Yippee! I’ve been working on this Alabama Chanin jacket and skirt since April. They weren’t on my SWAP list but looked like a great challenge. I was inspired by the prolific Ruth at Corecouture. My plan was to stitch during my train commute instead of reading blogs and going down the Pinterest rabbit hole. That part was a success but it crowded out my regular machine sewing as it’s quite addictive! I sewed on the beach, at soccer games, at my mom’s, on the deck overlooking the lake….. It’s a whole new world once you’re not connected to the iron and sewing machine!
For those of you not familiar with Alabama Chanin, it’s a high end 100% hand-stitched clothing line designed by Natalie Chanin and created by local seamstresses in Alabama. The garments are all sewn from locally sourced organic cotton knit with various techniques such as appliqué, reverse appliqué, embroidery, beading, and sequins. It often has raw edges and reminds me of folk art. Natalie is happy to share her techniques with intrepid sewists and has written several books on her techniques complete with stencils and patterns.
Except for the peplum detail borrowed from a Marfy pattern, the jacket and skirt were both drafted from my slopers. The fit is pretty good except that the front of the jacket doesn’t hang quite right. It falls open at the waist and the bust feels bosomy which I am not. I have several theories as to how to fix this but that will be another post.
The fabric and most of the thread (embroidery floss and ordinary button and craft thread) are from AC. I also found some “hand quilting” thread at Joann’s which seems to be the exact same stuff as the button & craft thread except it comes in more colors. The stencil pattern is Alabama Chanin’s Anna’s Garden.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TECHNIQUE
This project had a lot of ‘firsts’ for me. First hand sewn garments, first time stenciling, first appliqué, and first “embellishments” except for that denim skirt that I embroidered in high school. I’ll try anything once.
I did a lot of experimentation with markers and paint colors and finally decided on Tulip spray paint. The jacket is a teal paint on turquoise fabric overlaid on camel fabric. This was originally supposed to be a reverse appliqué but after cutting out the shapes on several pieces I decided that I didn’t like the way the camel was working against the teal so I restitched about half the back. The layers are connected using a backstitch with embroidery floss which takes forever. Let’s say 6 to 8 hours per piece and I think there were 17 pieces.
Finally I added some sequins and beads around the front neckline. I know, I’m a wild woman! Oh and I almost forgot the snaps which have crocheted covers thanks to a tutorial on the Alabama Chanin blog. I’m a newbie crocheter and this was amazingly tiny, done with thread like lace! I just kept redoing it until I had three that looked similar.
The skirt is the opposite colorway with brown paint on camel fabric over a turquoise layer. This was done with a running stitch in a tan button thread which is much much faster. It’s cut with a reverse appliqué and a raw hem that curls up ever so cutely. The waistband is a foldover elastic sewn on with a stretch stitch.
THE MANY LESSONS LEARNED
- Don’t spray paint outside, when it’s windy.
- Have an excuse ready for when your husband finds a needle on the stairs.
- Check the sofa throw for needles before sitting on it.
- Use a the thickest mylar you can find. Mine was too thin and would roll up when the paint was wet and stick to itself making quite a mess.
- Needles travel well in a magnetic tray with a cover.
- You will find tiny bits of fabric behind the car door handle, on the coffee table, in your tote, and in your bathrobe pocket.
- Watch the thread tension on the backstitch. I started with the back of the jacket which turned out a bit tighter than the front.
- It pays to experiment.
- This is not a race. Savor the journey.