Airman Knits Joy for Self and Others

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Richard Mekkri
  • 158th Fighter Wing

Senior Airman Emily Sorrell took a simple knitting hobby and created a rewarding side hustle by crafting mini creatures that she calls “plushies.” And she may have a common throat bacteria to thank for her success.

“I had chronic strep throat my entire life,” said Sorell, a Security Forces Defender with the 158th Fighter Wing. “It was almost a guarantee that whenever I had a cold, I would end up with strep.”

After years of pervasive pain and soreness, doctors decided to finally rid Sorrell of the cause of her discomfort—her tonsils. It was during her post-tonsillectomy recovery that she discovered her proclivity for fiber arts.

“In my Junior year of high school, I was out for two weeks, recovering after getting my tonsils removed,” Sorell said. “I don’t remember what prompted it but I needed something to do.”

That’s when Sorrell’s mother decided to take her to a local craft store. There, they went through a variety of options before Sorrell decided to try her hand, literally, at fiber crafts.

She began by “finger knitting”— a process that uses hands and fingers to create objects such as hats and scarves. These became gifts for the holidays. She then took up the knitting needle, when her then-expectant sister requested items for her soon-to-be nephew’s nursery.

“After that, I started to crochet Pokémon to have as collectibles on my desk and posted them to my social media pages,” Sorrell said. “I received lots of inquiries from people looking to commission and purchase my crochet Pokémon, that then snowballed into the crochet business I have today.”

Sorrell’s business, 'Red Mills Handmade Crochet,' specializes in amigurumi, the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed yarn creatures. These diminutive ghosts, gnomes, and cryptids have gained her a social media following numbering in the thousands.

Sorrell estimates that since she began knitting a year ago, she has created more than 500 tiny creatures. She sells them online and in local craft fairs throughout her home state of New York and in Vermont, where she drills and works full-time.

Sorrell said that she takes part in at least one craft show each month. Traveling to all of those craft fairs requires a lot of work: loading up her vehicle with hundreds of stuffies, traveling to another town, setting up booths and tents, arranging her creatures and engaging with the public—sometimes multiple days in a row. All of this work is what put her on track for career expansion: from security forces defender to Air Guard production recruiter.

Senior Airman Sorrell had been on orders working with the base family readiness team while they were looking for someone to permanently run the program. During this time, her diligence hadn’t gone unnoticed.

“One of my responsibilities is to seek out Airmen who would make great recruiters,” said Master Sgt. Renick Darnell-Martin, 158th Fighter Wing Recruiting Flight Chief. “I quickly identified Senior Airman Sorrell as one of those. As an airman she always had such a positive attitude and displayed an extremely hard work ethic.”

Darnell-Martin said that he encouraged Sorrell to apply and that she stood out from the other candidates as someone who would bring enthusiasm, energy, and positivity to the job. She interviewed and was offered the position in August. Since her time in the recruiting position, she has continued to exceed expectations.

“I have full confidence she will continue to excel and lead this team and Wing to great things,” said Darnell-Martin.

Since then Sorrell has been working her recruiting position and continues to fill in at family readiness. She also continues crafting her stuffies. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is.

“I just grind 24/7 during the week, I go to work, I crochet on my lunch breaks, I get home, I crochet for most of the evening and then I usually relax the day after the market or show,” said Sorrell. “If I happen to not have a market coming up, you can catch me gaming on my PC—right now I’ve definitely got an unhealthy obsession with a few new games.”

Although working what is essentially multiple jobs, Sorrell said that it’s not as stressful as it may seem. She finds joy and relaxation in what she does.

“I feel content and calm when I’m crocheting.” Sorrell said. “It makes me feel a lot of joy as well when I see how happy people are who buy or receive my items. I was actually walking in downtown Plattsburgh a few weeks ago and saw that someone had one of my baby possum stuffies sitting on the dashboard in their car. I felt like a giddy kid seeing that.”

So, if you find yourself with a two-week break in your life and are looking for something to do, Sorrell said that anybody can crochet. All it takes it a hook, some yarn, and a little bit of patience.