Handmade: 12 year old immersed in crocheting, swimming

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Once thought to be a favorite pastime for mostly older women, needlearts – especially knitting and crocheting – have fast become popular among many of today’s youth in recent years, including 12-year-old Kyla Matthews of Novi.

While shopping in 2013 for a winter hat with her mother, Wendy Sewell, the two found the quality of headgear they came across didn’t quite stand up to the asking price. “We saw hats that were really expensive, but they didn’t look so good,” recalls Matthews, a seventh-grade student at Novi Middle School. Sewell, who’d had about two weeks of crocheting lessons in high school, decided they should try to make their own hats, so they bought the necessary supplies, but as it turned out they “couldn’t get it.” They needed help.

“Usually, if I try something and I get frustrated, I have to keep on trying,” says the soft-spoken Matthews. “I went back to it, and I tried it again, but it still wasn’t working.”

Then one day, while having breakfast with her mom at a Coney Island, a waitress spotted the determined would-be crocheter struggling with yarn and a hook, and suggested she find a YouTube video on learning to crochet. Matthews did just that, and after about three months of practice, and more practice, she was comfortable holding the hook and using it to intertwine loops of yarn to form single and double crochet stitches. She’s been happily hooked ever since.

Matthews, who’s also a skilled swimmer, has been crocheting now for nearly three years. She’s never taken a crocheting class, nor joined a crocheting group, but that hasn’t stopped her from teaching herself to design patterns for some of the stylish collection of playful garments she makes, many of which look super cool as beachwear. Between her studies and swimming lessons, she’s busy cranking out colorful crocheted shorts, halter tops, hooded swimsuit cover-ups, barefoot sandals, hooded scarves, hats, cellphone covers, infinity scarves, book bags, wallets, sweaters, purses, dresses, and more. She says her favorite garment to make are the swimsuit cover-ups because “they’re easy and they look nice.”

The amazing little crocheter designs patterns to be used with worsted weight yarns, mostly Deborah Norville Everyday and Red Heart brands, which she finds at Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts, Walmart and Meijers. She recently experienced her first visit to a yarn shop, something she’d been looking forward to for some time. About two weeks ago, she and her mom went to Artisan Knitworks in Farmington where they purchased 100 percent cotton yarn. She says it was “fun,” and she especially liked seeing “all the different kinds of yarn.”

Currently in her third year as a member of the South Lyon Aquatics Swim Team, Matthews, an honors student, says she’s sometimes able to spend about 15 minutes crocheting at school during sixth hour, whenever she gets her lesson done early. She also crochets after school as soon as she gets home. She says, “I get home at 3 p.m., and I have two hours to crochet before I go to my swim practice.” She crochets about 10 hours on weekends, and, with school soon to be out, she already has plans to turn that cotton yarn into dresses and bags.

As an accomplished swimmer who’s been awarded South Lyon’s “Most Improved Swimmer Award,” Matthews has taken part in Junior Olympics, the State Swim Championship and recently qualified for ZONE, which led to her participation in the NASA Dolphins Swim Meet in Clearwater, Fla. She has her sights set on someday competing in the Olympics – but for now, she’s looking forward to starting a business, selling her crocheted garments and accessories under the name KyWen Kreation to help with the cost of her swimming fees.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact Kyla Matthews at