Today, we are excited to interview Emily, founder of Mabel Madison fabrics. We love her selection of boy appropriate fabric and are excited to learn more about her and her business.
How long have you been sewing?
I got my first machine in about 1998 at an estate sale. I didn’t do much with it for a few years, despite the best intentions of someone who tried to teach me to sew. Then I moved to Maine and took a quiltmaking class at the local Extension. I was hooked. I’ve been piecing quilt tops for about 15 years and just started doing my own quilting a few years ago.
I got into garment sewing when the kidlets came along. Little clothes are fun to sew, and pretty quick most of the time. And they don’t care about the mistakes. 😉 I consider myself an intermediate seamstress with very little fear – I’ll try anything once! I don’t get much time to sew (it’s a busy, busy life!) but I try to make at least a few things each season for both kids.
How many boys do you sew for? How old are they?
I have a 4-year-old who loves his ‘mama-mades’. The husband is willing, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. He’d rock a Bowling Shirt from Scientific Seamstress, though!
What is your favorite item you have sewn for your boy/boys?
This shirt for Valentine’s Day 2014 was a HUGE hit at preschool, the boy loved it, and it fit for a long, long time. Super win! (Scientific Seamstress Bowling Shirt) I’ve made a half-dozen pairs of shorts (free pattern from Made – http://www.danamadeit.com) from Goodwill men’s shirts, but he’s getting too big for a single shirt to make a pair anymore. These blue checks saw a LOT of action last summer (and he sure does love ponytails!).
What do you think are the biggest obstacles in sewing for boys?
Patterns, fabrics, patterns, fabrics, patterns, fabrics, and patterns! Seriously, though, there just isn’t much out there. Girls get the ruffles and the bling. Boys get raglans, shorts, plain pants, and button-up shirts. Sigh…
Where is your favorite place to buy fabric for boys?
Well, Mabel Madison, of course! I find some things on Etsy and Dawanda (I’m willing to pay international shipping costs and currency conversions for JUST the right things), and occasionally luck out at one of the big stores. I’m a pretty plain & simple gal, so it’s usually one fun print and solids to coordinate. I don’t look at things as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ most of the time, which opens up a ton of possibilities.
Who are you favorite boy pattern designers?
Puperita has awesome patterns with great drafting for an incredible price. Fishsticks Designs is a newer favorite – great stuff!!! Oliver + S has some really fun patterns for little guys with lots of details. Blank Slate is wonderful for customization and adding a personal touch. And, of course, Ottobre magazine! I know there are more, but those are really my go-to for inspiration.
What are your favorite sewing with boy resource(blog, books, etc)?
I live on the internet, so it’s my main resource. I’m in a few Facebook groups geared toward sewing for boys, which helps with ideas. Mostly, I look at a pattern without any gender bias and see whether it will fit my little guy’s body type and his style. It’s surprising how many ‘girly’ patterns really aren’t! I follow some blogs, too – Handmade Boy and Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy come to mind. I’m excited to see where Sewing With Boys goes!
Do you sew with the boys in your life? If so, what do you make with them?
Mr. 4 helps with picking out fabrics and likes to watch me cut out ‘patter-ens’. He also LOVES to get measured. I fully intend to teach both of my children to sew and do other handcrafts. I hope that they enjoy it as much as I do.
Why do you think it is important to teach boys to sew?
I think everyone should learn to sew! But that’s not the question, is it? There’s no reason boys can’t sew. Some of the most amazing tailors and designers are men – clothing isn’t a ‘female thing’. Sewing teaches patience, critical thinking, math skills, physical coordination, planning, and creativity, to name a few things. Good skills for everyone to have, no?
What would you like to see more of in the Boy Sewing world? (patterns, tutorials, fabric, etc)
All of the above! Mostly, I’d like to see boys being involved in sewing. Let’s teach our sons as well as our daughters. Let’s make things for our sons as well as our daughters!
How do you challenge yourself to break gender stereotypes when sewing for your boy(s)?
We don’t really do gender stereotypes in our family. Mr. 4 likes pink, plays with dolls, and enjoys testing dresses for twirl factor. Miss almost-3 plays with everything her brother does and her favorite color is blue. If it makes him happy, I’ll sew it for him. Not much to break, really. 🙂
What (or who) inspires your boy sewing?
Mr. 4, for sure. I’m working to improve my skills and learn new things to keep making him neat stuff as he grows older. Also, he’s very skinny and rather on the small side – finding clothes in RTW has been challenging. The more I sew, the better his wardrobe gets.
Tell us a bit about your favorite boy(s)!
Oh, he’s cute! And he’s smart. And funny. He likes to run around and make up games. And he likes to read books and color. He’s a great big brother – mostly. He’s the light of my life, my first child, and a joy and a wonder every day. He’s also a pain in my neck a good deal of the time, but hey – he’s four. That’s his job.
What inspired you to start an online fabric store? How long have you been in business?
We opened Mabel Madison in August 2014. I love fabric – I have way too much of it! But there were very limited options for Euro fabrics in the US. It’s expensive to buy and ship from overseas, or even Canada, and we wanted to reduce some of that cost to those who sew in the US. Exposing the US to Euro fabrics was another goal – we learned that so many people never knew about the quality and fun factor of these fabrics.
Why did you decide to carry Euro knits and why are you so passionate about them?
Euro knits are so dreamy! They’re soft and supple, they tend not to pill or fade even after many, many washes, and the prints just can’t be found anywhere else. They’re very unique, very different from what is available in most stores in the US. The Oeko-Tex certification is a fantastic bonus. These fabrics are produced with a minimum of chemicals and toxins, which makes a huge difference in the ecology of textiles as well as in the quality and feel of the fabrics themselves.
Why do you think so many online and brick and mortar stores shy away from stocking fabrics geared at sewing for boys?
Frankly, they’re hard to come by. Flowers and fairies and princesses are everywhere, but there aren’t many typically ‘boy’ prints available – like helicopters and firetrucks and bugs. I suppose fabric designers and makers don’t think people will sew for their boys? Perhaps they don’t feel the market is big enough? I do think it’s easier to find ‘boy’ fabric online than in stores, but still not an easy task.
Even in commercially made clothing, it’s very skewed. Ever been to a Carter’s store? The girl things are patterned and flowered and bright and ruffly. The boy things are mostly solid, somber, plain colored items depending on appliques or vinyl transfer for decoration. Yawn.
What make your business unique from other online fabric stores?
We cater to people who sew for boys. We cater to those who are after quality. We offer exceptional customer service and do everything in our power to make sure that our customers have a fantastic experience. We aim to be professional (if you ever find a typo on our website, or anywhere else, we expect to be called on it!) but very accessible. We truly believe in our product – and we think it shows!
Where all can we find you online/social media?
Oh, my. Facebook, our website. Working on an Etsy shop now (opening very soon!), and heading into the wide world of Instagram next. Hope to see you there!