Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ask: Megan Nielson of Design Diary

That's oh-so-lovely clothing designer Megan Nielsen above. She hails from Perth, but currently lives in the U.S. with her husband and two children, 'Bunny' and 'Buddy'.  I was so happy to stumble upon her blog and find such a warm soul, lovely garments, and super fun DIY tutorials. 

a giant thank you to Megan Neilsen for giving us our interview today for Ask!

Megan makes and sells patterns in addition to garments, and there are maternity patterns amongst them. Maternity!  The adorable names on Megan's patterns? Pina and Rie (My own great grandmother was a Ree).   She has recently gotten into designing for children, as well, and I can't wait to see more. 

Megan's newest winter line, Country Roads, will be available for purchase this Saturday, December 17, in her online store, featuring the Meadow, Kelly and Chantilly skirts and the RidgewaySudley and Peidmont blouses. Peidmont is a "long sleeve sister" to the Banksia. I'm thrilled the beautiful Banksia got a new sibling--the navy blue silk is so pretty!

The online lookbook for Country Roads was a beautiful collaboration with Tania (model) of the blog, What Would a Nerd Wear, and Sydney Poulton (photographer) of the blog The Daybook (who I previously featured here). Congratulations, Megan, on such a pretty winter collection!

Here are some of Megan's lovely garments from a past fall collection:

And while her recent Christmas garland and stocking tutorials will certainly help you find your holiday groove, her mint green shorts will have you wanting to rewind a bit back to summer time-- I mean, if there were ever a reason to deal with the heat! 

Megan regularly offers generous advice on starting your own clothing lines and businesses, and her support of the independent design community doesn't stop there; she also regularly features

interviews with independent designers! Her most recent is with Lyndsay Senerchia of shop Seams to Be (below).

I love the sense of community that forms around handmade living, small businesses, and peer support. Everyone benefits from this type of supportive community, designers and consumers alike.

And speaking of handmade and recycled goodies, I think I'm going to be heading to the thrift store where Megan found this amazing stack of fabric! Maybe they'll have more plaids and checks?  I'm so curious about what's going to be made with it!

So let's talk to Megan Nielson!

1. I know you opt to share with the public only what you call your children, and not their full names, so how did you arrive at their nicknames?

On my blog I call my kids Bunny and Buddy - they're both names my husband came up with actually! When I was pregnant with our daughter, my husband used to tell everyone we were having a "honey bunny;" when she was born the name stuck, and over time we just started calling her Bunny. Unfortunately, now that she is a little older she won't let me call her that anymore (it makes me so sad!). Our son's nickname came about pretty organically too. Since the beginning he's been a cuddling kind of kid, and he was very colicky, so my husband used to hold him for many hours at night when he was small so i could sleep. He called him his "little buddy", and now we just call him Buddy!

 2.Were there any almost names for your children that didn't end up making the cut? 

Oh we had so much trouble choosing names! We are suckers for biblical names, so for our daughter we were huge fans of Rachel and Rebecca.  I was also pushing for Caro - it was a name from a book I read as a child and just loved. For our son we really had a tough time. Once again, we really loved biblical names, so David was a favourite, but the biggest contender was Christopher, which is actually my husband's name. In the end we just couldn't bear to think he would be known his entire life as Junior, Little Chris, CJ or something. But for me, Cameron was my favourite for a long time. It's a family name that goes back to my first relatively to immigrate to South Africa, escaping religious persecution. I love his story; it's a beautiful rags to riches kind of tale, and one my family loves to tell - I hope that one day a Cameron can be part of our family again. 

3. I love the names Pina and Rie!  Can you share where they come from and why you picked them for your garments?

Aww thank you! Rie is actually the pet name my father calls my mother :) Her name is Muriel, and when they were first married everyone called her "Mue" as a nickname, which he hated, so he started calling her Rie - I've always loved it! I think it's one of my favourite names ever. Pina was my Oumagrootjie’s (Great Grandmother's) nickname. Her name was Phillipina Johanna (named after the apostles Philip and John) but that's a long name! So everyone always called her Pina - i think it's so pretty!

4. Any favorite names right now? 

Cameron is still one of my favourite names. I hope that if we have another little boy in the future that i can call him that.

5. I recently saw that you found a great pack of vintage fabric at the thrift store (pictured above). Any plans yet as to what you're going to do with  it? Have you used any of it already? 

