Thursday, June 18, 2015

Alabama Chanin obsession continues

Natalie Chanin has just released her fourth book of inspiring and beautiful sewing projects in her 'Alabama Chanin' style. (On order and due soon at The Drapery.) Not only does it contain all her previous patterns, plus some new ones, it offers advice on how to adjust them for your own unique shape, to ensure a custom fit. The patterns are on CD rather than printed like her previous books, but it's quite an incredible resource at a very accessible price. We can't wait to get our hands on it!

In the meantime, I'm continuing my quest to Alabama Chanin all the things. Which was never going to be a fast process, but that's part of the appeal. If you like hand-work like embroidery, hand-quilting, knitting or crochet, you'll probably fall in love with the process of hand-sewing garments with soft cotton knit.

Before I went the full reverse appliqué, which is a big commitment, I tried a couple more plain garments. Last summer I made (and wore, and wore, and wore some more) this double-layer singlet top, in our organic cotton 'Chocolate' and some red from my stash.

Then a few weeks ago I made up this single-layer long-sleeved top in our NZ 'North Sea/Kalamata' cotton jersey, which is a dream to sew and wear:

As soon as this one was finished I wanted to do more! So it was time to 'go the full Alabama'.

I used our organic cotton mid-weight navy and lightweight grey marle. (FYI - I would recommend using jerseys the same weight although this worked out fine.) I downloaded the 'New Leaves' stencil from the website Rather than print the whole thing and make a large stencil, I noticed that there were four main shapes in the pattern and printed enough pages to have each of these.
 Then I cut four individual stencils and used them in a 'considered random' arrangement over my fabric.
The paint was a mixture of acrylic and fabric fixative, watered down a bit, and applied with a foam roller. The stencils were cut with a craft knife and lightly sprayed on the back with spray adhesive to help them stick to the fabric. I tested on scrap fabric first. Most stencilling supplies were from local shop Art to Art. Cutting out the stencils was probably the hardest part of the whole project so I can well understand why people would pay US$80+ for the pre-made stencils!

After air-drying, the paint was heat-set by ironing, using scrap calico between the iron and the paint to be careful, although no paint transferred to the calico.
I should have stencilled the top layer before basting the two layers together, but I was lucky that no paint bled through... phew.

Then it was onto the soothing, meditative process of hand-stitching around the stencils...

... before carefully snipping out the top layer of the leaves.
The thread recommended by Natalie Chanin is Coats & Clark Button & Craft Thread. We're currently in touch with Coats & Clark to see if we can stock it here. I bought some from a US website and found it lovely to work with (smoother and less tangly than the Gutermann Upholstery Thread I had substituted in my first projects). So we'll let you know if/when that becomes a reality.

Initially I tried grey sleeves but replaced them with navy for the heavier fabric weight and a more subtle overall look. Now I have a spare pair of grey sleeves, I'll have to make a plain grey top! I also tried a small amount of beading on the ends of the sleeves and yes, that's a bit addictive too.
Now, I'm thinking about a matching long skirt, maybe in navy-on-navy? But I'm also dreaming of the A-Line Dress pattern from the new book. Yes, Alabama Chanin ALL the things!

- Jane & Fiona xx


  1. Wow that's a really unique and lovely piece. Well done!

    1. Thanks Amy! It was such a pleasure to make, I recommend the process :)


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