Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
My name is Mel and I’m 33. At the moment, I’m on maternity leave with my son, but before this, I was working as a pharmacist. When I’m not working or being a mum, you can find me at my sewing machine or enjoying some sort of textile craft. All my makes are documented on my instagram, @melt.stitches.
Why do you sew?
For me, sewing is an experience that brings me so much joy and keeps my mind calm. I love doing something with my hands. I used to crochet scarves and blankets, and I’ve dabbled in macrame and loom weaving but I’ve never been so absorbed into something as I am with sewing. I also hated shopping for clothes. I found that I gravitated towards clothes that were trendy at the time, but wouldn’t like them once I got home and had to wear them out. I didn’t feel like myself in them.
I get such a kick from making my own clothes. I love the entire process – from washing the fabric, to ironing, cutting and pinning seams. Even the parts most people find tedious, like taping up a PDF pattern, I enjoy in some way.
There is an immense satisfaction once you have finished and are holding up your garment. I still send selfies to my mum and sister after I’ve made something!
What do you like to listen to when you’re working (and why)?
This depends on what mood I’m in and what I’m sewing.
If it’s something complex, I prefer sewing in complete silence. It’s so easy to make a mistake when you’re making something complex like a button up shirt or trousers. I don’t need that distraction; I prefer to be fully focused on what I’m doing.
But if I’m making something simple like a smock dress, or just unpicking a seam, I don’t mind having some music on like Triple J radio or the “Love To Sew” podcast. It then becomes a very soothing and mindful experience.
As a child, what was your first encounter and memory of beauty?
This is going to sound very strange. When I was about 2 years old, my mum took my sister and I to her home country, Malaysia to visit our relatives. I have this vivid memory of peeking out the window in my grandmother’s house and seeing a building that resembled a giant garlic bulb. I highly doubt there was a giant garlic bulb on the other side of the road, but that bulbous silhouette is stamped in my mind as a really beautiful shape.
Where is home and how does it affect what you do?
Home is Brisbane, Australia and it’s very hot down here. Our summers are scorching and our winters are just a bit cooler so I focus on making clothes that will keep me cool.
I do sometimes wish I lived in a colder climate as I love love love making trousers and button up shirts but hardly get to take them out of the closet.
Name a book that you’ve recently read which inspired you and why?
I’ve never been much of a reader, but lately I’ve been borrowing books from my local library. My last read was “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig and I was hooked from the first page. I was using reading as a way to wind down before bed but I could not put this book down and would stay up past my bedtime. I won’t spoil it but the story follows Nora who is unhappy with her life and ends up with the opportunity to explore alternate ones. I think this book will mean something different to each reader, but I resonated with her ‘book of regrets’ that she has to face. It confronted me with thoughts about my indecisiveness and what if’s in my own life. After finishing, I thought to myself, I want to live a life without regrets and make decisions purposefully.
What was the first thing you ever remember making on your own? Tell us about this memory.
When I was in primary school, I remember building little photo frames out of ice-cream sticks and painting them for mother’s day. Mine was in the shape of a hexagon and it was so fun building up the layers. I was so proud of my little navy frame and I still see it sitting on the shelf at my mum’s.
Who are your muses and inspiration?
It inspires me when I see what other people are sewing on instagram. I love waking up and scrolling and seeing fellow sewist’s visions brought to life. Some of my favourite sewists to follow at the moment include: @the.social.fabric, @hemelbreker, @_diydaisy, @the.sewcialite, @coolstitches, @sarah.eloise.sews, @meghandmade, @irenexnicol, @spaghetti_western_sewing, @soften_studio, @annaallenclothing …the list goes on!
It’s easily the best way to discover new patterns and fabrics that I wouldn’t have found on my own. Also, I’m so grateful for the hashtag function. It’s helped me visualise fabric & pattern combos, helped me on mods to make and helped confirm which patterns I want to buy.
Do you have a community of crafters/ makers around you or do you find you are on your own?
Growing up, I didn’t have any family or friends who could teach me crafts. I was on my own when I started exploring textile crafts. After high school, I taught myself to knit and crochet using how-to pamphlets from my local craft store. I found it discouraging when friends and family would call me a ‘granny’ for learning.
My sewing journey was another solo one, learning through how-to videos on youtube, realising there were quite a few sewists on there. Soon after, I realised there were people who sewed on Instagram! The first sewist I followed was @the.petite.dressmaker. She was serving me at a local fabric store and we got talking. From there I realised there was a whole community online and then a few months in I plucked up the courage to start @melt.stitches as a way to make connections and ask for advice.
How important is it to make something with your hands?
There is this grand sense of accomplishment from creating something with your bare hands. I love being able to make things; to spend time doing something just for me, and end up with an awesome new item to wear. I also find that if I keep my hands busy, it keeps my mind clear. I struggled with anxiety during my 20’s, which coincidentally is when I discovered crafts like crochet and knitting. I found happiness through learning those but would dabble in them on and off. Once I began sewing, I would obsessively sew in all my free time. I found a shift in myself and noticed I became a less anxious and more confident person.
You have recently become a mother, congratulations! How do you find the balance between motherhood and creativity?
Thank you! Haha. It’s been a challenge lately. When they are a newborn, they sleep all day but now at 8 months, I need to have eyes here and there. It’s funny; when I gave birth, I imagined I wouldn’t be able to sew and would have a long break from it. But I feel like I have been sewing even more now? The thing I miss the most is the freedom and spontaneity from pre-baby life. I used to love being able to pick a project in the morning and smashing it out that same day. I now have to plan my sewing in advance, waiting for after his bedtime to start my next project.
What does success mean to you?
Success to me is living your life to its fullest potential and going to bed each night without regrets from your day. I like to think presently, rather than in the future and always say to my husband, “I live my day to its max”, and base my actions knowing that there may not be a next time.
What have you chosen to make out of FS linen and why?
I’ve made the Sierra Jumpsuit by Papercut patterns in FS SILVER LILAC Lightweight “Iris” linen. This colour is so soft and dreamy. Lilac is truly my favourite colour and I don’t think I can ever have enough purple shaded clothes. I am very excited about this make! I’ve sewn up 2 of these before, but in the shorter romper style and in viscose. I was dying to see how it’d look in the full length on me, and in a different fabric, linen. This time around there’s more structure in the leg shape and I like how the ties look, more detailed.