Me Made May 2016


I have also signed up to participate in Me Made May this year. I thought that its no use making myself a lovely home-sewn wardrobe if I’m not gong to take pride in the things I have sewn.

In the spirit in which the event is intended I’m not going to be frantically be making something new all month. I’m going to get some of the things I have already made out of the wardrobe, and take pride in the fact I have made them. I will be posting pictures on my Instagram and my Twitter feeds. I wont be taking photos every day as I hate selfies but I will be posting things to keep myself going.

‘I, Mel Keable of MelMakesMelBakes, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavour to wear at least one home-made item or item with significant alterations made by me each day for the duration of May 2016’

Here are the offerings from day one and two!


A variation on Gertie’s “Pin Up Sweater” (to be blogged later this week) and a panelled half circle skirt.


The finished Portrait Blouse (Quest for a cotton Blouse – part 1 and 2) and a simple pencil skirt.

The Quest for a Cotton Blouse – Part 1

I am well aware that most off the shelf patterns will not fit me. In the past I have sewn primarily with jersey and stretch fabrics to allow greater ease of fitting over my curves. I fear lawn cottons and making successful Full Bust Adjustments and moving darts to get a cotton blouse to fit. However, I decided it was time to face my fears!


I chose the “Portrait Blouse” from Gerties New Book For Better Sewing to be my first project. I decided this was a good starting point as the construction is quite simple, with bust darts and waist tucks. The fit is also quite loose and flowing allowing some leeway in the fitting process.

I started with the size 14 pattern included with the book. This was the best fit for my waist measurement and high bust measurement. I followed the The Curvey Sewing Collective guide to a FBA. After some research and hunting around online I found this the clearest and easiest to understand guide.

I added a 1″ FBA in order to grade it up to an E/F cup size. This looked a reasonable size when the pattern paper was pinned to the dressmaking dummy. However when I put the calico toile on its easy to see that this hasn’t solved my problems at all!

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As you can see from this picture on the dummy, the adjustment is actually too large! I think Gertie’s pattern allows more boob room than it gives itself credit for. The first step was to redo the FBA but at 1/2″ this time.

It can also be seen from the toile that the bust darts actually sit very low on my bust, not at the widest point. Therefore I need to rotate the dart and raise the point by 1″ so the bust apex of the pattern sits on my natural bust apex. I also raised the centre/end point of the waist tucks/darts by 1″ as well in order to accommodate the new high bust apex.


Here’s the new pattern piece with adjusted bust apex, rotated dart tip, 1/2″ FBA and adjusted waist tucks. I’m hoping this will actually result in a shirt that fits. I have never before noticed that the bust apex was part of the problem. I have just always struggled with repeatedly trying different sized FBAs and still not managing to make the patterns fit.

Pledges, Pledges, Pledges

Right added sewing motivation time!


Firstly after careful consideration its time to make my Vintage Pledge 2016 my Vintage Pledge 2016

During 2016, I, Melanie Keable pledge to work towards sewing a vintage inspired wardrobe. As part of this I will sew 6 blouses from vintage or reproduction vintage patterns, and a vintage or repro vintage jacket.

I think these are the key items I am worried about making for my new wardrobe. I think making the pledge will give me some added incentive to work on this. The fist shirt pattern I will be looking to work with is simplicity 1590 retro 40s blouse featured in my last post.


I am also planning on taking part in the big vintage sew along hosted by the McCall pattern company. I have selected McCalls 7086 1960s dress. I really like the silhouette options, and the gathered details across the front waistband. I think this is a vintage style pattern I would wear on a regular basis. The temptation to go through a buy lots of the patterns selected for the vintage sew along is huge! However, I’m going to resist until after this one is made.

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Patterns Patterns Patterns – Planning a new wardrobe

IMAG0059Now that I have a nice mostly empty wardrobe its time to start planning what to sew! I have been trying to come up with a look that’s mine, something that makes me feel good. In order to do that I need to set some basic ground rules. Here’s what I have been thinking so far:

1/. Select a mix of bright jewel colours paired with darks and neutrals. Mostly black, navy, grey, burgundy with yellows, deep greens and reds. This way I will be able to unsure that items of clothing I am making will go with other things in the wardrobe. I often wear a lot of dark colours so introducing some light patterns and brighter colours into my wardrobe will be refreshing.

2/.  Select classic silhouettes with a nod to the 40s, 50s and early 60s. These classic styles with high nipped in waists, flared and wiggles skirts emphasis my curves and make me feel elegant. High waisted skinny jeans will always be more flattering than hipster fitting jeans that cut me off at my widest point. The point is not to create a costume, but instead select styles that don’t easily date and which look elegant and refined. Dressing for my body shape.

3/. Casual but classy. Pairing Jersey wrap dresses and full circle skirts with jackets and smart brogues. High waisted jeans with light cotton blouses and cardigans.

