Talk Story: Ellen Pierpoint

Ellen Pierpoint can turn you into a mermaid — no water needed. Pierpoint’s magic wand is her crochet hook, her tails are woven from yarn, and she can work with anyone, adults included.

She started knotting up scales about eight years ago as gifts for her family back on the Mainland, but now Pierpoint’s mermaid tail blankets are available for sale online, and business has picked up as orders for Christmas present have begun to filter in.

And it’s not just mermaids — Pierpoint crochets shark blankets, too.

She sat down with TGI one morning before her day job as the activities coordinator for Marriott Kauai Lagoons, to talk yarn and tell her story.

What made you pick up crocheting?

My grandmother taught me. She was a big crocheter, and I said I wanted to learn how to crochet, so we spent hours together. She would teach me all the little things, like potholders.

So growing up, I’d go to grandma’s house and we’d make cookies or something and we crocheted. It’s a warm memory. And when I was 7 or 8 years old, I made my first blanket.

My first-grade teacher was having a baby. I wanted to make her a blanket so I made my first blanket for her, all by myself. I wish I would have gotten pictures of it, because it was probably all crooked, but I made it. I remember her crying and saying “I can’t believe you did this.” I was so proud.

I really just love it. It’s relaxing and it’s something that I’ve always loved to do.

So, what sparked the idea to crochet mermaid tails and shark blankets?

We moved here 7 years ago from Kansas City, and we had two grandbabies. I wanted to make them something that reminds them of Kauai, and of course the mermaid thing is a big rage, so I decided to try it. Then everybody at work saw them and wanted me to make them one.

They’re made like a cocoon, so you just slip into them and wrap the blanket around you. Purple and pink and blue, those are my biggest sellers, those are kind of the ocean colors.

A lot of people like them for their kids and for birthday and Christmas presents.But I’ve had people of all ages requesting them and I can make them in sizes from infant all the way to adult extra large.

I’ve done four baby tails and I actually do the top and the headband for those. They’re great for photo props with the baby in the mermaid blanket on the beach. That’s adorable. And sometimes I put little curls on the ends of the tails or embellish, whatever I’m feeling I do.

So then, I was looking online one day and my sister posted a picture of a shark blanket. My niece loves sharks, for whatever reason, so I made her a shark blanket and that went crazy.

I have made five or six of those now.

What is your favorite type of these blankets to make?

I think my favorite are the ones that I do that have the actual scales of the mermaid crocheted into the blanket. It takes about three times as much yarn and I have to charge a lot more, but I make each scale and it’s a stitch that you do. The scales cover the whole tail and It’s more realistic.

And I have different tops and styles that I can do with the tails, so on some I’ll do a shell stitch on the top, or just have a band. Sometimes I can put little pearls or shells or other things on the tails, too, if people want. On one baby tail I did, the woman just wanted a solid color, but I put a starfish on it and she absolutely loved that.

The sharks are fun, too —the teeth are so cute, I think.

How long does it take for you to make these blankets?

I do it when I get home from work and in between stuff, so it depends on how much time I have. But, if I have nothing else to do, the regular tails take me a couple of days.

The tail with the scales, that takes maybe a week or two weeks to do if I did it full time.

The shark, that takes a little bit longer too, because you have the fins and stuff. If I had three days with nothing to do, I could do a shark.

I pretty much work on them every night and right now, I have orders coming in so I’ve really been working on them a lot, in between everything.

Right now I’ve got 10 orders, most of them Christmas presents, to make.

Do you use any special techniques for these blankets?

I always do two strands of yarn so it makes it thicker and more durable, not flimsy, and it’s not your normal one-stitch crochet. It’s fairly advanced, but I just love doing it. I crochet while I’m watching TV and it gives me something to do with my hands. I might as well do something when I’m watching TV.

What’s the best part about making the blankets?

If you count the hours that I put in, I’m not making any money. And for some time there, I thought it was just so much work, but I love the reactions. I feel honored and I love doing it and I love seeing the people’s faces when they get it. It makes me feel so good. We all love mermaids.

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