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Diving into Fan Merch with Caitlin McCauley

  • 4 min read

Diving into fan merch with Caitlin McCauley

Caitlin McCauley has been creating music-inspired fan merchandise via her shop, CaitMadeCo, for nearly three years.

An embroidered merch enthusiast and passionate fan of pop artists like Lorde, Phoebe Bridgers, and Taylor Swift, the South Carolina native designs apparel that fans actually want to wear. From subtle hints hidden in location-based designs to replicating artists' handwriting, her merchandise is purposely discreet.

We briefly chatted with Caitlin to learn more about her shop, including merch inspirations, challenges with moving away from Etsy, and more.

SOFTSIDE: We noticed your merchandise is embroidered how did you get into that? What motivated you to start in the first place?

Caitlin: In 2020 those embroidered Nike crewnecks became very trendy and I really wanted one! I ordered one from a small business on Depop, but when it came, it wasn’t actually embroidered and was made very poorly.

At the time I owned a jewelry business that I ran on Depop throughout quarantine, but I decided to get a part time job so I could save up for an embroidery machine.

After purchasing the machine, I did start with making the Nike sweatshirts, but I quickly had a realization that I should make my own merch for music artists that I love! This instantly made my shop a lot more niche and I also enjoyed making fan-made merch a lot more than anything else.

Learning how to use an embroidery machine is so incredibly tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, you feel so smart for being able to figure it all out! I’ve grown up always having crafting hobbies, so being able to make money from it as I’ve gotten older has been amazing.


SOFTSIDE: What inspires your designs?

Caitlin: I really love subtle designs for the merchandise I make!

I absolutely love designs where a song title is used as a location. For example, I have a crewneck design that says “Lavender Haze Floral Shop” with a lavender bouquet embroidered on it! I also added “est 1989” as another subtle little touch.

I also love simply embroidering a song title onto the corner of the sweatshirt! It’s also fun to experiment with different color combos for different artists. I love making Gracie Abrams designs using the royal blue color that she’s known for. My all time favorite thing to do is use an artists handwriting or drawings for an embroidery design!

"I've Missed You I'm Sorry" Merchandise by Caitlin McCauley

Image above: fan merchandise created by Caitlin McCauley. All rights reserved.

SOFTSIDE: How long does it typically take for an order to be made?

Caitlin: I’m currently fulfilling orders in a pre-order style.

So once someone orders, I place an inventory order of all the sweatshirts I need to fulfill all of my open orders. Luckily, these sweatshirts ship very quickly so I usually have them within two days!

Each embroidery design takes a different amount of time to finish. Some are as short as 4 minutes and some are as long as an hour and a half. It all depends on the complexity of the design and the number of colors needed. I like to write personalized notes for each order thanking the customer, which adds more time but I think it’s totally worth it! 


SOFTSIDE: Do you have any challenges running the shop?

Caitlin: My current issue is that since I am only selling from my website, I haven’t been making as many sales.

[When I was on] Etsy, it was very easy for people to find my merchandise without me having to promote it. I definitely have a lot of learning to do when it comes to promoting my store!

Another hardship is when my embroidery machine malfunctions and ruins an item. It can be incredibly frustrating, but what I usually end up doing is selling the imperfect item at a very discounted price!

Merchandise made by Caitlin McCauley
Image above: fan merchandise created by Caitlin McCauley. All rights reserved.


SOFTSIDE: Any dream music artist you'd love to officially work with?

Caitlin: My favorite artist is Lorde!!!

The designs I’ve done for her are my all time favorite pieces I’ve made and I am so proud of them. A lot of her merch items all have subtle touches which is what I try to include in everything I make!

I’ve also made some designs for Alix Page! Over the past few years I’ve made a couple sweatshirts inspired by her songs. One of them was a design I drew out inspired by her song “June Gloom” and the other was a design I made with her drawings and handwriting for “Pulling Teeth.”

I also just love making Gracie Abrams merch because I’ve found that there are so many signature things about her, such as the color blue, stars, bows, etc!

SOFTSIDE: Do you have a favorite piece of merchandise you've worked on that you're most proud of?

Caitlin: Even though these items sell the least, I am very proud of some of the Lorde merch I have made!

I traced the drawings that were on the confetti from her Solar Power Tour and turned them into embroidery designs that I think came out so well! She doesn’t have a huge online fanbase compared to other artists which is why these designs don’t sell as well, but I still love them just the same.

I also just made these zip ups using a technique called appliqué!! I used Gracie Abram’s iconic star shape and used different colored fabrics for a few different options!!

 Caitlin McCauley Merchandise
Image above: fan merchandise created by Caitlin McCauley. All rights reserved.


You can check out more of Caitlin's work via her shop, CaitMadeCo, or her Instagram, @CaitMadeCo.

Caitlin McCauley 
Image above: photo of Caitlin McCauley. All rights reserved.



The Fan Focus blog is a corner of the Softside website dedicated to fan club deep dives, Q&As, community album reviews, artwork, and more.

All content reflected is drawn from fan inspiration and is not in official partnership with the respective musician unless stated otherwise.