Thursday, February 25, 2010

stitching style

Last spring I had the pleasure of attending one of Natalie Chanin’s sewing workshops in New York. It was such a lot of fun! We each selected a project beforehand, and when we arrived it was waiting for us in a lovely kit (much like the one that Melanie Falick blogged about recently.) At the workshop, Natalie showed us how to use the same techniques her couture team follows when they stitch items for the Alabama Chanin collection. Then we spent the day stitching and chatting, and a chef came to prepare a delicious southern-style lunch for us. If you ever have the opportunity to spend a day with Natalie at one of these workshops, you’ll find that it’s incredibly rejuvenating and relaxing; none of us wanted to go home at the end of the day, and we made some wonderful new friendships in the process. (What is it about women, sewing, and bonding? I had a similar experience last summer at Heather Ross’s Weekend Sewing workshop in Vermont and am looking forward to doing it again this summer. It’s such a great way to make new like-minded friends!)

I never showed you what I made in Natalie’s workshop, but at last it’s time for the big reveal.

from Alabama Stitch Book

Back when Natalie and I first met, I sent her some Oliver + S patterns and one of her seamstresses made a darling Tea Party Sundress using the Alabama Chanin methods. The dress made an appearance in Cookie magazine’s profile of Natalie, and when I saw how wonderfully it turned out I just had to make one for S. I selected two colors from her organic cotton jersey fabrics: silt and light pink. I used the stencil provided in the Alabama Stitch Book (which I reviewed here) to transfer an all-over pattern onto the traced dress pieces, and once Natalie got me started with stitching I just couldn’t put the project down—I stitched all the way to Pittsburgh and back when we went to Quilt Market, and it was finished in time for my sister’s wedding.

Tea Party Sundress a la Alabama Chanin

As Natalie explains in her new book, Alabama Studio Style, cotton jersey relaxes when you wear it. Which means that it’s a good idea to start with a snug fit when you select the size you’ll be making. I made Tsia’s dress in her regular size, and of course the finished dress was too big. (I should have started with a pattern two sizes smaller and lengthened it following the methods I just posted on the Oliver + S blog to fit her height.)

So we’ve waited a while, and the dress is starting to fit. Tsia has worn it all winter with a turtleneck and tights, and I love how the fabric edges are starting to soften just a bit with each washing, giving the reverse appliqué a patina.

Alabama Studio Style

I had so much fun making this dress, now I’m planning to make myself one of the dress patterns from the Alabama Studio Style book . I still need to decide which style, size, fabric colors and stencil pattern to use. Any suggestions? (I really love the Angie’s Fall stencil, which is new to this book.)

Alabama Studio Style

If you’re interested in trying out these techniques but aren’t quite ready to take on a complete dress (and it is a commitment to make a full dress), there are lots of other terrific smaller projects in both books. I love the Small Medallion Placemats and the Medallion Boudoir Pillow in the new book (both of these projects use another new stencil that is included in the book), which look really contemporary and minimalist. There are so many great projects and recipes included, and the book feels very much like Natalie’s warm and relaxed personality, with some of her wonderful southern hospitality thrown into the mix. With both books, you’re only missing the companionship of a group of stitching women like we had at the sewing workshop.

And maybe a chef to cook you some delicious southern food at lunchtime while you relax and stitch and chat.

Alabama Studio Style

Natalie has included instructions for many different embellishment techniques like relief appliqué, backstitch reverse appliqué, and the beaded embellishments that have graced recent Alabama Chanin clothing collections. I’ve had an opportunity to admire these details during Fashion Week every season, and they are so inspirational. Each of these embellishment techniques look very different from the others when completed, and you could use them in many different ways to suit your own purposes, even if you don’t make any of the specific projects in the book. I particularly love the starburst “eyelet” stitch, which you could embroider by itself or bead for two very different looks.

I love how these two books can stand independent of each other but also build on each other. They're both absolutely beautiful, informative, and inspirational.

19 comments:

  1. the dress is lovely. and so inspiring!!

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  2. Leisl - Tsia's dress is so wonderful. I love how you combined your pattern with elements from Natalie. I just finished a skirt for myself in the same colorway - silt with light pink - and stencil. I'm looking forward to warmer weather so I can wear it. And yes, I want to make myself a dress too but I can't decide on which pattern, colorway, etc. There are too many good choices and the more I make Alabama Chanin inspired projects, the more I realize you can't do wrong with any of the choices.

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  3. So lovely and inspiring as always.

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  4. That dress is beautiful. :D

    Unfortunately I do not have the patience for all that hand sewing. Thank you for sharing!

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  5. How lucky you got to go to one of their workshops...someday I will go (though it will be a trip since I live across the country.) Those books are by far my favorite craft books. The tea party dress is so so lovely! I had never thought of using my Oliver & S patterns with the Chanin techniques. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  6. Wow it is absolutely gorgeous.

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  7. That dress is awesome. I have seen Alabama Chanin's work before, but I have never been so compelled to order a kit as I am right now. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  8. That dress is so dang cute! I've been following your posts at the official O+S blog and am so happy to add your personal blog to my reader.

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  9. So glad to have found this book! Thanks for the recommendation. I plan to use the templates for some freezer paper designs on curtains. Wonderful!

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  10. So cool. I think that book is part of a huge trend of getting back to the slow, meditative side of art and craft. So many books in the 80s and 90s were about the 1 hr craft, but thankfully we are at the end of that I think. I'm just loving what you did here. So fancy!!
    Anna

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  11. that dress is so lovely. i know just what you mean by the stretch factor. i made the skirt from the first book and i love it dearly but i should have gone down a size....here is a peek pick...http://www.flickr.com/photos/16401019@N00/4357913366/

    i think i am ready to take on a dress. just imagining wearing a full version of the skirt has my heart jumping...the clothes feel so good and are so kind on the person wearing them. good luck.

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  12. it's so beautiful, liesl. i really enjoy working on the projects from those books. there is just something about hand work that is so relaxing!

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  13. wow, what a stunning dress! I do not love handsewing but seeing beautiful pieces like this make me want to give it a try again.

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  14. I loved this dress. I also did a dress like this for my daughter. It was a fun one to do. Here is a quick look at it:

    http://ringadal.blogspot.com/

    I love the hand sewing because it is something I can do at night in bed watching a good movie and drinking some tea. There are times when I don't want to be sitting at a sewing machine.

    Right now, I am doing a mini-version of the skirt in Alabama Stitches, I just have to figure out what applique is going around the bottom of the skirt. I have a top with a catapillar and a luna moth on it.

    Susan

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  15. The dress is a masterpiece! Well done!

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  16. Lucinda2:04 PM

    that is just about the coolest thing ever!

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  17. Hand sewing and me are enemies, I must say. What a gorgeous dress! I should try to find this book and see if I could tackle anything in it! Thanks for sharing:)
    I'm having a giveaway on my blog if you're interested in checking it out:)
    Happy Monday!

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  18. Anonymous7:37 AM

    Such a lovely dress. I've been following your blog for some time now and would like to thank you for introducing me to Natalie's work, which is so inspirational.
    Valerie

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  19. Oh! This is a very nice dress!!!

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