MADE BY HAND

Scran­ton woman sews fab­ric into dolls, rope into bas­kets

The Citizens' Voice - - Business - BY JIM LOCK­WOOD STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: jlock­wood@timessham­rock.com; 570-348-9100 x5185; @jlock­woodTT

Seated at a table­top sewing ma­chine in her Scran­ton home, Aline Fer­nan­des feeds cot­ton rope by hand along the nee­dle bob­bing col­or­ful thread in a zigzag stitch.

She steadily coils the beige rope while an­gling it up­ward to cre­ate a bowl shape. When it reaches the de­sired size of small, medium or large, she snips the rope with scis­sors, fashions the end into a loop and sews it onto the outer edge.

The re­sult: a brightly col­ored bas­ket — one of Fer­nan­des’ spe­cial­ties of her home-based busi­ness called Hand­made by Aline.

Self-taught in cro­chet­ing and sewing, Fer­nan­des also makes soft, stuffed toys, such as dolls, bears and bun­nies, and var­i­ous cro­cheted items.

She pro­motes and sells her wares on­line, via pages on Face­book and the Etsy site that fo­cus on hand­made items, as well as her own web­site, www.my­habi­tat­shop. com, and dur­ing lo­cal craft-themed out­ings. Such re­cent re­tail craft events in Scran­ton in­cluded the Scran­tonMade Hol­i­day Mar­ket at the former Globe Store and the Trim the Ta­ble hol­i­day opener of the new Scran­ton Pub­lic Mar­ket at the Mar­ket­place at Steam­town.

Af­ter open­ing her first Etsy store a decade ago, she has gone from cro­chet­ing items to mak­ing sewn toys and bas­kets.

Her first show was a Scran­tonMade Arts on the Square event about four years ago.

So far, mak­ing and sell­ing her own prod­ucts is a small ven­ture that brings in some ex­tra money for the mar­ried mother of two young sons. That’s the way she wants, for now, but also as­pires for more.

“I do dream of hav­ing a (brickand-mor­tar) store some­day, but my kids are so lit­tle. Right now, it’s really a side busi­ness,” Fer­nan­des said.

In­di­vid­ual prices can range from $4.50 for a cro­cheted baby blan­ket or san­dals, to high teens for soft toys, to $30 for a girl doll and $37 for a plush kitty doll. Bas­ket prices could range from the low teens into the $40s, depend­ing on size.

Fer­nan­des moved 17 years ago from Brazil, from the coastal city of Na­tal on Brazil’s north­east­ern tip on the South At­lantic Ocean, to Scran­ton, where she lives with her hus­band, Fabio, and their sons, Dou­glas, 7, and Ian, 5, in the city’s South Side.

She started hand­craft­ing prod­ucts out of a yearn­ing to cre­ate some­thing by her­self. She read up on how to cro­chet and taught her­self, but strug­gled at first. She stuck with it and im­proved and moved on to mak­ing stuffed dolls.

“I said, ‘I want to learn to make some­thing,’ be­cause I didn’t know how to make any­thing,” Fer­nan­des said.

“I kind of changed from cro­chet­ing into sewing, which I taught my­self how to sew, too.”

In another en­ter­pris­ing move, Fer­nan­des con­tacted the Wil­low Tree Shop craft store, for­merly in Scran­ton, about four years ago and asked to be one of their ven­dors. The then-owner of that shop “took a chance on me,” Fer­nan­des said. The store changed hands about two years ago, but Fer­nan­des’ prod­ucts have re­mained among the wares of the Wil­low Tree Shop, now in Clarks Sum­mit.

“The qual­ity of Aline’s stuff is amaz­ing. She really knows what she’s do­ing,” said cur­rent Wil­low Tree Shop owner Laura Moore. “The dolls that she makes are kind of my fa­vorite thing. They’re real sim­ple, but they have an at­trac­tive­ness — the col­ors, the pat­terns, the fab­ric. They’re unique.”

Fer­nan­des re­called that Moore asked about a year or so ago if she made any­thing else be­sides her cro­cheted prod­ucts and sewn dolls. Fer­nan­des searched on­line for ideas and was in­trigued by bas­kets made from coiled rope glued into a bowl shape.

“I didn’t really work with glue, so I said let me try sewing them,” she said.

She uses plain cot­ton rope and col­or­ful threads to make bas­kets. The thread zigzag pat­terns give the bas­kets their eye­catch­ing color. She also stitches let­ter­ing, words or phrases into some bas­kets, such as “Peace Within,” “Mir­a­cles,” “Pray” and “Good Vibes Only.”

With no over­head to speak of, Fer­nan­des con­verted a small mid­dle room of her home into her work­shop. A ‘Re­li­able’ brand sewing ta­ble — the kind with the ma­chine flip-hinged on top and a foot pedal be­low — is sta­tioned next to sim­i­larly sized ta­ble topped by a por­ta­ble ‘Brother’ brand sewing ma­chine. A rack nearby con­tains 33 spools of multi-col­ored thread. Shelves on op­po­site walls are packed with other raw ma­te­ri­als of her trade — rope, thread, fab­ric and yarn — as well as sev­eral fin­ished bas­kets and toys.

Over the past decades, she es­ti­mates that she has made and sold thou­sands of items.

“I would say I am an artist by trade, but I wasn’t trained to be an artist,” Fer­nan­des said. “It’s def­i­nitely been an evo­lu­tion.”

JAKE DANNA STEVENS / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Aline Fer­nan­des of Scran­ton hand­crafts bas­kets, dolls, toys and other cro­cheted items and sells them through her home-based busi­ness, Hand­made by Aline. Fer­nan­des is self-taught in cro­chet­ing and sewing.

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