This week, meet Stephanie of The Eli Monster! Stephanie started her pattern making path by making cloth diapers for her daughter Eli, a.k.a., the monster, and later on for her sibling, Adlai. She was on a path to find the perfect cloth diaper pattern when she decided to design her own pattern. But then they both outgrew diapers and so Stephanie began focusing her creative juices and skills on creating digital sewing and knitting patterns. Keep reading to know more!
Why do you sew?
I have to make something. I get weird if I don't.
When did you started to sew? And what was your first make?
I've been sewing as long as I can remember. Sitting in my bedroom, hand sewing witch costumes for my Cabbage Patch dolls with my mom's sewing basket.
When did you start to draft patterns? How was the learning process?
I've never been one to work from a pattern. When I started my etsy shop a decade ago, I sold physical items from my own patterns. About 2.5 years ago, I realized that we were traveling a LOT due to my husband's job and I needed to stop making things to mail off but I still needed to make things to keep my sanity. So I started digitizing my pattern patterns and found myself really interested in grading and all the human factors parts of making a sewing pattern. I was lucky enough to have access to some amazing people at the University of Minnesota's Wearable Technology lab to bounce ideas off and make sure I was on the right path.
How is your creative/design process?
I like to research historical garments and see if/how I can translate them in to modern livable things. I have crude sketches (I have a degree in Cinema and Photography because I couldn't draw my way out of a paper bag) and then I just start cutting and draping fabric work from there. Or my daughter comes to me with a sketch and I make it for her.
Spelen Dress, pattern by The Eli Monster
How/where do you see yourself and your business in the future?
I joke that my ultimate goal is to support my family while making patterns from a lounge chair on the beach somewhere (with a drink in a coconut shell in hand) where it is warm year round.
What sewing machine do you own? Is it the machine of your dreams?
I have a Juki HZL-F300 as my main machine. I sewed for almost a decade on a very basic mechanical Janome. The bells and whistles definitely make sewing more fun. I sit down at my table and I swear sometimes I can hear little cheers of encouragement from my Juki. I also own a Juki serger that is a tank and I adore it.
What is your favorite make ever? Why?
I made a Latona Dress with custom printed fabric of the painting "Latona and the Lycian Peasants" by Jan Brueghel the Elder for a submission to the Rijksmusem Awards. I didn't get in the show but it was so much fun taking that painting and manipulating it to fit onto a child's dress.
What is on in the background while you're sewing?
I only have time to sew when everyone else is gone to work/school so I take that chance to either watch non-kid friendly TV shows (Vikings, Ozark, etc) or, if I need to really buckle down and get work done, I turn on some hip hop like P.O.S, Sims, Aesop Rock or MF Doom.
Zak Skirt (for women), pattern by The Eli Monster
Which is(are) your favorite pattern(s)?
I'm always in love with the newest pattern I'm working on until I'm almost done with it, then I want to move on to the next thing. I really love Pattern Play's tutu pattern and use it for all of our crinolines for under our dresses (even though it goes against my general no ruffle policy).
Who's your sewing/blogging/style/fashion/designer/quilter hero(s)?
Cristóbal Balenciaga! Most definitely! The way he created sculpture out of garments was just amazing! And Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, for sure. Having a fine art background, I definitely look to the arts more than traditional sewing/quilting as aspiration and inspiration. The work of David LaChapelle and Gregory Crewdson top my "heros" list.
What are your favorite sewing techniques?
Understitching! Lined bodices! All the things that don't take a lot of time but result in a really good looking garment. I've even started to love hand sewing if I can justify the time it takes.
What is your least favorite sewing technique/step?
I dislike ruffles. Maybe it's because I don't like them personally (and they rarely show up in my designs), maybe it's because my model/daughter refuses to wear them (and most of my designs are definitely a collaboration; she has even started to bring me sketches...). If I have to gather by hand or break out the ruffler foot for my sewing machine, I will generally pass on the project...
Liebling Waldorf Doll, pattern by The Eli Monster
Describe yourself in 3 words:
3 Favorites - color, texture and fabric:
- Lavender (yet I never seem to use it...), Smooth (see fabric), Poplin (so crisp!)
3 things that make you happy:
- Tooling around town, running errands on my bicycle on a sunny day.
- My family and all our crazy, instantaneous adentures.
- Creating things. If I'm not sewing or knitting, I'm building a cabinet or making a pinhole camera.
3 random things about you:
- Amsterdam is my favorite city in the world
- I make a mean fried rice
- I am thoroughly enjoying our new home in Colorful Colorado (I can see a mountain from my studio!)
Life or sewing motto:
Oh, I have no idea. I'm sure it would include a curse word or two and a pun...
Latona Dress, pattern by The Eli Monster
Thank you, Stephanie!
Enjoy 20% off The Eli Monster patterns through this week! (Good until Friday, September 22nd, 11:59 PM PST).
Come back next week for another episode of Meet the Designer!