Wrap it up - the Alabama lowdown

For over a year, I waited -- anticipated -- attending the Alabama Chanin 3-Day Workshop in November. I'd signed up almost immediately when it was announced, and it wasn't long before Kym decided to join me.

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We met at the airport in Nashville and drove to Florence, AL, home of Alabama Chanin.

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We settled into our comfy Airbnb, found a place for dinner, and awaited Workshop Day #1.

It was pretty great. Each of the participants (9 of us) had our own work table with basic supplies and materials. The clothing racks beyond held simple, unembellished examples of every DIY garment in every size for trying on. I was a bit smitten with the collection of chairs -- those shown here, as well as throughout The Factory & Cafe -- as I've been something of a collector myself (to the point that Rusty called a moratorium on chairs some years ago)!

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In addition, there were other garment racks, which I've shown before, that held embellished pieces in various colors & designs, which we could also try on.

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"The Factory" is just that. Located in a large factory/warehouse type building, one very large space is divvied up with partial walls/partitions and curtains into spaces for retail, cafe, office, shipping, social media, design, fabric handling, stenciling, cutting, sewing, production, etc. Pretty much everyone, perhaps with the exception of some cafe staff, is at least knowledgeable -- but most likely has also performed -- every process/task/job within the company. It's pretty incredible, really. Natalie Chanin has employed some of the principles of Zingerman's Community of Businesses in the development of her own Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses, which include The School of Making, The Factory Cafe and Store, and Bldg. 14.

I could go to work in that factory everyday!

On that first day, we went over design possibilities, toured the factory, tried on garments, pored over swatch books, and each made decisions about the garment we wanted to make.

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I chose the Car Jacket, with the June's Spring stencil design.

We also had lunch at the Factory Cafe.

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I just had to have a Pimento Cheese sandwich!

And then I took about a million pictures of the June's Spring section of the swatch books!

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Those are all the same design, worked in different colors and in different/similar ways... all serving to blow my mind!

And then I took about a million more pictures of the exact same thing.

And also the next day. And again the day after that.

I could have spent three full days just looking at those swatch books, to be honest.

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I mean, look at that!!

With our orders being processed, we had a little free time before meeting up with the other participants for a local tour and dinner. Kym and I decided we had just enough time to dash out for a visit to The Wall, aka, Tom Hendrix's Wall, aka Te-lah-nay's Wall.

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It's an incredible place, with an incredible story.

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Peaceful, beautiful, contemplative, surprising.

We could have spent a lot more time there, too, but I'm thankful we were able to find the time to visit at all. We went back to Florence and met our group at The Shoals Gold Record Room to board a trolley and go on a Swampette Tour of FAME and Muscle Shoals studios.

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I had been looking forward to that for a while, having even made a special playlist way back in August, and it was truly fantastic -- everyone enjoyed it and most weren't music nerds! Our tour guide was Judy Hood, a Swampette by virtue of having married one David Hood, bass player and original member of The Swampers, and true enthusiast of music*, the history of the music and these studios in The Shoals, community, preservation, and more. She was a delight!

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Workshop Days 2 & 3 were spent exploring and learning more about garment construction and techniques. We had some lovely meals at The Factory Cafe (breakfast+lunch, brunch), and met Natalie; we had front-row seats at a talk/presentation she gave about the company's history. Everyone we met during the workshop was really wonderful -- Olivia, Maggie, Erin, Corey, Leslie, Bonnie, Diane (to name a few). Oh, to return someday... I still dream about the week-long workshops (either one, or both)!

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On Sunday, Kym & I drove back to Nashville and another lovely Airbnb, first stopping to take photos of a cotton field. I had never seen anything like it before, though, if you cover the bottom part of that photo with your hand, it looks an awful lot like the snow-covered farm fields with which I am familiar!

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We stopped at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens on the way for a much-needed walk & nature break, and it was simply gorgeous.

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I was more than a little intrigued by at least parts of these pique assiette mosaic pieces (the term for which I learned just now -- who knew?).

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It was certainly not the most beautiful time of year to visit a garden, but it was far from ugly; I don't think there's ever an "ugly" season in a well-designed garden. They were just beginning to ready their holiday displays, so we even got a little peek at some of the lighted garden features (which were pretty cool even in afternoon light).

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I winged my way home and have barely had a chance to catch my breath since... Ali's shop remodel started the very next day, I'm trying to help with the kids as much as I can, Thanksgiving came & went, there was an ill-timed but previously planned (and much enjoyed) trip to Saint Louis, holiday party season is upon us, and Christmas is... what? 18 days away? Will I get my tree up???

I truly enjoyed every minute of that trip. I caught my breath only once at the beginning, when I realized that I'd be spending nearly a week with a woman that I'd previously met for lunch and a beer and to look at some art for a couple of hours, but we couldn't have gotten along better, and it was fun getting to know more about each other.

I've barely had time to even look at my Car Jacket project... ideas are percolating, and it'll be there when I'm ready!

*except rap. She told us that Dr. Dre/Beats Electronics is a supporter of the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation and that, as a grateful member of the board, she supposed she should learn to like it! More than a few of us suggested that Hamilton would be a good place to start!  ;)


In a Bubble / 17

I know that Thanksgiving is less than a week away.

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And Christmas fast approaching.

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I've watched since the trimmings of the season began edging out school supplies.

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And yet, I'm constantly doing a double-take when I see actual lights, decorations & full-on displays. I'm not ready for all the holiday hubbub.

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I feel as though I'm in a bit of a bubble... an Alabama bubble!

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Happy much? (Thanks for the photo, Kym!)

There's so much other stuff going on, even besides the holidays... but all I really want to do is clear off my work table and start sewing!

I would begin with an intense poring-over of Natalie Chanin's new book, The Geometry of Hand-Sewing, which I haven't had time to do yet, though I have been using it with great success to practice my "feather stitch" technique on my sampler.

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I'd pre-ordered my copy and picked it up at the workshop. We met with Natalie on Saturday, and she signed it for me... with a little laugh!

It's an incredible book with detailed instructions for working the stitches from either left-to-right or right-to-left, photos & diagrams --  including photos of the back of the work! -- and two die-cut plastic stitching cards/templates with various grids. Genius.

