Our Liberty Fabrics Makers: COCO&MANU
Celebrating our global network of print-loving creativesRead more
The #LibertyCraftClub is a one-of-a-kind community – a worldwide collective of print lovers who employ imagination, humour and talent in all their creations. Here at Liberty HQ, we always love to see what you’ve been making. In this instalment of the Liberty Fabrics Makers series, we chat to Jenna Seo from COCO&MANU, a Boston-based brand creating intricately quilted childrenswear pieces with plenty of heart.
Can you tell us a little about you?
I’m Jenna Seo, a mom who spends most of the day chasing around two kids. Currently, we are based in Boston, Massachusetts. I originally came to Boston from Korea to study music and spent most of my life pursuing a career in music. Before I had my first kid, having a career other than in music never crossed my mind – but then I started designing and making stuff for my daughter as a hobby and people started showing more and more interest in my clothing. I officially launched a small online shop back in 2016 – that’s when my journey as a mom by day and a designer/maker by night started.
What inspired you to start COCO&MANU?
A friend of mine started a foster care around the time my first child was born – it was my first time interacting with a foster family, and I heard that many foster kids move to another home in pyjamas in the middle of the night, or a plastic bag of clothes and their favourite stuffed animal are all they can take with them. Many foster parents are used to running to a Walmart or Target to grab some clothes and diapers. These stories made me think about how I can help them in a practical way.
Around that time, I was mainly making fabric garlands, doll dresses, and baby quilts as a hobby and slowly began sewing dresses for my daughter. I remember wanting to send whatever I was working on to foster families. My first time making a pair of pants was for the first foster son my friend took care of. That’s when I expanded my search for different patterns and fabrics – this was the beginning of COCO&MANU.
Is anyone else part of the team, or do you work solo?
Currently COCO&MANU is a one-woman brand – I do the designing, sewing, packing, and all the emails etc. My husband helps me from time to time with other business sides such as finance. It is a small operation, everything is made in my tiny studio at our house in small batches. I would love to form a small team in Boston with people who can share the same vision in the future.
Each garment comes with its own story – I hope every child who wears COCO&MANU, whether it’s a hand me down, used, or a new piece, would always feel good even if they might be going through a hard time.
When did your love for quilting begin?
I came across a hand-sewn 1920s vintage Grandmother’s Garden quilt, and was mesmerised by its craftsmanship, sensibility, choices of pattern and layouts – all that into tiny 1.5” hexagons. That was the beginning of my journey in quilt world, and I began studying the history and collecting vintage quilts. When I started on a small baby quilt for my daughter for the first time, that was when I was introduced to Liberty fabrics via a local fabric shop – Liberty prints have always been in my designing process ever since.
COCO&MANU’s first patchwork quilted jacket was inspired by this vintage quilt, and has a flower pattern: six Liberty or solid 2” hexagon petals with one mustard colour in the centre, all sewed together individually. The flower units are made into yards of quilt top, cut into patterns as outer fabric with two welt pockets and a neck collar. Then I baste each hexagon to the cotton battings before inserting the lining fabric. Not batting all three layers together is important for flexibility, for little ones to move freely.
This may sound like a lot of work, and yes – usually around 390 hexagons are needed to make one jacket before getting cut into patterned pieces. So some may argue that it’s too much for a children’s jacket, and I honestly remember I was kind of regretting when I finished the first sample because of its complicated process. But its beauty and the deep history of quilting made me keep going. Also my heart is more attached to this jacket because of the time and effort that went into it.
There aren’t many floral patterns out there that work for such a wide range of people (men and women, kids and adults) like Liberty does – the more you look at each Liberty pattern, the more you can appreciate its details, luxurious beauty that never gets old, and its quality of course.
What is next for COCO&MANU – do you have upcoming projects we should look out for?
Many children had to find more ways to play around away from school due to the pandemic. I’m currently working on Liberty patchwork bags that kids can use to carry their small belongings such as crayons, craft kits, sewing and knitting tools and toys, to wherever they are going like playground, beach, or grandparents’ place etc. And as usual, I am planning on a quality heirloom piece, when time is right as I’ve been operating in my own pace.
Finally – do you have a favourite Liberty print?
This is a very hard question for a Liberty hoarder like myself. Capel, especially in light teal colours, and Ciara both come to mind. Also I love symmetrical patterns like Strawberry Thief. If I had to choose my absolute favourite, it would be Land of Dreams – because it was the first-ever Liberty print I purchased, which was a milestone as both a seamstress and as a mother!
Liberty Fabrics lovers – we always want to see your creations. Upload and tag us with #LibertyCraftClub so we can see what you’ve been making, and maybe we’ll feature your work in our next series instalment.