— Originally published in FLL#24 • Written by Nicole Patterson • Photos by Bianca Cordova
Cara Lantz is beautiful. With her dark black hair and her wide, sparkling eyes, her personal style is a culmination of boots and leather, piercings, and lots and lots of black. At age 28, she’s one of the coolest girls I know. You’d never expect that she grew up in a strict Mennonite household— her grandparents are Amish—or with a conservative upbringing. But that’s all a part of what makes her so interesting. She’s a blend of everything that’s unexpected, and her designs exemplify this perfectly.
I met up with Cara and three of her friends to watch them get their hair and makeup done at Salon Nouveau for their photo shoot. While the other models got ready, Cara sat down in a chair and pulled out her current crochet project. She quickly uncased her needle and stitched bright blue onto a colorful labyrinth of bold hues. Her fingers nimble and strong, she doesn’t even look at the blanket, just feels her way through it. This instinctive, automatic movement comes from years and years of experience.
She started crocheting at the young age of eight. “I learned from my mom’s friend. I wanted to know how, but she wouldn’t teach me. But I would watch her hands,” Cara says. Now she spends about two hours a day with her projects, creating dresses, blankets, scarves, and hats. “It’s a big stress reliever for me,” she says. And it’s an added bonus that her stress reliever makes her money. “In the last two or three years I started making money doing it, taking special orders, selling my work on Etsy and downtown at My Aunt Debbie. While I had my dresses there I sold about a dozen.”
Each dress is its own design, but all are sleeveless, which means layering is a great option for the cooler months. The yarn is flexible and all her designs can be machine washed and dried for easy care. Dresses vary with options like cowl necks, split collars or regular scoop necks. When asked about color choices, she says, “It’s whatever I have at the moment.” Cara’s yarn is recycled from project to project and she collects it wherever and whenever she can.
Customers adore that her dresses have special details or added pops of unexpected color and shape. “I don’t use patterns for anything that I make,” Cara says. She can’t read crochet patterns, so sizes are limited at this time. “Cara’s clothes are anything but grandma!” says longtime friend and supporter (and model), Annika Horn. She prefers to match her dress with boots for a hard contrast. The girls talk about accessorizing and how arm warmers should be on Cara’s to-make list.
As Bianca finishes snapping the last photos, the girls congregate together. Everyone strikes a serious pose, straight faces. What I know for certain: I’ve already ordered a blanket (which also make fantastic baby gifts). The new wave of fashion isn’t just about buying smarter and using eco-friendly materials, but supporting the notion that what you wear is tailored and unique to you and your style. Cara is confident and capable of outfitting women with dresses that speak to the idea that we all have a little sense of the unexpected within us. And perhaps Cara is the leader of the pack!