Though my Grandma Koenig had passed long before I picked up a needle, my mother would channel her, always asking to see the back of my project, intoning, "The back should be as neat as the front!"

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They practice what they preach over there at Alabama Chanin! Those are shots of the back & front of approximately the same area of a piece from a sample book.

If you're interested in learning more about this type of work, Natalie & The School of Making have a new class on Craftsy (with, I'm told, more to come!) -- The Swing Skirt: Techniques & Construction.


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This how my worktable looked at the beginning of Friday:

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Fairly neat and orderly.

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My project kit was the last to arrive, partly because I chose an obscure paint color for my stencil, but mostly because the Production Team at Alabama Chanin made sure it was perfect before presenting it to me; in particular, Corey, who mixed the paint and did the stenciling, worked the most amazing magic!

Inspiration is everywhere at Alabama Chanin, from the iconic sign...

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...to the bathroom decor.

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By the end of the day, my worktable looked like this (the neatened up version):

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I am working out a few things on a swatch that is in my actual pattern & colors.

Tomorrow is another day -- sadly, the last workshop day! The time is flying by and we are having a wonderful time!


Catch & Release: The Wisconsin Blingfish / 8

As this goes live, I'm winging my way to meet Kym in Nashville! We will hop into a rented car and drive to Florence, Alabama, for a long-anticipated 3-Day Workshop at Alabama Chanin! We've been planning this trip for well over a year, and... SO EXCITED!

I've been on my Alabama Chanin journey for a while now, and thought today would be a good time to share the story of one of my recent (unusual and crazy-fun) projects:

THE WISCONSIN BLINGFISH

Kay Gardiner, aka Mason-Dixon Kay, began working on her "newest oldest" sewing project, the Alabama Chanin Flag Quilt, on July 4th. It's a spectacular piece! It's also a bit overwhelming, even as a pre-cut and pre-stenciled kit.

After a week of immersion sewing, Kay was considering ideas to infuse her quilt with some personal style... by changing some of the thread & fabric colors, by adding embellishments, and by somehow involving friends.

I've "known" Kay for about as long as we've all been blogging. We met in person at Rhinebeck 2006, I think, and then again 10 years later. In between, we've chatted a little bit via Instagram & blog comments about knitting, of course, also about other projects & the kids & family & events, and quite a bit about Alabama Chanin projects these past few years. I was delighted when she asked if I'd be game to stitch a block of her quilt.

Um, YEAH!!

Bling-optional

She sent her "Wisconsin Fish," along with a spool of thread, and a small bag of iridescent semi-dimensional sequins marked "bling (optional)" -- which, HELLO, were never considered "optional" for even a second.

BRING THE BLING!

I immediately pulled out my own collection of sparkles to see how it all might work together -- adding a variety of seed beads, bugle beads, and more sequins to the mix!

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SEQUINS THIS WAY?

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SEQUINS THAT WAY?

Everything was kept quite secure with Wonder Clips, of course!

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THE PLAN FOR BUGLE BEADS WAS IMMEDIATELY CLEAR.

Eventually I did a little sewing. And some cutting... periodically laying out beads & sequins to see if I still liked them this way, that way, or another way.

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My daughter Kate was starting her new job at the time, but frequently stopping home, and every time I'd call out, "Come and see my fish!" I'd show her what I'd done and run through ideas...

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I started off with mostly reverse applique, running stitch, knots on the back; with some beading and a little bit of satin stitch with embroidery floss. (FYI: satin stitch is harder than it looks!)

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The sequins, though! It was obvious to me that they needed to be fish scales... but how? My only experience with sequins was on my Catamount Tunic, and the inspiration for that project made it pretty simple & straightforward.

Obviously, I needed to expand my sequins knowledge, and my treasure trove of sequins inspo for this project turned out to be "sewing for belly dancers."

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I used a combo of sequins and sewed them on in rows to make scales.

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Initially, the rows were too far apart, so I filled in, and continued in a more dense pattern. I'm sure that looks tedious to some, but I really had fun doing it! Perhaps, as Kay says, we "have a skewed sense of what is fun..."

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It was fun to figure out the little details as I went along... filling in bare "scale" spots with plain sequins; using red beads for the eye, outlining it with some metallic thread. I love the dimension and bit of sparkle and shine.

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I wanted some "lines" for the fish tail, so pulled out some more embroidery floss and sewed in some random sequins.

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I used only sequins -- fairly sparse -- for the belly (just beginning, above).

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I stitched "lines," too, for some of the other fins -- with and without sequins.

I had originally thought of using the metallic thread to work satin stitch the dorsal, pelvic & anal fins (*bling*)...

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... but holy cow, each of those things separately -- satin stitch & working with metallic thread -- is challenging enough! Instead, I used the metallic thread to back-stitch the outlines of the fins and sparsely fill in with running stitch.

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Finally, I signed my work.

Then I had to photograph it and send it back to Kay!

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Catch & Release... The One That Got Away... Some Fish... the Wisconsin Blingfish!!

I can't wait to see the whole quilt come together!!


Right Now: November - AC Style / 3

BREAKING NEWS...

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They were firing up equipment as I left for work this morning; Rusty sent this photo a little while later. (That's my house with the bunting still hanging.)

Anticipating... So much good stuff!

  1. New refrigerator delivery on Saturday (finally!) (y'all will be so happy when this is not.a.thing anymore)
  2. Hamilton on Sunday (matinee) with Maddy and her BFF Katy, followed by dinner at The Dearborn
  3. My 59th birthday on Monday (!!)
  4. A long-awaited vacation that begins on Wednesday:
    1. To Florence, AL, for a 3-Day Alabama Chanin Workshop
    2. Along with my first visit to Nashville, TN
    3. All with KYM!!!

Looking forward to... OMG. Alabama! The Factory! Muscle Shoals! Finally!!

I've long dreamed of attending an Alabama Chanin week-long workshop(s), but it just wasn't ever going to fit in financially or time-wise, so when the 3-day version was introduced last year... I pounced. I signed up practically the minute it was announced in September! Bonus: it was happening right around my birthday. Happy Birthday To Me!!

