I often reference Alabama Chanin on this blog. Natalie Chanin and her books have been a huge influence on my sewing. As I was thinking about this, I realized that I had another project I ought to show you inspired by them. This project took me a good month or more to complete and a lot of problem-solving, but it was also a lot of fun. So, today I’d like to show you my Alabama Chanin inspired wrap.
Here’s a long view of it.
I made this out of two nice, heavy-weight t-shirts that my husband was retiring (well, he was really only retiring one, but I begged for the other one too, so I could have more fabric of the same weight…he’s a nice guy). I cut the largest amount I could from the front and back panels and used the scraps for my reverse applique.
That’s the short version. The longer version is that I had to come up with a stencil. I had a branch with a lovely shape, and I traced its silhouette onto poster board. Then I cut the shape out with an X-acto knife. My stencil was fairly fragile since it covered most of the poster board and was only attached at one spot. That will be something to consider if I do this again (making it more stable), but for the first time, I worked with it. I laid the stencil over the two white shirt panels that I had stitched together and used navy blue fabric paint and a foam brush to transfer the shape of the branches to the fabric. I debated continuing the shape onto the blue panels, but decided not to in the end.
Once that was dry, I used a washable glue stick to glue pieces of blue fabric onto the back of the white panels and stitch them together. I used red button/craft thread for the stitching and decided to leave my knots on the outside as a design-element. The little tails of the knots make me think of trees in spring.
detail of front side
My hand stitching isn’t regular and even yet, but that wasn’t something that I was going for with this piece and, like the shirt I showed you recently, I thought this was a good chance to practice.
After doing all the stitching (the side panels had been sewn together when I did the white panels), I used a Swiss Army knife with very sharp scissors to cut inside the stenciled area, leaving a little of the paint showing, to reveal the fabric underneath (you’ll be happy to know that I now have Gingher embroidery scissors, so I don’t have to use a Swiss Army knife any more). I trimmed the back fabric as well in case I wanted to wear the piece inside out. I was going for versatility.
If I had this to do over again, I’d have planned the back out a bit better. I have some longer pieces that stick out because that’s where I pieced two scraps of fabric together. When I was trimming the back, I realized I couldn’t cut through them without things unraveling, but that fix is for another project. I often ask for wisdom, and one of my realizations that I think is wise (or helps me, at any rate) is that sometimes it’s better to have a project with imperfections that you actually finish and learn from than five or ten projects that never get finished because you can’t make them perfect.
I put armholes in the wrap so that it would function as a cross between a wrap and a long, drapey sweater.
But wait! It’s even more versatile than that! You can wear it as a scarf, a wrap (which is what I call it for lack of a better word), or a sleeveless sweater. Check it out:
wrap with ends threaded through the armholes
So there you have it. I find Natalie Chanin’s clothing concepts so freeing (Actually, the shirt I’m wearing above is one of my “cheater” Alabama Chanin clothing items–her pattern, but I sewed it on a machine.). Knit is very forgiving, and if you work in smaller pieces like this, you can recycle old t-shirts to create something beautiful out of something that was going to be thrown away.