Fiber & Fox: my maker story

by Isabella

Posted on March 19, 2021

Hey makers & lovers of yarn! Welcome to Fiber & Fox!

If you’ve read my site’s “about me” section you’ve already gotten a tiny version of this crochet tale of mine, but it seems appropriate to properly introduce myself and how I came to be here in this fiber arts community.

So: Bella.

I’m a wife to the super computer whisperer who built this site, a mama to a spicy lil miss & owner/servant of two miniature black panthers (or “cats,” as some might call them). I’m wordy on paper, but quiet in person. I’m likely to alliterate any chance I get, and am even more likely to put colorful things in R.O.Y. G. B.I.V. rainbow order, because, that’s just how it needs to be. Mustard yellow is the very best color and foxes are the very best animal. Jesus is my all, and I aim to represent him well in all I do and make. I love all things crafty or creative, and even when I’m not crocheting, I’m likely making something. Oh, and I knit too! That or I’m eating snacks.

But, enough about that. Lets get to the backstory of how I came to be the Maker Mama Boss Lady behind Fiber & Fox (want my maker story in video form? Watch here)!. Here’s how I took my crochet hobby and turned it into a career:

I come from a creative family and was raised by an artsy mama and business-owning father. I learned to knit as a child (around 1998?) from a grandmother who taught me on those little sharp-ended sticks you use at Christmas time to pick walnuts out of their shells instead of knitting needles, because that was all my tiny hands could manage. Many sad, curvy-edged doll blankets followed. Next she taught me crochet. I spent hours chaining long snakes of acrylic yarn, just waiting for the coils to turn into something. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how she or anyone else was making shapes- blankets, garments, etc- while I was only able to create a long and looping chain strand. At this point I was about 7, and yarn crafts were for “old people” anyway. So after what felt like miles of variegated snakes, I gave up and focused on other arts I could manipulate as I pleased. In the basement of our house, in a little utility closet, alongside the furnace, was my “art studio.” I woke up everyday before dawn so I could have extra waking hours to glue and paint things. The desire to create has always been a driving force in my life.

In high school, around 2007, the fiber arts called me back. I fell down the Etsy rabbit hole and re-started knitting. Maybe yarny stuff was cool? Then I found crochet again. Somehow it just CLICKED. First I made a blanket. Then I made a hat with fox ears- cause foxes will always have been and always will be my favorite. Then I made a green amigurumi cat with a pirate patch on his eye, wearing a sweater vest. And the I just made…everything.

I realized, without using any patterns, I was able to manipulate the hooks and yarn into anything I wanted. Throughout my life I’ve struggled with anxiety, an overactive imagination and “control freak” type tendencies. Having a ball of string and a magic little stick I could use to make anything I wanted quieted my mind, let my imagination play, and gave me something to control between my own two hands. Soon all my siblings had a selection of animal hats with ears and little felt faces (and I had a facebook business under the name “Bella’s Animal Hats”). The younger ones had amigurumi toys of all their favorite characters and critters. I was getting more confident, so much so I let the internet know that I, the high school Bella, had a granny hobby.

In 2012 I got married, and at the time my husband JoJo was serving in the Air Force. I uprooted my small town Connecticut life and moved across the country to Washington state. Though blissfully married and finally in the same place as the man I loved, I was struck by overwhelming loneliness there. Something about going from a small town where I recognized the majority of faces to being in a large state where no one but my husband (who was at work most of the time) knew my name that hit me really hard.

I’ve always been a person who needs to be doing/making/producing/accomplishing something to feel like I have had a worthwhile day (okay, maybe not the healthiest outlook, but…being real.). Crochet allowed me to take an empty day, starting with a ball of yarn, and ending with a THING that I had accomplished. It was crucial for my mental health.

Only working part time, I needed something to fill my time. To ease my anxious mind. To busy my hands and give my imagination a playground. I needed to MAKE. I found the local Joann store and made it my second place of dwelling. Me and acrylic worsted weight yarn, we were the best of pals. The piles of hats and blankets in our home grew rapidly. All of my items were from my own imagination, free-handed without patterns. It was my husband, who is and will forever be the reason I do anything out of my comfort zone, who suggested ” you know, you could really sell those…”

This was 2013. I made a Facebook page and started calling myself “Bella’s Custom Crochets”- cause I could and would crochet ANYTHING. I signed up for small, local craft fairs. I stacked up children’s hats and women’s accessories and all the colorful yarny things. As it turned out, I could sell those. Quickly I realized there was a passion in the making. I found so much joy anytime someone wandered up to my table and asked “can you make me a ____” and I could say with confidence, “absolutely!” Now, at the time I knew nothing of business or pricing, and looking back, I was so not selling my items for what they were worth, and that’s another post for another day! But what I did know at the time was that I loved the challenge of creating something out of my own imagination, and make it appear in 3D. I loved being able to take what a lot of people saw as an antiquated hobby for frail, blue-haired ladies using crunchy orange and brown yarn, and turn it into something modern and vibrant. I loved being able to take some string, dance it around a curvy-ended stick, and turn it into something that made people say ” you MADE that?!”

