Tag Archives: Alabama Chanin

Alabama Chanin inspired wrap

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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.

Alabama Chanin inspired wrap

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

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.  :)

back detail

back detail

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:

Scarf

Scarf

wrap

wrap with ends threaded through the armholes

sleeveless sweater

sleeveless sweater

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.

Shirt: Details

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Remember when we talked about “flair“?  Sometimes it only takes a little detail or two to make clothing (or anything) just a little more special.  I recently updated one of my t-shirts to give it that extra something.  I thought you might like to see the results.

Add some fun stitches!

Add some fun stitches!

This is a shirt I got last year from Lands’ End.  It’s a good shirt, but was a little big and a little plain.  I gave it the re-sizing treatment I’ve mentioned before to slim it down, and then added some stitches around the top.  I got the idea from Pinterest, which led me to this blog post about altering a sweatshirt.  Well, that got me off on a whole Fair Isle/Scandinavian design tangent (that tangent hasn’t ended yet…and now it’s winter, so…it’ll be ongoing).

Anyway…..I’ve been inspired to work on my hand sewing by Alabama Chanin (that company has been, and will be, a recurring theme here :)  ).  So, I picked a few stitches and, using embroidery floss, put them onto the shirt.  I can always add more, or leave it as is.  I can tell my stitches need work, but what better way to work on them than this?

stitching detail

stitching detail

This project has completely changed the way I think about this shirt.  It went from being one that I rarely wore to one that I love to wear.

I have two more shirts in my stash to alter, plus the two that I’m sewing together into a new one.  So, hopefully…eventually…you’ll get to see how those turn out, too.  I’m thinking some reverse applique, maybe some sequins….who knows?

Project Day!

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Today was project day.

Drinking coffee and getting to work!

Drinking coffee and getting to work!

I usually reserve Monday mornings for blogging and for projects, but often it’s just the blogging and maybe some photography that happens.  When I planned out my time to start this blog, I found little pockets where I could write posts, but still haven’t found my rhythm for continuing to make new work, write posts, and take care of my family.  This year is for attempting to figure some of that out.

I realized that I was sort of stuck with my creative projects.  There was one that had me stumped, and when that happens I tend to avoid working on things.  It sort of feels like a roadblock to getting anything done.  My roadblock was some vintage pants I was altering.  So, after gathering advice and thinking about the problem for a long time, I decided to take the easy way out so I could get them done and move on.

Vintage wool pants

The pants in question

I got these pants pre-kids and, even then, they were snug.  In fact, they met their demise when I wore them one day, sat down, and split the butt seam.  (Luckily, I was on my way home, so I didn’t have to figure out a creative fix at work.)  Anyway, in the end, I decided to let out the seams, but that meant that my waistband was now too short.  I tried adding an extension to it, but it wasn’t quite long enough, and there were some other reassembly problems that I ran into.  That was when I decided that the most important thing was being able to wear them again.  So, I finished the top edge with single-fold bias tape that I already had, which also makes the waist less high and more comfortable for me.

Here they are!

Wearable again!

Wearable again!

Vintage pants

It’s so nice to have these wearable again, just in time for the colder side of fall and the coming of winter.  They were, I think, originally meant to be ski pants, so they are made of handwoven wool from Ireland, and are lined inside.  I won’t say they are the most slenderizing pants out there, but I love that blue on blue check, and that they are warm and cozy.  I also think fashion is more fun if it’s just a little bit weird.  :)

The pants were the only project that got finished (well, I fixed a hole in a jacket, so I guess that got finished, too).  The other two projects are in-progress.

I have a little bit of a long-sleeved shirt shortage, so I’m trying to alter some shirts I got last winter to fit better.  These two are going to be sewn together and then reverse appliqued a la Alabama Chanin.

Shirts soon to be sewn together

You can see the other shirt where I folded up one of the sleeves.  Both shirts came from Lands’ End.  They are basic t-shirts and are the same style.  Both are inside out and safety pinned to one another so they can be sewn together.

