In 2015, Colleen Gaudet of West Bridgewater decided to crochet mermaid tail blankets as part of a bedroom remodel for her twin daughters, who were turning 3 at the time. She posted photos of her finished product to Facebook and was immediately bombarded with requests from friends.
After working out pricing, she decided an Etsy store, B5B Boutique, was the best approach to handling multiple orders from friends and family, just to keep track of details. Then, something unexpected happened.
"Over the next few weeks, I had orders coming in like crazy," she said. "I took 21 orders between the middle of November and Christmas. ... I was up all hours making blankets and shipping them." She turned down 40 more. "I couldn't work that fast!"
Cindy Raymond of Lee, who runs an Etsy store called CinsKnitsnThings, started crocheting mermaid tail blankets over the summer after a friend asked for one for her daughter. During the 2016 holiday season, "When I posted them on Etsy, I sold them as fast as I could make them," she said.
Another thing that sold well: Bun hats, the trendy hat with a hole on top that allows you to pull your ponytail or bun clear through. "I sold many of those this holiday season, too," said Raymond.
Knitting and crocheting, while age-old hobbies meant to keep us warm and busy, like anything, are subject to market trends. Thanks to shareable spots like Facebook and Pinterest, knitting and crocheting are taking off again, with mermaid tail blanket and bun hat patterns being highly sought after. Google data shows sharp spikes in November and December of 2016 in searches for these trendy knit-worthy items that made perfect gifts for that loved one who has everything.
At Knitting Night, held weekly at the North Adams Makerspace, no one's made a bun hat or mermaid tail — but the group, which meets on Main Street every Thursday for an evening of crafts and conversation, are well aware of the trends.
Unsurprisingly, "pussy hats" — the pink hats now ubiquitous with the Women's March on Washington — are an of-the-moment knitting trend, said Michelle Marrocco, who runs Knitting Knight at the Makerspace. They're incredibly easy to make — an approximately 11- to 14-inch rectangle that's then folded over and sewn on the sides.
While doable, mermaid blankets "take a while, and they're really special," said Marrocco. Between stitches — and assisting other knitters with their projects — she explained that most of the high-caliber fiber artists she knows would rather spend their time on a more utilitarian passion project. "The really hard-core knitters make things they want to wear," she said.
A mermaid tail blanket takes between five and 24 hours of knitting or crocheting — Gaudet said hers take between five and seven hours; Raymond spends 12 to 15 hours on a child-size blanket and 20 to 24 hours on one sized for an adult.
The amount of yarn is also a factor, usually between 4 and 12 skeins of yarn, depending on the size. (It's sometimes a tall order to find that many skeins of yarn in the same color at the same time without special ordering.)
It's hard to price these accordingly. "The cost of labor alone, at a reasonable rate, would be far more than anyone would be willing to purchase for," said Gaudet. "Once you add in the material cost for the yarn, it becomes even harder."
Raymond, who's sold more than 700 items on Etsy, agrees: "I figure I am making about $2 an hour," she said, but "I think my prices are lower than most selling them on Etsy, because this is more a hobby for me."