Earrings, golf club covers, oven mitts and stuffed animals don’t all seem to have much in common. However, Cari Winfree makes all of these crochet items and sells some of them on her online shop, Etsy.
It all started when Winfree’s grandmother taught her to crochet when she was a little girl.
“I remember she had problems because she was right-handed and I was left-handed, so it was all upside down,” Winfree said, laughing. “It was cute.”
It was a good memory, Winfree recalled, but she only became interested in crocheting about 30 years later when she decided to make a crocheted baby gift for her then-pregnant sister.
“I re-taught myself how to do things and I couldn’t stop,” Winfree said. “Everyone got something crocheted by me that Christmas. I started doing whatever I could.”
Her first crochet stuffed animal was a snake that she made for her 4-year-old son, Elliot. After that, she said, her family and friends encouraged her to start selling her creations.
“It’s so silly what you can crochet,” said Winfree. “I made earrings, I made bags. I just opened my Etsy shop a few months ago and I started an Instagram account. People just text me directly and ask me to do things. It’s a small thing by the way. ”
Jill Ketchum, a friend of Winfree, said she always knew Winfree was artistically talented, even when the two were in elementary school together.
“I remember she always had the best handwriting,” Ketchum said. “She has always been creative, from her handwriting to making these amazing crocheted stuffed animals.”
Janet Logan, Winfree’s mother, said that Winfree’s success was due to her hard work and creativity.
“She never ceases to amaze me,” Logan said. “She really never expected it to be any kind of ‘deal’. It just kind of happened just because the few things she did for people people would absolutely love. From there it just grew. “
Her creative process, Winfree said, relies heavily on considering the person she is crocheting for and their interests. Some of her favorite creations include a custom doll of a man playing guitar alongside his cat and a custom stuffed animal of someone’s dog.
“I have a good friend who loves sloths, so I looked for all the sloth patterns I could find,” Winfree said. “I’m always trying to do something new that I’ve never tried before. With the dog, I thought it up myself and didn’t follow a pattern.”
Making the stuffed animals requires working with all the small parts and assembling them, Winfree said.
“You do the arms, the head and the facial features. I just had some dismembered animal parts made,” Winfree said, laughing. “Once that’s all done, everything is put together and every piece sewn together.
The hardest part of crocheting is the time it takes. However, the look on people’s faces when they get one of their stuffed animals makes it all worth it, Winfree said.
“It takes a long time. I would say most things take several hours to make,” Winfree said. “So I see it as a hobby and as an outlet. I don’t think crocheting will ever make me rich. But I love it, I love to see people get so excited when they see their gift.”
As a stay-at-home mom, Winfree works on her sons’ schedules to crochet custom items.
“It’s really any time I can find during the nap or early morning, I wake up before them and work on something, or after they go to bed,” Winfree said.
While her crocheting is mostly a part-time job, Winfree said she occasionally dreams of what she could possibly do with her skills.
“Writing patterns is probably the way to go if you want to make money from crocheting,” Winfree said. “The ultimate dream would be to have a cute little yarn shop to give classes and sell all kinds of beautiful yarns and tools. It probably won’t happen, but it would be great.”
Winfree said her best advice for beginners is to go with it and make the most of the online resources.
“Just start with a simple blanket, towel or scarf and learn one stitch at a time. Learn a technique, do that, and then you can add another technique,” Winfree said. “Anyone can do it. It’s not that hard, you just have to make an effort and learn the skills.”
Logan said she is proud of her daughter for working hard and carrying on her grandmother’s legacy.
“Her grandmother would have been so proud to know what she did with what she taught her,” Logan said. “It’s so sweet to me. It’s heartwarming.”
Those interested in Cari’s crochet creations can visit her online Etsy shop called Cari Crochets Shop.