Tender, love and crochet: Sisters open online shop for their creations | Local News

RACINE — For sisters Maria and Jessica Castillo Venegas, crocheting is a mix of their left and right brain working together.

As fun as it is to crochet little plush animals, it can be mental gymnastics to plan and execute patterns the sisters make up for certain clothing items and customer requests.

“Some things are easier than others,” said Jessica, the older sister.

But the crochet tops, for example, “are completely engineered from start to finish,” said Maria. “That uses a lot of thinking, a lot of arithmetic, on people’s body shapes and the sizes they need.”

Turning their longtime hobby into a full-fledged business, the sisters opened Cozy by Castillo at the start of 2021.

Watermelon top

Cozy By Castillo also offers crocheted apparel.

What they craft

Cozy by Castillo sells earrings, plush toys, tops, shawls and other handmade crochet accessories.

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For Valentine’s season, the shop is selling “forever flowers,“ or crocheted roses.

One of their specialties is crafting amigurumi plush, a special kind of Japanese-style plush, characterized by their tiny size and adorable faces or proportions.

The sisters have made familiar characters from pop culture and knitted their own little animals, like elephants and bees. Crocheted fried eggs, waffles and spaghetti and meatballs are available, too.

They also ventured into sewing masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic; Jessica said that at one point, she had sewn together 1,500 masks to sell, not counting the masks she handed out to family and friends.

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Stitched together

Jessica began crocheting at age 6, her mom having taught her when she was young to keep her busy during the summer. The other Castillo siblings were taught, but “I did pick it up more than my sisters,” she said.

Maria, who won Miss Racine 2022, picked up crocheting more recently. In 2018, she underwent surgery and wanted to do more than watch TV while she recovered. So, she picked up a crochet hook.

The sisters, who both work in the science field (Jessica is a microbiologist and Maria is a chemist), said they both enjoy the trial-and-error process of crafting a new crochet pattern and the gratification of seeing their work completed.

Lil' alien boys

Cozy By Castillo makes familiar characters from pop culture, such as Grogu, aka Baby Yoda, from the “Star Wars” universe, and knits their own little animals, such as elephants and bees. Crocheted fried eggs, waffles and spaghetti and meatballs are available, too.

How long does it take to make certain items?

“It really does depend,” Maria said. The things they know how to make will take them anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. Their first time projects or more time-consuming projects, like the pocket shawl, will take about 18 hours.

A way to bond

Before Cozy By Castillo became an official licensed business, Jessica started with an Etsy shop in college in 2015, selling headbands. They eventually closed the shop and made their own website, cozybycastillo.com, in the interest of being a more established business.

They head out to craft fairs, selling their handmade items. When COVID-19 hit, they pivoted to focus more on their online shop, teaching themselves digital marketing.

“It was learning this different language of web design,” Maria said. The sisters had to strategize their shop and learn how to reach audiences online, something they hadn’t done before.

“We don’t have degrees in finance, marketing, or any of this. We’re just two people who wanted to crochet,” Maria said.

As sisters, they hang out and watch Netflix and crochet together. They have found ways to balance their work life and their social life, and when to address each other as sisters and as co-owners.

Pocket shawl

A pocket shawl can take more than half a day to make. 

Connecting with others

Crochet is inherently handmade with love, the two sisters agreed. After conducting most of their business online due to COVID-19, they will be returning to in-person craft and vendor fairs this spring.

They enjoy when customers approach their booth and point out the different crocheted characters. The sisters said they crochet items based on what their interests are, thus creating Pokemon- and Star Wars-inspired plush toys.

Sailor Moon accessories

Sailor Moon accessories from Cozy By Castillo.

A customer will tell Maria, “I love this Sailor Moon keychain.” And they can bond over that shared interest.

“I always hope people get excited because we’re making stuff we’re interested in,” she said.

For more information, and to keep up with the Castillo Venegas sisters as they tour around craft and vendor shows, visit www.facebook.com/CozyByCastillo.