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JOCELYNN BROWN

Handmade: Loss leads to start of a crocheting business

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

When Ashley Cirilli isn’t busy with her work as a team leader of operations for Quicken Loans, chances are you’ll find her unwinding with a crocheting project in hand, especially in the evenings and on weekends.

The 33-year-old Troy resident learned to crochet from a lady at church while still in high school; however, her love affair with the age-old needleart didn’t occur until later in life, after becoming more aware of the stress relieving benefits.

“It’s been an on again, off again thing, but earlier, when I first learned, it was based on what was happening in college. Then, probably five or six years ago, I started doing it all the time,” said Cirilli, who’d learned to make crocheted scarves, beanies and baby blankets.

So far, she’s used acrylic yarn to make her crocheted accessories, but, said lately, she’s stepped out of “traditional box stores” and started “experimenting with more luxurious fibers,” which she’s been finding at Have You Any Wool? in Berkley.

Recalling how she became hooked on crocheting, Cirilli said, “My mother-in-law made an infinity scarf for me years ago. I love it, and I still wear it. That kind of got me on a kick to make them for everyone else, and at that time, people started wanting to purchase them.”

But it wasn’t until she lost her mother-in-law in 2015 to Pulmonary Fibrosis that she decided to start selling her work. She named her business TealSpin, and donates some of the money she makes to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, based in Chicago, in support of research. “This year,” I hope to attend a volunteer event they are hosting in Chicago, as I couldn’t attend in 2016.”

Among local shows Cirilli has done are All Things Detroit, the Cranbrook Institute of Science After Dark event, and Elf Shelf at Troy High School. Since last spring, she’s been fortunate enough to have her work for sale at PenzDetroiT, a retail store specializing in high quality writing instruments and leather business accessories, located on the corner of Fort and Washington in downtown Detroit.

How was she able to get her crocheted goods in PenzDetroiT, where they’re displayed in the window? She said that when Quicken Loans transitioned to 615 W. Lafayette (formerly The Detroit News building) in May, “I would be walking to and from meetings in the Chase building or the Campuware building, and I would walk past the store, and we (she and owner Alex Lebarre) would get to chatting.” Sometimes she’d be wearing one of her pieces, or the subject of her crocheted work would somehow come up in conversation, and then one thing led to another, including being a vendor at an event held at the store last fall.

Cirilli is hoping to get her work into more retail outlets, but, being the fiber enthusiast that she is, she has an even bigger dream – opening a yarn store in downtown Detroit where others can learn to knit and crochet, and discover the health benefits they offer -– something she’s “really passionate about” promoting.

She said, “Overall, we are far too connected, and I find, for myself, this is an amazing way to relax, destress and have something somewhat productive to do. I would like to better understand this connection and help others see if it works.”

But in the meantime, Cirilli and several of her colleagues, who also knit and crochet, organize “yarn dates” in a conference room at work. “There is a group of about 200 people at work who sporadically meet up for yarn dates. A few co-workers and I started this, and we are so loving seeing what people are working on -- encouraging creativity, and giving people a sense of community for something that is way better to learn in person!

“Right now, I’m looking to increase the number of people we have coming to our yarn dates. We want to open it to the public. We would host it somewhere like a coffee shop or restaurant downtown.” (Sounds like my kind of lunch break!)

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

Contact TealSpin at (517) 414-5481, tealspin.com, or on Facebook and Instagram. Email info@tealspin.com.