It wasn't long before Kym decided to join me... and the Airbnb booked by the first week of October! EXCITED MUCH?? I'd have booked travel then, too, but it was too early. I did put a reminder on my calendar about it, though.

Sewing... something EPIC as soon as I get to Alabama! I'm thinking Coat, but reserving final decision until we're actually there. We get to try on garments and see examples of finishing techniques. It's all certain to be incredibly inspiring... hopefully, not to overwhelming. I'm counting on experienced hands to guide us...

Listening... Hamilton soundtrack & and my "Alabama" playlists!

Wondering... What's up with you right now!?


Sing along!

I'm still reading the same books and knitting the same shawl. Next week I may have something new to share on those fronts! Today, let's talk about something else.

I subscribe to Spotify and frequently listen to music, but almost always to other people's playlists or to particular artists/songs/albums. Kate is always making playlists and I am thankful to her for bringing new artists to my attention and helping stretch my musical wings!

Anyway, the other day I was reading more about the upcoming workshop at Alabama Chanin -- particularly learning more about the included Swampette Tour -- and it finally sunk in. I mean, I've been aware of Muscle Shoals and its musical importance for a very long time and I know that Muscle Shoals is right there, but... Wow! We are really gonna be in it!!

I was inspired to create a playlist!

I'm still curating and organizing, but am so loving it; appropriately leading off with "A Feather's Not A Bird" by Rosanne Cash, which also supplied the playlist's perfect title: I'm Goin' Down to Florence.

Also, I will soon be re-watching the documentary Muscle Shoals!


Sew, the weekend...

Actually, it's more like "Sew, the month..." as I haven't done anything but sew since I finished knitting my Colorwash Shawl!

First it was the Tom Petty Corset; all put together and awaiting binding (and the loss of a few pounds)!

I still wanted a Corset, though, and found some Batman t-shirts on clearance at Macy's. I love the fabric, but the design of these things is hiddy:

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I'd already chopped & sliced that one up, but yuck. I had an XL and an XXL, the backs gave me enough fabric for the body and there was more than enough on the fronts to cut binding.

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It's a little bit wonky. The fabric is 100% cotton, but much finer and lighter in weight than I'm used to -- medium weight is what I usually order from Alabama Chanin, often heavy weight in the thrifted t-shirts.

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I checked a couple of times to verify that it was 100% cotton and not some combo with bamboo or something. It was slippery, more difficult to control, and it took a while to get it all sewn up. I like it well enough, though!

Since then, I've been working on the Alabama Chanin Magdalena A-line that I'd begun a year ago, in the hopes that perhaps I'd finish in time to bring it along on vacation. But first...

I "fixed" some sleepwear that I also want to take.

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The heavy embroidered design was replaced with this:

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It's a little swatch from when I was contemplating ideas for Catamount. I'm so glad to have found a use for it! That one little sequin makes me inordinately happy.

And voila! I finished all the seaming of the A-line on Saturday night, so yesterday was all about binding.

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That dress form isn't anywhere near my size, but you get an idea.

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Cretin stitch... always a bit of a challenge for me, but I think I'm getting better!

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Originally, I'd stenciled pieces for the back, too, but I've left the back a single layer and plain for a number of reasons... besides time. One is that the technique used on the front is "lighter" than some. Another is that I'd placed the stencil on all four pieces in almost exactly the same manner, and have decided that I'd prefer some variation. I'm hoping to use those other pieces to make something for Gin!

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Anyway, here it is. I used a couple of different colors of thread for the sewing. The cutting (negative reverse applique) was CRAZY INTENSE with all those knots & tails on the outside, but I don't think I accidentally snipped short a single one of those tails!

It's crunch time now!! One more sleep at home, another sleep on the plane, and then our first stop: Dublin!


Day off

Yesterday was my usual day off of work, and I decided to do a literal interpretation for a change. No dentist appointments, no banking or bill-paying, no grocery shopping, no dusting, no, nothing, nada.

I didn't get dressed until noon -- and, really, only then because there'd already been two delivery men at the door, and also because I'd be warmer. It was overcast and cool outside and... well, just not the kind of day that energizes me!

I never put on shoes and never left the house.

I never woke up my computer nor turned on the light in my workroom.

I watched TV and sewed.

Between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, I'd watched all of The Keepers on Netflix.

I basted the binding on the Alabama Chanin Corset over the weekend but that's not what I've been working on. What's been in-hand lately is the Magdalena A-Line Tunic that I stenciled about a year ago.

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This crazy thought popped into my head: Wouldn't it be fun to wear this in Spain?

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I doubt that I'll finish in time. This is the state of the front -- a bit of sewing yet to do, and a lot of cutting -- and I'll have to locate the back!

But... I'll never say "Never"!!


Weekending: Alabama Chanin, Rosanne Cash, Mother's Day

I finished my skirt on Friday night -- sewing on the fold-over elastic waistband with patience and the help of a lot of Wonder Clips!

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It felt so great to sew in that tag!

Saturday began with an hour or so watching the boys play soccer.

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We had some lunch afterwards and then went over to meet the baby.

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Mack could hardly get enough of her!

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She is pretty irresistible, and so content!!

Then it was concert time! Rusty and I went to see Rosanne Cash with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra along with John Leventhal and her band. The concert was fantastic! We enjoyed selections from The River & The Thread, The List, Black Cadillac, and more. There were numbers performed with only John on guitar as accompaniment, with her full band, and with the symphony -- it was a nice range. I enjoyed every minute.

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As hoped-for, I wore my new skirt! Styled above with my Catamount A-line Tunic Dress, Fluevog "Sunny" sandals, and a J.Jill sweater (it was chilly!), the tunic is maybe a little long for the skirt -- I will definitely be making a shorter tunic top to show off the skirt a bit more -- but this is a combo that I've had in mind since the beginning. The single-layer tunic and the bottom layer of the skirt are both dark grey, and the red beads on the tunic play off the burgundy top layer of the skirt.

