As a young child living in West Texas, Carla Scull first learned how to crochet from her mother.
“My mom started by teaching me how to chain stitch without a needle using only my fingers,” Carla said. “She told me when I could master that, she would show me some of the more advanced stitches.”
Carla quickly mastered the basic techniques and used her skills to create easy to make, yet functional items such as straight blankets and simple covers. While living in Phoenix, she progressed her hobby, creating intricate dresses for plastic dolls after encouragement from her sister.
Years later, Carla, 54, now lives on the Jacksonville-Verona border and is still an avid crocheter. Her focus has shifted from dresses and blankets to stuffed animals and accompanying patterns that she creates under the name Carla’s Cuties.
“I sit over in my little corner and come up with the ideas in my head,” she said. “It’s a pretty creative process. I write the designs down on paper as I make them. When I’m finished, I send the blueprint to another lady who proofreads and tests them for me. After that, the patterns go online for sale.”
Though she has successfully been in business a full year as of Feb. 7, Carla initially began stitching stuffed toys to give away as gifts for the holidays. Her first design, a lanky-limbed pig named Patsy, was originally given to her stepdaughter Erin Scull as a Christmas present.
“When I first saw that Patsy Pig, I couldn’t help but laugh the whole time I was at her house,” Erin said. “It was the cutest darn thing I had ever seen. I still have it sitting in my dining room watching us.”
Erin also actively crochets and was so impressed by the design that she encouraged her stepmother to make the pattern available for purchase online. A year later, the Carla’s Cuties catalog continues to grow and currently features 32 distinct designs available for purchase on craft distributing web sites.
“I can’t believe how well she has done, I’m just really proud of her,” Erin said. “People are just floored by her patterns. She’s got a few like Dinky Donkey that have so much life and personality in their eyes that it’s not even funny. I love it.”
Responsible for making sure Carla’s instructions are clear and easy to follow is family friend Kate Ivey who helps out remotely from Tennessee. Carla and Ivey were introduced to each other through Erin and have been in close contact ever since, exchanging ideas and advice.
“Carla sends me a pattern and I get out the yarn and check for any mistakes,” Ivey said. “All of her designs are fabulous, so it’s usually a simple process. She is a great person, very intelligent.”
To help drive traffic to her site, Carla offers a few of her most popular patterns as a free download, such as Doggie Door Prop and Ollie Owl. Her newest pattern, Vaughn the Viking, is also attracting attention and has already spurred more activity in its first week than the next three most popular patterns combined.
Joyce Brittingham of Richmond, Va., owns all of Carla’s patterns. Brittingham occasionally visits Jacksonville with her husband to do book signings and has won state fair crochet awards in Virginia using Carla’s designs.
“Carla’s patterns are written so well that even young crocheters can enjoy them,” Brittingham said. “She has such original ideas and does a fantastic job of explaining how to recreate them. I’ve been crocheting for 50 years and I’ve never seen any patterns with better instructions.”
Despite her success, Carla maintains money is not the main motivation for crocheting.
“If I start getting to that point where I have to make money, then it won’t feel like a hobby anymore and I might lose interest,” Carla said. “The longer I work, the harder the patterns are that people request. Right now, I do it because it’s entertaining and I like it.”
Carla maintains an active online presence and can be reached at facebook.com/carlascuties or firstname.lastname@example.org. While she does offer already made projects, the vast majority of her business comes from people buying her patterns, which cost an average of $4 and may be purchased at ravelry.com/designers/carla-scull and etsy.com/shop/CarlasCrochetCuties.
Matthew Adkins is the business reporter for The Daily News and may be contacted at email@example.com or 910-219-8467.