Meet the makers - Sue & Jo of made by swimmer

Jun 27, 2020

Meet the makers - Sue & Jo of made by swimmer

I stumbled across made by swimmer’s Etsy in 2013 and immediately fell in love with their hand-embroidered cushions and soft toys. I decided to contact the two sisters behind this whimsical source of curious creatures to see if they would be interested in producing some super-cute catnip toys for Cheshire & Wain. They took up the challenge much to my delight and we have been working with them ever since and have introduced new designs every year so we can keep your kitty on their paws. 

The designs are carefully hand-embroidered on wool, backed with velvet and filled with high-strength, organic catnip. If this doesn’t get your kitty salivating, I don’t know what will; Percy thinks Christmas has come early whenever I receive a new order. The toys are then swiftly locked in a cupboard before he dives into the box and starts kicking around in a daze of catnip ecstasy!

The talented designers/makers behind made by swimmer are sisters Jo and Sue Thomas who have loved sewing and making things from an early age. I caught up with the duo about their creative process and uniquely charming style.

How did made by swimmer start?

We started making things as children; dolls clothes, soft toys and later as teenagers, clothes for ourselves. We always had a project on the go. Made by swimmer came about after we started attending a community art project at children's school. A group of us had a stall at a craft market and we were completely blown away by the response to our work and that people were actually prepared to buy our creations. This gave us the confidence to branch out on our own. We started selling regularly at Boscombe Vintage Market in Bournemouth each month and gradually have expanded into online selling.

Where do you source your materials from? Tell us a bit about your creative process.

We are committed to recycling and pride ourselves that probably 90% of each creation is made from recycled material. We love the fact that we are giving a new life to other people's cast offs or to material that may otherwise end up in the rubbish bin. We love hunting in charity shops, car boots and jumble sales looking for fabrics. We use a lot of recycled blankets and this have become one of distinctive features of our work. The blankets are pure wool and high quality; they are perfect for embroidering onto.

Do you often take on commission work?

We are always happy to accept commissions - we have made embroided commemorative cushions, brooches that resemble a favourite dog and cushions with pet portraits.

What would you say inspires the style of your designs?

Our designs are inspired by childhood memories and the toys of our youth. We're quite nostalgic but hope we also give our creations a modern twist!

Made by swimmer for Cheshire & Wain cat toys are available in the CHESHIRE & WAIN online store and in Fortnum & Mason in London. 

Be sure to check out the made by swimmer Etsy shop to see more of Sue and Jo's adorable creations and you can read about why we use wool here.