Bella’s Custom Crochets: my maker story
Posted on July 30, 2019
Hey makers & lovers of yarn! Welcome to my little corner of the internet!
If you’ve read my site’s “about me” section you’ve already gotten a tiny version of this crochet tale of mine, but it seems appropriate to introduce myself in a story-like fashion before diving into patterns and juicy maker tips (there will be plenty of those to come, I promise!) So: Bella.
I’m a wife to the super computer nerd who built this site, a mama to a spicy little baby lady & owner/servant of two miniature black panthers (or “cats,” as some might call them). I’m wordy on paper, but quiet in person. I’m likely to alliterate any chance I get, and am even more likely to put colorful things in R.O.Y. G. B.I.V. rainbow order, because, that’s just how it needs to be. Mustard yellow is the very best color and foxes are the very best animal. Jesus is my all-time favorite. I love all things crafty or creative, and even when I’m not crocheting, I’m likely making something. That or I’m eating snacks (chips and salsa are my kryptonite).
But, enough about that. Lets get to the backstory of how I came to be the boss lady behind Bella’s Custom Crochets. Here’s how I took my crochet hobby and turned it into a profitable business:
I come from a creative family and was raised by an artsy mama and business-owning father. I learned to knit as a child from a grandmother who taught me on those little sharp-ended sticks you use at Christmas time to pick walnuts out of their shells instead of knitting needles, because that was all my tiny hands could manage. Many sad, curvy-edged doll blankets followed. Next she taught me crochet. I spent hours chaining long snakes of acrylic yarn, just waiting for the coils to turn into something. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how she or anyone else was making shapes- blankets, garments, etc- while I was only able to create a long and looping chain strand. At this point I was about 7, and yarn crafts were for”old people” anyway. So after what felt like miles of variegated snakes, I gave up and focused on other arts I could manipulate as I pleased. In the basement of our house, in a little utility closet, alongside the furnace, was my “art studio.” I woke up everyday before dawn so I could have extra waking hours to glue and paint things. The desire to create has always been a driving force in my life.
In high school, the fiber arts called me back. I fell down the Etsy rabbit hole and re-started knitting. Maybe yarny stuff was cool? Then I found crochet again. Somehow it just CLICKED. First I made a blanket. Then I made a hat (with fox ears- the inspo behind my logo!). Then I made a green amigurumi cat with a pirate patch on his eye, wearing a sweater vest. And the I just made…everything.
I realized, without using any patterns, I was able to manipulate the hooks and yarn into anything I wanted. Throughout my life I’ve struggled with anxiety, an overactive imagination and “control freak” type tendencies. Having a ball of string and a magic little stick I could use to make anything I wanted quieted my mind, let my imagination play, and gave me something to control between my own two hands. Soon all my siblings had a selection of animal hats with ears and little felt faces. The younger ones had amigurumi toys of all their favorite characters and critters. I was getting more confident, so much so I let the internet know that I, the high school Bella, had a granny hobby.
A couple years after I got married, and at the time my husband JoJo was serving in the Air Force. I uprooted my small town Connecticut life and moved across the country to Washington state. Though blissfully married, I was struck by overwhelming loneliness there. Something about going from a small town where I recognized the majority of faces to being in a large state where no one but my husband (who was at work most of the time) knew my name hit me hard.
Only working part time, I needed something to fill my time. To ease my anxious mind. To busy my hands and give my imagination a playground. I needed to MAKE. I found the local Joann store and made it my second place of dwelling. The piles of hats and blankets in our home grew rapidly. All of my items were from my own imagination, free-handed without patterns. It was my husband, who is and will forever be the reason I do anything out of my comfort zone, who suggested ” you know, you could really sell those…”
This was 2013. I made a Facebook page. I signed up for small, local craft fairs. I stacked up children’s hats and women’s accessories and all the colorful yarny things. As it turned out, I could sell those. Quickly I realized there was a passion in the making. I found so much joy anytime someone wandered up to my table and asked “can you make me a ____” and I could say with confidence, “absolutely!” Now, at the time I knew nothing of business or pricing, and looking back, I was so not selling my items for what they were worth, and that’s another post for another day! But what I did know at the time was that I loved custom crocheting. I loved being able to take what a lot of people saw as an antiquated hobby for frail, blue-haired ladies using crunchy orange and brown yarn, and turn it into something modern and vibrant. I loved being able to take some string, dance it around a curvy-ended stick, and turn it into something that made people say ” you MADE that?!”
Flash forward, our time in the USAF ended and we moved back home to CT. I started a day job and crochet turned into just a day dream. I let go of the idea of it ever being more than just a little side hobby. I told JoJo to not bother renewing the domain name he had bought in hopes of one day making me a website. But he saw through my excuses and fears and ignored me. Smart guy.
In 2017, my fiber fever flared up again. The day job was a money maker, but not a long-term career and definitely not a passion. I began pouring all my free time outside of work into crocheting. With the close of that year I decided to legitimize my business and start taking my “hobby” more seriously. January 2018, I registered as a small business and poured all the extra time and effort I could into not only making items, but growing the Bella’s Custom Crochets brand. I took a plunge into a realm I had long feared, and began publishing written patterns for my original designs on Etsy and Ravelry, as well as selling finished items both in person and online every chance I got.
By November of 2018, our daughter “Roo,” my very best work in progress and finished object all wrapped up into one little bubbly ball of brilliance and beauty, was born. I had long known I wanted to be a mama, but with her birth came the strong realization that I wanted to be the sort of mama who was at home with her as much as possible. I wanted to stay home with my two babies: My daughter & Bella’s Custom Crochets. So I quit the day job with the hopes of mama-ing and making full time. I embraced that maker mama boss lady life and…
…That brings us to the present! If you made it this far, I thank you! Here I am now, mom-ing and making, following my dreams (or more likely being pushed into them by my husband), and now, apparently, I’m blogging.
With more than 12 years of crocheting under my belt, 5+ years of making-to-sell, about 2 years of pattern designing, a life time of general craftiness, and a love of written words I feel like I just may have something to contribute to the blogisphere. My hope is to build a little haven for crocheters in particular, but welcoming to all those who love fiber (or just love me) and creating beauty with their own two hands as much as I do. Coming soon will be all sorts of modern crochet patterns, my insider experience on building your “small” business in big ways, tips and tricks on markets and making money, products I love, and just all the fiber-filled things we love to gobble up. I firmly believe that I was made to make, created to create, and I believe you were too. So, welcome! Grab a cup of something warm, a skein of something pretty, and let’s get to some making.