Stephanie Thiel & Rad Patterns – Sew My Style 2020 Designer Q&A

Black and white photo of Rad Pattern owner Stephanie Thiel in a dark top wearing glasses and looking off to the right while leaning against a white table with measuring tapes about and a bag that resembles an old school Nintendo controller in front of her

Stephanie Thiel is the superstar designer behind Rad Patterns. Rad is, in a word, RAD.

This year for Sew My Style, we’re featuring TWO of Rad’s patterns. Because Rad Patterns is only one of a handful of companies that offer inclusive sizing for all genders, we asked Stephanie if we could have more than one. Thankfully she agreed!

This month we’ll sew up the Rad Patterns Kortney Bodysuit. In October you’ll have another chance at another Rad Pattern: the Long John Jammers for men. Rad also offers a host of unisex patterns, cosplay patterns, and accessible clothing patterns and so much more! The current 100+ patterns can be seen in all these categories:

Screenshot of the Rad Patterns website showing all the categories and number of patterns in a black box with white text

(If you’re new to Sew My Style, check out all the information on this page, subscribe to join the fun, and then come back to read all about one of our two January pattern designers! If you’re new to sewing, this is a great way to jump in and make clothes right away with the help of a pretty supportive group of people.)

Based in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Rad Patterns is about to celebrate its 4th anniversary! Stephanie knew even as a little girl that she wanted to design clothes. Rad Patterns:

is the result of one little girl’s dreams to make pretty clothes and her grown-up self’s goal to make the world a brighter place.

In this interview, Stephanie delves deep! Enjoy!

What is your name? Steph Thiel

What is your company’s name and how did you come up with it? Rad Patterns – So the word radical has two meanings – “cool” and “favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions.” I started Rad with the idea that everyone deserves clothes that make them feel amazing. Unfortunately, that is a bit of a radical idea—but it’s one I strive to represent through my brand and to be a driving change in making it a less radical idea. Also, I hope my shit’s cool 🙂 (Editor’s note: it is!)

How long has your company existed? We are about to celebrate 4 years in business

When did you decide to become a pattern designer? I knew since I was 3 years old that I wanted to make clothes. I always thought that I’d grow up to be a designer, but when I went to design school, I fell in love with the technical side of things as well.

What inspired you to start creating patterns? I went to design school and I interned for a pattern company. Then I graduated in the worst part of the economic recession and there were no jobs to be had. Being the mom of a 2-year-old and a newborn at the time, I took a job in a completely different field because caring for my family was the most important thing. It totally bummed me out that I wasn’t doing what I’d dreamed about my whole life, but sometimes adulting has to come first.

Then just over 4 years ago, the company I was working for was laying everyone off and moving out of the state. It was out of nowhere and terrifying. They gave us 5 months’ notice, which was a huge deal because it gave me time to figure things out. I had really good insurance and I’d been putting off getting some medical stuff dealt with and I thought I should do that while I could. The stuff I’d been putting off dealing with ended up being cancer.

Being laid off literally saved my life.

So while I was recovering from surgery and trying to figure out what to do, and being almost 5 years out from having graduated from college, I decided it was now or never for following my dreams. So I started Rad with a 9-year-old laptop and the 2005 version of Adobe Illustrator. I figured I’d either crash and burn or not, but I would be able to look at myself in the mirror and look at my kids and know that I tried my hardest to follow my dreams. It ended up being more amazing than I ever could have imagined.

What background do you have in pattern design? I have a Bachelor of Science in Apparel Design and half of a Master’s in Applied Technical Apparel. I’ve also worked in the apparel industry for the last 3.5 years. (Editor’s note: she’s being modest by not telling you she’s been designing for one of the biggest sports apparel brands in the world!) 

What’s your favorite flavor ice cream and do you prefer a cone or a bowl? Chocolate peanut butter in a waffle cone 🙂

Are you #teamcut or #teamtrace? #teamcut – but also team freehand draw on my fabric.

Is your sewing space messy? Can we see a picture? At the moment it’s packed in boxes as I’m moving next week, but generally its a hot mess. Here is a picture of probably the last time it was actually clear for a challenge at the beginning of 2019.

Side by side photos of Rad Pattern's Stephanie Theil's sewing space

If you didn’t have sewing, what would your creative outlet be? I also really love drawing, reading, knitting, painting, and dyeing yarn. And badly playing guitar.

How would you describe the person you envision making your pieces? Amazing and talented and worthy of being loved and most importantly, worthy of loving themselves.

If you could design any garment for any person what would that be? I really want to go into theatrical costuming. I love making quick-change pieces, especially if they are more historically-inspired pieces.

Would you design any of the following, and if so, who would your client be (living or dead)?

  • Wedding dress for royalty? Hard pass. I have done one wedding dress and the drama that goes with wedding dressmaking is not for me. I do love drawing them/designing them on paper though!
  • Red carpet attire? Absolutely YES! Literally anyone, but I’d love to focus on plus size women and others who are generally underserved when it comes to red carpet apparel.

What is your personal favorite among your patterns? I don’t think I could narrow it down to a single one. The Date Night Dress holds a special place in my heart because I designed it for my 10th wedding anniversary. And the Unicorn Day Dress is also a special piece I designed for my 30th birthday (a day we dubbed “unicorn day”). The jammers are probably my most used pattern though.

What has been your all-time most challenging sewing project? In college, I sewed a historically accurate 1890s corset. I’ve sewn several corsets, but this one, which had both a front busk closure and back grommets and laces and so. much. boning. and like a million different pieces and layers. It was by far the most difficult.

What do you hope people gain from using your patterns? I hope they gain confidence in themselves.

What would be the theme song for your life? “Modern Chemistry” by Motion City Soundtrack.

Thanks Stephanie for a wonderful interview! We can’t wait to make up our raddest Kortneys and Jammers!

Click here to read all the Sew My Style Designer Q&As.

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Sew My Style 2020 includes these talented sewists, catch up on their #SMS20 posts:

Aaronica @ The Needle & The Bell | Ari @ Max California | Minna @ The Shapes of Fabric | Carol @ Chatterstitch | Michele @ WinMichele | Julian @ Julian Creates | Florence @ FTMom3 | Kelsey @ Seam Lined Living | Kris @ Sew Notes | Laura @ The Specky Seamstress | Sarah @ Haraz Handmade | Shelby @ Handmade Shelby | and SMS20 Coordinator Paulette @ Petite Font

To stay up-to-date with all the #SMS20 news, pattern discounts and inspiration, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter at Sew My Style 2020.

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Black and white photo of Rad Pattern owner Stephanie Thiel in a dark top wearing glasses and looking off to the right while leaning against a white table with measuring tapes about and a bag that resembles an old school Nintendo controller in front of her with text overlay that reads Stephanie Thiel, Rad Patterns, and Sew My Style 2020.
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