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Rosanne wore an amazing Alabama Chanin jacket, by the way -- we weren't close enough that I could tell the design, but it was WAY sparklier than anything else in the room! Stunning and perfect. I didn't take any photos 'til the end for fear of being kicked out... I am not (much of) a rule-breaker!  ;)

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Here it is on Mother's Day, worn with a shorter J.Jill top... I'm thinking "uniform"! I was so comfortable all day long -- and I am not necessarily a skirt person! I like skirts well enough, but my short, high waist and bit of a belly can make it a challenging relationship. Here are some details, more photos below.

Alabama Chanin Swing Skirt

  • Swing Skirt - pre-cut & -stenciled kit from Alabama Chanin
  • 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey - Burgundy (top layer), Dark Grey (bottom layer)
  • Anna's Garden stencil
  • Button Craft Thread - double strand of Maroon/Burgundy throughout
  • Running stitch for construction & embellishment
  • Knots on the outside
  • Left Front Panel: Negative Reverse Applique
  • Right Front Panel: Reverse Applique
  • Back Panels: Stitched for Negative Reverse Applique but left un-cut
  • All seams inside felled
  • Fold-over Elastic Waistband sewn with herringbone stitch
  • Unfinished hem

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Mother's Day started with a funny card from Rusty, a couple of books, some chocolate...

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It continued with mimosas to accompany bacon, eggs & pancakes for a big family breakfast, more gifts, some shopping, some sewing, and knowing that people were working in my garden! Rusty & Kate tamed a bit of overgrowth in the back. I just don't garden as much since I quit smoking... and that's been a lot of years now!!

I put my new waistband skills to use yesterday, applying fold-over elastic to a couple pairs of leggings for Junah & Ginny.

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These were included (by mistake or on purpose... we will never know) as part of the Alabama Chanin fabric haul that my Utah friend scored and sent to me. There's another pair of 0-3m, two more pair of 2-3y, and a couple of in-between sizes too -- all in the same grey jersey with plaid knee patches, and pockets on the larger sizes. I haven't heard yet about how these fit. The kiddos wear mostly cloth diapers, though disposables sometimes... and these close-fitting leggings might be for wear with disposables only. Time for some more Big Butt Baby Pants!

It was truly a fun, fabulous, and memorable week/weekend.

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I hope yours was pretty good too!


Sewing and Knitting and Cooking and Sky-watching

SEWING

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Oh.My.Word. I am so in love with this Alabama Chanin swing skirt project!

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I don't remember whether I mentioned it here, but I was SHOCKED when I opened my kit and found Burgundy & Dark Grey (exactly what I ordered) instead of Dark Grey & Dove (which is what I was going to order right up 'til the last minute, when I daringly changed my mind).

There was nothing to do but DO, which is exactly what I did... not only is it a work-in-progress, it is also a design-in-progress. 

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One thing's for sure: these colors are working for me!!

KNITTING

Well. I finished a pair of Dimorphous Mittens a while back (except for buttons), and still have my Scoreboard Cowl to finish, but hadn't been too inspired to knit much lately (or have been more inspired to sew). But now...

  • I am well underway with Romi's Mystery Shawl 2016. I had to find & fix a little mistake at the end of Clue 2 last night (employing all the stitch markers) to keep on track!
  • Casting on of LOLA is imminent! I will be knitting this sweater in pieces, and beginning with a provisional cast-on (keeping options open... because designing as I go seems to be A Thing). All the materials are gathered and I'm finally ready to go!

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  • I'm not sure where Werifesteria will fit in, but it's not the knitting that I'm most interested in at this point, anyway. This is the second mystery Knit-Along/Walk-Along presented by Christina Campbell and I thoroughly enjoyed both aspects of the first. A March Through Time is probably my most-worn winter knit this year! Mostly, though, I am interested in the motivation to get out and walk this spring. Let's go!! (By the way, this KAL/WAL begins tomorrow! It is automatically 20% off through 3/31 -- that's today!)

COOKING (and Eating)

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Beef & Lamb Meatballs over Green Pea Risotto a la Plated. Yum. Our box also held the ingredients for a wonderful skillet-roasted chicken with some fennel and potatoes. I was a bit unsure about the new subscription plans, so have sat out deliveries for a bit, but decided to get back in; I am in charge and can skip whenever I like (such as the next two weeks, for various reasons) or even suspend deliveries for a lengthier period of time, but I really do enjoy not having to think about what I'm going to cook sometimes -- or even having to shop for it! Plus, I get to try new things or prep methods and have reasonable assurance that it's all going to turn out fine great. I have a few  invitations available (up to $72 off with subscription); if you're interested in trying Plated yourself, let me know and I'll send you an email invite!

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I ordered Fish Tacos at Houdini's Escape Gastropub at 5th Tuesday Knit Night; also in the frame are pub fries, a grilled veggie sandwich, and tortellini with portabello mushroom. Also yum. I really need to expand my horizons beyond the tacos at this establishment, but... SO GOOD!

SKY-WATCHING

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Arriving at work - view to the east - March 18, 2016

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Arriving at work - view to the east - March 22, 2016

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Arriving at work - view to the east - March 29, 2016

The weather has been decidedly chilly, dreary, gray, and wet and looks to be that way for a while (perhaps even some snowflakes flying), so I'll just park these photos here so I can easily visit until nice weather returns.


Weekending: Again

What a weird week last week. I was supposed to have last Thursday & Friday off -- a nice long weekend.

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There was a much-hyped Tuesday & Wednesday snowstorm, though, and with Rusty being gone (he takes care of most snow removal), it was suggested that perhaps I'd rather have those days off to keep up. And, yeah... sort of, I guess, but other scheduling things came into play, too, so that I was ending up with most of Tuesday off and all of Wednesday and, well, that's not much different from a normal week.

I took Friday off, too, but it just wasn't the same, y'know? And, of course, the snowfall wasn't nearly as dramatic as predicted, either. Whatever.

I managed one session with the personal trainer last week, did lots of cooking, and also a fair bit of cutting, ironing, and sewing!

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I had the majority of my Color Dive Quilt (in-progress) laid out on the front room floor for a few days... until Junah was due for a visit and I realized what a disaster that could be! I have three rows sewn together so far... it's very colorful!

