Photo via The Makers Coalition Facebook page

The Makers Coalition aims to revitalize the cut-and-sew industry

Sewing community encouraged to network on Oct. 15

By Erica Rivera

The cut-and-sew industry is experiencing a boon thanks to the rise in popularity of handcrafted products. But a shortage of skilled industrial sewers — essential for the production of apparel, textiles, leather goods, consumer products, and even medical devices — means manufacturers might face plateaus in their growth.

The Makers Coalition, a group of businesses and nonprofits that train and educate sewers, aims to change that. Jen Guarinoformer CEO of St. Paul-based J.W. Hulmefounded the coalition in 2012. Her experience at the leather and canvas accessory company made her well aware of the need to train the next generation of industrial sewers. She originally sought out Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis to develop a training program, but the school wanted reassurance that the need in the community was substantial before investing in teaching.

“When we started to survey companies in Minnesota, we found that the need was larger than what we thought,” Guarino, now vice president of Shinola's leather division, says. She attributes the shortage of skilled workers to “a convergence of two things: people not having been taught [sewing] over the last 30, 40 years, and the return of industrial manufacturing.”

The Makers Coalition now has over 20 companies on board between Minnesota and its new Detroit chapter. The Dunwoody program, which officially formed in 2013, is also up and running, creating opportunities for workers to embark on new careers and for businesses to increase production output. The curriculum spans six months and is non-credit and skills based. 

To spark further interest in The Makers Coalition and its goals, the organization is hosting a meeting, presentation, and networking reception on Oct. 15 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Minneapolis Convention Center's Seasons Room as part of the IFAI Expo.

“One of the values of being in the coalition is you get to meet other people in the industry,” Guarino says. “We often share resources and knowledge and sometimes end up doing business together.”

The coalition plans to offer more frequent and larger events in the future, building community one stitch at a time.