(Images courtesy of Madalynne.com)
Maddie Flanigan, creator of Madalynne.com, began sewing at the age of 18 after finding her mother’s sewing machine in the closet. Having lost her mother to breast cancer, Maddie knew that she only wanted to surround herself with people and things that matter and decided to get someone to teach her how to sew. After interning with a local tailor and attending The Savannah College of Art and Design and Johnson and Wales University, Maddie begin working for Urban Outfiters where she still works today. Even while having a full time job, Maddie fulfills her love of sewing through her website and workshops where she instructs others. In our interview we learn why she loves to sew lingerie, where she draws inspiration from and how her blog helped her learn about photography.
You began sewing at 18 when you found your mom’s sewing machine in the closet. Did you realize then that sewing was your calling? No. I actually didn’t know what it was, I’m embarrassed to admit. I was a science and math geek in high school and college so I was not artsy at all. I had never even sewn a button so I took the machine to my local tailor who always altered my clothes. The tailor ended up being my mentor. She worked for Valentino and Adrian and other famous designers in the 1950's, so I was super lucky to work for her. During that time I was in college studying journalism and I was going back and forth between journalism and psychology and fashion on what I wanted to pursue. I decided on fashion because over time I discovered that would be my calling.
Your latest blogs have been about making lingerie. What made you think you should start making lingerie? It was kind of a whim. I tried making a pair of underwear. Having a full time job and working from 8 in the morning to 6 at night I feel like I’m running a marathon when making a garment because I have to make linings, have fittings, I have to move all the furniture to cut out the patterns. It would take me a month to complete something.
Lingerie is very feminine and that appeals to that side of my personality. I like lace; it’s always been one of my favorite fabrics to work with. Also with lingerie I don’t feel like I’m running that marathon. I can cut it out Friday night, sew it Saturday and still go out for dinner on Saturday night.
Where do you get inspiration for your sewing creations? Definitely from things I would wear. If I’m not going to wear it, I’m not going to make it. Or I’m going to change it so that I will like it. I really love Negative Underwear and Fortnight Lingerie. If you look at their stuff it’s not that complicated. They have great fabrics, great fit and great trimming. I think you can wear their lingerie under a nice dress or a nice t-shirt. That’s what I’m looking for - simple. I just met a designer from Brooklyn, harMonica Design – she’s great. And Handmade by Elma is another. I would say those four are where I find inspiration from.
What is your favorite era in terms of fashion styles? Right now. I really love the trend we have now towards simple, clean lines. I love the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s . . . but would I wear it? I’ve had a hard time translating those eras into today.
How would you describe your own personal style? As I’ve gotten busier and older, it’s gone so simple. I’ve recently gone towards a clean aesthetic in my own dressing since I don’t have a lot of time to make my own clothing because I’m focusing on lingerie. When I go shopping I want good jeans, I want a good white button down and I want a good pair of shoes. And I have a lot of my mom’s jewelry that I wear almost every day.
What do you think the hardest part of sewing is? Bringing all the combinations of skills together. You have to have a good sense of fabric and if that fabric will be good for that design. It involves a lot of problem solving and there’s also geometry involved – does this pattern look right, does the armhole look okay? It takes persistence as well; a lot of times it doesn’t work out and you have to keep doing it.
You teach sewing workshops in your studio. What’s your favorite thing about teaching people? I love helping other people and seeing them get so excited over it. I had a student at my bra workshop last week and she was so ecstatic to be there. She made the class. To see her so excited was great. I sometimes get exhausted from all the work that I do and to be appreciated for it makes up for all of it.
What suggestions would you give to someone who wants to start sewing? Honey, you’re going to fail many times and don’t get discouraged at all. Keep at it, have persistence. And be okay with failing.
What is the one basic tool that you believe that every sewer should own? A sewing machine (laughs). That’s kind of essential. You should spend $300 or more on a sewing machine. I think the ones you get for $150 are going to work for basic projects but you get what you pay for. If you want your tension to be right and for your projects to work out you really need to spend the money on a good machine. Rather than buying three okay machines, buy one good one.
You have a full time job in addition to teaching workshops and managing madalynne.com. What suggestions do you have to people who want to sew but don’t seem to have any spare time? You always have time, you just have to prioritize. You have 24 hours in the day – if you want to sew you have to dedicate time. I try to put in one hour a day to sewing, at least one hour. It’s just like working out. Just put in an hour a day and you’ll be surprised how much better you get.
In addition to sewing you also are a photographer. Where did that love come from? I only started photography because I had a blog and I needed to take photos of what I made in order to put it on the blog. Then people started saying ‘I really like your photos’ and I would say ‘but what about the things that I sew, how do you like those?’ (laughs) Now I’m recognized almost equally for my photography which is weird because I’m completely self-taught by looking at YouTube videos.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Sewing and photographing is all I do because I love them. I really do.
To learn more about Maddie Flanigan and Madalynne.com visit her webpage, subscribe to her blog or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
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