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Some of my seams line up pretty good and some not-so-good! I'm learning. I also found that some of my fabric combos worked better than others, and have done more fat-quarter shopping in the past week than I've done ever! I think I can live with it now... I will live with it, because no more shopping!

Annie came on Friday afternoon and spent the weekend. The plan was to introduce her to hand sewing, Alabama Chanin style, in preparation for some skirt kits that are on order. We used some stenciled fat-eighths that I'd ordered a while ago for our swatches.

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Within minutes, she was couching! She really likes the look of it and it's probably the technique she's going to use on her skirt.

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She tried some other techniques, too!

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The beads & sequins also came out, and I sent her home with a selection of all, along with some jersey rope in a contrasting color for couching.

The possibilities are endless!

I worked "negative reverse applique" on my swatch, with both layers of fabric in the same color.

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I will likely use this technique on my skirt, but the layers will be different shades of gray.

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It was a super fun and relaxing weekend -- not as long as originally hoped, but fine!

Ann is smitten with the stitching! It's going to be several weeks before our skirt kits arrive, so in the meantime (next time we get together), we'll be cutting out and sewing an interim project. She reminded me before she left that she made it as far Advanced Tailoring in high school home ec class (I remember the "muslin" suit she made from some amazing floral bedsheets)... she's going to LOVE working on a garment!


Weekending

Another weekend goes by and the living room still needs dusting.

A few weeks ago I cut out two Alabama Chanin A-Line Dresses. At first, they were going to be one two-layer dress, then I decided that I wanted a dress and a vest, so proceeded to baste the armhole & neckline edges of each, and even began a little sewing on the vest.

What I really wanted first, though, was the dress. I wanted to layer it under my Catamount A-Line Tunic-Dress... and I wanted to wear it to an event on Saturday night! For the millionth time, I wondered whether I could/should commit sacrilege and sew it up by machine and was once again sliding towards not when I read my daily Alabama Chanin inspirational email, saw some of their machine-made ready-to-wear, and thought WHY THE HELL NOT?!! For the most part, I intend this to have something layered over it... no one is going to care about my running stitch or how I felled my seams... and just never mind that it's my project, my fabric, my party.

So I did it, and quick... I started at about 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and we were walking out the door just before 5. The armholes and neckline are self-faced, the seams unfelled, and the hem unfinished... all apt to be revisited/worked on/finished at any time! But for now, it was a go.

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Ever since I read a comment in a thread on Ravelry about the proportion of my tunic-dress, I've questioned the length and my decision to chop it where I did. I love layering, though, and Langenlook (to a degree), so a dress-length layer to wear underneath as a styling option was one way for me to "fix" it, while also adding another basic piece to my wardrobe. And for winter wear (such as it is), the added layer and length are nice. I wore it with a cropped cardi, tights, and ankle boots. (I really need to do something about my mirror!)

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It's been the party dress of the season! I've one more for-sure holiday gathering this week on Wednesday.

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Saturday night was the ARTiculture End-of-Season Event and CSA share pick up at The Draw, with catering by Seven - Boutique Catering.

The venue was The Draw, recently finished, newly opened and pretty spectacular considering that it's "the little white building" that stood for years unoccupied and in disrepair while ever so intriguing and daydream-inducing (I'm guilty!). It's located right on the river and used to be part of a large paper mill. When the greater mill was razed (housing development now in its place), so too was the power source for this structure -- sort of a big hurdle to occupancy.

The food! Janel at Seven - Boutique Catering presented a lovely assortment of finger foods: tiny stuffed brussels sprouts, a variety of roasted fingerling potatoes (some were even hasselback), a butternut squash torte, and sweets.

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Included in our CSA share was a new -- THE BEST EVER -- knitting needle holder! Artist Melissa Siewert's modern take on vintage head vases is one of my favorites, and I think I want to eventually add one or two more! I'm thrilled with every piece of original local art we received in our ARTiculture CSA package (shares are still available!).

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No stranger to head vases here at knitorious, that little lovely in the background with the gigantic cactus hat was my first and long-time avatar here. It's only natural! I love that the new one can wear earrings, too. It's the perfect place for Bijouterie!


Slow Fashion Week 1: You (and Me)

I'm off to a tardy start in Karen Templer's "Slow Fashion October"... but it's a start!

First let’s introduce ourselves: Where are you at with all this / What first got you interested in Slow Fashion / What are your skills / What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October / What are your personal goals for the month / Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month?

The most important people in my life are family and almost all of them -- to some degree -- are/were also makers.

  • Textiles, fiber and reed
  • Rocks, gems and metal
  • Wood, clay, and glass
  • Paper, graphite and paint
  • Seeds, dirt and water

Resulting goods (and motivation) range from utilitarian to decorative, executed by novice makers to highly skilled artists... but there's always been making and doing.

My mother taught me to knit when I was six. I knit on and off in high school and as a young adult in the world (I found knitting needles, yarn, and a slightly challenging pattern to be a great antidote to loneliness), but it's been in the last 15 years or so that I became a truly avid knitter. Thankfully, about 10 years ago, knitting blogs were a Really Big Thing and I became part of that community where people actually thought about knitting and thoughtfully wrote about knitting, yarn, tools, technique (and life), and I learned so much.

Dresses

Dresses sewn by Mom (including her own).

Though my mother was an excellent sewist, she was also a very busy single mother & student, and I didn't learn to sew (more than a button) until I took Home Ec. in high school! My stepmother actually owned a fabric & craft store when she met my dad, and I made a couple of skirts under her tutelage -- but mostly I knit angora hats and made macrame plant hangers for her to sell at the store; she gave me the sturdy used Husqvarna sewing machine that I've used for the past 35-40 years.

I've written a little about sewing and fashion -- and slow fashion -- and quality last April. I am not a crusader, but I am aware and quietly help to make others aware.

Mostly, I just do. I make and do because that's what I've always done -- it's one of the ways I know I'm alive! The day I stop making and doing, I'll be dead.

I became interested in/aware of slow fashion when I began learning about Natalie Chanin and her company, Alabama Chanin in 2012. One of the things I admire about Alabama Chanin is the open source concept. Because as much as I'd like to own, wear, and love a $4,000 handmade dress, it is just never going to happen; but there are resources and tools available for me to make one myself.

