The Over Achiever + Gone Fishin’

OK wait, The above photo shows the ‘Cuff Before’ photograph. Now onto the back story.

 You haven’t fully met this shirt yet, but you aren’t going to meet it now either. Not fully anyway, just enough so that you can get up to speed in my creative life. You see, it is crazy at Casa Melly. I am preparing for QBL, relaxing some before a full week of teaching, I am wearing this blouse right now and I don’t want to take it off, photograph it and start over. So there you have it. You get to meet this shirt in the middle instead of at the beginning.

This shirt is an over achiever. Basically Mod-oDoc, the company who made it, wanted this shirt to have all the bells and whistles it possibly could. So it has cargo like pockets, side pockets at the waist, extra wide cuffs, a collar and collar stand, a double button placket, tabs with buttons so you can roll up the sleeves and button them in place. That is a lot of stuff to be going on in one shirt. I think this is their version of cruise-wear and I am making changes on it left and right.

Oh! It also used to have flaps to close the two cargo pockets at the chest, I forgot to mention that because they were first thing to come off.

So: I halfed the cuffs. Doesn’t it look better being short and tidy? This fabric is very soft, does anyone know the name of it? It is almost like heirloom stitched needle hole embroidery.

removed the collar but left the collar stand.

And I am using a multicolor stencil to embroider a rose design up over the right breast pockets, around the back yoke, and perhaps a few sprigs draping down the left shoulder seam, I don’t know yet.

So, I will be scarce for a week. I will be teaching at QBL. I am teaching at The Clever Guild and I will not be updating this blog. I will be having fun and I will take photos so that I can share what I am up to when I return. 

I took this photo before removing the collar.

I am officially, Gone Fishin’

Clothing Construction=Love

I live in New York City where folks wear a good deal of black, it is almost a uniform, and a dull one if you ask me. I have made a conscious decision to wear printed blouses and clothing. I mean, I love cloth and color right? So I think it is high time I put my ‘money where my mouth is’.

This fabulous blouse was sent to me by a good friend and as soon as I laid eyes on it, I fell in love with it. It has a snap front, two small pockets, also with snaps, a great collar. But…it bloused out to accommodate ‘the girls’. At first I was disappointed, thinking, ‘It is too big, I won’t wear it, I love the cloth, maybe I will use it in something’. But then I remembered that I have skillz. Crazy mad skillz, (well not really, I don’t want to sew a lined silk suit-but you know, pumping yourself up for a new adventure is a good thing sometimes).

So, out came the seam ripper (that is a crazy mad seam ripper [ok, I have said that phrase enough already]), and I am in love with it, and I mean l-o-v-e love.


I opened the side seam and dart, I smashed the excess cloth from the dart up into the arm hole, I took about 4 inches of cloth out of the side seam. I removed the pockets in order to extend the pin tucks up into the collar (the termination of the pin tucks created about 3/4″ of poof on each side of the chest area), I reapplied the pockets and am wearing the blouse as I type. I have a few more blouses that need my attention. A few of them are quite colorful too! This is also really good because I don’t want to start shopping in the mens department just for the lack of shaping, I would rather have feminine prints that tickle my fancy and make me feel pretty, fun, excited.

Go ahead, brag on me, and tell me about your crazy mad skillz.

Not Only That

Alongside making clothing from patterns I am also using spontaneity, whim and ingenuity to create artful clothing. I have created two rules to work with, all artful clothing much be fully washable and it must fit my body appropriate to its design. I do not need to use ‘real’ patterns, tried and true construction techniques, no. Two rules: washable and appropriate fit.

Shiva Rea Yoga CD

And because I seem to need lots of charts, graphs, checklists and presumably structure, I am immersing myself in all things stretching.

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. 

How To Make

Last week I went to Kinokuniya books with a friend. She, of course, knew where the sewing magazines were. Me, I knew where the sewing  and textile design books were, but being ignorant of the Japanese language, I have no idea what magazines are what (and they are wrapped in plastic which is problematic). I am so glad me and my gal went to the store together! She also sorta twisted my arm and forced me to buy the cloth. Ahem.

I bought the one sewing magazine that was not covered in plastic, called Female. I fell for an outsized, light and flowing shirt that looks comfy beyond belief. The iridescent cloth to the left of the magazine is intended for this project.

The iridescent cloth is perhaps lawn, and the iridescence is, well,  glued on somehow. I assume it will wash off and I look forward to watching the process occur. I did a hand washing sample and it does seem to lift off the cloth so I am prepared. I don’t mind, I will have fun making wearing and experiencing the life of this cloth.

But first…

I need to figure out how to read the pattern. It won’t be too difficult, the illustrations are really well prepared and I can figure centimeters out.  My one main concern is, wash the fabric first (this is my quid pro quo), or after, because I could wear it in its full iridescent glory once! 

But yeah, who knows what finishes they put on the cloth, I should just wash it, right?

And to sully the waters just a bit more? I went home and looked up Cotton Friend. It seems you need to find these magazines on ebay or etsy in order to get a glimpse of the innards. Cotton Friend had quite a few pieces I would like to make and I feel a bit of a surface-design-frenzy coming on. Hmmm… blog everyday for a month? I wonder…

P.S. Thanks so much for coming back!