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. 

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!

Almost every pattern

A few of you have said you would like to have a sew along, well? I think I have found a book (for myself). Remember you can sew anything you want along with us. If you want to tackle a Japanese Pattern, I bet it will be easier in a group, we could help each other decipher the directions. Cheryl, RooBeeDoo and Jeannie? Are you still in? It is fine to back out, no worries.

Me and my gal went into the city and bumbled around the Fashion District. I have never been to Mood, and oh, no. Yes. See? I just want at the knits and linen floor again. This pattern book has several pieces I would like to make and I see surface design possibilities everywhere. I wish I could read enough to figure out the publishers web site or find the authors blog.

And don’t forget to take my survey and enter your name to win a signed copy of my book.

I wonder what it would be like to go to the fashion district with the camcorder…

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. 

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!