I have all three Alabama Chanin books. I know that most of you won’t have heard of this Southern American clothing design house and if you are not of the sewing/making persuasion you might want to go off now and descale the kettle or sit about gazing blankly or what ever else you non-makers do in your sad, sad down time ;-). That’s just me trying to justify my absurd need to always be doing something even whilst watching a movie. If I could sew/draw/crochet/knit while reading a book my life would be perfect.
Natalie Chanin is a designer and maker who lives in Alabama and heads the company that sells utterly gorgeous, hand made clothes out of organic jersey cotton (t-shirt material), you might want to check out their website now and see just what I am talking about. The unusual thing about Alabama Chanin is that not only do they support their community by employing local people to make their clothes (and pay them a living wage), they actually encourage you to make their clothing yourself – it’s the whole handmade DIY aesthetic and to that end they have published three books with instructional how tos, and patterns.
I bought the books last year and got slightly obsessed about making her clothing – creating a set of fingerless mits out of a double layer of jersey and a sleeveless bolero out of an old t-shirt. I learnt two important things from these experiment, firstly – I would need to scale up the patterns to fit me if I was ever going to get serious about making these garments, and secondly – don’t make handmade anything out of old or poor quality fabric, too much time and effort for a finished project that bobbles quickly or just looks plain crap.
In saying that, I was immensely pleased with myself for making these things and until the mitts started to bobble I just loved them to bits. Sewing by hand is a whole different ball game from using a machine, the act can become a contemplation, it’s slow (although you do get faster, just like every thing) and a lot more comfortable for me, possibly because it is so portable, you can sew watching telly or wherever you want really, and if you make a mistake, it’s ultra easy to unpick. With this style of sewing the stitches can become part of the design, like drawing on cloth – not something to be hidden and I really like that. Sewing for me has always been pretty scary, I was very bad at it in school and never really thought I could get good at it. Plus I guess I never saw anything I really wanted that much to sew – until now..
I stumbled across the Craftsy website the other week, I was aware of it but had not been attracted to any of the courses they offer, and then I saw a course to make this Alabama Chanin jacket run by Natalie Chanin herself – how cool is that! I had to sign up.
The pattern is free with the course and arrived last week, I have the two layers of jersey yardage, one of which I have yet to dye. I have a shit hot pair of sewing scissors and am partway through cutting the surface design stencil into milar. I have yet to get the textile paint (next week) and I will be ready to go soon. I’m scared..
To help me conquer the fear I have already practised by cutting a stencil and negative reverse appliqueing my favourite t-shirt and I have made a long sleeved black bolero from the book Alabama Studio Sewing and Design, which I enlarged and it fits me, hurrah and amazing. I am up to attaching the edging with cretan stitch and then I will take a photo and show you the finished product.
So that is me at the moment. Or part of me anyway. What are you lot up to? Is there anything you are all excited about at the moment?