hola, madrid! and friday picks

Hello, friends! It’s been a big couple of weeks for us, and if you follow my personal Instagram account you might already know why: we’re moving to Madrid for a year!

A little more than a year ago we made a conscious decision to keep our business small. That decision was a difficult one to make, and we thought about it for a really long time before committing to it. In the past we had just assumed that as our sales increased, we would hire people to help us which would allow us to do  more which would continue to increase sales. This is sort of the default way most businesses grow and mature, and it’s probably what a lot people in our shoes would do. It’s very tempting to grow, and we talked about this decision for a long time. But hiring additional employees would also mean that we would spend a lot of our time managing people. I started Oliver + S because I enjoy drafting patterns, writing instructions, and having my hands in every element of the patternmaking business. That’s what I’m good at, and that’s what I’m passionate about. Our decision to stay small and do a lot of the work ourselves (with the help from a team of wonderful freelancers) means that we make less money and we’re often busier that we might prefer to be, but it also means that we get to do what we’re really passionate about. I think it helps to to stay more connected to you, and it gives us flexibility in our schedules, which we’ve made a priority for our family.

Part of that schedule flexibility has allowed us to travel. You might already know that each summer for the past three years we’ve taken a one-month “working sabbatical” where we do a home exchange with another family and go live someplace else in August. We’re still working during those trips, but we’re not working as hard as we do the rest of the year. Those month-long trips have really kept Todd and me fueled for the rest of the year; they inspire us and give us a chance to catch our breath a bit before we jump back into our busy schedules for the rest of the year.

A couple of years ago I was closely following Design Mom’s adventures living in France with her family and it occurred to me that we could also make the choice to live abroad. After all, we can run our business from pretty much anywhere, as long as we have an internet connection. I need a few tools, but our fulfillment center makes it possible for us to go anywhere without disrupting the processing and shipping of your orders. (We used to ship all orders from the studio, but with the volume of patterns we produce and keep in stock, after a few years that became impossible.)

Since this sounded appealing to all three of us, we started thinking about places we might like to move, and last summer we finally decided that Madrid felt right to us. Earlier this year we applied for residency visas for Spain, which we’ve received. We’ve sublet our apartment and the studio, and we’ve rented a modest apartment in the center of Madrid. The apartment has an attic space that will allow us each to have a work space, and it will be interesting to work from home for a change. S is excited because she’ll have her very own bedroom for the first time ever (we live in a one-bedroom in New York, which always amazes visitors but is actually very common here), and we’re all excited because we have a small roof deck area, which is a big novelty for New Yorkers! But the best part of our move is that our rent in Madrid will be exactly the same as it is in New York! So the move is very affordable for us, especially with current exchange rates.

Here’s Todd standing in front of the building where we’ll be living. Last week we looked at a lot of apartments, and this one really felt right for our needs. We’ll be living on the top floor you see in the photo and working one floor up under the sloped roof of the building which is set back a bit from the facade.




Our new building is very close to the palace, the Royal Theater, and all sorts of other Madrid landmarks. It’s just a little bit off center from the major tourist attractions, so it’s a nice quiet street. The neighborhood feels a lot like our neighborhood in New York did 10 or 15 years ago, before gentrification started. I’ll show you around once we’ve settled in, in early September. Right now we’re back home, wrapping up a few loose ends and starting to pack. I’m trying to decide how much equipment I need to bring along: probably two dress forms, my sewing machines, a bunch of photography equipment, and most likely some fabric. Todd wants his big computer monitor (the better for editing photos!) and his bike (which has absolutely nothing to do with work, but as long as we’re shipping things anyway…). It will be interesting to work in English all day and then speak Spanish (or try to speak Spanish, in my case) when we’re out and about. I find myself falling back on my French a lot of the time, so it gets a bit confusing. But I’m learning.

In any case, I think it will be really good for us to have a change of scenery and a slower pace of life after 24 years in Manhattan. I’m curious to see how the experience will change each of us. We hope to do some traveling, and I’m sure there will be lots of door photo bombs, for those of you who follow me on Instagram. I’m excited to share this experience with you! It’s a big change for us, and I must admit I’m not sleeping very well at night lately due to the stress of the move and the length of my To Do list. I’ll talk more about all of this in the weeks and months to come. I’m excited to share it with you, so please holler if you have any questions or topics you want me to cover.

Have you ever considered moving abroad? Or have you already done it? I’d love to hear about your experiences!


Pinterest Picks

Um, my newest Lisette patterns for fall are already out! We’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to prepare for their release., I’ll need to properly introduce you soon. But I’m particularly excited about this jacket. The dress underneath it is really sweet, too:


july 24 epinterest link


Isn’t this a darling Family Reunion Dress? I love the cat print!


