dyeing · Sewing

Dyeing For Alabama Chanin

Have you made an Alabama Chanin Style garment?
 Alabama Chanin applique jacket
Or are you like me, planning for years, collecting materials, but not quite getting around to beginning? All that hand-sewing is a big time commitment!
 Alabama Chanin applique
This is the summer that I begin making a few pieces of Alabama Chanin style clothes. I may not finish them before I return to London but I plan to have them well underway. The prep is the hardest part; the hand-sewing is slow, but relaxing.
sewing patterns by Alabama Chanin

Alabama Chanin

I learned about Natalie Chanin’s beautiful clothes, the summer that her first book came out in 2008. Her garments are the perfect distillation of my dressing aesthetic: comfortable and suitable for an active life, lived-in looking, beautiful and heavily patterned with hand-made marks and embellishments. They’re both stunning and suitable for everyday!
Alabama Chanin tunic
Furthermore, she uses native Alabama grown cotton and labour. Her’s is an admirable model. If ever there was another designer that I am jealous of, it’s Natalie Chanin.

Sourcing Pure Cotton Jersey

My greatest difficulty, here in rural Ontario, is sourcing 100% cotton jersey. There’s a postal strike looming over Canada, so I don’t dare order anything.
The nearest Fabricland carries jersey in cotton/lycra, bamboo, viscose and polyester mixes but no pure cotton. I love the cotton/lycra fabrics for machine sewing, but I don’t think they work for Alabama Chanin style clothes. The lycra stretches and distorts when layered in appliqué.
So, I hit the local thrift shops looking for supplies.
I got lucky!
Charity shops in London are frustrating places; full of fast fashion tat at expensive prices. (It’s not uncommon to find an item from Primark at a higher price in the second-hand store). I love the thrift stores here; vast warehouses of all kinds of things.
I found (amongst other goodies) three 100% cotton jersey sheets in excellent condition. Perfect for my needs. I also bought some used cotton jersey garments, for refashioning.
stencilled and appliquéd Alabama Chanin fabric

Dyeing Jersey for Alabama Chanin Projects

The jersey sheets were two shades of primary blues. Nice but not what I want.
The first sheet was a turquoise blue. It went in a Dylon dye bath of brown, with lots of salt. I have one pot for this and I’m too silly to stir it much, so it comes out unevenly dyed.
cotton jersey fabrics
the top piece shows the colour before dyeing and the bottom pieces are after the brown dye bath.
However, I really love the way this looks with the Alabama Chanin style clothes.
I’m using this piece for a swing skirt with polka dots. (More on cutting and preparing the patterns in my next post).
first panel of appliquéd Alabama Chanin skirt
The second and third pieces are a set, so they began as the same primary blue. They also went in the brown dye bath. I wanted to darken and neutralise them. I left one in the dye bath a bit longer and added some red, for some variation on a  colour theme.
dyed cotton jersey drying on the line
The sheet in the background was in the dye bath with some red so it has come out a warmer colour.

This looks great when they are layered in appliqué.

Again, the colour is uneven, but I’m confident this will work in a garment. I plan on making the swing dress with these pieces.
A-line dress pattern from Alabama Chanin book
In my next post I’ll tell you more about this wonderful book and how I have prepared all the fabrics for embellishing and sewing.

6 thoughts on “Dyeing For Alabama Chanin

  1. I caught the AC bug a few years ago. I’ve made skirts, tops, two coats and one dress and very recently did AC on my Six Napoleon experimental dress. It’s now become my summer time sewing habit.

  2. I’m so glad to see your start on AC pieces. I don’t know where to start! Of course, as you said, you have to find the right fabric and that’s what I need to do! Actually I’ve never heard of sheets in cotton jersey before! Looking forward to your future AC posts! Thanks!

  3. Bravo to Ruth! I’ve started 3 AC projects and sadly never finished them. Your beautiful skirt may inspire me to do so. Looks fantastic! When will we see you in it?!

  4. I saw her website ages ago, before she started selling kits and materials. I was totall blown away! Then a couple of years ago I started buying all her books and trying out her techniques of sewing. I’ve bought two kits from the website on sale – the swing skirt and the factory dress and never have I worn such magical clothes. They fit perfect ply and are totally comfortable – as well as being beautiful! I’ve also sewn several unembellished dresses and tops from the books. I’ve also bought a wonderful Vogue pattern for trousers featured in the AC journal that I’ve sewn by hand. I’m sure you’ll get totally hooked 🙂

  5. Well done! I’ve completed one swing skirt (bloomers pattern) and am *still* working on a Maggie’s garden back stitched in variegated embroidery floss. I’m working on the last panel, so you’d think I’d be motivated… The process is intense, and the results are fabulous.

  6. I also have been collecting the Alabama Chanin books for. Years, but have yet to actually finish a garment. Just now I’ve picked up a wrap/shawl I began last spring, but I’m obviously reading other people’s blog posts for inspiration instead of working. You dyed sheets came out great, I agree that the uneven color will enhance the design of your dress.

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