Ray Stitch Focus: Megan Nielsen

We started the new year at Ray Stitch with a new window display of some of our favourite Megan Nielsen designs - the Axel skirt and three versions of the very versatile Sudley smock blouse/mini dress (from left to right: 'Big Dots Blue' by Kokka, 'Fruit Like Dots' by Kokka, 'Ahoy Me Hearties' by Janet Clare)

We have had such a great response to these garments we thought we should have a chat with Megan herself and find out what she has planned for 2018, and we ended up talking about the amazing online sewing community. Before we get to the interview, some background information may be useful to those of you who aren't familiar with her: Megan Nielsen is an independent sewing pattern and clothing designer who lives in Australia. As a working parent, she fits her career around her family life and 3 children. She has said that inspiration comes from everywhere (especially the amazing Australian outback), but particularly from her own personal experience and requirements, and often wears many of her own designs, as do her children. We love the practicality of her patterns - they are very wearable but have lovely stylish details and variations to make the garment your own.



RS: We first discovered Megan Nielsen Patterns through your maternity range, and that led us to your children's designs. We love the mini versions of your patterns. How important are these ranges to you as a designer, & as a parent?

MN: As much as I love to sew for myself, I’ve found over the years that I love sewing for my three children even more. That’s really how my mini patterns came about. My kids are always with me while I’m cutting and sewing and my eldest daughter had been going through my patterns and asking if she could have her own versions of the designs. I was so excited to sew her a little capsule wardrobe that was stylish, practical and age appropriate. Releasing mini patterns has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done, and I get so excited when I see them running around in something I made for them. Right now I’m working on a few more mini designs for my girls, that I’m hoping to release this year. The response from other parents has been fantastic – I think many mums have the same frustrations I do with ready to wear children's clothing and love being able to sew their children something better than they can buy.

RS: Can you talk us through what a working day is like for you these days?

MN: My working days are pretty hectic. I try to work in around my childrens' schedules and needs, so I tend to work in 2-3 hour bursts during their rest times, or after they go to bed. My youngest begins kindergarten a few days a week soon, so after that, I’ll be working full days for the first time which is quite exciting!
When it comes to how I structure my day, I try to be quite organised. I always
begin my work time with a cup of tea and my diary, and I make a comprehensive
to-do list of what needs to be done that day. I use a number of workflow management software tools to keep track of our pattern development progress
and all the other tasks we have going on. I’m a stickler for setting deadlines and
sticking to them. Most of my team work remotely, so it’s important that we communicate well, and I try to make sure we are all free to work to our own strengths. Each new design usually takes between 6-12 months from idea to being available for sale. Funnily enough, at least half my time if not more is spent on day to day operations over active design development. But I must admit, I really enjoy that there is a mix. I like that I am able to split my time between different tasks as it keeps things really interesting! When it comes to sewing for myself, I’ve actually struggled with that a lot recently. Sometimes I spend so much time working on new designs and sewing samples, that I don’t get to sew myself anything. Which is a little hilarious! I’m trying to prioritise some personal time, by being better at not working on the weekend, and setting that time aside for sewing for myself. Right now I’ve been working on sewing myself some new pyjamas and some swimwear for my kids!

RS: You have a large and very engaged community of followers on Instagram - how important is this virtual group to you?

MN: The online sewing community is incredibly important to me, and I feel really blessed to be able to engage with other sewers like me every day. I feel blessed that we can all share a little of our sewing journey together, and be part of each others' lives in a small but significant way. I began sewing in quite a solitary way as a teenager, and as an adult, I’ve found that sewing with friends is so much more joyful! It’s because of the sewing community that I have a business at all, and I never want to forget that. One of the great things about Instagram is being able to collaborate and share things in real time, especially now with stories, and for me, I’ve found it to be a wonderful and natural way to connect with my customers.

RS: Recently you shared a personal sewing mishap on IG, and we really identified with how you felt... we have all been there!

MN: It’s funny you should bring up the Matilda dress I ruined, because I feel like that’s a great example of what a blessing it is to be a part of a sewing community. It was such an upsetting moment for me when I cut tried to cut open the buttonholes on my newly finished dress and sliced right down the placket. I honestly wanted to hide under a table and cry. But I decided to share my mistake on Instagram not only because I know that there is an amazing group of sewers out there who are full of wonderful ideas, but because I think it’s important that no-one feels alone in their mistakes. I always try to share my sewing frustrations and mistakes in the hope that it will encourage other sewers and show them that making mistakes is a normal part of creating. In this case, I received so many thoughtful and creative solutions to my problem that I was able to mend my dress enough to make it wearable. And not only that, but I learnt a number of new techniques and ways to avoid it in the future. The sewing community is incredibly supportive and knowledgeable and it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.

RS: You have a Megan Nielson Patterns App to enhance the sewing experience for your customers and keep the patterns as up to date as possible. This seems like a great combination of technology and physical making...

MN: The Megan Nielsen App is really dear to my heart. It’s something I dreamed of for a long time, and I feel like it’s a very important step in sewing instruction in the modern world. We all spend so much time with our phones and tablets next to us when we’re sewing that it just made sense to me that people should be able to access their sewing instructions that way. I feel like it’s a good accompaniment to our printed and PDF patterns, and gives people a great deal of choice in how they want to sew. We’ve received so much positive feedback from our customers about how much they love it, and I’m really thrilled that it’s an added extra we can provide.

RS: Thank you so much for chatting with us, Megan. We know our readers and customers will be keen to know what's coming next. Is there anything you can share with us for 2018?

MN: Honestly, 2018 is a very big year for me. I’ve been working for a long time on extending my pattern sizing, and this is the year that I’ll be releasing my first
expanded size range in a few patterns. I’m really excited! On top of that, I currently have two patterns that are at the printer and just a few short months
from release, as well as another 6 in the pipeline for later in the year, as well as a
few mini patterns that we are working on too. It’s going to be busy, but I’m looking forward to it.

Reef Shorts and Camisole Set

So you heard it here - 8 new Megan Nielsen Patterns plus mini designs coming in 2018! You can keep up-to-date with Megan on the socials as well her brilliant blog Design Diary. Of course, Ray Stitch stocks many of her designs in store and online here, and even though Megan designs in a much more temperate climate than ours, many of the garments can work in chilly weather by layering or using thicker fabrics - wool or even scuba culottes? Yes, please! If in doubt, please ask us for advice. Happy sewing :)