Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sewn, and then some.

I am trying to make this:

No, not the barn — the skirt. It's an Alabama Chanin design, all hand-sewn, double-layered cotton jersey with reverse applique and embroidery. Crazy, yes. Today I discovered that it's pretty much impossible to buy 100% cotton jersey in Seattle. Strange, when one considers that retail clothing stores selling thousands of items made of cotton jersey.

Natalie Chanin, the designer and author of the Alabama Stitch Book suggests using recycled t-shirts, so after my futile attempt to purchase new fabric off-the-bolt, I headed over to Goodwill. The tricky part is that you need two pairs of identical shirts, without any screen-printed design. I can't believe that I lucked out and found two charcoal-grey and two black tees —the colors that I wanted — both all-cotton, both pattern-free and in nearly-new shape.

Next I had to copy the pattern (it's on loan), so I photo-copied it in 81/2 by 11 pieces and puzzled them together, spread out on my floor. My brain feels rattled & addled.

My total investment, minus gas, is $18. Not bad when the Alabama Chanin website lists new, hand-sewn skirts in the $2000+ range. (And yes, that's for one skirt.)

Now all I have to do is make it.


  1. My skirt-making knowledge is limited, so I'll just wish you 'good luck'.

  2. The only thing I've ever seen was a pair of polyester blue gauchos when I was in seventh grade. I took a class at the mall -- Singer Sewing -- and they were so ugly, it was astonishing.

    I'm impressed, in other words, that you can do this.

  3. Cro, there's only one letter difference between "skirt" and "shirt" — maybe you could try your hand at some man-clothing. Ha.

  4. Elizabeth, if you can decorate a cake, you can sew. Many similarities! (Although the thought of those blue gauchos makes me laugh. Tee hee. Polyester!)

  5. Nothing tepid about this project, yet patience makes impossible things happen. And what a beautiful piece - of clothing, of art - when you're done. My then-teenaged younger sister used to stitch herself a new Vogue outfit in a day. Interesting, hand sewing has been calling me, especially embroidery, once a skill. Alabama's site is a feast and a bit of a cattle prod to the imagination. Please let us know of your progress. Since you've figured out the pattern, 8 1/2x11 sheets pieced together, I think you are well begun. xo

  6. Marylinn, glad you found yourself so entranced with the Alabama Chanin site. It is most certainly a feast, and has prompted me to start this insane project. A new Vogue outfit in a single day??!! Yikes. Vogue always was/is a supreme challenge. But one of the things I like best about my new project is that it's a completely new way of looking at clothing construction, and has thus jump-started my imagination.

  7. I am impressed. I sucked at sewing, hand and machine. I sucked at knitting, even when I tried yet again while awaiting the birth of Eden Grant.

    Very creative to hit the Goodwill for fabric that you could use. Can't wait to see the finished project. Even though I don't sew well, the idea of sitting at home on a cool autumn evening with a glass of port (or what have you), laying out your pattern and cutting, sounds dreamy.