Oh yes!! That was such a find! I really almost died when i saw that box - so many gorgeous fabrics! I actually have a lot of plans for them! I've already used some of the plaids for clothing for my son, and I have some dresses planned for the florals. To be honest, I just can't resist a floral dress :) it's one of my many weaknesses!

6. Do you ever gain inspiration from other disciplines: music, film, gardening? Can you talk a bit about what inspires your design aesthetic? 

Funnily enough, most of my inspirations come from areas outside of fashion. I'm heavily influenced by nature and landscapes, they just really speak to me. I'm a really nostalgic, sentimental person, so most of the time my designs are a reflection of how I'm feeling, and what kind of mood I get from the outdoors. 

7. Do you imagine the women who might wear your creations? What are their stories? 

I absolutely imagine the women who wear my creations! I generally think of them as young women with well curated closets, who appreciate quality and details and think carefully when they get dressed. I imagine them wearing my designs everyday no matter where they going, just because they make them feel pretty. I really think beautiful clothing can influence your mood - and I always hope that when women wear my pieces that they walk out the door feeling amazing, confident and gorgeous! A lot of the time I use my friends as muses - it really helps me to imagine the girl.

7. Do you appreciate the same qualities in names as you do in clothing design? 

Definitely - I really enjoy names that are nostalgic, and a little unusual. The same with clothing - i feel like my designs nod to the past subtly and are different from what you see in any store.

8. Sweetest parenting moment in the last month? 

Gosh there have honestly been so many. This has been a really lovely month for both my kids. I think for my son it was when he gave me a kiss for the first time. He's such a boy, and though he's cuddly, he's never actually kissed either my husband or I; but a few weeks ago when I was reading him a book he just looked up at me and kissed me, and it was one of the sweetest things of my whole life. I will remember that forever. With my daughter -- since she's 3 she's very into imagination games-- her favourite thing to play is mommies and babies right now. You learn a lot about the way you parent from how your kids act when they pretend to be you! I was just touched beyond belief when I overheard her tucking her toy kitten into bed, telling it how much she loved it and how special it was, and finally praying for it and singing the same lullaby i sing to her each night. It was too precious!  

9. Favorite word? 

Bokke - it's an Afrikaans word (my mom is Afrikaans) and it means "little buck" or "little dear", it's something South Africans will say in reference to a pretty girl - and i've always loved it. 

10. Favorite song? 

Gosh of all time? It's an unusual one, especially since it's not of my generation - but I love "Take on Me" by Aha.

11. Favorite book? 

Ooo that's hard, for me it's really a 3 way tie. Each year I read Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), North & South (Elizabeth Gaskel) and Nine Couches Waiting (Mary Stewart). They are always duking it out for first place :) I'm a romantic, can you tell? 

12. Anything new on the horizon for you that you can tell us about? 

Right now i'm really just working my butt off! I'm finishing up my Fall collection (my very very late fall collection) and working on new sewing patterns for my pattern line (some womens wear and childrens wear actually). It's all fun and exciting!

Name game time!  please help me create a name by answering the following questions:

1. A color or you love to work with:

Coral - one of my current favourite colours!

2. For the middle name, please pick a name that you heard more in Australia, but don't hear much in the U.S.: 

Nicole! I knew sooo many back home, and haven't heard of a single one here :)

There you have it: Coral Nicole. Beautiful! 

And from today's inspirations, names found alongside Megan's garments, patterns, children and musings:




Coral Nicole

Phillipina Johana

Muriel ('Rie')




















Banksia (a family of Australian flowers, which can yield Banks, Sia, Nia, Bani, even Betty)






Plains (I've seen a Fields, why not Plains?)



Day (from the Midday top, though Midday, itself, could be an option for some.)






Matilda Bay (too great to split the name of this dress up)



A few pairings from this bunch that strike my fancy:

Muriel Meadow

Phillip Plains 

Sudly Christopher

Jane Eucalypt 

John Piedmont Brumby (Monty)

Stuart Buddy

Banskia Rie 

Elisabeth Day (Betty Day--double name)

Mary Jewel (double name)

Rebecca Dune ('Rue')

Thank you again, Megan! It was such fun talking with you. Best of luck to you and thank you for all the wonderful inspiration.

What do you think, readers? Any more pairings you'd like to see with any of these? Plan to try out any DIY projects, yourselves?  

Happy Weekend!

(images: all courtesy of Megan Neilson, by Megan Neilson, by Sydney Poulton, by Brett Dierolf, by Bryan Skeen)

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