My introduction to sewing
My dad is originally from St. Kitts, my mom is from St. Vincent, and I grew up in Canada, so family is pretty spread out across the world. Growing up, I was fortunate to spend quality time with my family in the Caribbean, one time staying close to 7 weeks with my grandmother in Trinity Palmetto Point.
St. Kitts and her neighbor island, Nevis, make up one federation in the Caribbean. The island is also one of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. I married my husband at Park Hyatt St. Kitts 2 years ago, whose family also has roots in Nevis. It is a special place I get to call “home.”
Our summers in St. Kitts were usually spent “liming” on the beach, attending steel pan camp, bbq’ing with Granny in the yard, fashion shows with cousins, climbing trees and exploring the important historic sites around the island. I always looked forward to visiting the country. It was just something about being whisked off to the Caribbean, feeling the sun on our skin, and making memories that have lasted forever.
As a child that grew up far away from my grandparents, every moment spent with them was special. My earliest memory of sewing goes to my Granny Alfie, after whom I named my first pieces.
It was just like any other day. My sister and I were playing and my grandmother called us over to tell us she was making us nightgowns. She pulled out her sewing machine, the fabric and sat them on a little table. Then she went to work. She took no measurements. She simply looked us up and down and began her work.
Although I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old, I remember that nightgown like I just received it yesterday. The nightgowns were made with hot pink cotton muslin and finished with turquoise cotton bias tape. I remember holding it, running my fingers over the stitches, thinking it was the most beautiful thing in the world because I knew it came from a place of love.
Standing on giant shoulders
For Caribbean and African women, sewing is liberation. The first sewing machines in the world were owned and used by colonizers to make uniforms and to exchange for slaves in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Africans were able to quickly normalize the use of sewing machines and it became an expressive economic tool (To learn more about sewing and its impact on African and Caribbean families check out African Lookbook by Catherine E. McKinley.)
It is no wonder that most Caribbean women remember their grandmothers, aunties and mothers sewing clothing and textiles for their families and homes.
My mom can sew, something she no doubt learned growing up. She would sew out of necessity and for enjoyment, making beautiful Halloween costumes or quickly hemming some pants if the occasion called for it. It was a powerful skill that strengthened my value for handmade items.
It was important for me to see that instead of running to the store for every inconvenience, my mom had the power to create from her sewing machine. She would pull out her brown and cream cutting board, and her Singer sewing machine and make magic.
Watching my mom and grandmother inspired me to continue a tradition that has been passed down for generations.
My family and I lived next door to my formal sewing teacher, Colette, and her family in the early 90’s. My dad was godfather to her eldest son. To us, Colette was more than our neighbor; she was family. Colette was an amazing seamstress. She was the only person we trusted to do my prom dress alterations. She had her own studio in the basement of their home. It was huge, with tons of machines and fabrics lying around the room.
How crazy is life? The first thing I made was a fleece pillowcase with a fold-over opening and a handle for easy transport to sleepovers. Look at me now! I was bitten by the maker bug from a young age and I’m still itching today.
Why the care label says, "made with...love."
In hindsight, my passion for sewing was passed down from generation to generation. Still, I didn’t automatically know that I wanted to turn this hobby into a business. It’s been a journey to find myself here.
Creating Rest Simple pieces is an expression of myself, Jonika Griffin. I just want to be comfortable and warm in my own little corner of the world. But my work is also a tribute to my ancestors, who took an oppressive task and turned it into something beautiful.
Rest Simple’s mission is to furnish your restful space with home goods made from sustainably-sourced, natural textiles that are colorful, comfortable and eco-friendly.
Rest Simple isn’t just my business. It is a call to (in)action. I’m glad for the opportunity to make my art for a living but I’m even more grateful for the privilege to stop working, rest and enjoy time alone or with my family. I want the same for my customers: no stress, lots of rest and time to enjoy their beautiful, cozy spaces. At the end of the day, we care about a more comfortable and rested YOU.
For me, it’s not just about sewing pieces of fabric together and we don’t just ship good vibes. Rest Simple has options for people that want something different in their space, which expresses their unique personalities and tastes.
And, hey, if you're someone who struggles with getting a moment’s rest, then you're among family. I wanna tell you that it’s ok to stop. Take a beat. Relax. Cozy up with your favorite blanket. Create that comfy pillow nest. You got this and we got you.