July 24 apinterest link


And speaking of cats, this one made me giggle.


july 24 bpinterest link


This cute top has me moving a chambray Gallery Tunic closer to the top of my To Do list. (But certainly not until our big move is complete!)


july 24 c

pinterest link


After a very hot week in Spain (and I’ve heard it’s been hot elsewhere as well!), this looks really good.


july 24 dpinterest link


Weekend reading links

  1. Finally, a reasonable proposed solution to the problem of ethical clothing! This makes a lot of sense to me.
  2. What’s really important in life? This article gave me pause and re-affirmed my priorities. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the big picture in mind, isn’t it?
  3. Design Mom wrote this piece about managing finances when you move abroad, and I’ve referred to it many times over the past few months.
  4. I’m sure this is going to come in handy in Spain, too. Some hints for learning to be more patient, and some excellent reasons why it’s important to demonstrate patience for our children as well.
  5. Such a smart idea, to use performance fabrics for men’s wear to develop pieces that are long-wearing and can go everywhere, including to work. The concept is brilliant.
  6. I’m adding one extra link this week, because I love this piece so much. I’ve had so many of these thoughts about marriage at weddings. In fact, I may just print this out and frame it, it’s so good.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! I’m off to start gathering boxes!


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  1. Elena

    Too bad you are not moving to Barcelona!!!
    Enjoy Madrid and let us know if you plan to come a bit further north!!

  2. Jane

    Our time living overseas are some of the best memories I have. We have lived in Italy and Japan. S, is going to have so many amazing experiences and grow so much over the next year. My son is going in to his junior year of high school, we are waiting until he graduates to see what adventure we can go on next. I wish you all the best, it is going to be the most amazing (and fast) year! Congratulations! 🙂


  3. Helena

    I love the Friday posts, the links keep me busy while breastfeeding throughout the rest of the week, looking forward to reading these.

    CONGRATULATIONS on taking such a big leap, I hope you have a fabulous time. I’ll miss your ‘NewYorkness’, but am looking forward to seeing the Madrid backdrop as a change.

    I have just received multiple fabric swatches for the coat, I can’t wait to make it. Never sewn with double faced fabric before, so maybe a sewalong to help??!

  4. Colleen P.

    We spent six years living in England. The language barrier wasn’t such a problem once we got used to British English and learned to speak properly. 🙂 I think the biggest adjustment we experienced was that a lot of other countries do not have the urgent pace that the US’ big cities do. Stores aren’t usually open 24 hours, one store that advertised itself as such was open 24 hours…except on Sunday. *shoulda read that sign a little more closely* Certain places will close early on certain days, or stay open later on certain days, and it’s usually up to the individual business, so one that stays open late on Tuesday will be next door to the one that closes early on Tuesday. All the locals know and have adjusted their schedules accordingly, but new people are often lost and frustrated. It’s not uncommon to have to visit several different shops to find what you want and need, my experience was that there weren’t a lot of stores that sell everything, like there are in the US. I had an incredibly difficult time finding fabric and notions in the area where I lived, so when we’d come back to the US for a visit I’d stock up and ship boxes and boxes of sewing supplies back to myself. When I did find them locally they were incredibly expensive. The cost of living was generally higher, but oddly vegetables were much less expensive.

    I’m so happy for you that you’re getting this opportunity though! Everyone should try at least once in their lives to live in another country! It expands your horizons!

  5. Amie

    Exciting news! I can’t wait to read about your adventures overseas.

  6. Wonderful news! Moving to our country is going to be great, you’ll see! Myself I’m moving back to Barcelona after years in England and France but I dream with keep sewing and your patterns are beautifully done. Brave decision to keep it small but happy. Enjoy Madrid and please visit us in Barcelona, let’s organise a sewing day!



  7. Congratulations! That is very exciting. Living abroad is so much fun.

  8. How wonderful and so exciting for all of you!! Please do share photos after your family settles in. I am excited to see what you will design while living over there as well.

    1. We absolutely will, Sharon. Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. Liesl you are a role model for small business owners. What a brave and life-affirming choice you have made, both to keep your business small, and to move abroad. I am quite envious. My husband and I have talked about moving to Europe since we first got married, and somehow it hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps watching your exploits from afar will light a fire under us…

    Thank you for all the creativity you share with us, and for showing another path for a business… Brava!

    1. Well, thank you so much, Samantha! That’s very kind of you to say. And I do hope that our experience will inspire your family to do the same. Keep us posted!

  10. María

    Welcome to Madrid! It will be nice having you around! You know you have in this city a little part of your sewist community. Please, let us know if there is anything you need to settle down.

  11. Ellen

    What an awesome adventure!

  12. What an amazing experie ce for all of you! Best of luck with the move a d settling in. i can’t wait for you to show us around.

