Story by our resident “Product Geek” James Buckroyd, who approaches products with an eye for how they solve problems. He previously shared how to maintain your waterproof gear.
If you’ve been cycling for a while you probably already know some of the functional benefits of an under-the-helmet cap. You have probably also tried a few and found that not all of them are the same. There’s a huge variety of fits, brims, shapes and sizes, not to mention all the different materials, prints and colours.
Named after a common hand stitch, Portland-based Double Darn was started 12 years ago by local artist Misia Pitkin. Misia, who grew up with artist parents and started sewing at an early age, graduated from Pacific Northwest College of Art with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and an interest in clothing. She translates her art skills into fabrics, adding structure and shape to create a form of soft sculpture. She started repairing clothes and dabbling in creating rain jackets, but she found her passion was in caps.
“When choosing fabrics, there’s a lot of bad, but then you find a little gem of sushi or hot pink and navy stripe that is so fun and energetic.”
— Misia Pitkin
Immersed in bike culture, and with a boyfriend in the messenger scene, Misia traveled to messenger races and met people from all over the world. She swapped her caps with others and evolved her product design through in-person feedback. At every meet, people would tell her how she could improve the design, what tweaks and re-works she could make to the product. She found that by working for herself she could do two things that she loved: solve existing problems and hand-craft items that people really cherished.
Misia’s small batch production lends itself to constant improvement. It complements her pursuit of making caps better and finding stronger, quicker and more efficient ways of producing them and solving issues on-the-fly. “Every year I have an epiphany — oh if I do this that way and if I fold this like that – moments,” she shared during my recent visit to her studio near NE 22nd and Burnside. Her carefully crafted, small batch production means she can have fun and bring some joy to the category with an ever-changing assortment of styles and prints.
“When choosing fabrics, there’s a lot of bad,” she said, “but then you find a little gem of sushi or hot pink and navy stripe that is so fun and energetic.” Misia’s inspiration comes from looking at high-end design like Dior and Gucci on Instagram for trends, then combining it with in-store materials, wading through the granny fodder of local fabric stores, a diverse scale that seems to be working well.
Selling caps via her website, direct-to-consumers, is part of the business but Misia also makes caps for local teams and retail stores. This is a large share of Misia’s work and she enjoys the process — and sometimes challenge — of working with clients to solve their problems, providing them with the designs and styles they need.
In her studio she crafts the whole process: silk-screening custom logos, material specification and the sewing and finishing. Doing a job well is something that encourages her to stay small and nimble. Misia takes pride in her work, “I get excited when I make things I like, and being in control of everything, things like quality and schedule — if something is not right or fails, I can fix it.”
If you compare a Double Darn cap with a cap made overseas, you can see the difference: quality of stitch, inside finish and materials are of a higher grade. Misia says she doesn’t use plastic or card in the cap bills. She found a way to solve the problem of failing bills tearing at the edges where they join the body of the cap or becoming warped and cracked in the dryer.
Some of the local Portland stores and teams that have caps from Double Darn include: Sugar Wheel Works, Velo Cult, Gladys Bikes, Community Cycling Center and Sellwood Cycle Repair.
If you need to keep the sun or rain out of your eyes, something to absorb the sweat on a hot day, or some beer-drinking apres-cycle wear, check out Double Darn’s collection of local — and handmade with love — cycling caps.
Get this post delivered to your inbox.
BikePortland needs your support.