Flash forward to 2014, our time in the USAF ended and we moved back home to CT. I started a day job and crochet turned into just a day dream. I let go of the idea of it ever being more than just a little side hobby. I told JoJo to not bother renewing the domain name he had bought in hopes of one day making me a website. But he saw through my excuses and fears and ignored me. Smart guy.

In 2017, my fiber fever flared up again. The day job was a money maker, but not a long-term career and definitely not a passion. I began pouring all my free time outside of work into crocheting. With the close of that year I decided to legitimize my business and start taking my “hobby” more seriously. January 2018, I registered as a small business and poured all the extra time and effort I could into not only making items, but growing what was at the time, the Bella’s Custom Crochets brand. I also took a plunge into a realm I had long feared, and began publishing written patterns for my original designs on Etsy and Ravelry, as well as selling finished items both in person and online every chance I got.

By Fall of 2018, our daughter “Roo,” my very best work in progress and finished object all wrapped up into one little bubbly ball of brilliance and beauty, was born. I had long known I wanted to be a mama, but with her birth came the strong realization that I wanted to be the sort of mama who was at home with her as much as possible. I wanted to stay home with my two babies: My daughter & Bella’s Custom Crochets. So in January 2019 I quit the day job with the hopes of mama-ing and making full time. I fully embraced that maker mama boss lady life.

Again that ability to PRODUCE something and give myself a feeling of productivity in those early mama days was crucial for me. I bounced and rocked and fed that baby and crocheted hats at the same time. I poured myself into mama-ing my baby and mama-ing my business, both in making finished items/doing events and designing as well. In 2019 I made over 300 crochet items. Amazing, but probably not sustainable if I wanted to have wrists for the rest of my adult life. I also published 9 patterns and realized I really liked this whole designing thing! This was also the time I realized my love of hand/indie dyed yarns over commercially available synthetic fibers. In the Fall of 2019 I also launched my blog and YouTube Channel & Podcast.

Going into 2020 I knew I didn’t want to make the same hats 100 times each for events anymore- it really took the joy out of creating and it was taking a toll on my body. I came to grips with the fact that I could not and should not be a machine. I intended to put all my focus on designing and not do so many events… and then lo and behold, 2020 did it’s thang and all the events were gone. I think that year made a lot of us take a good look at things and do some pivoting, and for me, it was the pivot towards design and creating online content. But the whole “custom crocheting” thing didn’t really fit anymore. I knew a rebrand was necessary, so we started the whole process behind the scenes and worked for months on what is now FIBER & FOX. The fiber obviously being the yarn that I so love, and the fox being…me. Cause I’m basically just a spicy lil cat/dog critter that wants to play with yarn all day.

In March of 2021 we (we being JoJo the tech support husband & myself) relaunched Bella’s Custom Crochets as Fiber & Fox. Not much changed in my day to day other than name, but I wanted to commit to myself -and to you- that designing modern and vibrant crochet patterns, and creating blog and YouTube content to help support that design journey is what I would be pursuing. I want to help empower you into feeling like you CAN crochet amazing garments and accessories that fit you well, make you feel absolutely fabulous, and kinda make the knitters jealous. I aim to represent crochet in a modern and relevant way, and make accessible, inclusive patterns that will guide you from start to finish with ease. Whatever size you are, whatever yarn you choose to use, I want you to feel AWESOME in something I’ve designed.

…And that brings us to the present! If you made it this far, I thank you! Here I am now, mom-ing and making, following my creating dreams armed with a hook and constantly tangled in some fiber.

With more than 14+ years of crocheting under my belt, 7+ years of making-to-sell, about 3+ years of pattern designing, a life time of general craftiness, and a love of written words I feel like I just may have something unique to contribute to the fiber arts community.

My hope is to build a little haven for crocheters in particular, but welcoming to all those who love fiber (or just love me) and creating beauty with their own two hands as much as I do. Thank you for being here- you are very welcome. Thank you for supporting not only the handmade, fiber arts community but for choosing to spend your time and finances on me. I firmly believe that I was made to make, created to create by a creative Creator, and I believe you were too.

So, welcome! Grab a cup of something warm and cozy, a skein of something beautiful, and let’s get to some making.

~Bella, Maker Mama Boss Lady of Fiber & Fox

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