Hands On Volume 9 took us to Plain Stitches in Lancaster PA, 75 miles west of Philadelphia in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. We met Javan Lapp and his family, the owners of a clothing company that specializes in not only traditional and modest clothing for Amish and Mennonite populations all across North America, but also small production runs for independent makers and designers in the USA.
We first met Joseph, Javan's father-in-law, who is in charge of cutting fabric and patterns, as well as servicing the sewing machines. The two started the business in 2012 after hearing of an opportunity to buy some sewing equipment from an Amish man in the midwest who never got his business off the ground. So despite having little experience in the field, Javan's career in sales in marketing for various industries helped him to recognize this opportunity. It was a natural fit for Joseph's wife Faith, who had worked in clothing as a teenager, but given it up to raise her family. Now that the kids were grown, it was easy to pick it back up and develop her skills.
Plain Stitches is truly a family business. Javan and his wife live next door with their young daughter, and the sewing operations are located in a huge barn that was build by Javan's wife's grandparents in the late 1800s. They used to have a cut flower business, which has since become inactive, as the sewing business has picked up. Downstairs are the chicken coops and horse stables, which you'll find on just about every family farm in this community.
The business employs about 6 people, and in addition to serving conservative Christian populations across North America, Plain Stitches gladly takes on a diverse group of other clients. When we visited, Faith was sewing a fur hood onto a flashy men's jacket for a designer in Philadelphia.
"Maker's Row has really changed the game for us" Javan says that being listed on the site brings in 1-2 leads per day, which they are eager to take on. When asked whether expansion is on the horizon, he was reluctant to say. "An operation like this could grow fairly large, but consistency comes first."
Designers and clothing companies looking to work with Plain Stitches will be pleased to know that there is no official minimum order, which is often a major hurdle for startups. 50-100 units is common for small designers, but smaller runs can be negotiated.
Plain Stitches has a wide range of machines and capabilities, including, single-needle & double-needle straight stitches, flat-felled chain stitches, cover stitches, tack machines, serger machines, binder machines, and blind stitch machines.