Ally Aufman teaches a class on Rainbow Loom bracelets at the Learning Express in Cranberry. Ally has an active YouTube channel on making the bracelets.
By Lauren Lindstrom / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
She has 2.4 million views on her YouTube channel, a shout-out from Jimmy Kimmel and an app in her name. She's also just 9 years old.
What has she been doing with her free time?
Sewickley Academy third-grader Ally Aufman jumped headfirst into the recent Rainbow Loom bracelet-making craze. The colorful rubber band bracelets are on the wrists and ankles of kids across the country. Developed by Cheong Choon Ng, an engineer for Nissan, and his brother Cheong Yeow Ng, the loom was named Toy of the Year by the Toy Industry Association.
Not long after getting the loom as a gift, Ally went from casual weaver to creative force. She had mastered the designs offered by Rainbow Loom and wanted to make her own. She's invented more than 20 new patterns, with names such as Nautique and Loopsy Lilly. Inspiration comes from trying variations of other patterns and wondering what will happen when they are flipped, inverted and reversed.
That sound means Ally has had another light-bulb moment and has come up with another idea.
She and her mother, Kim, started recording YouTube video tutorials in June as a way to share Ally's creations. Soon, they were getting thousands of hits and comments. Her most popular video has 1.2 million views.
It's been a lesson in business and communication as much as artistry, the family says. The Aufmans sometimes get nasty comments, mostly out of frustration from other loomers looking to follow her instructions. As the view counts climb, they say the videos are getting better, too.
"Ally and I joke, we didn't know a million people would watch these or we would have been a bit more careful," said her father, Ed, a financial adviser.
The Aufmans of Marshall keep a close eye on the comments and are quick to delete profanities. But, they leave most of the negative comments. Ally responds to many of them, giving encouragement.
"I'll help them and show them how to fix it," she said.
They have since created Instagram and Pinterest accounts. She has fans and followers from Asia, Canada and Europe.
"It's fun to see the comments," Ally said. "They keep popping up, one second ago, just now."
She's also teaching classes at school and the Learning Express toy store in Cranberry.
"I like helping people and making friends so they keep coming back and get really good, too."
Sunday, she taught students how to make a rubber-band mustache, just one of the new projects created by loomers such as Ally. She teaches how to make loom action figures, a popular project with the boys. She teaches both her own designs and popular ones she finds, like the action figures.
She's even got little brother Eddie making bracelets.
Two of her designs, Carnation and Taffy Twist, are featured in Rainbow Loom's book, "The Loomatic's Interactive Guide to the Rainbow Loom," published in 2013. Ally is one of two children with designs in the book.
The idea for the iPhone app came after finding one from someone else that used many of Ally's designs and videos. With a little help from her father and an app-generating service "Allys Bracelets" sells for $.99 on the iTunes App Store. The app is downloaded 20 times per day on average, enough to pay for development costs. Ally says they hope to soon create a version for the iPad.
Ally, whose favorite colors to use are teal and other blues, estimates she has 300 bracelets in her collection. That number was much higher before she sent more than 100 to Jimmy Kimmel.
The late-night comedian asked viewers to send in examples of their Rainbow Loom creations to create a suit for him to wear on the show. During a bit on Feb. 26, Mr. Kimmel showed off the multicolor creation. The night before he debuted the suit, Mr. Kimmel publicly thanked Ally and others for sending in bracelets.
The Aufmans didn't know Ally would be mentioned on the show.
"When my mom heard he said my name she almost fell down," Ally said. "I was really happy."
Mr. Kimmel was just the latest in a long line of people who are closely following Ally's work.
She might have needed a little help getting her Web presence off the ground, but the Aufmans say the creativity is all Ally.
This summer she'll go from teaching two courses to one, to make sure she has time to swim, play tennis and enjoy being 9.
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