Noodles, eat, shop, play.

Yesterday I went to the Fashion District to poke around in trim shops. This was the first time I brought my video camera and I was shy to whip it out. M and J Trimming was all for it, I asked if they were OK with my filming, yes. No questions. In fact it was almost as if they were saying, ‘No need! It is all on the web anyway!’ 

I love M and J, they have so much stuff packed into that store, it is arranged and managed beautifully. It is where I go to find stuff, then I try to source it elsewhere to get a better price. Yesterday I went for the clip closures I am using on the Sew-plies purse. They also have these snaps that I have my eye on. But I think I can find them at Pacific Trimming at a better price. Pacific trimming had these safety pins that I find adorable and have been using in the Sew-plies purse, so those came home with me too.

Both stores had stuff that I would like to mull over. I like to mull over and process how I might use a thing before I purchase.

I would like to do this again, let me know if you think it is fun.

When I was flying to Arlington Texas last week, I traced off an image on an airplane and embroidered it to the center back of the Female Magazine blouse. The blouse is piling up the embroidered stitches. The fabric is changing to the touch. Very nice. I will post overall photos soon.

Last week I went and played with Victoria Findlay Wolfe (whom I love and sorta have a crush on, she is creative, gentle, awesome, smart and she is coming out with a book!!). She keeps a site called 15 Minutes Play (also the name of her upcoming book). She sat me in front of a machine and got me sewing without specific purpose in a playful way. Oh my goodness! This was so good for my soul. I have been moving away from intense dye use in my work and using cloth in this way-piecing and playing, really helps to loosen a girl up.

So this weekend I put the idea to the test. I gave myself 15 minutes to play (it turned into hours and hours). But. Here were the ideas I applied to the 15 Minutes of Play:

Use new materials, in this case wool batting

Use stitch in an unexpected way

Combine one piece of hand made cloth with mostly commercial prints

This sew-plies purse is so yellow, it glows! As I have said before, I want to make one for everyday of the week. I may need one for each day of the month. I think this is going to become something for me. I want a piece of clothing to embellish, embroider, print and surface design to go with each purse! I am going to take the Gather your Sew-plies purse off the web and update and fix it, so if you want version 1, download it now.

Soft Light

I am back from teaching at The Great American Scrapbook Convention and oh my goodness gracious. Those scrapbookers? They know how to play right into my obsession for neat, orderly and functioning workspaces. Scrapbookers seem to really like efficiency. And they have some toys, inks and supplies. They use punches, gadgets, embossers, and the inks!  I felt overwhelmed. I am going to have to see how all I saw and experienced in the vendors center integrates. I wonder how I would use their tools! I am not one to step in feet first. I like to research and walk around back and kick the tire. I need to understand before I can proceed, so I will be looking into one of the things I saw.

with a lightbox.

I am preparing a post for CreateMixedMedia. I have to say, I really like what they are doing at that site. I think it offers real content and is colorful and open minded in exploring its themes. I am an author of theirs, just for your reference. But they have not asked me, nor are they paying me to say so. I am just putting my two cents in.

AnYway. I am preparing a post for them and it involves a Rumi quote and a certain collar

in situ.

In the meantime, I show you one of the latest purses.  Leslie Tucker Jennison named it The Bellybutton.  Will discuss soon. I have been bitten by the fever to create many of these purses. I want them as accessories. Maybe I need one for my iPod. Hm.

Sew-plies updates

Which she likes better, though is too small.

The cinch sack pictured was  the trial cinch sack, I think it pretty but ultimately, too small and a bit clunky.  The cotton lining is stiff and the lil thing does’t close well. Resultant to which, I lined a new larger cinch sack circle with an old silk habotai and found this to be just the right amount of drape. Thimble Cinch Pattern here.  

Stash of buttons.

I do like the lil premature Cinch though. I keep playing with it and trying to improve or use it somehow.  

Then I get to wanting to give it to Matthew to see what he would do with it. Matthew makes assemblages, is a friend of ours, we hang at dinner parties intermittently but I/we don’t know his last name and can’t check to see if he has a web site. But Matthew would paint it green and leave it to sit on something for years. He would do something unexpected. 

The parts are coming together.

I sewed a loop onto the back of the Gather your Sew-plies purse, and am embellishing a 38″  belt to thread through it and use while sewing on the go. Last night we traveled home over the 6 subway for a while. I sewed the purse while standing on the platform and on the train. It was the Saturday young kids come from the burbs to party for a night. Ill chosen stilettos in a city where you must walk. It is an interesting way to experience the city.

Pinch Clip belt.

Would it be overbuilt to encase and sew  some magnets strategically to help hold the pin book securely against the purse? Hm.

I love the addition of the belt. I love to walk and having the purse bang against me could have been a deal breaker. So, form is meeting function again.