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Or something.

Anyway, I'm participating in Slow Fashion October because I love seeing what others are doing. Just as I learned so much about knitting from the knit-blog community, I am inspired and in awe of what's happening in the larger "maker" community. And I will learn things.

Mending

I actually have a couple of goals for the month. One of them is to mend an already mended tunic. Shown above is a visible (embellished!) repair made a few months ago near the hem. Now, there are two small holes in the tummy region. I do not want to give up this garment just yet!! So I need to figure out a way... and am open to suggestions!


Alabama Chanin Wrap Skirt

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I finally finished my "muslin" of the Alabama Chanin Wrap Skirt! I used three thrifted t-shirts for the main skirt pieces (one black and two mismatched-but-close green), stenciled the fabric using my airbrush and compressor set-up for the first time, and used a variety of techniques to finish.

A skirt is a tricky garment for me to wear, and I'd make mods* next time, but I was comfortable enough to wear it out to lunch yesterday!

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Alabama Chanin Wrap Skirt

  • (1) Black T-shirt
  • (2) Green T-shirts (mismatched but close in color)
  • Angie's Fall stencil, gray fabric paint (I mixed the color)
  • Button Craft Thread - double strand of Black throughout
  • Running stitch for construction & embellishment
  • Back Panel: Black outer layer, Green inner layer; large motifs stitched, no cutting, knots inside
  • Inner Front Panel: Green for both layers (same t-shirt); large & medium motifs inked & stitched inside, large motifs cut, knots outside
  • Outer Front Panel: Black outer layer, Green inner layer; large motifs stitched & cut, knots inside
  • All seams inside felled
  • Waistband and ties using Alabama Chanin 100% organic cotton jersey fabric - Blue Slate
  • Unfinished hem

*Because of my body shape, and this is whether or not I'm packing 30 extra pounds -- it's just structure/posture -- I would make an adjustment to the front (shorten) or to the back (lengthen), and probably play around with the darts a little. Some people make a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) when they sew... mine would be a Full Belly Adjustment. Haha.

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In other news, the image above was included with permission in a recent Alabama Chanin Journal post about The School of Making (#theschoolofmaking)! I am rubbing Instagram shoulders with some very fine company there. Check it out... it's an inspiring community.


Sew, the weekend

All of my knitting was in the dog house over the weekend. I may have been suffering a post-project slump after a) "Catamount," my Alabama Chanin A-line Tunic, and b) those busy and productive few days off with the boys.

A slump is the perfect time for hexagons, and that's exactly what happened on Saturday morning at the farmer market.

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Later on Saturday, I actually made an attempt at laying out and assembling a strip quilt that I've had cut for ages. That ended up in the dog house, too! I think I'm forcing it and need to do some editing (I think there's more than one quilt happening there).

Needing some craftual satisfaction, I turned to my potato chip project du jour, a romper for Junah! I'd recently picked up a Green Bay Packers t-shirt at the thrift store (new, with tags) for just that purpose, following the same method as for Baby Captain America!

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Drawing lines.

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Three hours later, I'd finished everything but snaps, and added those on Sunday morning. I was able to get all but the front facing from one t-shirt (size XXL, I believe). There's still plenty of room for a diaper butt, but I left off the snaps at the crotch this time.

Sunday was the first day in a while that I didn't have to be somewhere or take care of someone, and it seemed like a good day to play around finally try airbrushing. It was windy outside, so made part of the garage floor my work space (the part that isn't taken over by the indigo operation, art gallery displays, and bicycles) (also known as where I normally park my car but haven't in months) (and all that stuff will relocate by the time the snow flies!).

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I chose two old mismatched green t-shirts and one new black one to provide the fabric for my "muslin" of the Wrap Skirt and to test the airbrush/compressor set up.

I mixed paint, fitted everything together with our little air compressor, laid out some old towel-rags on the garage floor, and had at it. I painted one piece at a time, the stencil being large enough to cover each piece without having to reposition. Some time ago, I'd purchased the large all-over mylar stencil in the Angie's Fall design -- it's one of my favorites, and I'm not sick of it yet!

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Inside front, Back, Outside front

All the while I was thinking that it would be really great to learn the finer points of stenciling (from start to finish) and, thanks to my $5 for Florence campaign, that might will happen someday.

The design is a little soft in the middle of the back piece (where the stencil was not adhered to the fabric very well), and it was while spraying the outside front piece that I was running out of paint, so it's splotchy in places and sparse in others.

I had barely enough paint, having first mixed my color concoction (a little black, a little white, a little silver) in a small 2-oz. jar. Turns out that the mouth of that jar is too small for the airbrush fitting, so had to dump it all into a 4-oz. jar and there was a fair bit of waste.

Clean up was interesting...

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That's the towel upon which I did the first scrubbing of paint off the stencil. I win for fanciest rag bag contents! I finished cleaning up in the bathtub and "sticking it" on the tile wall. Clean up sure takes a while.

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I've already begun stitching. I'm not sure how far I'll go with that... it would be nice to have a wearable piece, even just for running around, but it is just a "muslin" and my time might be better spent. We'll see. I'm content for now.

Thoughts & things: I made a slight cutting mistake on the inside front piece (it should have been mirrored with the outside front, and was not). I might try a button (something other than a tie) on the inside. One of the old green shirts is so soft and worn that it feels like velvet against my skin (it also has a few holes - the straight pins show where not to cut!).


Alabama Chanin Tunic: Catamount

I travel on occasion, and when I do I like to fly. One of the things I like most about flying is viewing the landscape below, which is why I always choose a window seat (and sometimes arrive at my destination with a sore neck). Wisconsin, and much of the USA, divides land using the geometric Public Land Survey System and I am endlessly entertained by the patterns and design of our land, both natural and man-made.

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Somewhere between Wisconsin and Mexico, February 2015.

The aerial view of Wisconsin in the warm months can be stunning, reminiscent of a giant quilt -- with every shade of green you can imagine, sometimes striped or blocked with brown or yellow, full of texture, contrast, and pattern. It gives me a thrill every time I see it. In autumn, add the reds, golds, and oranges of turning leaves. In winter... not quite as thrilling. There is still geometry, texture, interest, and it can be quite tranquil and lovely; it can also be bleak, raw, and desolate (not to mention cold).

