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From Stitch Markers to Jewelry

One Local Business' Journey from Creating Tools for Knitters to Custom Made Jewelry

Article by Lynette Confer

Photography by Becky Smith

Originally published in Bend Lifestyle

Seven years ago, a local homeschooling mom of three who loved to knit decided she needed a creative outlet. What resulted was the launch of Purlsmith, a small business featuring handmade genuine freshwater pearl stitch markers for knitters.

“When I first started, I was making stitch markers at night when the kids were asleep,” says Becky Smith, owner and creative “solopreneur” of Purlsmith. Smith started knitting as a way to decompress when her children were young. She recalls looking for stitch markers online and finding limited options. “For some reason, the idea of using freshwater pearls to make stitch markers came to mind,” she notes.  

Stitch markers are small round loops of various sizes that can be slipped onto knitting needles and used to mark a certain place in a row or even hold dropped stitches until you can fix them. Handy accessories to have in a knitting toolkit, they are also used in crocheting.

A few years into her business, Smith began using higher grade jewelry loops and jewelry grade copper that has a non-tarnish coating. “I started using more expensive silver plated, soldered  loops so they won’t stretch or catch on the fibers,” explains Smith. “Then I realized that I was essentially making jewelry… and that led to the idea of using the stitch markers as charms for jewelry.”

Smith began creating custom necklaces with original design elements to hold her genuine freshwater pearl stitch markers. “I wanted my jewelry to be functional, like stitch markers ‘on the go’ that can slide on and off the necklace,” notes Smith. “I didn’t know how to solder when I first started out. When I first get an idea and I don’t know how to do something, I watch videos, research, enroll in classes. The whole process is really a lot of fun.” Purlsmith jewelry has gained a following beyond knitters and fiber artists, with the jewelry appealing to a wide audience.

As she expands the jewelry side of Purlsmith, Smith enjoys introducing new elements. Whether it’s a new type of charm or a custom-made piece to hold charms, Smith never seems to run out of new ideas. “Purlsmith started as really just something of my own to keep me busy and allow me to create,” remarks Smith. “But now it’s fantastic because I can actually help support the family.” Smith operates her small business out of a studio next to their home.

Looking to the future, Smith is hoping to go back to school to get a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy while Purlsmith continues to grow and evolve. “I have been so inspired by how much I enjoy the creative process,” Smith reflects. “I see the value of art, of the creative process. The benefits for mental health, even overall health, are just monumental. Creating art just makes you joyful, relaxed and it is not a joy dependent on any person or thing… it’s just lovely.”

Purlsmith offers retail and wholesale shopping options online and can often be seen at local and online events.

Becky Smith - Purlsmith

Freshwater Pearl Stitch Markers & Jewelry

1.    Stitch Marker Color Mixes

Genuine freshwater pearl stitch markers come in a variety of shapes and colors on jewelry grade silver or copper loops carefully crafted to be snagfree. Customers often enjoy creating their own rainbow collection, though pre-selected color sets are also available.

2.    Sterling Tab Pendant

Numerous custom made necklaces and other jewelry, such as this Tab Pendant, are created to hold Purlsmith stitch markers as charms. Functional as ‘stitch markers on the go’ for knitters, or enjoyed as simple charm jewelry.

3.    Shell Relic Pendant

This silver pendant was created out of silver clay, which is pulverized silver mixed with a binder. For this piece, Smith rolled out the clay piece and formed it around a small seashell. She then fired it in her small beehive kiln to burn away the binder, leaving a silver piece that is 99.9% pure silver.

4.    Sea Glass Charms

Each season Smith offers new charms to complement her Purlsmith Freshwater Pearl Stitch Markers, such as these Sea Glass Charms in a variety of colors introduced this past summer.