I am sewing baby buttons onto the belt with white seed beads. There is something magical about buttons. Some of the buttons I am using are humble shell buttons that seem quite old. Pictures to come.

I am creatively floating on the waves over here. I am introducing exercise into my daily routine, walking, and being active. I experience much change and I know that my energy levels are not what they used to be. They are getting better and there is no rushing it, but this is different. 

Progress is perfection

You know that saying, ‘progress not perfection?’ Let’s change that. I use that saying a lot and don’t really like it.

I am working on ‘journaling’ my clothing. If you aren’t caught up with this idea you can read about it here and here. To start I have been completing my Sew-plies Purse. I will discuss in detail and I am creating a pattern to upload for a post later this week. Suffice it to say, these are the changes I have made to my purse thus far:

1. I am testing out a snap closure, though I am not sold on it and want to try a magnet as well.

2. I made a sciccor pocket

3. I made a Thimble Cinch Sac. 

The Thimble Cinch Sac is attached to the Sew-plies bag by use of the tassel. The little black tassel reminds me of a scribble and I like this as a concept. I may bead it up a bit more, that was my intention but right now, I like the scribble.

Part of what intrigues me about this project is the idea of mutability or the ‘changing nature’ of objects, purses, blouses, fashion. I like the idea that a blouse is not complete when sewn or chosen from the rack. What happens if we improve upon our clotting, make it fit with comfort and style in mind, embellish it and make it prettier?

I made the changes to the purse because someone has a musical ‘playmate’ with a friend and quiet as a (don’t let Arrow hear me say this) church mouse, I am going along. And what church mouse doesn’t need something to do?

Want to know another thing I am really digging right now? Machine sewing and hand sewing side by side.

A little help from my friends.

So, I am on a sewing bender. I have always wanted to find a few patterns and perfect them to fit my body and just keep making them. I like this blouse garnered from the pages of Female Magazine, but it has its faults. See those red dots? That is where the shoulder seams fall. It makes wearing the shirt sort of off-putting. This is a big boxy blouse. Or should I call it a huge boxy blouse? Does anyone know? Is there a way to fix this, or is it just that the pattern is so large that the seams need to go somewhere.

It's not quite right

I removed the collar, redistributed the excess cloth, made sure the shoulders were attached to the right snip marks and reapplied the collar. The above blouse fits much better than perviously and the seams hardly make themselves known compared to before. But. Help?

I would even consider a creative idea like gathering up some tucks where the shoulder turns. Creative suggestions anyone?


I keep talking about a sew along but not acting on it. Here is the reason. I am working like mad to get The Clever Guild, my teaching web site, up. I am creating content, uploading how-to’s, and working like mad, behind the scenes. The site is almost together, and the workshops are almost entirely uploaded. Soon, I will have a few moments to breath and have some fun. 

In the meantime, my new book is being shipped this week! I will post a paypal button (tomorrow) and sign a few copies if any of you would like to buy direct!

And my friend Victoria Findlay-Wolfe interviewed me about color and posted it to her blog today. Please check it out and tell her I said hello.

 P.P.S. I have been blogging in the last two weeks but forgot to categorize the posts properly, so you have not been able to read them. I was wondering why no one was commenting! 

Sew Along, Podcast and fun.


Female Magazine Blouse


I have been having so much fun sewing. A few of you have said you would join me in a Sew Along. I have been looking for non-Japanese and FREE patterns. 

Dixie DIY is a GREAT web site and she has several patterns to download. Here is the link to the free Nano Iro (Japanese) patterns I mentioned before. Check out this cool, pretty tank style blouse called Sorbetto. And if you feel you need your tank top to have sleeves (huh?), here is the additional sleeve pattern for that blouse. Look at what other people have done in making this blouse. And if you want to go all out and buy a pattern, buy it. I want to choose something simple and I want to surface design some aspect of it because that is my thing. Choose what works for you and lets have some fun.

Ricë and I recorded a podcast on clothing and garments. I think it is a lot of FUN!

Comment and let me know if you are up for a sew along!

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

Tell me.

How did you start sewing?

I think I was maybe 20 years old when I decided to set up my mom’s sewing machine and started making bags. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the pattern I bought. Soon after this, I found a sewing teacher. She was a retired Home Economics professor. I took weekly lessons from her, she taught me to iron, cut, sew, she gave me a serger (a friend of hers needed to find a home for it, and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time).

I was a sewing machine operator at a furniture manufacturer for a few years, that was dull but taught me some good sewing work habits, how to keep the cloth moving straight through the machine, how to hold my scissors for quick clips, how to cut squares to make pillows with welted corners. 

