably be a little weirded out by it. She always made dolls, but they were the cute, Cabbage Patch-y, kind of dolls.
What made you stick with crocheting in the first place?
I had to, for a long time, when I lived back East. It was cold, so I needed gloves, hats and all that, so I started making my own stuff. I actually did more knitting. And you can knit small dolls, but the cool part about crochet is you can change it at any time. It’s a lot more freeform that way … and freeform makes me a lot happier.
Did you play with dolls when you were growing up?
I had Barbies, and my Barbies were someone else’s [before they were mine], so they were all messed up. I would play like she was the doll on the wrong side of the tracks; you know, in a very terrible train accident and lost her hands. And all my dolls had little tattoos on them, weird haircuts, that kind of stuff. All of my favorite things end up being creepy.
What’s the process for creating a doll? I don’t know much about crocheting, but your dolls look so intricate.
I start with the head, work all the way around, and get to the mouth. Then I change colors so there’s a little bit of a mouth. Then I finish the head and give him some eyes. In my magical world, they’re watching me, and so I get a better idea of what they’re going to be [once they have eyes]. Then I try to decide if it’s a boy or girl, what kind of clothes they’ll have, or if they’ll have all their limbs. If it’s a boy, not always hair; but sometimes ratty, ratty hair. I really like ratty hair.
What’s your favorite zombie movie?
It switches between Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, because they have good language and good-looking zombies. They don’t move too fast, [which is good] because fast zombies scare me. They lurch a little bit. They look torn up.
How would you prepare for the zombie apocalypse?
Oh my gosh! My friends would say, “You should have a plan!” but I don’t have a plan.
But what if all your dolls came alive at night?
You know, a few of my friends who have [my dolls] tell me, “I swore it moved last night.” And I tell them, “You need to lock that stuff up; put them on a high shelf.” But I made them, so they probably wouldn’t eat me. Maybe they’d protect me.
Do you often encounter people who don’t like zombie dolls?
I do meet people who ask me, “Oh … what’s wrong with that?” and I tell them, “That’s how it’s supposed to be!” But, you know, I’m just that kind of person. I’d much rather see a kid play monster than play fairies and munchkins or whatever. We’re always supposed to be good, so monsters are our creepy side. Even people who aren’t fluffy, happy doll lovers like to play with zombie dolls.
So you’ve found your niche?
I have. They may not be happy and cute, but you will play with these.