Hi! My name is Maddie Flanigan and I am a twenty-six-year-old professional blogger, freelance photographer, a used-to-be technical designer, and a will-always-be pattern maker and seamstress who turned her dream of sewing and blogging into a passionate career. By day, I work in social media for a Fortune 500 company, and on nights and weekends, I am a feverish stitcher, constructing, drafting or altering my next dress or lingerie set. Both professions are an all-consuming, at all-hours, and every day job. Like a mother to her child, I love it.
This is who I am, but this is what Madalynne is…
Madalynne is an educational, informational and inspirational blog. First and foremost, Madalynne provides lessons and tutorials on pattern making and sewing in simple words and with visually pleasing images that are fun to look at and easy to remember. Madalynne also provides articles on everything sewing and design related, including, but not limited to, photography, fashion history and art. Lastly, Madalynne documents glimpses of my life as I grow as a seamstress and a photographer.
Together, this is who we are, me and Madalynne.
I was born in the sunniest and the warmest of all places, which is surprising considering my pallid skin color – Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Growing up, I was not an artsy child. Although I stayed on top of fashion trends, I was a science nerd, taking both organic chemistry and calculus before graduating high school.
At the age of twelve, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Seeking treatment, which included a mastectomy, a hysterectomy and chemotherapy, she thought she beat cancer. Then, one Monday afternoon, I came home from school and found out that her disease had come back. It had metastasized into her spine, causing it to collapse. My parents hopped onto the first plane to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and my grandparents took care of my brothers and me for the next 4 months. She returned with 12 inch rods supporting her spine. All seemed well, but two years later, in January of my senior year, her spine gave out completely. Cancer had eaten everything. Back to Texas. She returned two months later, but her beautiful long legs and blonde hair were reduced to a wheelchair and a wig (she chose red in honor of me). She lived for six more weeks. Despite the torment the disease had on her, one thing remained unchanged until the day she died. When I told her the Friday before she passed that I loved her and it was okay to give up the fight, I could still see her spirit and courage in her green eyes. Cancer would not take those away from her.
My priorities changed when I saw how cancer and chemotherapy devastated my mom’s body and took her life. It wasn’t a rapid about face, but a metamorphic transformation. I realized that life is too short and can be cruel. I decided to only surround myself with the people and the things that matter, sewing was one of them.
I learned how to sew when I was eighteen-years-old. As I grow older, the moments I recall become fewer, but the memory of when I first came across a sewing machine is one I haven’t forgotten. I was a freshman at The University of Miami, and the Christmas holiday was particular long – I took my last final the first week of December and I didn’t go back until the last week of January. I wanted to do something useful with my time, but I couldn’t figure out how. On one of the first days of holiday break, I was looking for something in my mom’s linen closet when I found her old sewing machine. I decided to take up sewing. I could finally hem my jeans!
There was a neighborhood tailor, Mishka, who had a reputation for being absolutely nuts. Like a mad scientist. She was the only person I knew who knew how to sew, so with my mom’s Brother sewing machine in hand, I went to her for lessons. “You want to learn how to sew?” she said, “let’s get started.” One lesson turned into a two year apprenticeship.
I later enrolled at The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), studying fashion design, but transferred a year later to Johnson and Wales in North Miami when they offered me a full scholarship for fashion merchandising and retail marketing. In order to graduate, students have to complete an externship. Dreaming big, I applied to Urban Outfitters for a position in technical design. I think my mom was watching over me because I was offered the spot. I started off as an intern for Free People, but soon after became a full time employee for Anthropologie knits, sweaters and intimates. Throughout the 2 ½ years I was in the department, I always maintained this blog, Madalynne. When the company wanted to start an intranet blog, they asked if I would be interested. I was hesitant to at first, because I wouldn’t be in the design world, but I took the job. Today, I am their internal blogger and I consider myself one of the luckiest people. I have my dream job!
What kind of sewing machine do you own?
I own a Bernina 560 home machine, an industrial Juki DDL 5500, a Juki MO654 serger, a 1956 Singer Featherweight and two Sally Singer manual pleating machines.
What is the biggest goal with Madalynne?
To be iconic. A symbol for something. Cher is a symbol of show-stopping entertainment, Donna Summer is a symbol for disco and the Virgin Mary is a symbol for eternal love. Like these women, I want to stand for something: cool, me-made garments.
What time do you wake up?
I wake up between 3 and 4:00 AM during the week and barely 5:00 AM on weekends. Nobody ever succeeded by sleeping in.
Do you consider yourself a practical person or a dreamer?
A dreamer. Practical people work at Wendy’s; they miss the potential. Bill Clinton was from Arkansas and grew up in a trailer. He got the idea to become president after visiting JFK in the White House. Dream big; succeed big.
What is your most popular post?
My most popular post is how to draft a sloper and I almost didn’t post it. At the time, I thought it was too geeky for the blogging world; all the sewing blogs I followed posted about completed garments, not pattern making. On a whim, I published it and to my surprise, readers loved it! It made me realize that my readers want to know about pattern making, and caused me to write a lot more about the subject. To this day, I receive approximately 1-2 emails a week from readers attempting my drafting method.
Where do you think happiness comes from and how is it maintained?
Happiness comes from imaging the future and then creating it. Another way of saying this: it is the constant striving towards achieving a goal. It’s not the practice of it because once you achieve it, it’s not as fun or rewarding as when you were pursuing it.
What is one of your favorite songs of all time – one that doesn’t get old to you or one that you couldn’t live without?
I have two. The first one is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Sung by Judy Garland or any other singer, it never gets old. Shortly before my mom passed away, she started singing this song and said that it was where she was going. It reminds me of the past. The second is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” because it symbolizes Christmas, being with my family and the joy of giving to others. It reminds me of the future.
What is your greatest fear?
Mortality. Because my mother died at the young age of 53, I fear that I will have the same future. When I saw how cancer and chemotherapy devastated her body and took her life, I realized that life can be cruel and short. So, I try to surround myself with only the people and the things that matter, sewing being one of them.
What draws you to the ‘old’ and antique forms?
Except for the speed of communication, medicine and electricity, everything is recycled. DaVinci knew how to fly, the Egyptians wore make up and the Chinese made beautiful silks thousands of years ago. Most things are remade; very little is new. So, the future is in the past.
Where is your ‘happy place’?
Some say happiness is nothing more than a bad memory. Forget the past; happiness is in the future, and on your deathbed, happiness is believing in eternal salvation.
What is the simplest pleasure in life?