Want to meet someone really inspiring? Someone who is building an exciting business, producing fashionable patterns that make you drool, and is taking the world by storm? Well, read on. Today's interview has me grinning from ear to ear.
May I introduce: Megan Nielsen!
Megan is one of my sewing heroes. She is a self-taught sewing designer and has single-handedly created a wonderful range of extremely stylish sewing patterns, designed with the sewer in mind. In her words: "we're changing the way people think about sewing, we believe sewing should be fun!"
I first came across Megan's patterns about a year ago, and they looked so polished and professional I didn't realise that Megan's business was still very young. After a period of selling collections of lovely clothing that she'd designed and sewn herself, Megan launched Megan Nielsen Patterns in November 2011 as something of an experiment. Her first patterns; four maternity and one from her clothing line, were such a success that within a year she had a collection of 10 patterns, bags, sewing kits and more. Plus, her patterns were selling all over the world. I found them in a very stylish fabric shop in London about six months after she launched and Megan was then based in the US!
Fast forward to May 2013 and Megan's business has gone from strength to strength. Her Blog is one of my favourite reads, full of helpful tutorials, style ideas and sewing tips. She has an incredible following, 15 patterns for sale and has just released a new collection of four patterns, her beautiful Breakwater Collection.
And, guess what? Megan is a mum to two lovely wee kids, and during this past year made the monumental international move from the US to her hometown in Perth, Australia. Whirlwind! And, she's friendly and still smiling.
But, I bet you're dying to hear from the lady herself. So, I've asked her a few questions and here's what she told me:
You recently moved from the US to Perth. It's so much hotter there - has your wardrobe totally changed? And, has it affected your designing?
My wardrobe really has changed – a lot!
One of the things I struggled with the most when I moved to the US was the fact that I didn’t own any warm clothing. Beyond jeans and a few sweaters. It took me quite a while to build up an appropriate arsenal of warm clothing, and learn to dress for my new climate. So now that I’ve moved back home, I have a rather insane collection of warm gear that I really can’t use again. It’s pretty funny actually! But since I grew up here I’ve adapted pretty quickly, and fallen back into my old rhythm.
To be honest, Perth has really amazing weather. The summers are ridiculously hot – but the winters are lovely and mild, much like the Autumns we had in Virginia, except it lasts 5 months. I find myself filling my wardrobe with more light layers, and I’m going through pairs and pairs of sandals.
And funnily enough, it really has affected my designing. I find most of my inspiration outdoors, and Perth has always been my greatest inspiration. When we lived far away I would get my doses of inspiration in short bursts when we came on holiday, but now I feel like I’m constantly surrounded by the things that inspire me – and it’s really helped me latch onto a fresh feeling, and hone my aesthetic. I suppose that makes sense though, since this is the place where I first discovered my love of designing, and found my look.
You've got some fantastic tutorials on your blog, especially about adapting your patterns. Do you design with adaptations in mind or do they come to you later?
I really really love variations. In my opinion, a pattern is a waste unless you can use it multiple times – which is why I’m so passionate about sharing lots of ideas with my customers for how they can get more value from their patterns.
But I don’t begin the design process that way. In fact, I don’t begin thinking about the final sewing pattern – I always begin with a focus on fashion. I design a collection as if it were a ready to wear collection. Then I begin working on the individual designs as patterns. As I’m working on them I start to weed out the designs that won’t making particularly good patterns, and I adapt and change designs keeping in mind what will work well as a sewing pattern, and what will result in more variations. Often my idea will change a lot through the process as I brainstorm and test more variations.
I like this method, because I think it maintains the heart and soul of my brand.
Sewing seems to be coming back into vogue. I bet that's pretty exciting for you! Do you have a particular pattern from your line that you'd recommend for a brand new sewer?
It’s REALLY exciting to me!
I adore sewing – since I was a child I’ve loved it – but at that time it certainly wasn’t cool. For many years I hid my sewing from friends, and my goal was to reach a level where no one could guess I had made my outfit. Isn’t that silly? As the years went on I matured and lost that shyness about my designs. But I have to say, I’m incredibly thrilled to see some momentum behind the hobby these days. It excites me more than I can say to see more people taking up the hobby I adore so much!
When it comes to recommending a pattern for beginners – honestly, I care a lot about beginners, and I’m very serious about making beginner patterns for real beginners. I think the Eucalypt or Cascade from my new collection are a wonderful starting point as they don’t require any difficult techniques like buttonholes or zippers – the Kelly is always a favourite, and was created with a simple shape specifically for beginners.
For those wanting to try knits, the Briar is also perfect – not only simple, but a really quick sew!
I recently read on your blog that you're learning to knit? Do you have anything on the needles right now?
I really want to get better at knitting. It’s a lovely relaxing hobby, and one I wished I’d learnt when my granny was still with us, and so very keen to teach me.
Right now I’m actually working on some washcloths. It sounds mundane, but for some reason I’ve developed a really serious obsession with knitted washcloths recently. I’m driving my family crazy!!! But they’re just so soft and unique… it’s a strange obsession I know!
(Don't worry Megan, we totally understand. Been there, done that ... and have the very useful washcloths to prove it.)
And finally, for me: I'm making your lovely Kelly Skirt with a million buttons down the front. Do you have any top tips for sewing buttonholes and buttons?
Oooo I love Kelly!
I definitely have some tips for sewing buttons etc!! Holly and I just did a post about how to sew buttons with your machine – and in a couple of weeks I'll show you my special trick for sewing button holes without a special function on your machine.
Thank you so much Megan!
Inspired? Rushing to get out your sewing machine? I hope so! In fact, I'm hoping I've tempted some of you die hard knitters over to the sewing side. Go on, here are the perfect patterns to start with!
If you want to find out more about Megan and her lovely range of sewing patterns you can find her website here. Her blog is worth a read too - it is jam packed with great, useful stuff. And, you can find all of her patterns here.
See you soon - my skirt is underway ...
(All the photos are used with the permission of Megan.)