Have you discovered Alabama Chanin yet? It’s a business founded by designer Natalie Chanin and they make the most beautiful hand-made clothing.
I first came upon this name on Pinterest. You can click here to see a sampling of their work. I hesitate to say that, because you could easily be gone for hours and forget that this little blog post is here waiting for you!
When I first started noticing all these beautiful images on Pinterest, I thought that the workmanship was exquisite and the ideas so original, but the prices of the finished work made them untouchable for someone like myself. (they can be thousands of dollars for a finished item) Then I discovered that Natalie has written several books, including the how-to on making your own custom clothing. I purchased this book and began studying the techniques.
The more I read, the more I realized that many of these techniques were ones that I used in my quilting all the time – a running stitch, chain stitch, backstitch, etc. She just used different materials (cotton jersey) and ended up with an article of clothing, rather than a quilt.
Then I discovered that Natalie sells kits for these clothing items. I baulked at the price at first, but Joel kept encouraging me to try it out. Gotta love a man that encourages “investing” in hobbies! I rationalized it with the knowledge that making a quilt generally costs much more! I decided to go ahead and purchase this kit.
I figured the best way to properly learn about the technique was to get the kit and see exactly what the material feels like, exactly what thread is used, etc.
The kit comes with the top already cut out. The stenciling is already done for you (this is how the design is transferred to the material and how the shading is created), and it comes with the thread. You can choose from quite a few colors. I went with the navy. When that box was delivered, I opened it right there in the drive way. The image below shows how it looked as I was working on the stitching.
The top begins with two layers of cotton jersey. The top layer is stenciled with a beautiful grey fabric paint that has a slight sheen. Then all you have to do is hand-stitch the two layers together.
After this stitching is done, I cut out the top layer of fabric around the shapes (there are many different techniques that you could use here and they are covered in the book)
After the cutting, it will look like this. The applique will curl with wear, creating a slightly ruffled edge.
The finished garmet and how it looks on.
Every single stitch on the top is done by hand. Even the side seams, which are then top stitched by hand, adding to the unique look of the shirt. So – that means you don’t even need a sewing machine to make this. One of my favorite parts of the technique is the fact that the hems are left raw. So, if you have trouble with hems, no worries.
One note about this kit, I initially ordered a large (though I usually wear a medium) and it was tiny so I exchanged it. This is the extra large people – and I wish it was bigger – so keep that in mind if you use any of her patterns. Not all of them are close fitting, but this is the basic t-shirt and they tell you in the book that it is meant to be fitted.
Overall, I loved making this. And who would have thought that I would be able to make a top using Natalie Chanin’s techniques? Many of her items are so intricately hand-stiched and detailed that I would never have attempted them. On the website, this item is listed as a beginner and I would agree that is a great starting point. The stitching goes fast, the shapes are large and easy to stitch around, and the back and sleeves are left plain – so not a huge investment of time if you want to give the technique a try.
Now, I just have to figure out what to wear it with so I can wear it the winter too. I have this sweater, but I think I need something in grey to wear with it. I’m thinking a cardigan like this would work. I think the top could be dressed up or down and I would use the casual look of the knit cardigan much more.
That’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about this technique. I already have two more tops in the works, so you will be seeing it again. I really thought it was fun and so much simpler than I thought!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!