Crochet John Travolta

A couple weeks ago, a fellow crocheter friend reached out to ask me a very interesting question: someone needed a crochet doll of John Travolta’s character from the ’70s movie Grease made in just 2 weeks. Was I up for taking on this project? The really interesting part: it was a gift for a baby! I was intrigued.

Back in early 2021, I had crochet three Bernie Sanders dolls shortly after a photo of him bundled up at the presidential inauguration went viral. Two had been requests from friends and previous Crafty Reason customers, and I made an extra one for Crafty Jason, since he is a huge Bernie fan (I am, too). I had followed a nicely detailed pattern to make Bernie, but I thought I could use the same basic doll pattern and make little modifications to make him look more like Danny Zuko.

The head and body of the doll are basically the same, except I gave Danny a short-sleeved white t-shirt and changed the shape of the hands and color of the yarn so they looked more like hands and less like mittens, although I kept the same cartoon-hand shape. Since this was for a baby, I didn’t use any wire inside to shape his arms or legs, and so I made his arms a bit shorter as they wouldn’t have to be pose-able to wrap around in front for warmth. I also didn’t use any cardboard to shape him so that he would sit, thinking he will likely be less decoration and more snuggly doll, and I didn’t use a large marble to give him sitting weight, keeping cuddliness in mind.

Danny Zuko is a very stylish dresser (for the 1950s), not that Bernie isn’t, but Danny’s overall look is a bit less concerned with warmth and comfort. I changed his sock and shoe color to match the pictures of Danny I found online (I may have watched some or all of Grease at a slumber party when I was little, but I don’t remember much of it except that I don’t like musicals). I sewed on a belt buckle, gave him a tall jacket collar, and designed a large white T into the back of the jacket, to represent Danny’s signature T-Bird logo, which is slightly more intricate, but would have required embroidery floss to truly replicate, and I wanted to avoid that since this was for a baby.

Danny’s hair was the biggest challenge. According to the internet, his hair style was known politely as “duck butt.” It was slicked back with sideburns on the sides, and big floppy curls tumbling around his forehead in the center. I wished I could replicate it similarly to how Jason made Bernie’s, by crocheting a flat mat and then having him brush it out with a pet hair brush. Since this would be for a baby, though, I couldn’t have loose stringy bits that could be sucked on and possibly swallowed. Instead, I shaped his slicked-back parts as a flat mat, with sideburns and a slightly irregular back, then made the large curly part similarly to how I made the coiled legs on my donated Octopus for a Preemie, starting with between 3 and 5 chains for each curl to give it some depth and dimension.

Even though they aren’t a huge deal, I want to briefly mention the eyes because I always struggle with baby-safe eyes, my preferred way of adding eyes being dabbing hot glue where the eyes will be, and then stabbing a safety eye through each glue blob. I somehow make so-called “safety” eyes even less safe by not using the difficult-to-attach snap in the back. When making this large-knot style of eyes, I always have to make several and then choose the two that look the most alike, because they always look oddly variable in size. Same with the eyebrows. “They are sisters, not twins!” as an old esthetician friend of mine used to cheerfully say.