4/. Elegant work wear. Wiggle skirts with light cotton blouses. Fitted cotton dresses with tailored jackets.

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I have been looking through the patterns I have in stock and have come up with some key items that I think will help me with this. Along with Gertie’s books and some other patterns I have lurking I think I have the foundations of a good wardrobe.


Trousers and shirts:

Between the classic cigarette pants and these jeans by Gertie for Butterick I think I should have the foundations to allow several different variations of trousers once I have a basic sloper fitted. I have a few collections of 50s and 40s style shirts I picked up in various pattern sales recently. These offer a range of style adjustments and options. I think that once I have conquered my fears of Full Bust Adjustments (FBA) and dart manipulation I will love having these to wear.

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Classic styles like the shirt waist dress are still  popular today. A combination of full circle skirts and pencil skirts (like the one on the Loretta Jewel Neck pattern) will fit perfectly into what I have in mind.

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Coats and Jackets

A difficult one this – these are items of clothing I hate shopping for as I can never find fitted flattering styles that fit well. Time to remedy that with home sewing I suppose! I have a fitted jacket and coat pattern along with looser fitting 60s and 50s style short jackets. I think these will work well when teamed with trousers, skirts or over some of the dresses mentioned above.

Sewing Table Revamp

As a child I was always fascinated with my grandmothers sewing table, nestled between the armchairs in the parlour. Such an unassuming piece of furniture, with its almost secret compartments filled with brightly coloured buttons and thread. Over the last few years as I have grown to love sewing I have been filled with a desire to have my own sewing table.


I finally managed to pick one up at Chiswick carboot (a mecca for lovely, good quality, vintage items) once I had spotted it there was no question of leaving it behind. The varnish on the outside was very badly aged, flaking off when touched.


The silk on the inside is beautiful and in reasonable condition except for a couple of water marks on the lid. Unfortunately the glue used on the silk has completely degraded and the paper giving it the corrugated effect has deteriorated with it. I will try taking it out and seeing what I can do about re-using it. If not I have some nice cottons I can use.


I started off by sanding off all the old varnish. I removed the padded inner from the lid, the loose base, trim and tried to carefully remove the old silk lining. However, in some areas I had to soak the glue to get silk out to clean it.

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I then spread some newspaper outside and sprayed all of the wood with a surface primer.


Once dried I covered this with two layers of quick drying white gloss paint to match my desk.


I replaced the missing draw handle with an art deco style handle from a set of reclaimed handles from eBay, and some matching corner guards. Again this is to match a similar project I am doing on my desk.


I choose a retro printed cotton lawn from my stash to line the inside. I also added a lining to the drawer to match this time.

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I used the old silk buttons to add the details of the padding back in. I think they match the new cotton very well.

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The plan was to use this for most of my sewing supplies. Thread in the drawer and other things in the top. Thanks to a fabulous (and a bargin) find of vintage cotton and silk threads from a junk shop in Greenwich, my thread stash now fills the whole thing. Still I think it looks good with my great grand mother sewing box and my other storage containers.

Spring Cleaning My Life!

Right, time for drastic action!

I have had a few things happen recently that have left me feeling really low, self conscious and with low self esteem. We all have those days, or weeks. But I have made a few decisions on how to improve things. Small things I can do that make the big problems seem less bad.

Firstly, I am really really tired of wearing clothing I hate. I’m not talking about the odd thing that lurks in the back of your wardrobe hoping it might get an outing again one day. I’m talking about clothing I wear every single week. Clothing that makes me feel fat, ugly, and like I look ridiculous. Those unflattering, ill ditto g things that I wear simply, because I have to wear something. I’m sure you have stuff like that knocking about too.

How can I expect to feel good about myself or really have a good time, when that’s my starting point when I leave the house? Well no more! I have just had a massive clear out of my wardrobe. Every item of clothing I don’t like, or that doesn’t fit is going. Here’s the terrifyingly large pile. Why am I cluttering up my life like this?


Sorry for the bad picture quality I took it in a rush before by doing things up into several bin bags.

The first batch has already gone to the charity shop. Meanwhile those that have decent sized panels of material are being chopped up in order to recycle the fabric.


Instead of a skirt that made my hips and waist look enormous – I now have some beautiful black lace. Maybe this will be a lace top, or the side panels of some vintage high waisted pants. Who knows! What an exciting feeling.


There are a few items knocking about that I really like and with a few minor tweaks could become wearable. I might right a post about simple alterations soon.

I am determined not to fall back into this habit. So next up is the simple matter of sewing myself a new wardrobe of clothing. No more I’ll fitting generic clothing from the shops for me. From now on its fabric I love and styles I love.IMAG1927

Here’s my fabric stash to get me inspired! Thankfully it’s as big as the clothing pile I’m getting rid of…

Large Scale Sewing Projects

Well so much for using the blog to keep me motivated! The last couple of weeks have been very hectic with work for my PhD unfortunately. Although I have managed to complete a couple of large scale sewing projects.

