If you have been following along on my IG stories during lockdown you would have noticed that my coping mechanism has been sewing garments.
I have been sewing since about the age of 10. I calculated that was 37 years and that made me feel very old but made me also realise how much knowledge, skill and understanding I have gathered in all those years. I was lucky enough to be taught by my mum, who was, still is, but was an amazing seamstress. I have vivid memories of her being in the 'sewing room' on a Saturday and whipping up something fabulous to wear out that night. One of my favourite things, was to do was go shopping to the fabric store, Aherns as it was back then, buy a pattern, the fabric, all the notions and go home to cut it out and sew it up. Mum taught me proper sewing, like strict, proper sewing, so I learnt the basics and the foundations well. My school holidays were often spent at my aunty's house, who was a "Home Economics' teacher sewing up a garment. Such a gift was given to me, I will always be grateful for the time and skill shared.
I didn't sew garments for a long time. I think you need space both physically and mentally to sew garments. I have three daughters who now don't need/want me around as much as when they were little, having been forced to stay home during lockdown and the pressures of after school and weekend activities run arounds taken away I found I had space, time and inclination to re visit and hone my skills.
I started by following patterns strictly, which was a discipline I needed as I tend to go rogue and rush projects. It was immensely satisfying to start at step one, do what I was instructed to do and end up with a garment at the end.
Unfortunately that discipline didn't last and I began to deconstruct with my eyes every top, pants, dress I saw in pictures or shop fronts and my brain went into overdrive of how I could recreate it. What was that neckline? How would I combine the neck finish of that to the bodice of that and then add the top of the sleeve to that and meld with the skirt bottom I love.... I would visualise this obsessively as I drove, or sat on the couch or tried to work. And so I began to experiment with patterns, once I felt I had a good solid understanding of basic construction and pulling on the 37 years of sewing and all the lessons from the 80's. Youtube and the generous offerings of what I would now get to know as sewists were my nightly viewing. I am sounding quite obsessed writing this...
That all brought me to discovering some very talented people on Instagram. I re fell in love with the platform, from which I was slowly falling out of love with due to the nature of what it had become. When I started using social media it was all about creatives sharing their makes or finds or experiments, and it, for me had changed. Maybe it was who I was following but I was not inspired any more by what people were showing me, until I found all these amazing sewists. Women, all over the world, some professional some starting out but all of whom were proudly showing their creation on social media, to others who knew the work it takes and the joy it brings to start with a piece of fabric and end with a garment that you can wear.
One of those talented sewists is Melody from Soften Studio. I was taken back by her beautiful topstitching on a dress she made and then followed her journey. Her photos are gentle and thoughtful and her work is inspiring. I wanted to share her story with you.
How did you learn how to sew? What age were you? Who taught you? why did you start?
I’ve always loved making things from a very young age. My Nanna was an incredible homemaker and sewer who was constantly making beautiful things and spending time at her house was quite inspiring for me growing up. I knew I wanted to study something creative when I left school and with some encouragement from my Mum decided to enrol into the Fashion and Design course at Tafe. The course gave me the skills to be able to make my ideas a tactile and wearable reality. Over the past 8 years since finishing my course I have kept designing, creating and sewing.
2. Is this your full time job or do you work in another area? related or unrelated to sewing?
Soften Studio is my side hustle at the moment but would love to be able to work on it full time eventually. During the week I work part time at The Fabric Store, which is an amazing workplace. It allows me to stay in a really creative headspace and learn more about fabrics.
3. Do you like to strictly follow patterns or do you like to put your own spin on things?
Whilst I was studying I learnt to draft my own patterns. However, If I find a lovely vintage pattern I’ll get it.
4. Do you have a fashion label that inspires you?
I’m often inspired by art and what artists wear. I’m inspired by brands that have stayed true to their style and ethos for many decades and create timeless collections, regardless of trends.
5. Whats your favourite pattern you’ve made up so far? Do you sell your own patterns?
I’m currently working on releasing my first PDF pattern! Which is an a-line pinafore. I’ve made this pinafore up in wool, denim and cotton canvas. It’s such a versatile garment and has been my favourite go to this year. Hoping to release this within the next few months.
6. Favourite fabric to sew with?
I love natural fibres and blends of natural fibres. My favourite is silk linen.
7. Best tip or trick for sewing you can’t live without?
Pulling a thread to get a straight edge. I mainly use this trick on linens.
8. Music, podcasts or your own quiet thoughts while sewing?
All of the above. A sewing day typically starts with a few podcasts, lately I’ve been listening to TDF talks and The Modern House podcast. By midday I’ll be rotating between a few of my Spotify playlists and by the end the day it will just be the hum of my machine.
9. Project you want to sew but keep putting off?
A dress to wear to my sister in laws wedding at the end of the year. I have the most beautiful floral silk to use but can’t decide on the style I want to make.
10. Daytime or night time sewists or both?
Both! I just keep sewing until the job is done.
Thank you Melody for sharing your story about your sewing journey. I am looking forward to continuing mine and hopefully inspiring some of you to dust off your machine too.