Close knit

Handcrafted products making comeback among younger folks

Keri Marson knits some of her unique products during Yukon’s Heart of Christmas Craft and Vendor Fair Dec. 9 at the 10 W. Main Event Center. (Photo by Tim Farley)

By Mindy Ragan Wood, Staff Writer – When it comes to retail trends, old things have a way of coming back around by popular demand.

Keri Marson and Jessica Czelada are riding on DIY’s hottest trends, the holy trinity of handcrafting, knitting and crocheting. The pair were selling their wares during the Heart of Christmas Craft and Vendor Fair on Saturday at the Event Center at 10 West Main.

JK Knitting and More started in 2015 when Keri and Jessica decided to try their hand at an old art form as a creative outlet. They’ve added a third crafter to their team, Isabel Nierwinski, to keep up with demand for the adorable stuffed teddy bears, apparel, and now soft action figures.

“Jessi and I are totally self-taught, so it took a while to learn the techniques. It’s a lot of fun,” Marson said. “We call the action figures stuff characters and we use poly fill to stuff them. They’re four to six inches tall and they’re really popular. It all started with teddy bears and then we added the small stuffed characters. We released a Star Wars line this summer.”

While the trio make plenty of ear warmers, scarves, baby apparel and the usual items one finds with crocheted vendors, the miniature stuff figures stand out. Singing sunflowers, turtles, kittens, baby chicks, and even video game characters are just a few.

“They’re great stocking stuffers and because they’re handmade, they’re unique,” Marson said.

This Christmas season has been so busy that Marson said they are working to keep from selling out of the stuffed figures. The demand doesn’t only come from craft shows, but mostly through their Etsy store, an online crafts and art marketplace similar to Amazon.
Marson said their online business has grown.

“I’ve seen an upswing in the last couple of months. We are paying to advertise on Etsy and we’re keeping up with Facebook, Instagram, social media,” she said.

Obviously, the online market can be anywhere.

“I shipped one of our Sherlock Holmes to a customer in Italy. It was something I held in my hand, working with for five or six hours and it’s now in Italy. Almost all my orders are out of state,” she said.

The handmade trend has been growing for at least the last 10 years. Every boutique store in Yukon has some kind of crocheted or knitted items for sale, many of them Etsy sellers.
An estimated 53 million Americans knit, a trend that touches on the younger generation too. Keri, Jessica, and Isabel are in their 20s.

“I said to them one day…’is this what you imagined our 20s would look like?’ There’s a stigma with this, that this is what little old ladies do,” Marson said. “I like to surprise people and tell them I’m 27 and taught myself to do it a few years ago.”

Children also show a particular interest at craft shows. Marson said there is a lot of time to kill at these shows and they use that time to work on projects together while running the booth.

“I see younger people more interested and wanting to learn. We’ve had small kids stop and watch and ask questions. I think it’s great,” she said.

The interest in their products from adults is directly connected to the fact that it is handmade, Marson believes.

“The trend I see with handcrafters is you know you’re helping someone build their business and you’re really paying for a quality piece of work that you’re not going to find in a factory. You’re going to get a unique item that, even if someone else crocheted or knitted from the same pattern, it would be a little different. You won’t find something that unique at Target or Kohls. You know someone else doesn’t have it and that’s the uniqueness.”