Alabama Chanin inspired wrap


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:




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.


11 responses »

  1. Love this! And the fact that you used an actual branch to get your pattern. I find it so hard to make something natural that looks realistic when drawing freehand, but so many available patterns are too stylized. Great idea! I actually have an AC wrap project planned, too. Mine is to be black and sagey green, with leaves and flowers, some chop beads and lots of different stitches, but the color contrasts will be subtle so all that pattern won’t be too much. Plus no one will see how irregular my stitches are.:-) It will take a long time, but it’s nice to have something you can pick up and work on in spare moments and take anywhere. Like yours, it will be a practice piece that can be worn so all that work can do double duty. Your wrap is really lovely, and the versatility is brilliant!


    • Thanks, everyone. I would LOVE to see your wrap when you finish it one day. It sounds like it will be beautiful. Sort of like the skirt she showed in one of the books that she always adds onto when she has time. That was a really inspiring piece of clothing. Thanks for the compliments.


      • Still haven’t gotten around to the wrap yet, but now have a new pattern idea after seeing J. Peterman’s Butterfly Bolero: Now I think a big butterfly across the piece would be cooler.:)

        I did make an A.C.-inspired wallet last year from felt. My old leather one was falling apart and we were about to leave on vacation, so I brought along a wallet pattern and materials and made the wallet in our hotel room, and cut out the applique pieces. The next day, we visited family, and I stitched the decorations in the car and while walking around an outdoor mall. Walking and stitching is surprisingly doable! I used pieces cut from the outer reverse applique piece to applique the inside, and stitched all the decoration from the outside, making knots between the two layers. Here are some pics:

        The pattern called for an accordion-style coin pocket on the outside, but this would have been way too big, so I sewed a small zipper into an inside pocket instead. I’ve been carrying the wallet ever since, and though it does pill a bit, a quick trim with embroidery scissors is all it needs to keep it in order. It feels so soft and warm.:)

        In case you’d like to have a look, I sometimes post projects and tutorials to my website: Don’t have a blog yet, but that’s probably coming one day… In the meantime, I get inspired by looking at other people’s blogs, like yours.:)


      • Now, I am seriously intrigued. I need to check this project out! Thanks for reading the blog, and for your thoughtful comments. I can’t wait to check out your site and photos. I’m going to do it right now.


  2. You are creative beyond words. I particularly love the knotted thread “spring buds”. Who thinks of things like that? Only you…just brilliant!


  3. I loved this the first time I saw you wear it and still love it. I never thought I would see the day that you would be making clothes for yourself and I not have me finishing them for you. :o) :o) You inspire me and I think your sewing skills have surpassed my own. I am truly impressed!!!! Don’t ever stop thinking outside of the box….
    Love ya…Mom


    • Thanks, Mom. That means a lot to me. I don’t think my sewing skills have surpassed yours…I just like to try weird things. 🙂 Oh, and I don’t mind if you finish some of my projects….you know that week where you are supposed to sew for your kids? I could still use some clothes…. 😉


  4. Very nice! I also love Alabama Chanin, I should really start a new project soon. I was quite surprised that I really like the hand stitching part of the process. I also think that most uneven stitches are only noticeable from quite far away so I rarely unpick when hand stitching.


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