“I was just looking for a hobby, something to keep me busy,” Rose Fel Dasig recalled. She saw a crochet tutorial on YouTube, which looked complicated and fascinating at the same time. “So, I made lambing to my Ate (cajoled my elder sister) to give me a crocheting hook, you know, as a gift.”
Her sister obliged, throwing in some balls of yarn to kick off Rose Fel’s diversion.
It was love at first hook. In a day, Rose Fel finished a pair of baby booties for her nephew. Next was a skimpy top, then an off shoulder cropped blouse. Her hand was sore, but she was happy, busy and preoccupied and, most important, at peace with herself and with the world.
On July 6, 2020, Rose Fel launched her online crochet store, “Styles and Stitches”, on Facebook and Instagram. Fifteen months later, “Styles and Stitches” was “launched” physically with a booth at the Art of Thread festival in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Rose Fel, the owner, was invited to lecture on crocheting and macramé during the festival’s workshop.
Thanks to the corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Rosel Fel said the transition played out like a welcome segue to her life from pandemic-stranded student to online entrepreneur.
The journey that led her to becoming an entrepreneur started earlier, she said.
In early 2018, a neuro-psychiatric test found her depressed and suicidal. She was 17, a freshman pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy degree, eager to know the world but burdened with extreme mood swings. Further tests by another psychiatrist found a disorder worse than depression. Rose Fel was bipolar, a serious mental illness that needed immediate medication.
The diagnosis threatened her continued stay in school. But her sister, who was teaching at the university, negotiated for “probationary enrollment” while Rose Fel was being treated. The school agreed.
Rose Fel was not exactly surprised by the psychiatric report. She always had “problems” in school when she was younger. “I was even bullied for being weird,” she said. This time, she was determined to get better so she could go back to her studies. She saw her psychiatrist regularly and took her medicines as prescribed. “I wanted to prove to them (university) that I was fit for college,” she said.
Her perseverance was rewarded. Rose Fel landed on the President’s list for two consecutive semesters, with a GWA (general weighted average) grade of 1.16.
It was a struggle, she said. “Sometimes I wake up and I can’t move, I’m in pain, my body is sore. I feel sad for no reason, and I ended up skipping classes.” What made it easier, she said, was her support system of family, friends and classmates who stayed with her even during her darkest days. Her sister bought all the medicines and paid the doctor’s fees. Her friends at school were always around to pick her up when she felt dizzy, push her wheelchair or simply wait for her discharge from the clinic.
Then came the lockdown in March, 2020.
Thinking it was just for a week or two, Rose Fel left her dormitory in Santa Mesa, Manila and moved to her aunt’s house in Marikina City. After a month, and without signs of the infections abating, she became restless and fidgety. She could not even visit her doctor in Manila.
“Find a hobby, keep yourself busy,” she was told. She studied body piercing and threading, an ancient art of shaping the eyebrows using cotton thread. While searching the internet for self-care programs, she found a video tutorial on crocheting. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Customized bikini tops and bottoms, off-shoulder cropped blouses and sexy halters are among her best sellers. She also crochets bandanas, scarves, purses and bags, bucket hats and coasters. Her market consists mostly of women in the Gen Z and Millennial age groups – from ages to 12 to 40. But her bucket hats appeal even to Gen Exers and Baby Boomers.
From one hook and a few spools of yarn, Rose Fel earned enough to buy more hooks and yarn. Small hooks make fine stitches, and big hooks make big stitches. Soft, fluffy yarns are best for baby booties and bonnets, while cotton yarn is preferred for bikini tops and bottoms.
She has not completely gotten rid of her demons, unfortunately. “There are days when I cannot function,” she said, “I cannot even hold a hook.” But she has learned to confront this dark presence on her own terms. “I have learned to encourage myself to rest, to move slowly, to just sit still and breathe, to be kind to myself. It’s okay not to be okay all the time,” she said.
Promoting mental health awareness has become her mission, often citing her experience as an example. “I’m not ashamed of being sick. It doesn’t make me less of a person. I’m still capable of doing what I’m good at. If I can use my voice on behalf of those who can’t, why not?”
And crocheting, her online business, has become the source of her mental stability and emotional calm. By crocheting, Rose Fel is healing herself, one stitch at a time.