Frazee teen blends classic, creative designs
By Lori Fischer Thorp
At first glance, the words “graduate” and “crochet” might seem totally unrelated. ¶ At 19, Taylor Crabtree is what one might call an old soul, who learned some crochet fundamentals from her grandmother years ago and has now transformed them into her own kind of magic. ¶ Since launching Crabtree Crochet & Crafts in January, while completing her final high school credits this spring, the Frazee teenager has built an inventory of both traditional and non-traditional items. ¶ She markets her hats, shrugs, necklaces, purses and other work on her Facebook page (Crabtree Crochet & Craft) and at vendor sales throughout the area. ¶ “Definitely a lot of people think it’s an ‘old lady’ thing, but it’s like you can make anything out of yarn and a hook,” she said. “It’s good for the brain, with the repetitive motion.”
“It’s really cool, because there are a really lot of young people who are getting into knitting and crocheting and fiber arts. I see so many new things every single day. I have completely geared my (social media) algorithm to plans and crochet.”Taylor Crabtree
Crabtree is largely self-taught through TikTok and YouTube videos, and prospective customers often send her photos of what they’d like made.
Her grandmother, who lives in Bemidji, was one of her first customers, commissioning a hat and scarf.
“My grandma does crochet, but she only uses patterns or does socks or kitchen cloths,” she said.
In contrast, another one of Crabtree’s early commissions was a bikini, sold to a friend of a friend who learned about her on social media.
“It was perfectly sized,” she said. “High utility is important. I think it’s important if you’re going to make it, you make it right.
“I want to appeal to all ages and all people,” she continued. “I want to have options for everybody. That also shows how versatile the craft can be, it doesn’t just have to be potholders. You can make things that you would never think of when you think of crochet. It’s not just socks.”
Patience is a key thing in the creative process, she said.
“People take failure as, ‘I can’t do it right,’ instead of looking at it as a learning experience,” Crabtree said. “I struggle with bigger projects. There’s a bunch of smaller, quicker projects. It’s really endless, once you learn a few basic stitches, you can start freehanding.”
Crochet has been a different experience.
“I’ve been able to stick with it, which is really exciting for me,” said Crabtree. “I’ve gotten quite a bit of support for the tiny area I’m in. I didn’t know how much people would like my stuff and I don’t just make the average crochet items.”
People sharing her Facebook posts has helped propel interest. As she has honed her crochet skills, Crabtree has also worked to bridge the barriers of resources and marketing.
“Not having a craft store around here is not ideal,” she said.
The Frazee teen tries to avoid driving long distances or ordering high-quality materials online unless doing a commission.
“I’ve gotten some nicer yarn from the thrift store,” she said. “I think it’s cool to use that, or reuse yarn. I really try to keep the yarn hoarding to a minimum. I’ve got the staples, but not an excessive amount. I don’t buy yarn unless I like working with it. I try to be very conscious of how much I’m using.”
Crabtree recycles and finds a way to use and reuse as much product as she can.
“I’m going to get a felting mat so I can reuse my scrap yarn, and I can felt and reuse every scrap, and make my own color blends,” she said. “I am very conscious about how much I am consuming. Overconsumption is a big problem in the world. I keep literally the tiniest of scraps.”
In her passion for gardening, “all my seed starters, I started with recycling,” she said. “I even got lavender seeds to germinate. I was so excited. They take a long time and have been started like five times before. You don’t have to go buy new things all the time. I don’t want to be part of why all these landfills are taking up the earth. I just have been working on being more sustainable, it’s just so satisfying.”
Along with her gardening and other projects, Crabtree is exploring how to best market her crafts. She has been involved in a number of small local sales and has reached new customers at Shady Hollow Flea Market outside Detroit Lakes.
“Overall I feel like I like smaller events,” she said. “I love trading with people. You get referrals, it’s awesome and the people you meet at those events, there’s so many talented people around and unfortunately you don’t always hear about that.”
A continuing challenge, she said, is finding “people who are willing and able to pay the prices for homemade goods.”
Crabtree said people should watch for a number of upcoming opportunities, such as a dreamcatcher class, and stresses success and productivity is individually-based. Afterall, the local resident said it is okay to just stay home and do crafts all day.
“Your definition of success and productivity is your own,” she said. “I’m more and more passionate about my beliefs and my goals. I don’t resonate with going out (partying)…throw your phone away in the other room. There’s a balance you have to have. A lot of young people have way too much time on technology. It’s about making conscious and aware decisions about how you are going to spend your time and what you are going to consume, media-wise.”
Crabtree suggested striving to constantly see positives and new things.
“You need creativity,” she said. “It’s just a different feeling of satisfaction.”
That focus has led her to teaching friends how to do some basic crochet stitches.
“The youth are struggling around here so bad,” she said. “There’s a lot of young people who feel hopeless. It’s so easy for kids in those ages (middle school through high school) to drink, do drugs, party.”
Crabtree hopes that programs offered through Cornerstone: Frazee Community and Youth Project, in which her mother has played an integral role, will change that pathway to give youth “more encouragement and support from adults.”
“People are out of touch with the universe, we are so numb to life,” she said. “We think ‘I have to do this and this and this,’ it’s always go, go, go, responsibilities, and you just become numb to what is going on around you. I think in this age of technology, people feel obligated to your time.”
Family has been a positive force in Crabtree’s vision of her own future and in allowing her to pursue her interests, including photography.
“It comes down to having supportive family members who want you to go out and try new things,” Crabtree said.
That connection “gives opportunities for families to bond,” she said. “People are just so disconnected with themselves and each other and the earth, but I’m trying to do my best to get out of that and be more aware. I like owning my own business.You’ll never know unless you try. I’ve definitely failed at some things, and now I feel like I’ve found the thing I can be successful at.”