Many crafters are turning to YouTube to watch video demonstrations and learn new skills.
This is how St. Francois Xavier resident Michelle Ducharme, 40, learned to use a crochet hook, which led to her home-based business, Just Monkeying Around.
"The name is like (husband) Kelly’s business, Just Falconing Around," she said.
The Ducharmes have a blended family of seven children aged 18 to five months, so they’re kept very busy.
However, when Ducharme wasn’t able to order more crocheted items for her children from a woman in Winkler two years ago, she decided to learn to crochet and make her own.
"I went through a couple of videos," she said.
She had knitted before but hadn’t tried her hand at crocheting.
After making sock monkeys and hats for her family and posting photos on her Facebook page, custom orders started coming in. She said her hats follow children’s cartoon trends, such as Angry Birds. Her Cabbage Patch hats, which feature braids, are now popular.
"My designs are kid-driven," Ducharme said.
She tried selling her crocheted items at a craft sale but found she has to keep too many items in stock for a sale.
Because children’s heads are different sizes at different ages, it’s also hard for her to come up with standard sizes. When she takes a custom order, she asks her customer to measure the child’s head, then allows a bit of extra room so a hat will last for more than one winter.
Being self-taught, Ducharme said she can’t read a pattern so sketches out new designs and then tests them on her family.
"I’m a bit of a yarn hoarder," she admits, adding she normally tries to keep material costs down by using acrylic yarn bought from Winnipeg retailers. But if someone wants her to use a specialty yarn, she’s able to do so.
She recently added crocheted toys and neck warmers that look like cats and foxes to her online stock.
Ducharme said she usually saves her crochet work for evenings after the young children are in bed.
"It keeps me busy," she said. "It relaxes me."
Ducharme’s Facebook page is www.facebook.com/pages/Just-Monkeying-Around/114680075259181