Keeping Craft Alive: The Next Generation of Crocheters

Murmurs of a crochet resurgence are spreading, and a well-worn phrase, “skips a generation,” is bringing hope to a world that many assume is on a track to lost-art status. But young crocheters are popping up in unlikely places, such as the households of non-crafters.

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Mary with her first Angora rabbit, Chip. She has made a needlefelted replica of Chip, an adornment for a pair of slippers, and an Angora cat out of his fur.

Mary West, 14, taught herself how to crochet when she was 10. Her brother was gifted a crochet kit and jokingly asked her to make him a coat. According to Mary, the coat didn’t work out very well, but it did spark an interest in crafting. Two years later, while scanning the library for needlefelting books, she found books on crochet. “Is it really that great?” she thought. “Maybe I should try again.” After giving it another go, she was hooked.

She used a Crocheting for Dummies book supplemented with Pinterest and YouTube. This is how she taught herself the basics, and now it’s how she learns new techniques.

“When I get stuck, I hate to put things down and come back later, so I would sit for hours looking at YouTube videos and trying different methods before I was satisfied with my project,” Mary said. “I got stuck trying to figure out how to make a circle for a couple of weeks before I finally got that right. Your options are pretty limited when you don’t really have anyone to ask questions.”

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Mary’s crocheted replicas of her pet dog and English angora rabbit. The dog is made from her dog’s fur and the rabbit out of its fur.

She also spins yarn from her four (two French and two English) angora rabbits and makes projects from it. “I get impatient waiting for the rabbits to grow more wool, but I have to make these things from start to finish,” Mary said. She grooms the fur, cleans it, dyes it, and spins it for yarn or to create needlefelted items.

“Two of my favorites are my needlefelted Chip, which is a replica of my first Angora rabbit, and my blue French Angora baby boy hat,” she said. “My biggest accomplishment was participating in the Phoenix Children’s Business Expo, selling some of my creations, and being awarded The Most Business Potential in March 2017.”

Mary, right, and her sister Abbey, left, at the Arizona Children’s Business Fair (March 2017). She earned the Most Business Potential Award with the help of her sister, sold her handmade creatures, and demonstrated the process she uses to create them.

Her Angora rabbits started as suppliers of fiber for needlefelting, but Mary realized how great their fur would be for yarn, and she learned how to spin it and crochet with it.

“Spinning with Angora rabbit wool is harder than spinning average sheep wool. Right now I’m using a drop spindle, and I am hoping that soon I will be able to afford a spinning wheel,” Mary said. “Other than rabbit wool, I have spun my dog’s hair, which I mixed with merino wool beforehand and made into a tiny crochet version of my own dog. Making yarn with your pet’s fur is very messy. There’s hair everywhere, especially rabbit fur.”

Her rabbits show no interest in the things made from their fur, and they treat them similarly to loose fur balls. The family dog, however, seems to appreciate things made from her fur.

Mary plans to continue crocheting and ultimately pass the skill to future generations. Her mother, Cindy West, is in awe of her daughter’s hobby. “She can create beautiful items from a blob of nothing,” she said, “and I’m very proud when someone is so happy to receive an item she has made just for them, and I’m proud to think that she may have a part in on the continuation of the art.” Cindy, a self-proclaimed non-crafty person, is happy to help her daughter untangle fibers, roll yarn balls, and help sell items online.

This is one of Mary’s favorite creations made from her pet rabbit, Cherche. She dyed the fur with Koolaid, spun it into yarn, and crocheted these baby booties.

Mary makes baby hats and booties and sends some to charities, but she also makes crocheted and felted animals and characters. She funds her crafty adventures by selling some of her work on eBay. Mary finds it rewarding to know people appreciate her work enough to buy it.

As for Mary and her crafting, it won’t become a lost art. She finds it easy to motivate herself in crochet, spinning, and needlefelting because having a finished product is unendingly exciting to her. She also loves to give away her crafted works. “I can help people by donating something I made and enjoyed making,” she said.

You can find her current creations here.

Sarah Rothberg is the Assistant Editor on all Interweave knitting titles. She loves every dog she meets and can’t believe she gets to knit for work (sometimes).

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  1. Beverly H at 10:22 am February 12, 2018

    I was very impressed with Mary West. I’m a weaver, spinner and knitter in Roseburg, OR. I have a couple of shoe boxes of Angora, that I have collect over the years, that I would like to send to Mary. If someone can email me an address. Thanks, Beverly Henne,

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