Where we began.

Earlier this week, I asked you to tell me how you began sewing. The comments are fabulous

I honestly think I was destined to work with my hands, I have always had an aptitude for it. I can close my eyes and visualize how something should go together. At a very young age, I remember my mom cutting a skirt pattern out, and I caught the fact that the plaid would not match up at the side seam. Also around that time, my mom had a friend who was into sewing and helped me make a vest. I sewed beads and trims by hand to the front border. It was meticulous work that I take pride in having done to this day.

I am so glad I had Home Ec in high school, kids these days don’t even know about it! I am showing my age!

I also think it is funny that so many of us who sew will hold onto a restriction, like fear of zippers and buttons.

Bernina 550, Mixed Media Painting by Melanie Testa Female magazine

When I was given the serger I spoke of, I took lessons in how to use it. It is a scary machine, having 4 threads two of which stay on the top, two that meander through the inner workings of the machine. If one gets broken, it can be a tricky, fiddle-worthy event. The teacher looked at me and reminded me that I was working with a machine and that I was in control. That bit of advice has gone a really long way for me.

It helps that this Bernina 550 replicates buttonholes with advanced and simple controls! Ha.

Check this and this out. I think I may have to look into Alabama Chanin’s books! Do any of you own one of her books? Can you recommend one? This one? Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: A Guide to Hand-Sewing an Alabama Chanin Wardrobe

7 thoughts on “Where we began.

  1. Yay! I just refound your blog. I’ve been checking your old one and then I saw you linked from Diana Trout’s blog and HURRAH! here you are! Glad to see the sewing. I myself do not sew clothing. Since my favorite clothes have always been jeans and t-shirts, there hasn’t been a need or a felt inspiration. However, I did learn to quilt with my mother, which I loved doing until I had little people. The first time one took a pair of scissors to a top I put all my quilting things away and took up knitting. But not that my little people have become semi-little people, I am bringing the sewing out again. Slowly, slowly and in different arenas. I’ve made doll clothes and costumes and little purses. Since I lost my mom it has been hard to quilt, she was such a part of the whole process for me, and helped me when I got stuck. I liked that about needlework. It often seems to be a communal activity with lots of cross advice. Glad I found you again and looking forward to the forward progress. How’s your shoulder?


    1. Liz, I am so glad you found me again! Funny that you speak of your little people. This post was going to tell the story of how I used to fake knit when I was a child! I would poke a hole in a kitchen towel, shove two knitting needles in the hole and move them around as if I was knitting! I love to knit, now, but I don’t because I feel it spreads my energy too thin. My shoulder is getting better. It really is a slow process, but I don’t have pain anymore, just restriction. Thanks for asking.


  2. I am interested to read what response you receive about Alabama Chanin’s books. I like what I see being made by Rice and Annika. I learned a long time ago that fear of sewing something just limits me and if I go slowly, make practice parts, and have lots of coffee, I’ll do okay. 😉 I would love to be able to create clothing like Rice.
    Glad to hear the shoulder is no longer causing pain. Hugs to Arrow and your Man!


  3. Hi Melanie! I purchased the new book by Natalie Chanin and I’m looking forward to reading it soon. After I received it in the mail, I had this brilliant idea that I would just follow along in the book and make the same projects. However, since I’m not really a follower, I think that I will use her methods and attempt my own projects. I think it’s going to be FABULOUS!!


  4. Love your new blog design.

    If it weren’t for home ec in high school I would never have learned to sew. My mom made beautiful clothes but seldom followed a pattern or any method of sewing I could have learned at that time. I think it’s sad that most schools have dropped the practical arts like sewing, woodworking and cooking from their curricula.


  5. Melly, I’m in recent possession of “Alabama Studio Style” which is just gorgeous and I hope to use it extensively, but I would not recommend it to new sewers in your sew-along, except as inspiration. I find the instructions to be excellent but complex, unless you are familiar with surface design (large scale stenciling), hand embroidery, pattern fitting, etc. The garments are very simple, but the path to simple looks can still be long and complex. The kind of challenge I really like. I was the kid in high school using Vogue patterns exclusively, lining wool coat and dress ensembles, sewing in school assemblies and on the train into Philly. The patterns are all meant to be made in cotton jersey and must be handled carefully to get results that don’t look “home made” in a bad way.


  6. Hello Melly, I recently bought Alabama Studio Sewing and Design (I was beguiled by the photo of the hats on the front cover!) and also borrowed Alabama Stitch Book from the library. Both the books are fairly similar though the Stitch book does include some templates for stencils and lots of stitch instruction. They are lovely books, and I love what Natalie Chanin does with cotton jersey (though now t-shirts have been added to an already considerable stash of useful- keep-for-later ‘stuff’ ) but her method of construction worries me a little – I can’t help wondering how garments seamed with running stitch, beginning and ending with a knot, are going to hold up when washed, or even worn. And personally I really couldn’t bear a wardrobe full of clothes that needed hand washing and then careful reconstruction of pleats etc (on some of the trims) each time. That said, I reckon that both these books are wonderful for source and inspiration, and are lovely to sigh over and leaf through.


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