Two shirt sewn together

Here is a detail after sewing.  I used the t-shirt/bolero back pattern piece from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin as my guide for the side seams.  I laid it over the pinned shirts and used chalk to trace around it.  Where the side seam touched the armhole, I tapered to the wrist opening (you can sort of see that above).  Once the two shirts were sewn together, I cut off the excess fabric.  Next, I’ll work on doing the reverse applique.  I’ve made a lot of the patterns from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design as basics in only one layer of fabric to test them out (although I have been using my machine, rather than hand-sewing them….I hope Natalie wouldn’t be disappointed :)  ).  I’ve really come to love and trust her patterns and working with knits, which I was always afraid to do before I discovered the Alabama Chanin books.

The other project I worked on was a muslin (test garment) for a shirt pattern I’m developing.  I mentioned before that I had gone through Design-It-Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch.  While I’m starting to get the basic ideas, I still need a lot of practice.  I’ve made a button down shirt pattern before, but wanted to make another pattern and then make some variations from there.  This is the test garment for the initial pattern.  Here it is so far:

Muslin for a button down shirt pattern

I found a cute sheet to use as my muslin fabric at the thrift store, so I’m hoping that even if this isn’t perfect, it will still be wearable and I’ll get two shirts out of the process.  Once I put the cuffs on, I think I can try it out.  I’m not great at fitting and transferring my corrections to my pattern, but I’ve been reading up on it, so I need to give it another try.  I loved the first shirt that I made, but it wasn’t fitted as well as it could have been.  It’s all progress, right?

Hopefully I’ll make some good headway on these projects sooner rather than later so I can share them with you as they get finished.  I’m looking forward to showing you how they turn out!

“Let’s start at the very beginning…” with a dress

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Hello, Blogland!  And welcome, Readers, to Pattern and Branch.  Let’s get started!  I hope that we can inspire each other to new acts of creativity, artwork, and craftsmanship.  I look forward to meeting you.  If you’d like to know a bit more about me and the focus of the blog, you can visit my About page.

For our inaugural post, I thought I would share with you my latest project, which took me several months to complete:  a dress to wear to my cousin’s wedding.  The challenge I gave myself was to create a party-style dress out of a completely different fabric than what was called for, hopefully adding comfort, flexibility (thanks to knit fabric), and a unique touch.  This garment came about through several of my recent influences and interests, specifically The Party Dress Book by Mary Adams, where I got my pattern, and the Alabama Chanin books, where I found many of the techniques I used (Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design).

Party dress (front)

Party dress (front)

For the bodice, I used three layers of fabric to add stability and also so that I could do more than one layer of reverse applique.  Originally, I had in mind a coral motif, but after several revisions, I found my inspiration in a shirt I saw fabric designer Anna Maria Horner wearing on a pattern instruction video.  I decided to decorate the bodice piece by piece so that it could be “finished” at whatever point I ran out of time.  In the future, I may add more details to the dress.

Party dress (detail: beading and reverse applique)

Party dress (detail: beading and reverse applique)

Party dress (top left detail: beading, reverse applique)

Party dress (top left detail: beading, reverse applique)

The skirt is two layers since I had planned (or at least wanted the option of) an all-over design.  There was some unforseen stretching of the underlayer after construction, but when it’s on, you don’t really notice it.  The dress feels heavy to hold, but is comfortable when worn.

At some point, the straps will have to be reworked.  I’m still learning a lot about grainlines in fabric.  I think the white knit that lies over the grosgrain ribbon needs to be cut in the opposite direction and redone.

So, the dress could be finished or could be a continuing work in progress.  After a few months of thinking, planning, constructing, and embellishing, I’m finished for the moment.  I’m really happy with how it turned out and have gotten several compliments.  My daughter loves the dress and always asks me to show off the “spin factor” (as my friends call it) of the circle skirt.  (This picture is right before I almost fell over after spinning myself into dizziness.)

"Spin factor"

“Spin factor”

Here is the not-so-secret best part:  this dress probably cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 to make.  Know why?  It’s made out of sheets–knit sheets.  Incorporating a surprising element in a design is something I really enjoy.

I even found a cute vintage beaded purse to go with it.

Vintage beaded purse (front)

Vintage beaded purse (front)

Vintage beaded purse (back)

Vintage beaded purse (back)

What about you?  What are your current design influences?  What surprising elements do you like to add to your work?  I’d love to hear about them!