Then I found a job as a sample cutter for a women’s fashion house. I loved that job! It was a fast paced job and I drank up techniques, approaches and ideas. I worked with some fabulous pattern makers, sample sewers and people. I watched as my boss came back from fittings, kept an eye on her as she would add volumes, shift darts, lengthen, shorten and fix garments. It was a very interesting job.

During this time I began quilting, put the sewing away, even told myself sewing clothing was too fussy and difficult. Normally, I sew clothing in the summer time. Skirts, dresses, reconstructions. I don’t know that I have the skills to sew a silk blazer, but I do know how to set a sleeve. So here I am, living in NYC, near some of the best fabric stores in the worlds and the clothing sewing bug has bit me hard.

If you would like to do a sew along with me, I have been looking for free and interesting patterns for you. Can you handle that? Japanese sewing patterns for women, men and children! 

I will reveal the entire blouse soon.

So, tell me about you. How did you get into sewing? Did you always quilt?

And take my survey and sign up for my book giveaway!

Stitched for Texture

hand stitch

For whatever reason, I have decided to change the BigBoxy Japanese pattern up. Mods! I am making mods (modifications). Rather than a 1/4″ clean finish hem, I have doubled the sleeve, using the fold as a finish technique and I am stitching the sleeve to give it texture. I hope this gives the sleeves some definition or difference. The blouse if so large that the sleeves go from the elbow to 3/4 length. I may stitch on the collar too, but I may not. That looks like it needs to remain soft, but I am leaving my options open.

hand stitch

I went ahead and washed the cloth. I would say about half the iridescence came off. I am glad, the cloth used to be a dragonfly, now it is soft and sumptuous. I still have a fair amount of stitching to do. The sleeves are maybe 8×12″ and I have completed a quarter of the stitching. And I will have to take a photo, but I think I like the wrong side of the stitching!

Facebook, Friends and the World Made Smaller

So, I posted to facebook my pure joy at finding a Japanese Pattern Book and wanting to sew from it. Cricket piped up that Masako might be able to help me interpret the pattern book! Um, excitement. Masako speaks and I presume writes in Japanese. I have lots of questions and we have made a date! And just so you have it, and if you want to purchase it and sew…along…with me, here is the link to the pattern. You will also need the magazine, which gives full illustrations of how to approach sewing the garment together. You can just purchase the magazine, though. It has a full sized pattern tucked into the back (mashed up with all the other patterns in the magazine). You will just need to trace it off, add seam allowances and then start cutting.

To say that I have obsessive compulsive tendencies does not quite cover the scope of my ability to focus. It is more like I have an inner hound, a scent, a trail and I am doing my primordial job. Last night I began tracing the pattern off. I need to discern what seam allowances should go where, for instance, I think this blouse has a 1/4″ clean finished hem, but the illustration says 1.7 cm in one place (with a drawing of a turned hem) and a reference to 2.5 centimeters in another. So. Hmmm…

What I love about the illustrations are that if you know anything about clothing construction and pattern making you can figure out how to draft your own version of the pattern, the illustrations give that much detail. I sure wish the U.S. would make the switch to centimeters.

Today I will wash the cloth and finish tracing the pieces and adding seam allowances. I like having the ability to decide what my seam allowances should be. I think that American patterns generally cater to an odd mindset. I don’t understand using a 5/8th” seam just to fussily cut it down to a 1/4″. Shouldn’t you just learn to sew a 1/4″ seam? Beside which, when I was a sample cutter and learning to sew, the professionals used a 1/4″ seam in almost every instance, except for special instances, like sleeves, where a 1/2″ was used.

And because stretching is my part time job, and we mentioned OCD tendencies, I show you my stretch log and my helpful stretching sticks.

So, what do you say? Would you like to do a sew along with me? You don’t need to make this blouse, you can make any blouse you would like. Or  dress, or…??

If you would like to do this, I will create a Flickr group so we can share our photos in a single place. Leave a comment if you are interested.

Sleuth Work!

Melanie Testa's Sleuth Work


I think I have figured out that I can purchase the pattern online and print them out on paper. I have an acquaintance who speaks and reads Japanese. Now, I don’t want to a pesky, but. I am on a mission with this shirt. It contains surface design possibilities.

Here is a helpful pdf by Batty Chan and this list of translated sewing terms off Karen Boyette‘s site.

Last night I found myself working out the pattern pieces, measuring, checking, cross referencing and I realized something. I have been struggling with the limitations of my circumstance. Having had to take chemotherapy, I found that I was struggling to put sentences together, couldn’t stay focused in reading a single book and was feeling out of control. This type of loss of ability is frightening. But I know that if you try to open new pathways in the brain that activity and compensation will often occur. I think it is funny that I have gravitated to a meticulous, beautifully rendered, form of communication to help me through this portion of my recovery.