Sunday, 16 November 2014

Getting my feet wet: Alabama Chanin

When I finished my little scarflett, I missed having something to carry around in my (not so little) handbag, that I could pick up and play with whenever my little people were playing in a park, or while my littlest napped on me (literally).
My wonderful local library had the first Alabama Chanin book for me to loan, and even more delightfully, ordered the third, so I borrowed it as well.
Alabama Chanin top details ;)
I'm a convert. I really like Natalie Chanin's philosophies of valuing handwork and empowering us to create by making her, very desirable and not inexpensive, clothing collections' designs and techniques available openly.

There's a new book released soon, I'll probably add it, or this third one, to my sewing book library.
If you haven't yet visited the Alabama Chanin (.com) website, it's full of inspiration, and under the resources tab, the stencil designs are freely available.
I took it as a sign when my browsing coincided with an online sale ... and bought the Anna's Garden Shell Tank Kit, which doesn't seem to be available anymore. Other styles are here. I also purchased a 4 pack of button craft thread since it seems so difficult to find outside of the US. I was very interested to feel how heavy the actual knit fabric and the applied paint were, as well as to handle the button craft thread, as I'm a tactile learner and wasn't sure from reading the books & browsing the many AC projects online.

It was with great delight that I discovered on Instagram that Gail of Todays Agenda (gksagenda) was also about to start the exact same kit - well, we both chose different colour organic knits and embroidery threads, however the same Anna's Garden stencil was applied before our kits were mailed out.
Gail's finished top is here and mine is here:

Gail was much more blog savvy than me and photographed the 'unboxing' of her kit ;)

The separate pieces of heavy-medium weight (9.8oz) pre-cut knit (stencilled front, plain back & inside half-front, binding strips), variegated embroidery thread, button craft thread and AC label came with my personalised kit details & instructions in a lovely AC box - I can only imagine how divine it would be to receive a garment from the collection ... it's possibly very helpful that shipping from the US is so prohibitive...

The dark, un-emroidered areas are where I thought I'd need to shape the top to fit me
My first photo was after I'd started backstitching a few of the flowers. I used 4 strands of the included variegated cream cotton - The variegations were very subtle, from palest pink to fawn and I wasn't really a fan, I kept thinking I'd had dirty fingers when I stitched some petals ;)
I then raided my very extensive stash of embroidery cottons - in the interests of full disclosure, I used to cross stitch until I decided that I didn't know what to do with the finished pieces, and still have a very incomplete, yet lovely, lady that is 15yrs unfinished to date...
I chose DMC 437 a light tan colour that I used on all of the stencil shapes that suggested stems to me.
I then used DMC 317 for the row of little tulips, I was tempted to go with a purple shade, but stuck with a more neutral pewter grey. The embroidery cotton was divine to stitch with and I really didn't want this part of the project to end. It was delightfully relaxing and I can understand how fully embellished skirts and dresses can be hand sewn now.
Details of the back embroidery. All knots are left with thread tails
Sewing the top together was done by hand, using a doubled strand of Buttoncraft thread. I enjoyed the sewing, however the thread is really rigid and slippery and quite unlike embroidery thread! It's also quite thick and the doubled thread didn't twist together as nicely as the other. I was quite glad the seams were a minor section (time wise) of the sewing.

I did enjoy flat felling the seams. First stitching the seams together with the seam allowances to the inside, then a second row to hold the seam allowances down and towards the back. My running stitch is more noticeably irregular than my backstitch, I've embraced the individuality of that ;)

interior view of my flat felled seams
Attaching the (included, 1 inch wide) binding to the neck and arm holes, I was tossing up between Herringbone (which is a hand stitch in my sewing repertoire), or Cretan stitch. I polled instagram and Mel Poppykettle suggested what I was already feeling - the Cretan is a prettier and more organic stitch. I had to learn it though and my stitch length wandered a little while I thought about where the needle went on each stitch ;)
Flat felled seams and Cretan stitch to secure the binding
Gold thread is normal Gutermans used as a basting stitch
Size and fit wise, the Alabama Chanin designs are fitted. I'm not really keen on very fitted tops at this stage, so I purchased the L (36-38" bust) and am very glad I chose to. There's some stretch in this cotton, around 20%, which is decreased over the double layer where the embroidery is.
I lowered the armholes 1.5cm and would have gone a smidge lower, except that I didn't want to cut my embroidered stems ... The neckline is a true jewel neckline and I widened it by 1.5cm on both sides of the neck and lowered the front a smidge (about half a cm).
For some strange reason I kept thinking the flowers would be more central, and if I were to make a similar top again, I think I will shift the design across more. My right is my lower shoulder and the asymmetry in general works, the design just gets lost to the side.
The finished garment from the inside.
Oh, and it's already a well loved addition to my wardrobe ;)

Saturday, 25 October 2014

What difference does a language, or fabric make... Cascade #13 or m

I have spent many months (I'll admit to well over a year...) admiring everything in Handmade by Carolyn's blog and apart from her Alabama Chanin creations, the posts I keep re-reading & being inspired by are those from Natsuno Hiraiwa's  Unique Clothes Anyway You Like It, released in English as Shape Shape.
Shape Shape is now out of print in English - sigh, I remain SO far behind the times some days... so after getting an inter-library loan & reluctantly returning it, I've bought the Japanese version.
This is Shape Shape's #13 Cascade Skirt, or UCAYLI's skirt 'm'. Carolyn made it in a gorgeously soft pink linen cotton  and my grey shirting is my closest version to this inspiration.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Hopping around

Hop Hop Hop - the delightful Myra from My-Zee-Moo has passed the blog hop onto me and before I forget, I'm going to nominate my two hopping recipients - Jenny of Rennous-oh-Glennus and Helen Funkbunny! Now, to settle in with a coffee & answer the Blog Hop questions ;)

(no lie, I have just stepped back with a long Macc - freshly roasted beans & the perfect amount of texturised milk = yum) 

((and yes, Mac is named after coffee - a short and long one with just a stain of white...))

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A silk sarong for Sydney: V1310

May I present .... a sarong...
(post edited to add some daylight photos of the V1310 skirt & Pattern Review post)
worn backwards in this shot, as worn to a wedding

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

My little Scarflett

I Don't Knit.  I tried to, I drop stitches, I add stitches randomly, I have such a tight tension that I snap knitting needles, I have the attention span of a gnat. Knitting isn't for me.
Yet, somehow, I knitted this:

I've posted for the first time on Ravelry too - and lost so many hours browsing all of the wonders that are there - it's inspiring.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


My ear-worm for this dress has been Phil Collins Sussudio (you're welcome...)
There's a dress that's been on my mind... all the time...
If I just say the word .. "Kie-Kie-Kielo"....
always have a prop.... ;)
 Like many others, I was underwhelmed when it was released as part of Named's collection, yet strangely attracted to it. I then wanted it when Sew Independent looked so amazing in hers (blue & red). I stalked Busy Lizzy in Brizzy as she made hers transeasonal for MMMay14 and have since spotted Sew Jean Margaret's, Sara Berkes', Janika's and Annakreeta's.. clearly I couldn't move past without making it!