Digging Deeper with Meg McElwee, GRAIN Contributor

We love your patterns, and are especially excited about the Forager Vest pattern in GRAIN! Tell us a little bit about how you got into designing patterns and how Sew Liberated originated.

I started learning about pattern drafting while living in sleepy, rural Mexican town and teaching in a one-room Montessori schoolhouse. Since I only worked from 8:30 - 2:00, I had a lot of time on my hands. I began designing aprons for my students and myself, and moved on to other more complicated designs. Sew Liberated has been my part-time creative companion for over eleven years now. My involvement ebbs and flows depending on the stage of motherhood I'm in, and I'm grateful to have a flexible option for pursuing meaningful work.

Where do you seek and find inspiration for your patterns and what ideas or priorities drive your designs?

I value simplicity and comfort, but I also love getting dressed in the morning and consider it a creative act of self-expression. I design my clothes to work together, especially my recent designs. I want to be able to layer, play with color, and feel elegant while also feeling free to move with my children in nature. My designs are forgiving; if you gain 10 pounds or lose 10 pounds, they will continue to wear beautifully. For me, this is better for self-image and the environment. Designing for longevity is a cornerstone of my process.

On your blog you say “the most creative of all my pursuits is experimenting with the mixture of motherhood and art.”  Well put! How do you go about balancing and integrating your various creative practices with your family life?

My days flow around my children. Since we currently homeschool, much of my time is spent exploring the world with my three children. That said, I believe that integrating motherhood with my creative practice is not about balance; it's just about being who I am and allowing my children to see me both mother and work. Role modeling is one of my most powerful parenting practices. Since my kids see me at work, they are interested in what I do. My eldest has a passion for Quickbooks and accounting, my middle loves taking photos of my creations, and my youngest loves sitting on my lap while I sew. They see me problem solving, concentrating, laughing, and playing. The one non-negotiable for me is this: when one of my children needs me, I stop what I'm doing, make eye contact, and give a cuddle. The time for uninterrupted work will be here before I know it, and I know I will miss this phase of motherhood if I don't savor it now.

What’s next for you that you’re especially excited about?

Having finished "birthing" my Sedimentary Capsule collection of patterns, I am going to shift into less pattern production and focus instead on authoring a course on building a handmade, sustainable wardrobe. That, and sewing and knitting for pure pleasure!

Find Meg's pattern for The Forager Vest in upcoming Issue 28::GRAIN and her Strata Top pattern in Special Edition MAKE, Volume 1. See more from Meg at sewliberated.com and @sewliberated.