Thursday, January 24, 2013

Utterly, Completely, Totally Obsessed beyond all reason with Alabam Chanin sewing.

A year ago my mother-in-law gave me the book Alabama Studio Sewing and Design. I added it to my amazon wishlist because it was a sewing book and I liked what I saw in the preview. I really had no idea how much I would love the process of slow-stitching  and completely constructing garments by hand from start to finish. Natalie Chanin's design concept uses 100% organic cotton and all hand-stitched and richly embroidered with applique, reverse applique, intricate bead work, ribbon embroidery and various knot techniques. Her designs are available for purchase as customizable garments on her website Alabama Chanin. The garments are made to order and to your specifications. The garments are expensive and at first glance may seem outlandish. If you consider what goes into each piece, you will see why they are worth so much.

If paying $300 for a skirt or $3400 for a dress is too much for you, how about you make your own! She does the fabulously unthinkable thing of giving her fans all the tools to build their Alabama Chanin wardrobe at a fraction of the cost  in her three books. She provides the patterns, the stencil artwork for download, the sewing techniques and inspiration for you to begin the slow and satisfying process.
Alabama Chanin sewing books

I have since purchased the other books and dived in. I have traced patterns, cut stencils, painted fabric, and sewn and sewn and sewn. Here is a sampling of what I have made using her techniques.

With all the details required for her garments, I thought I would start my projects small and began making the uber cute bolero from her third book. I used the spiral applique technique and the herringbone stitch. It was so satisfying to make this and I worn it a great deal last summer.

Spiral Bolero front

Spiral Bolero Back

 After constructing the bolero, a few skirts, and a couple of failed projects, I decided to tackle a dress or two. I thrifted some lovely tan jersey fabric from the local Value Village and used some plum jersey from my stash. I used the paisley stencil and tank dress pattern from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design. I made this dress in a single layer and am happy with it because of the Texas heat, but I think I prefer the heft of a double layer garment.
Alabama Chanin Paisley Tank Dress

Detail of the skirt

Detail of the herringbone stitch on the neck and arm bindings.
This dress took a month to make and I relished the slow progress as I went along, but boy was I glad I didn't decide on an all over design. I wanted it to be done so I could wear it! I am very happy with the end result and am so ready to move onto the next project.


  1. I'm glad to see you started blogging, as I've admired your Alabama Chanin projects over on the Flickr group. I just discovered AC about a month ago, and am similarly obsessed, so it's fun to read details of people's projects. Love your baby blue dress! I think it will take awhile before I dare tackle beading, but your project is an inspiration.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! It took me awhile to tackle my first beaded project too. It was easier than I thought it would be. You should definitely make a beading glove before you begin. I found it made it go so much faster.