Object Lesson: The Bangles

A North Carolina native's penchant for Arts & Crafts yields the perfect winter accessory. By Christene Barberich
eyaraboroughbangles_ocWith a background in literature, book publishing, and creative writing, it would seem a stretch for North Carolina-native Elizabeth Yarborough to make the leap to jewelry designer. But this past April, the venerable wordsmith gave in to the urge to work with her hands—and the impulse paid off. "I quit Harper Collins and started this arts and crafts binge out of my little studio apartment on Avenue B," she says. "I thought I just had to get it out of my system, but it ended up turning into my jewelry line Yarborough…already it's been hugely fulfilling."
It was a recent visit to Opening Ceremony that introduced us to the new designer's most intriguing achievement: a collection of modern-meets-Arts & Crafts knit- and yarn-covered bangles. In a variety of widths and colors, these lush textured arm bands seem to simultaneously convey the entire arc of the creative process: the starting point of a loom (Donegal tweed, Alpaca, and mohair hand-wrapped around a wood base) and the finishing line of a cashmere sweater (hand-knit in a ribbed pattern, seed stitch, or a heftier cable knit).
Yarborough credits her grandmother for her initial inspirations. "My whole life, I've only really worn [her] costume jewelry," she says. "I've never found any other pieces that suited me, which is one of the reasons I started designing my own." Yarborough's grandmother also passed along the DNA for knitting. "She taught me to knit years ago, on a never-ending flight to Brazil. I was quite good by the time the plane landed, and every winter since, I've made the requisite scarves and mittens for friends and family." But this year, the designer experienced her yarn collection as a whole new resource for making jewelry. "The colors and textures were inspiring in an entirely different way," she says.
In addition to Yarborough's cozy sweater bangles, her line includes earrings and necklaces all crafted with gemstones, feathers, tassels, and chains. "I'm so new to the jewelry industry, I'll go wherever my ideas take me," she says. "But with the sweater bracelets, I get a lot of double-takes on the street, with perfect strangers wanting to reach out and touch them." And, at this time of year, what's the best thing about these artful accessories besides the price tag (from $35)? "They're luxuriously warm," Yarborough says. "Once I even gave them to coat check."
Yarborough is available at Opening Ceremony, 35 Howard Street, New York City, (212) 219-2688; www.openingceremony.us.
A North Carolina native's penchant for Arts & Crafts yields the perfect winter accessory.