Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sew Liberated Patterns: An article about Meg McElwee

Would you like to read the article about Sew Liberated patterns that I wrote for the September 2012 issue of Sewing World magazine?

This month we meet Meg McElwee, the pattern designer whose passions lie not just in sewing and crafting, but also in education and family life. BY ALICE SYNGE

Interviewing Meg McElwee, the woman behind the pattern label Sew Liberated, has been a great joy. You can’t help but admire this woman; her refreshing approach to life and living, and the creativity that drives it is truly inspirational.

Meg lives in North Carolina with her husband and two small boys. In these fast moving times of high commerciality she clearly has some very strong values based on the importance of family, the environment and a great respect for others and her surroundings. This provides the foundation that underpins her work. “My patterns feature simple, clean lines, and what I would call a ‘rustic, bohemian-chic’ sensibility. I design for women like myself, who like to wear comfortable, flattering clothes” says Meg of her designs. But, don’t take this ‘rustic bohemian’ the wrong way, Meg’s direction is a truly modern one, reflecting the more sensitive way that we are all trying to live right now, whilst definitely keeping it chic.

Meg also designs clothes patterns for children, and the Sew Liberated children’s designs have an easy wear, easy care quality that reminds you that children should be allowed to be children, and their clothes should enable them to play and explore the world in comfort.

Meg has a background in education and before launching Sew Liberated Patterns taught three to six year-olds in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Mexico. “My own eclectic educational philosophy, is one that prominently features Montessori, but has at its core a belief in child-led, discovery based learning - learning that is liberated from the traditional, top-down method of education”. This learning approach is one that translates very obviously into her childrens sewing patterns, and particularly her latest book ‘Growing Up Sew Liberated’ which is all about sewing items for young children that are both functional and educational. “The projects are organized in chapters that mirror a child’s day – projects for waking up and getting dressed, projects for cooking and homemaking, projects for indoor and outdoor play, and projects for bedtime” says Meg. However, this philosophy of exploratory life-learning clearly has a huge influence over the way that Meg approaches all elements of her life.

As well as the recent book, we’ve just seen three new Sew Liberated patterns hit our shops: the Mariposa Tee; the Aurelia Cardigan; and the Bohemian Carpet Bag. The Mariposa Tee and the Aurelia Cardigan are unique tops that use knit fabric alongside woven, which gives both pieces an ‘elegant-cosy’ look. “They're a blast to sew” speaks Meg of the tops “and are totally approachable projects even for someone who has never before sewn with knit fabrics. You'll also learn some fun, new techniques with these patterns that you can apply to your other sewing projects.” The generously sized Bohemian Carpet Bag is set to become a classic. “It’s my go-to travelling bag” admits Meg “it makes a great carry-on, or a stylish beach bag.” Brilliantly, the bag's construction is deceptively simple, thanks to a tubular frame closure.

We’ve also got another couple of patterns to look forward to. Due for release in October, are two new dress/tunic patterns from Sew Liberated. Going on the massive and continuing success of the Schoolhouse Tunic (have you made one yet?) which was released in 2009, we are really excited about these. “One pattern will use woven fabric, and the other will use a knit” says Meg.

When we get on to the subject of the ‘grand plan’ for Sew Liberated, Meg admits that she would like to expand. “Right now I can only come out with 4-5 new designs annually. It would be great to come out with more.” And Meg continues “Eventually, I would like to have a team of designers that do the work that I currently do, so that Sew Liberated could always have several interesting designs in the pipeline.” You can appreciate her desire for this direction; “It's such a busy time in our lives, with two young children and my husband in graduate school. We try to balance work and family, but sometimes that is very hard.”

This appreciation of the reality of her situation is humbling, and Meg shares with us her understanding to be content with her present abilities. “I really believe I must embrace the concept of creativity beyond simply making things. At this time in my life, with so many things on my plate, I must be kind to myself and be content with knowing that my sons see me living creatively every day, even if that means I don't make a lot of tangible goods with my hands. You needn't feel guilty for not being in the time or place in your life where you can sew/knit all sorts of things for your children. Just re-route your creativity to living, rather than making. We ALWAYS have time to live - sometimes we don't have the time to make. The making will come. For everything there is a season.”

Meg clearly works extraordinarily hard at making her home a haven of serenity, encouragement and stimulation for her family. She clearly has a motivation to live by her passions of “education, parenting, sewing, crafting, and family life”, and she’s making us happy too as she keeps producing Sew Liberated patterns for us to enjoy.

You can follow the online journal that is Megs blog at

Related Products
All Sew Liberated patterns
Mariposa Tee
Aurelia Cardigan
Bohemian Carpet Bag

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