We're absolutely thrilled to have collaborated this week with fellow North Carolina resident, pattern designer, blogger, and author Meg McElwee to bring you a great giveaway. For those of you who aren't familiar with this talented sewist, Meg has written two very popular sewing books, Sew Liberated: 20 Stylish Projects for the Modern Sewist and Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for Your Creative Child, both stuffed with lovely project ideas and photos. I'm a particular fan of Growing Up Sew Liberated which draws heavily on Meg's experience as a Montessori teacher. The sewing projects in this book are interspersed with great ideas from Meg on how to involve children in everyday tasks at home, from cleaning up to cooking to garening, not to mention how to foster kids' creative play both inside the house and out. My girls saw the play teepee on the front cover of this book and immediately began clamoring for their own little hidey nook.
Besides authoring these two lovely books, Meg is also a talented sewing pattern designer with lines of women's and children's clothing and accessories available through her Sew Liberated pattern shop. Meg's most recently released pattern–and her first dress pattern!–is the Ashland Dress Pattern which comes in US sizes 2-20 and includes separate pattern pieces for bust sizes A-D. Meg says that the Ashland can also be made up as a tunic by simply shortening the skirt to the desired length. She's photographed here in a simplified tunic version made up in Spoonflower cotton/silk printed with Holli Zollinger's "Grey and White Diamond Linen" design. Meg told us, "I love that this will be a versatile top; I can wear it in summer and it will keep on working through winter with the help of a cardigan. The cotton/silk fabric has a sheen to it, so the top can easily be dressed up for a night on the town." We think it's lovely.
Meg kindly agreed to an interview with us about the inspiration behind her sewing and pattern design, and I hope you find it as interesting as I did. Read on for more about Meg plus a giveaway below!
You started your pattern designing life creating patterns for accessories. What made you want to start designing clothing patterns?
When I rediscovered my childhood interest in sewing, I started out with easy patterns and worked my way up to garment sewing. It wasn’t until I was living in rural Mexico and didn’t have access to any clothing stores or commercial patterns that I started designing and sewing my own clothes. You could say that I became a designer by necessity, but the truth is that I truly enjoyed the time I spent trying to figure out how to create a certain look, and I loved the uniqueness of the garments that I was able to add to my own closet.
What factors do you consider when designing a new garment? Do you have a particular person or type of person in mind when you’re beginning work on a new pattern, or a particular task or place it might be worn?
Perhaps this reveals a certain selfishness, but I design for myself. Which means, of course, that I design for others with whom I share similarities: women who are practical in their clothing needs, yet enjoy looking nice – artistically styled, shall we say. As a mother of young children, I need for my clothing to be comfortable, hard-wearing, and able to transition from grocery store to park to the (occasional!) date night with my husband. I try to keep nursing moms in mind in many of my designs, and I strive to make the construction of the garment accessible for all levels of sewists.
What is the most challenging aspect for you in designing a clothing pattern?
When designing a clothing pattern, the biggest challenge is assessing fit. A design will look very different on different body types, so I try to stick to designs that I know will flatter most bodies. At Sew Liberated, we’ve addressed some of the challenges of fit by making our most recent pattern, the Ashland Dress, with bust-specific sizing. Each pattern comes with custom cup sizes from A-D, making the sewing process much less time-consuming, and assuring a flattering fit for most women.
What are your personal favorite fabric types for clothing sewing?
I love working with knits because of their forgiving nature – they are easy to fit, many drape beautifully, and they provide a fantastic foundation for your wardrobe. Learning how to make the perfect t-shirt was a groundbreaking day for me! So many possibilities for giving your wardrobe a comfortable upgrade! I love Spoonflower’s interlock knit base – with it, you can get really creative with knits, because cool knit fabric prints are hard to come by elsewhere!
What articles of clothing to you find yourself making again and again, whether for yourself or for your family?
T-shirts, definitely. Closely followed by yoga pants, the Paloma Top, and baby pants. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been preparing to teach a course on sewing with knits with Craftsy, titled Sewing with Knit Fabrics: Five Wardrobe Essentials, due out in mid-August. But even if I hadn’t been approached to teach the class, I would have gathered quite the collection of knitwear anyway.
What do you think has been your most successful garment pattern so far in terms of your original vision coming to fruition? How about in terms of feedback from others?
The Ashland Dress is my personal rock star. I had the vision in my head, then on paper, and it took a good amount of tweaking until it truly lived up to the vision. It’s a dress (which can be made into a tunic, as shown) that has fabulous and forgiving shaping and great skill-building details like invisible zipper installation and side seam pockets.
Sew Liberated’s all-time favorite garment pattern has certainly been the Schoolhouse Tunic. It’s the best pattern for starting off on your garment sewing adventures. You’ll come out with a finished product that’s really timeless and chic, and with minimal difficulties at the sewing machine. People just love their Schoolhouse Tunics – most seem unable to stop at just one, which is a great sign!
Is there anyone whose personal style you really admire and take inspiration from?
I get a kick out of style blogs that seamlessly meld vintage finds with a modern wardrobe–dresses with knee-high, distressed leather boots, a flowy top with comfortable stretch pants. I’d say that my style is an eclectic mix of the feminine and the lumberjack, vintage florals and subdued euro-chic solids.
Are there any new patterns or projects in the works that we should look forward to seeing from you?
Yes! I have a fall collection coming out in October, which will include a dress, a top, a pair of stretch denim pants, a harvesting apron and a beautiful quilt – Sew Liberated’s first quilt pattern. It’s going to be a busy late summer!
Thanks, Meg! And now for your chance to win a copy of Meg's Ashland Dress Pattern, plus four yards of the Spoonflower fabric of your choice to make it up in! To enter this giveaway, just leave your comment below or on the corresponding Facebook post, and do include your Spoonflower screen name or other means of finding you in case you're our winner. Have you ever made one of Meg's other Sew Liberated patterns? We'd love to hear about it in your comment. This giveaway closes next Tuesday, 8/14 and we'll announce a winner on 8/15. Good luck to you all!
Last week, we gave away a copy of Robin Houghton's Blogging for Creatives, an approachable guide to the blogosphere. The winner was Douglas Peterson, who blogs about ducks and the other inhabitants of his local millpond in Brighton Michigan at Words4It. Congratulations, Doug!