Do you ever get struck by an idea so intensely that you have to see it through no matter what? I get lots of ideas (you should see the stacks of notebooks I have strewn around me at all times) but it’s rare that I get so gripped with one I basically stop everything I’m doing and throw myself into a research hole I can’t climb out of until I’ve found the solution. Such is the story with the newest addition to our shop, our silver and gold Maker & Sewist necklaces.
These delicate pieces reference some pretty iconic jewelry (who can forget the infamous Carrie necklace from Sex and the City?) but are about the collective rather than merely the individual; they are meant to proclaim pride in our skills and community, rather than simply advertise our first name. They are a visual statement of our creativity and ability, a little more obvious than a me-made label tacked inside handmade clothing no one else can see. Wearing mine every day has felt like a sort of talisman, a declaration not just to the world but a reminder to myself about what I can do. While I considered a lot of words, in the end, Maker and Sewist felt the most meaningful and relevant (although I am open to suggestions for future variations!) For now, both options are available in 18K gold and white rhodium finishes, nickel free platings on a brass base. On a 16″ chain with 2″ extender, they can be worn at the base of the throat or a little lower on the breastbone. They are lovely on their own, and are subtle enough to be layered together or with other necklaces.
I know jewelry is a little out of left field for a pattern company, so let me tell you the story of how these came to be. After settling on the words, I started working with our graphic designers to come up with a custom script; something delicate and minimalist, nothing too girly or retro. Once we settled on the final option (and after I spent several obsessive hours in Illustrator finetuning the lettering), I started searching for a manufacturer. This is one of the trickiest things about making anything these days. Where do you even begin? The most obvious answer is Alibaba, where you can find hundreds of overseas factories to make just about anything you can dream up. The problem is, how do you know when something is ethically made or not? I don’t subscribe to the idea that overseas production is inherently bad; there is a broad range of companies operating in the world, and many of them have excellent manufacturing and labour practices — it’s just a matter of finding them. If we were a big corporation, I would fly overseas to inspect factories, but that’s not really an option for us. I canvassed friends and family in the jewelry business for help, but no one could recommend a North American business that could make our necklaces.
In the end, I turned to Maker’s Row, a marketplace that connects retailers and designers with quality American manufacturers. It feels impossible to find factories since many businesses (especially older ones) are nearly invisible on search engines; Maker’s Row was created to help connect people who design things with the people who make them, in an attempt to support the manufacturing sector that still exists in the US. After reaching out to dozens of businesses, we finally found a company that could make exactly what we needed, and I’m so happy I found them. It’s a totally different product for us, so finding an established business I can trust was a huge relief; working with them has been delightful. The one snag we hit was when I discovered our new partner didn’t make the necklaces in the US, but worked with a Chinese factory for their plating production. I learned that there is essentially no one in North America who does this exact sort of manufacturing anymore, at least not at the volume and cost that would make these necklaces possible. We could have had them hand-cast at a local atelier, but they would have been astronomically expensive for me and for you. I really wanted these to be accessibly priced for our customers, so going the fine jewelry route wasn’t a viable option. That said, my supplier has worked with the same Chinese partner for over ten years, and reassured me about the quality of the factory. In the end, I decided to trust my supplier; trying to navigate the world of overseas jewelry production without an experienced partner to ensure quality was a little overwhelming, and probably would have stopped this project in its tracks.
With our supplier in place, it was time to move on to the sample period. This is always a little stressful since 2D drawing to 3D reality is often filled with hiccups. We tried out a variety of finishes and colours of silver and gold plating, in matte and shiny and various tones of gold. In the end, I went with the 18K (it had the prettiest shade of gold), and white rhodium for the silver option (rhodium is in the platinum family and is a better option than silver since it tarnishes less and is more durable). I also made sure to specify a thicker plating than standard jewelry for added durability. I was momentarily torn by a matte option, but the team made a good case for a shiny finish. In the future, I would love to offer a rose gold or matte option as well.
One of the most fun parts of this project was designing the packaging! I love when products are displayed thoughtfully, and I wanted you to feel like you were unwrapping a beautiful little present to yourself. Since we were in a bit of a time crunch, I designed our packaging myself. It took quite a bit of tinkering and making mock-ups until I settled on this folding envelope with our gold embossed logo. I actually squealed when they came back from the printer – I am not a graphic designer, but it’s always fun to stretch out my design muscles in a new way.
The entire timespan to get these from my brain to you took about four months and was one of the reasons I decided not to release another pattern this year. I learned so many things during this project, one of them being how much I enjoy the product design and manufacturing process. It’s insanely gratifying to see an idea I had late one night turn into something I can hold in my hands and offer to you. Sewing patterns will always be our main focus, but I’m feeling super inspired about what else we can dream up in the future.
So, that’s the story of our necklaces. I hope you will wear them with as much pride as we do. So much of our sewing practice happens behind closed doors, and I love that we’ve created an accessory that lets you tell the world exactly how talented and creative you really are. In my fantasy, these will spark conversations, and maybe connect you with other people who love making things with their hands as much as you do.
What do you think of our necklaces? And how do you communicate your creative practice to the world?