MD Sewist Spotlight: Meredith Neal

This week, we’ll be profiling one of our beloved MD employees to find out more about her sewing life. Not only does Meredith work at Modern Domestic, she teaches all sorts of awesome classes here as well. If you’re interested in learning to how to sew, check out her Zippered Pouch or Sweet & Simple Apron classes. She’ll help you conquer your serger fears in her Beginning Serger Knit Cardigan and Leggings classes, and this spring she’s bringing back a great class on Colette Patterns’ excellent mens button-down shirt pattern, Negroni.

How long have you been sewing?

About 15 years. I’ve always been interested in art–sculpture, drawing, painting–dabbled mostly, nothing very good. I did high school theater and realized my first semester in college I would NEVER  make it as an actor. But as a theater major, I worked in all the different shops (scenery, props) and it was there…the perfect combination of all my loves…the costume shop!  I could still do character analysis and script work, but got to research images (and intensify my obscene collection of books!), and obsess about fashion, sewing, and drawing.  I worked in my undergrad shop leading crews even as I was still learning. Tried and failed and succeeded and made and made and made. Worked summers in regional costume shops–sewing, cutting, patternmaking.  Got an MFA in Costume Design from Ohio University. Moved to NYC to conquer the theater scene only to become disillusioned and tired after years of downtown theater. And then I found myself at the place that would help lead me in a direction where I could create for myself again and where I had something to contribute–The City Quilter. I was the manager there when my husband took a job here in Portland in May 2010 and I’ve been so lucky to find Bolt and Modern Domestic. Teaching is now a great love of mine.
Meredith working in her first costume shop in college, March 1999
Sewing in her first shop, circa 1998. Check out the "awesome" dress she's rockin'. Yep, she made it.
Meredith wearing a dress she was immensely proud of making, August 1998
Meredith working at the Alliance Theater, December 2001
One of Meredith's renderings and costume, Ohio University 2004
Rendering for a costume, Ohio University 2003
Tell us about a favorite recent sewing project.

A lot of my recent sewing projects can be seen over on the Bolt blog. I love the act of choosing the fabric and project and the act of making as much as the finished item. I love creating clothes for myself that I never thought I could or would–like jeans. I hope to push myself and learn more about techniques that I should have paid more attention to when I had the resources in grad school like tailoring and draping. And then I love quick rewarding projects with knits or a fun new scarf to help beat the winter blues.

What is your favorite sewing tip/tool?

My sewing machines (Ruby, my 1008 and my new still unnamed 580) and serger are faithful companions without which I could do nothing. And my presser feet! I love coming up with excuses and projects to buy new ones. They truly do help sewing with less swearing. I could not live without the #12 Bulky Overlock/Piping foot or #35 Invisible Zipper foot.

Where do you sew?

There’s a finished attic in the house we rent and I converted it into a sewing studio. I’m like a fish–I grow to fit whatever space I’m in!  How can I easily fill double the space I had before? It’s definitely still a work in progress. The ceilings are kind of a downer, the lighting is terrible, and I’d love a blocking board and bigger cutting table. And more storage for fabric, patterns, and books. But overall, I love going up to my little world and sewing my heart out. Especially to cheesy 80’s movies on my thrift store TV/VCR combo.

What sewing project(s) do you plan to tackle next? 

Looking at class samples specifically–the bag from the Burdastyle Handbook and the Taffy Blouse from Colette Sewing Handbook. My Peony dress is 3/4 constructed and I need to move the waist before installing the zipper. I’ve got some knits waiting to be made into t-shirts and I’ve got denim ready for another pair of jeans. I’m hoping to follow along with Elizabeth’s Sparkle Punch quilt sew-along. Oh, and a new Crepe Wrap Dress in a denim/hemp blend and keeping an eye out for the perfect eggplant knit for a new pair of leggings since I seem to wear leggings everyday in the winter. And bra making!

Vintage store chair with recovered cushions and fresh pillows

Sample for Bolt, Upline Jacket in process

7 Responses to “MD Sewist Spotlight: Meredith Neal”

  1. Jamie whitaker

    Cool!!! You have so much experience! I also love your sewing attic 🙂

  2. ruth m

    Amazing work, Mere. And I envy your sewing attic so much.


    Did you ever know that you’re my hero?

  4. autumn

    way jelly of the attic room! secondly, how fun! i hope i didn’t miss any earlier MD employee/owner spotlights, because i love this one!!!

  5. Ann Allison

    Yeah, Meredith, very impressive!

  6. Jennifer Hale

    I love your story and your space! I look forward to signing up for another one of your classes!

  7. Karie

    Dude! I dig the red short bob you’ve got going on at the Alliance Theater.

    I haven’t been a big fan of jeans and you have inspired me to give a handmade pair a try. Could take care of all the things I hate about comercial jeans. Specifically getting a pair comfortable for my legs without being 20 sizes too big for my waist.

    You rock!

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