The Derbs and the Crafts

I’m a crafter, I always have been. I didn’t jump on this wagon when it became popular to do so. I was taught to sew and crochet by my mom and various other amazingly talented people in my life. If I wanted something unique, we figured out a way to make it. I’m still learning new crafting techniques to this day; the learning doesn’t stop. Growing up, I thought everybody knew these skills or some variation of them, but they don’t. I like having a rare skill. 

Unlike crafting, I found roller derby later in life. I lusted after it and thought it was amazing. I never sported before and assumed that I probably couldn’t do those derby things. Short story: I was wrong and I learned to do the basic derby things and I’m still learning, and will continue to do so. Another obscure skill.

During my first all-league meeting, I noted that a vast majority of my fellow lovely derby peeps were multitasking. Not only were they listening to league developments, voicing opinions, and providing ideas for solution, they were also crafting. Stitches of various arts were fashioned across the rows of badass players: knitting, crochet, cross-stitch, etc. We derby folk are a crafty bunch. We have to be. We operate on budgets, limited resources, and ingenuity. We are intelligent, independent, and busy people.

At first, it doesn’t make sense to compare the similarities of crafting (an artsy-fartsy, grandma-ish activity) and derby (a highly competitive and physical contact sport). However, for me it totally makes sense why this intersection occurs so frequently. Our minds run 24/7 with work, jobs, family, and derby!  We seek the quieted mind that things like crafting and derby provide. The derby player is a multitasker, we don’t want our efforts to be for not. Playing derby does many things for me: it’s entertainment, it’s exercise (physical and mental), I gain skills, and it distracts from the rest of my hectic life. Crafting does the same thing: it entertains, it’s at least a mental exercise (but I sure do have some strong hands), it quiets my mind, and I have a tangible and functional thing when I’m done. They both have street cred. “You play derby? You must be such a bad ass!” or “You made that?  I wish I knew how to make stuff!” 

As we derby players know, we drop a lot of cash on equipment and anywhere you can scrimp you do. I really wanted some fantastic toe guards – the fantastic guards I wanted were expensive but not a necessity. I was the proud, but third, owner of my first pair of skates and preserving what was left of these battered beauties was vital. I began crafting for derby. First I started with duct tape and constructed some pretty sweet toecaps. We derby folk LOVE the duct tape, but it doesn’t last. I spied a league mate with some knitted toe guards, they were ill fitting but did the job. I don’t knit, but I crochet and I gave it a whirl. Using some heavy cotton yarn I made some pretty nice fitting toe guards, they lasted about a month in fresh meat. I remade them as needed, the project didn’t take long and the yarn was cheap. 

I passed the skills assessment, and with that came a new custom pair of skates: Antik AR-1 skates, courtesy of my amazing and generous parents. I also purchased those fabulous toe guards I had had my eye on. They were fabulous to look at, but a pain to get on and off, I couldn’t access my toe stop hardware without removing the toe guards, they flopped around no matter how I laced them in, and the fun design I ordered quickly scuffed away. Frustration station, I had just bought them!

At my local craft store, while looking for yarn to make new crochet guards, I found an unusual solution: Paracord. (Paracord is simply a synthetic cording or yarn that is manufactured in a variety of thicknesses and colors. Traditionally, Paracord was made for military purposes – a lightweight but strong cording for parachuting. Troops found other uses for the cord and has since become a huge subsection in the crafting arena.) Since Paracord comes in a variety of thicknesses, I found a size that was crochetable. I made a pair for myself, tweaked the design here and there, and gave a few pairs away to league mates to try out.  

100% positive responses came back on the Paracord design. One player made the observation that they don’t fray; the material sort of melts or self-heals. Really?  This was an unexpected development. Six months later, those original pairs I passed out are still going strong. Sure they are dirty but the actual wear you see is a melting or melding of the synthetic fibers, creating an even stronger guard. Requests came from other leaguemates to make more, suggestions to sell on Etsy came about, and I sold a few pairs via the leagues merchandise table at bouts. Those who had pairs said they were always asked questions about them at other derby events, “You need a business card and an Etsy shop!” 

Unfortunately, as it happens to most of us at some point of our derby career, I was injured; like zero skating for 3-6 months injured. In the beginnings of my recovery, SnarkyParts was born, a skater owned and operated small business. In a few short months I opened an Etsy shop and procured the local derby shop to carry them on consignment. Both venues have proved successful. Orders trickle in and a pair was just shipped to Australia!

For me, crafts and derby came together and formed a magical happy accident. I can’t imagine not having either in my life. Derby and crafts stand the test of time – they will both be there no matter where I’m at, how old I get, and what I’m able to do.

SnarkyParts are available in a vast array of colors: be it themed to match a team’s colors (purple is huge in our league) or a skater’s persona. Can you guess what Strawberries N Scream requested? 

Look for SnarkyParts at:

  • Etsy shop
  • Ann Arbor Derby Dimes merchandise table at upcoming bouts
  • Anime to Skateboards in Southgate, MI.
  • Or Contact Snarky for special orders at: snarkyparts@sbcglobal.net

Carri Underwood has skated with A2D2 as Snarky Malarky #1223 since 2014. She is currently on an active leave of absence and hopes to return to her team, Ypsilanti Vigilantes, for the 2016 season.

Posted on December 30, 2015 .