Projects in Progress: Alabama Chanin Swatch edition

Katie’s projects

I’ve been dreaming and plotting for months about starting some new Alabama Chanin garments. I have just a few pieces, a couple simple t-shirts and a skirt, but they are some of my favorite and most-wearable clothes. I hadn’t been able to really get cracking making stuff though, as I was daunted by the prospect of gathering the appropriate fabrics- for me this means finding *just-right* XL (or even better- XXL!) men’s t-shirts at the thrift shop in the perfect colors. It also means making lots of decisions about stencils, thread, beads, fabric colors- a lot of choices that overwhelm me. 

When the Alabama Chanin swatch of the month project started up in January, Laura and I both knew we wanted to join in. I love how dedicated to open-source stitching Natalie is, so even though we didn’t purchase the kit, we could follow along at home, using our own materials. The most onerous part of the project was cutting a new stencil, the Paisley. We dyed fabric with indigo and made our swatches bigger- 18” square- so we could make larger throws at the end of the year. The paisley stencil is not one I would automatically choose for myself. But as I stitched around the gentle curves and paisleys, I started to really like the design. I also couldn’t help but notice that this stencil design stitched up fast, way faster than the dense Facets tank that’s been languishing in my project basket. I had never tried reverse applique with two pieces of the same color fabric, so that was a cool technique to see as well. The mottled indigo is beautiful with just enough contrast to be interesting- see Laura's post below for a photo of what our January swatches look like now that they're done. Since I finished my swatch relatively early in the month, I was inspired to finally begin making a new garment for myself. 


The short skirt from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design is one of my wardrobe staples in the summertime. I whipped it up back in 2012, and wore it every other day last summer. Its shape, length, color were perfect for me. So I decided to make the same design again using the paisley stencil. The fabric is a tan t-shirt underneath and a jersey bedsheet that I over-dyed on top. I have been stitching like the wind, and if I really get to work, I will also have a skirt finished by the end of the month! I’m already dreaming about how awesome my wardrobe will be if I can continue this pace of one swatch and one garment each month. 


Laura's Projects

I'm loving the finished January swatch, and cannot wait to see what the February swatch is going to be.


Back in mid January as my swatch was nearing completion, I started a little beret. It is embellished with cotton jersey "pulls" couched around stenciled shapes. (Couching is covered in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.) This technique is more fiddly than others and I figured a hat would be a good project to start with-rather than an entire skirt, say. As Katie said above, it is tricky to make all the choices necessary to start a project, balancing what you envision with what you have in your stash. For my hat I used heathered brown fabric for the top layer and pulls, navy blue textile paint for the stenciling, black fabric for the bottom layer, and navy blue thread. I'm still not sure about the blue thread, but it is growing on me as I work...


One of the things I love about having an Alabama Chanin style project in the works is how portable and convenient it is to work on when you have a moment. Katie and I were running errands together the other day and ended up at the laundromat-an hour of time to kill? Well of course we both pulled out our project bags and got stitching!