I often view the landscape below me and think about it in terms of textiles: how could a particular design be used in quilting, knitting, or lately sewing (mainly surface design/embroidery).

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My main inspiration came from Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013

When I decided to make an Alabama Chanin A-line Tunic/Dress using the lovely gift of organic cotton jersey from Margene a couple of months ago, I knew I wanted something special to honor the gift. I'm not sure when I first saw Sonja Hinrichsen's snow drawings -- sometime in the past year, a photo or article shared via social media, no doubt; I was immediately struck by her work, and I swear to god, the choir began to sing! The concept of her snow drawings blows my mind, and even after some intimacy with her work, I continue to be utterly amazed... the vision, the design, the execution, the perfection.

Mosaic1My  normal mode of operation is to dive right in, but I did do some testing to figure out some particulars.

The first step was to choose the particular areas/motifs I wanted to document on the fabric and then manipulate the images to correct the angle (so that circles were circular instead of elliptical).

Mosaic2Wow, that stuff really works!

Chosen design motifs were printed on an adhesive-backed wash-away fabric stabilizer (such as Sulky or Pellon), then cut out and arranged on the fabric. I was interested in a deep design at the hem... at first, I was going to do the entire dress, but quickly decided to do only the front.

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Some of the motifs are very labyrinth-like, peaceful and meditative, contrasting with the high-energy, whimsy, and unabashed fun of other parts -- and I felt all of those things while stitching, but mostly excitement! It was so much fun to do and I looked forward to sewing time everyday!

A million progress/process photos were taken along the way.

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The dress was assembled after embroidery was complete. (Construction details below.) I modified the neckline a bit, then bound my first V-neck. The Wonder Clips are amazing, of course, for holding things without piercing the fabric, but it occurred to me that basting the neckline might even be better. I had recollection of the neck gaping a bit on Maddy's Hootie shirt and it occurred to me that there would be a better chance at correcting that if I basted first; it would also eliminate weight from the clips that might stretch the fabric a bit more than I'd like while sewing up. I did, in fact, make an adjustment at the back neck before finishing, and the basting lines made perfect guidelines for sewing the beaded binding.

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Front and back - finished!

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That's my name in Morse Code beaded into the hem on one side; the year is beaded on the other side.

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I finished the dress on Sunday, and decided on Tuesday that I wanted a Bolero to go with it. I really want to make a gray & red version to go with the dress, but some "quick" slow fashion was called for, as I wanted to wear it on Thursday evening. I made a single-layer cap-sleeve version using a thrifted men's XL t-shirt. The fabric is off-white, I used Slate thread, binding the neck edge with parallel stitch and finishing the sleeves with a random ruffle -- a nod to and coordinating with the tunic, but no beads.

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Alabama Chanin A-line Dress: CATAMOUNT

  • Alabama Chanin 100% organic cotton jersey fabric - Blue Slate
  • Button craft thread - double strand of Black for construction, single strand of Slate for embroidery & beading
  • Backstitch embroidery
  • All knots inside
  • All seams inside felled
  • Customized length to between tunic & dress length (hits just above the knee)
  • Customized neckline to make slightly deeper V
  • Parallel binding stitch at armholes
  • Beaded parallel binding stitch at neckline
  • Beaded random ruffle at hemline
  • Seed beads: clear and red
  • Bugle beads: dark gray, satin gray, and red
  • Chop beads: dark gray and red
  • Sequins: silver and dark gray

I've shared my project with Sonja Hinrichsen, whose work inspired the embellishment, and I'm happy to report that she loves it!

There are a few more photos (if you can believe it) in a Flickr Collection/Alabama Chanin A-line Tunic: Catamount.


Weekending: Late edition

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Oh, well, HI THERE!

I finished the embellishment of my Alabama Chanin A-line Dress on Friday night! I'd already seamed up the back a while ago, and couldn't resist Wonder Clipping the other three seams so I could try it on (shown above and below, inside-out).

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Pleased as punch.

In case it's hard to tell, I am very happy!! I can't wait to wear this dress!!

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As of last night, all the seams are sewn and felled; edges await finishing (neckline, armholes, hem).

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Busy boy.

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Peek-a-BOO!

It was a regular market morning on Saturday, with the addition of an early  morning helper!

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Intrigued by Walter - the spaniel that lives across the street.

I watched Junah later on Saturday, too, while Ali helped Rusty set up his booth for the 55th Art at the Park in Appleton. Kate helped him tear down last night. Both girls made nostalgic posts on Facebook, recalling the innumerable art fairs to which they've accompanied him over the years. It was always a pretty big thrill -- various Chicago-land shows, that long show in Ann Arbor, etc.

Rusty had a follow-up appointment with his regular doc this morning. He's generally feeling better, though plagued by one or two areas that have been feeling worse; he checked out OK, with a prescription refill, and just needs to be patient while all those strained muscles and ligaments heal!


Hellooooo!

It seems so quiet in blogland. Summertime is busy, isn't it? And that's good!

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My Alabama Chanin collection was "pressed" into alternate use last week, as Ali and I regrouped for our run to the finish on a large & overdue joint project. We spent a few good hours together on Wednesday and the end is drawing near... er. There's still a lot to do! Forward.

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I spent almost all of my "free" time last week working on my Alabama Chanin A-line dress. I am embellishing the front of the tunic with embroidery, beads and sequins, and I'm really pleased with how it's turning out. I'm keeping the design/inspiration under wraps for now, but I'm almost half-way as of yesterday, so hopefully it won't be too long before the big reveal.

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I'm using a combo of seed beads (clear & red), chop beads (dark grey & red), bugle beads (dark grey, satin grey & red), and sequins (dark grey & silver).

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I made a beading cuff!

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Here's a peek at one little motif. IRL, that's little more than an inch in diameter.

