Think all those Bernie Sanders memes are a hoot? Try feeling the Bern with crochet.
Corpus Christi’s Tobey King just broke the mold of the popular internet meme by crocheting an adorable acrylic and cotton yarn doll of the Vermont senator in his now-famous coat and quirky brown mittens — a look that made the leap from Inauguration Day ensemble to Photoshopped sensation within hours. Now that fuzzy little creation is warming hearts and fighting hunger to boot.
Tuesday, King auctioned her original 9-inch prototype doll of Sanders for $20,300 on eBay, with all proceeds going to Meals on Wheels America.
Meanwhile, more than 30,000 people have purchased the downloadable pattern for the doll for $5 from King’s Etsy store, TobeyTimeCrochet.
King whipped up the Sanders doll Thursday, the day after the inauguration, as the memes poured across the internet. The first doll pics she posted Friday on her Instagram account, @tobeytimecrochet, quickly drummed up thousands of likes. (They now total more than 139,000.)
King said when she first posted photos of the Sanders doll she never expected it to go viral, but once it did, she saw “the opportunity to use it for good.” By Friday evening, she had the doll pattern up on her Etsy store and by Saturday afternoon had the prototype doll up on eBay, where bids surpassed $15,000 overnight.
“We’re all just looking for something to bring us joy right now,” King, 46, said.
King hopes that Sanders hears about her doll and the auction and that he approves. “I really hope that he thinks this is something cool and that I’m doing something good,” she said,
It seems likely. As the Sanders memes were going viral, his campaign store started selling sweatshirts and T-shirts imprinted with the photo to benefit Vermont’s Meals on Wheels and other Vermont charities. They are now sold out.
While Sanders’ office did not reply to a request for comment, a spokeswoman for Meals on Wheels America voiced her appreciation for King’s doll auction.
“Amid the pandemic, the demand for Meals on Wheels has skyrocketed … The awareness for our cause is needed now more than ever, and on behalf of the entire nationwide network, we greatly appreciate the support,” said Vice President of Communications Jenny Young, who confirmed Meals on Wheels would receive 100 percent of the doll’s five-figure eBay sale.
King said the winning eBay bidder wished to remain anonymous. She did note that some of the Etsy shoppers who bought her Sanders doll pattern have made their own donations to Meals on Wheels programs and other charities.
With the proceeds from the sales of the doll pattern, King’s gone from from stay-at-home mom with an Etsy shop on the side to the primary breadwinner.
Early last year, King’s husband Travis lost his job in Washington just weeks after they moved there with their 9-year-old daughter. So while he’s been looking for full-time work, King and their daughter moved in with King’s mother in her hometown of Corpus.
Now Travis is helping King answer all the Sanders-doll messages flooding her inbox. “Being that successful has made a huge difference in our financial situation,” King said. “Now we don’t have to be apart anymore. We can get this family back together.”
It isn’t the first time King’s crochet work has turned heads. In 2019, a crochet doll she made of Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared on the hit NBC series, “This Is Us,” after the show’s prop master spotted that viral sensation online.
King went on to sell about 100 of the crochet Ginsburg dolls. Now she offers downloadable patterns for a Ginsburg-inspired crochet robe and crochet “dissent collar.”
As for King’s recent Sanders doll, she simply tweaked an old pattern she’s used to make similar dolls for the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Recycle and reuse, just like Sanders’ mittens.