Cara Naylor wasn’t your typical 21st century college student. After doing her college classwork and homework, she’d knit in her dorm. That’s right. Knit.
Naylor, 26, a 2009 graduate of Roger Williams University in graphic design communications, with minors in marketing and French, is a fulltime waitress at Persimmon Restaurant. Part-time, she knits, crochets and markets her passion – inventive woolen necklaces, coffee cozy warmers and other handmade products – at various East Bay venues and online.
Her mother taught her to knit when she was a kid, but Cara didn’t truly use the skills until, of all places, college. “I met a friend, Taylor, who was very into handicrafts. We would sit together and work on knitting projects in our college dorm. I didn’t learn to crochet until two years ago, but have developed a love for the different ways you can manipulate yarn,” says Cara.
While knitting and crochet are both very old crafts, Cara feels they still have relevance today. “I think a beautiful, hand-crafted garment never goes unappreciated. In a world where so much is mass-produced in big warehousesand factories, it’s refreshing to find something made by hand,” she says.
An extra bedroom in her apartment serves as her studio space. She has cubbies filled with many different textures and colors of yarn; baskets full of completed projects and bins of crochet hooks and knitting needles. “The crafts of knitting and crocheting have allowed me to create in a useful and accessible way. I absolutely love the concept of making something beautiful and wearable that brings joy to me as the artisan and to the wearer alike. I make each piece without patterns and plans, but instead let the yarn, the hook and the needles bring me inspiration as I stitch. I don’t use machines for my projects, unless you count my computer and printer which I use to make product tags,” Cara adds.
She buys supplies at small local shops, creates all of her goods individually and then sells them back to the community at another small local shop. She also has a store online at Etsy.com, but has had better sales luck directly within the East Bay. She has sold a good amount of pieces at the Wooden Midshipman on Water Street in Warren. A few winters ago, she also sold her crochet “coffee cozies” (reusable coffee cup sleeves) at The Beehive Cafe in Bristol. “There is nothing more important to me than to support the local economy and give back to my neighbors,” says Cara.
She browses yarn stores selecting yarns in colors that make her “feel good.” She uses natural fibers – different types of wool, alpaca, bamboo, cotton and only the occasional acrylic or nylon fiber. “From there, I just start making some stitches until a clearer idea forms. Each project can take me anywhere from an hour to seven or eight, really. It all depends on how fine the yarn is, how detailed of a pattern I’m making and, for the necklaces, how long the finished product is; some of them wrap around the neck three or four times over,” she adds.
The knitted necklaces are clothing with a purpose. “One of the first sets of necklaces I made was for my friend who was pregnant. I got to thinking that mothers with young children, as well as people with metal allergies, could really use a fashionable and comfortable jewelry alternative. A baby can play and tug away at a crocheted yarn necklace without hurting mom’s neck or baby’s fingers,” says Cara. She also makes cowl neck scarves, hats and small coinpurse- like sacks, besides the reusable coffee cup sleeves.
She says she has received a lot of positive feedback, which inspires her crafts. The best remark she has gotten? “My friend Nicole said to me, ‘Cara, this stuff is really beautiful, I’m going to recommend you for an artist column in The Bay!’ How flattering and cool is that?”