After choosing to drop out of junior college in 2018, Nadine Tan had a year to spare before enrolling in Singapore Polytechnic.
The 19-year-old first tried to fill her time by learning how to knit apparel, but soon realised that crochet was better suited for what she wanted to make.
After crocheting for two years, Nadine opened her own Instagram shop selling her handmade crochet apparel last June.
Her shop, grannygirl, is one of many Instagram shops selling handmade crochet products that have been popping up on the social media platform's explore page lately.
Youth.SG spoke to Nadine and the owners of two other crochet shops which opened last year, CrochetByJois and Clumsy Crochet, to find out about their experience selling crochet apparel, amigurumi (stuffed crochet) keychains and crochet earrings.
Picking up a new hobby
As someone who has always wanted to work in the fashion industry, Nadine was elated to discover she could make wearable pieces through crocheting.
"I knew my interests were fashion-related, so after realising that I could actually design apparel and turn them into wearable pieces, there was no turning back!" she said.
The experience and communication design student had challenged herself to gain new skills during her gap year, like learning how to use a sewing machine and crocheting, so that she could alter and flip pieces of clothing herself.
Once she realised she was good at crocheting and could wear what she created, Nadine felt even more encouraged to keep learning and practising crochet as a hobby.
On the other hand, 19-year-old Jois Chan, who owns CrochetbyJois, started crocheting after her twin sister gave up learning the handicraft.
"I took over her yarn stash and started because I was fascinated by how a ball of yarn could turn into a piece of accessory or decor," recounted the psychology student.
Jois' stuffed crochet keychains make for a colourful gift.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOIS CHAN
Besides being a creative outlet, crochet also serves as a way for these youths to destress.
"It calms me down and helps me to relieve stress, especially after a long day at school. While others game or play sports, my outlet is crocheting!" said Jois.
In a similar vein, 21-year-old Sarah-Joy Tan, owner of Clumsy Crochet, said: "I usually crochet as a way to unwind from school-related stress! It's quite therapeutic for me."
Turning a hobby into a business
After picking up crocheting as their hobby, all three shop owners were pushed by friends and family to start selling their crochet designs.
Nadine first had the idea to open grannygirl and sell her designs two months after finding her passion in crochet.
She said: "It really was an instant thought to turn this into a business. Crochet was not a well-known activity two years ago, so I wanted to be part of the few who could make crochet apparel."
Her shop, named after her friend-given nickname "grandma", has gained 793 followers since its launch. Nadine designs all of her apparel, including cropped cardigans and bucket hats, on her own.
"A lot of my inspirations are from garments I see from other retail stores. I find a piece that I really love and challenge myself to create it from crochet," she explained.
To create her pieces, Nadine plans out how to crochet the different pieces of the garment and tries repeatedly until it comes out looking right.
The Rosa Dress, designed by Nadine, takes 20 hours to produce.
PHOTO CREDIT: NADINE TAN
Her self-described "girl-next-door" apparel has attracted many customers, local and beyond, that she has to cap her orders through a booking system. This is to ensure she has enough time to fulfil the orders, which take anywhere from two hours to two weeks to complete.
Challenges of running a business on Instagram
Like Nadine, both Sarah and Jois struggle to juggle their studies while completing orders.
Sarah, who learned the basic crochet stitches from a WikiHow article in 10 minutes, added that one of the most frustrating parts of running her business is dealing with difficult customers.
"The not-so-fun part of having my own shop is chasing people for payment. Sometimes people place orders and then disappear. I have no choice but to cancel their order," said the sociology and media communications undergraduate.
Sarah gets inspiration for her designs from everyday items that catch her eye.
PHOTO CREDIT: CLUMSY_CROCHET'S INSTAGRAM
Thankfully, the number of bad customers pale in comparison to the supportive fans.
Growing interest in crochet
The shop owners believe that one of the most rewarding parts of selling their crochet designs is receiving positive responses from customers.
"One of my favourite moments is when people post about my creations and share how happy they are with them! They obviously don't have to, but it's pretty amazing to me how they liked it enough to actually take time to talk about it," shared Sarah.
Despite crocheting being stereotyped as a hobby for grandmas, the entrepreneurs have managed to influence several friends and family members to pick up the skill, adding to crochet's increasing popularity.
Jois even films how-to videos for her sisters.
"I have influenced my two other sisters to try their hand at crocheting, and they have made really great progress so far," she shared.
Nadine has also seen two of her guy friends picking up crochet as a hobby, and is grateful that the growing interest in crochet allows her shop to keep thriving and hopes to give back.
She said: "Crocheting and selling my designs have definitely quelled some of my self-doubts about my work being pointless. I've been receiving a lot of love and I could not be more thankful.
"As someone who loves animals, I plan to donate part of my profits to animal charities because I feel their welfare can be overlooked sometimes. I hope my actions can spark other people to help as well."
BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: SARAH-JOY TAN, NADINE TAN, JOIS CHAN AND CLUMSY_CROCHET'S INSTAGRAM
Feeling bored at home? Hop on to Cr8studiosg to watch chat shows, stand-up comedy and music performances! Or visit MehGoWhere.SG for more resources or things to do!