Have you made an Alabama Chanin Style garment?
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.