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Rising Stars: Meet Caitlin Mathes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Caitlin Mathes.

Hi Caitlin, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My love for crochet began one summer in college when I was living alone and had a lot of free time between my shifts at the local coffee shop. After spending a ton of time on Pinterest looking at crocheted and knitted things, I decided to teach myself how to crochet using a “beginner’s guide to…” type of book. My first project was a massive, queen-sized afghan.

It took forever to finish, and it had crooked edges and a lot of dropped stitches, but I still have it because I was so proud when I finally finished it! I’ve been crocheting ever since. Hook and Leaf came around a few years later after I became more skilled with crochet. I dabbled in designing my own patterns and selling what I made at local craft fairs.

In 2020, I found myself unable to work a full-time job due to my health, so I started working on Hook and Leaf full-time. I launched a website, revamped my Etsy shop, and started networking online with other KC makers. Now, I have the flexibility to take care of myself the way I need to while staying busy and having a source of income on the side.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. When you run a small business, you wear many hats. I’m in my own marketing department, web designer, graphic designer, photographer, shipping department, bookkeeper, social media manager, and so much more. That doesn’t even include actual crocheting!

I am responsible for every aspect of my business, and it can be overwhelming at times – especially when dealing with chronic illness on top of it all. Even though it is difficult sometimes, I’m still so grateful for the opportunity to teach myself new skills and meet new people through my business!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I design crochet patterns and publish them online for other makers to use. I sell PDF versions of my patterns on Etsy and Ravelry, and I also share free patterns on my website. I believe in empowering other makers, so I allow my designs to be reproduced and sold on a small scale – such as on Etsy or at craft fairs. I also sell my finished crocheted items on Etsy and at local KC craft fairs during the fall and winter. Most of what I sell are hats, beanies, cowls, and scarves. These are my most popular items locally, but on Etsy, I sell a lot of my double-thick potholders!

I am very proud to be a part of the slow fashion movement. A lot of people don’t realize the time and care it takes to create clothing with your own two hands. Slow fashion brings that idea back to the forefront and really values handmade, made to last, and unique clothing. Crochet especially is very unique because the stitches can’t be easily replicated with a machine. I feel like I’m adding real value to my local community with the designs I create.

I also strive to use sustainable yarns in my designs. For example, I use recycled cotton yarn to make my potholders, which saves a ton of water. I also use yarn made from recycled plastic bottles for my Eco Beanie. I was so excited to see this yarn on the market! I intend to use it in future designs as well.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
There’s been a big emphasis the past few years on supporting local and small businesses, particularly since the pandemic hit. I see this, especially in Kansas City. People are proud to live here and be a part of the community. There are even brick-and-mortar stores popping up in the area that only sell locally-produced goods.

I think that will continue in the next several years. Regarding the fashion industry, things are always shifting and changing. I focus on fall and winter trends and try to include them in my new designs. Knitwear in general always seems to be on-trend!

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