    I spent twelve months in England when I was a child. My step nan had cancer and we decided to go spend some time with her (she survived btw). That was in 1983 and I was seven. We went to an english school, lived not far from Windsor castle and saw snow for the very first time. We travelled around during the school breaks as my parents worked (Royal mail for dad and Madam Tussauds and teaching for mum). It was my first flight on a plane so that in itself was an experience. It was so very different to my life in Australia but believe it or not I have drawn from my experiences from that year throughout my growing years and I even now have vivid memories of my time there.

    Travelling and living abroad is an extremely enriching experience!

  13. Renae

    Oh good for you guys! May living in Madrid inspire you, recharge you & bind you even closer as a family. I admire yours & Todd’s decision to seek the quality life over $$/bigger business ‘quantity’. For what it’s worth – from a complete stranger who lives a long way away – well done!

  14. Renee

    What an adventure! I’ve lived in 4 countries and have definitely gained from living in each. My most recent move has involved moving with my husband and children from Australia to Malaysia, where I was born but haven’t lived in for over 12 years. We’ve set up an office from home and it has been great- very unusual for most people we meet, but it gives us the flexibility to spend more time with our kids, explore our neighbourhood and ease into work in a new place.

    I look forward to seeing how your time in Madrid influences your designs!

  15. Jen

    Oh, as a Spanish (and French) teacher, I’m so jealous but super excited to travel along with you vicariously !!! I’ve lived abroad in Europe and Mexico but not since having a family – and as a teacher I get to share my love of languages with my HS students here in Colorado but I rarely get the chance to take my family of 4 abroad — much less take the time off of my job to do this. ¡¡que emocionante para ti y tu familia!! 🙂 I’ll share a tip of language learning : avoid google translate except in emergency circumstances (it does have its uses at times) and instead rely on thorough sites like wordreference.com — there’s an app, and online there’s an active discussion thread where you can ask / read other people’s answers, especially as it comes to regional language. Buena suerte !

  16. WHA?!?!?! We are a day late with reading the O+S news . . . and WHAT NEWS there was to read!! Congratulations for taking this “leap”. ENJOY. Make LOADS of memories. And, know many of us will be living vicariously through you . . . :).

  17. I need that Lisette blanket coat right now! Literally, right now, it’s freezing where I am.
    Congratulations on the big move. I always keep my passport up to date just in case, but it takes some action to make it happen and well done to the three of you for taking the leap.
    I’m happy enough for you that I’ll forgive you not coming down under for your annual holiday this year! 🙂

  18. Sarvi

    So funny, the same thing happened to me in reverse — in Paris I kept slipping into Spanish (not that I can speak either, just that I have a bit more Spanish than French).

    Very, very happy and excited for you.

  19. Ok, let us try that Spanish ;).
    Sois muy valientes por tomar la decisión de mantener el negocio en una escala apta para sólo dos personas y un equipo externo fiable. Es lo que os permite hacer la maleta y vivir la experiencia en el extranjero, justo como estáis a punto de hacerlo.
    Ya os dije el año pasado que a mí me apetece lo mismo, y ojalá pudiera imitaros :). Yo también he vivido años en el extranjero, y os garantizo que es una de las experiencias que más te permiten conocerte y crecer como persona.
    Estoy deseando de volver a veros y teneros en casa.

  20. Ginger

    Congratulations on the move! And on keeping your business the way you want it, not the way American society tells us we should or shouldn’t.
    I love your coat pattern above. It will be on my wish list to make this winter.

  21. Emily

    Holy Moly! Where have I been? What an opportunity! Can’t wait to see what adventures you have.

    I’m jelly…

  22. Sarah Green

    Congratulations! We are an expat family, currently in Costa Rica and I think you will all have a great time and be inspired in unexpected ways by the world you find yourself immersed in. We have found the app duolingo to be the best way to do a little bit of spanish everyday. But, if you can at all, I highly recommend doing a 3-4 week focused class when you first arrive. Your French will help your spanish, eventually!

    Pure Vida!

  23. What a great decision ! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the experience very much, with this little dose of discomfort that comes with living abroad and that is not so bad. We used to live in Madrid for 2 years, that’s where my first child was born, and I really loved it. Then we left Madrid for California and loved it too. Now we are back to our old France and we live in the great area of Grenoble and the Alps. You are very welcome to contact me if you want to visit this area during your stay in Europe. I wish you the best.

  24. Silvia

    What wonderfull news…. I love your kids sewing patterns, and I live in Madrid with my husband and daughter, and I think its amazing that you have decided to move abroad one year. I think that you will really enjoy living in madrid, and visiting other cities in Spain. We know that it could be a bit dificult to live in a new city. Please, if you need anything during your stay, don’t hesitate on contacting us… we will be pleased to help you, or simply showing you some nice places in madrid.

    1. Silvia, thanks so much for your offer! It’s very kind of you. We arrived in Madrid yesterday and are just starting to settle in. Best, Todd.

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