I have, however, had an excellent opportunity to collaborate with a good friend of mine on her exciting new project. I have recently sewn some envelope cushions for Miss Joy Books over at The Joy Book Club for her latest book subscription box.

Envelope cushions are a very nice quick sewing project which can really change the feel of a room, and instantly brighten a space. I have a standard pattern I use for sewing standard 18″ (45 cm) cushions.

Begin by cutting a rectangle 40″ by 18″. Mark 11″, 18″ and 11″ down the long length – these will be your fold lines.
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Hem the two short ends on the rectangle, I usually just turn up a 1 cm hem. Fold these ends into the middle down the fold lines. Make sure the hemmed edges are facing up (so the right sides of the cushion are together). Pin the fabric in place and sew the two side seams together, again using a 1 cm seam. Turn the cushion inside out and press.

Voila! Instant cushion.

(I am aware I am using a jumble of inches and cm in this explanation. I blame my mum for teaching me to sew cushion covers and only working in inches)

Here is the cushion cover with the finished design from the Joy book club box. A lovely themed gift to go with the book of the month.



Generally the Book boxes contain and surprise book (something you might not have heard of, a good read but a bit different) and a series of gifts. The first few boxes have had scented candles, perfume, delicious Italian macrons, nut triangles, book themed playlists, and interesting facts amongst the contents. A couple more pictures from the lovely début box in January below. If you love a good book and nice treats in the post each month I highly recommend checking out The Joy Book Club and sharing the #BookJoy


I have also managed to do a fair amount of sewing as part of my PhD (much to my supervisors surprise). I have been getting to grips with sewing heavy duty waterproof gortex into tents. Its slippery and requires careful tension adjustments, not to mention being very heavy to hold while sewing. Thankfully I don’t have to sleep under my own home made tents. Instead they are protective covers for statues instead.


I learned the hard way that ordering 25m of fabric comes with many problems in terms of cutting out pattern pieces… I had to remove most of the furniture in my living room in order to lay out this out in stages to cut out the pieces!


Getting Motivated

Greetings to whomever may have stumbled upon this!

Back in November I took a long hard look at my life, and I realised that for various reasons I had stopped doing a lot of the things I enjoyed. Life had gotten in the way (as it often does). I had stopped cooking, experimenting with new recipes, baking and making bread, sewing, crochet, knitting, making jewellery and just generally spending time being crafty and creative.

These are all things that I used to think of as defining part of me, that I loved and took pride in. I want to start doing all these things again. So here are the five steps to getting myself motivated to do these things again.

1. A Veggie Box

I have signed up to a fortnightly veggie box from Riverford. As far as I am concerned what can be more inspiring than a delicious box of good quality fresh vegetables arriving in your door step? It makes me plan my meals around good fresh veg, and experiment with new things. Like the fabulous Oca/New Zealand Yam below (I had never heard of it before either).


Riverford just happened to be the company that worked best for me. I wish I lived more rurally and could support a local farm.

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2. Learning Dressmaking

I have always loved crafting and sewing and have yearned to learn to sew my own clothing. I have had the occasional dabble with altering unflattering garments and copying the odd stretch jersey dress. However I have never really learned the skills behind dress making, or how to work from a pattern.

To give me a kick start I bought a copy of ‘Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing’ intending to work through some of the patterns and pattern adjustments inside. By some strange coincidence without knowing this, my flatmate gave me a copy of ‘Gertie Sews Vintage Casual’ for my birthday. So know I have many gorgeous, glamorous vintage inspired patterns to work my way through.


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3. Making Time

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all! We all know what its like having a busy life and working and running around, finding time for hobbies is all too easily lost. I am making an effort to set aside an hour a day to try and pursue baking and crafting. This can take any form from working on a new sewing project or cooking a good dinner, to reading about a new sewing technique before bed, or even simple looking at pintrest for inspiration.

As long as I am taking a little bit of time for myself and working on things it counts.

4. A Playlist

I have made myself a playlist to help get me in the mood when working and cooking. It sounds like a very silly and simple thing to do, but at the end of a long day listening to some songs which pick me up helps me feel that bit more motivated.

5. Starting a Blog!

Yup this post is the first step in achieving number five. The last few months the four things above have really helped and I have been enjoying cooking and crafting again. However, I was looking for something to help keep me going. I thought that if I start posting about the things I am working on; the lessons in sewing I am learning and the recipes I am testing and developing it will give me an added incentive to keep going.

So this blog will aim to record my crafty adventures. I am hoping to post something every week or two to help me keep momentum. I can promise a nice mix of adventures, disasters and lessons along the way.