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It's farmer market season again! That's where you'll find me most Saturday mornings until mid-October (and taking a little nap on after-market Saturday afternoons). This year, Ali is using her portable espresso machine to make "real" lattes and whatnot, and I'm mostly manning the citrus press and making freshly squeezed lemonade. I was called a "lemonade making machine" on Saturday, so I guess I've got it down. Ali's also baking cookies and fresh muffins everyday, including some gluten-free varieties, so we have fresh baked goods, too! It's all a little simpler... and better! As those things go.


Why wait?

The summer bucket-filling commences today with the start of an Alabama Chanin A-line Dress!

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I'm making a custom length between tunic and the shorter dress, using a single layer of Alabama Chanin medium-weight organic cotton jersey in a color called "Blue Slate."

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I'll be using black thread to sew it all together.

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If there's one step I'm likely to skip in this process, it's basting the neckline and armholes... but not this time.

I've plans to embellish with embroidery and beading, inspired by some photos that I ran across on the WWW last winter.

Drip, drip, drip...


New threads

On Memorial Day, another men's 4X t-shirt was on the block (aka, my new worktable). I used a favorite Eileen Fisher tunic to make a pattern template, drew some chalk lines, and started cutting!

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The length was perfect, so I kept the already finished t-shirt hem.

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I sewed the new side and shoulder seams by machine, using a regular presser foot (since my walking foot blew apart) and Maxi-Lock thread. The thread cone doesn't fit on the machine's spool holder, but it worked just fine to set it on the table right below; I think I knocked it over only once. I felled the machine-sewn seams by hand, a la Alabama Chanin.

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It's a "pretty simple" tunic -- square neck, two main pieces, front and back exactly the same.

I finished the cap-sleeve armhole edges with binding attached using a plain parallel stitch.

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Then, there was that "simple" square neck to finish. I probably spent twice as much time working on that neckline as I did on everything else! I decided to finish it with a mitered edge and used the instructions given by Nancy Snell, "Miter Corners for a Smooth Finish," included in A Primer on Sewing Knits on the Threads magazine site.

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I sewed the corners and attached the binding to the body by machine

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Mitered corner neckline detail.

Then I smoothed and basted -- very loosely, because I was flying by the seat of my pants and the possibility of a re-do was looming large -- on the right side, about 1/4" or maybe 3/8" from the edge, hoping for it to nicely curl. And it did.

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Very loose basting!

My eldest (rather fashionable and stylish) daughter has coveted my new tunic, so I know it's a good one! It's been washed and worn a few times already (we did not depart for NC until the dryer buzzed)! I love it and will definitely make another one or two.

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It's black, so terrible to photograph -- I doctored every single one of the photos above in order to actually be able to see something!Blackmountainself
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Trust that I'm wearing it here, last Friday, at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway at sunset.

I am still working on my Endless Summer Tunic! I brought it along to NC, and even worked on it... it won't be long. I love that thing!


Weekending: Embellished

Saturday

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Karen and Ann came to town and we gathered on Saturday to spend a full afternoon doing yard & garden clean up for Joe. It was a great day with perfect weather for such work. We filled 16 yard refuse bags! And I hauled a few more bags worth to the bottom of the ravine.

I cleaned up a lot of willow branches from the deck and wildflower garden. The wind chime that Mother's friends gave to Joe was making all kinds of noise as I made the first pass on the deck and I could hear Mom, "You're Not Doing It Right." "I'm doing it MY way, Mom!" (We had a little back-and-forth.)

As I was working in the wildflower garden (dutchmen's breeches are all but done, dogtooth violets are appearing, Virginia bluebells are full of buds), I remembered when Mom & Joe came to Oregon in May of '85 to meet Katie for the first time. Mom had just begun that project and it was the first year she could enjoy the "flowers" of her labor -- she was missing some of the show because Spring (most wildflowers put on a very short show). She remarked that the garden would bloom only 18 more times before Katie graduated from high school, and didn't that seem like... not very many?? And now it's already been 30!

The kids had a blast. We had a cookout, ate a ton of good food. I even rode my bike. And got a little knitting done to round out the day. (Clue 3 of Romi's Mystery Shawl is complete!)

Sunday

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On Sunday, I had a hole to fix! It wasn't very big, but it was rather obvious... right at the hem of a tunic, about 2" from the side seam. It's a garment that I love and wear a lot; it could not be out of commission for long!!

From the start, I knew I would employ visible mending a la Tom of Holland, and that my experience with Alabama Chanin hand-sewing techniques would serve me well.

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It was a round-ish hole, so I decided to repair it in a circular fashion. I pinned my circle to the back and blanket-stitched around the hole from the front.

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Continuing with the same length of thread, I worked running stitch in circles around the button-holed repair.

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Showing the back of my work! I was quite pleased with the repair, my plan, and how it looked.

But I could not stop.

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I had to EMBELLISH that little patch!

"Why not?!" I chuckled to myself as I pulled out my little bins of sequins and chop beads, channeling a bit of both Natalie Chanin and Marie Kondo... loving my thread, honoring the people who made my clothes, taking good care of my things, thanking my tunic for doing its job so well and making me feel great, sewing...

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Inspired... and thankful for all I've learned from people such as Natalie and Marie.

I love that little patch!!


On a Wednesday

I had the day off yesterday! It was as close to typical as I've seen in a long while, though "typical" is a very fluid thing and always subject to change. Two years ago, it was typical to at least get together for coffee with my mom, if not a full-blown lunch and/or day of adventure somewhere; a couple years before that, we were making weekly (at least) treks together to Jefferson to visit my sister.

I typically pay bills and take care of any banking needs on my day off, and was truly thrilled that it was the only thing that needed to be done yesterday with any urgency.

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It's inevitable, but we're trying to stall the addition of another vehicle into the family for as long as possible. So, without a car at my disposal, I rode my freshly tuned-up bike to the bank instead!

Ali & I missed a charity ride in early June that we'd signed up for but, along with Kate & Ann, we're down for another in two weeks in Door County -- and I need to get a few laps in before then! The fall Peninsula Century is similar to the early summer Ride for Nature that we've done in the past (but without the simultaneous Door County Beer Festival) (oh, yeah, we will be back) and, well, you just can't go wrong with Door County in September. I haven't been up there yet this year and I can't wait!

I was pretty free to do as I wished for the rest of the day. I sat down at my computer and, well, you know how one thing leads to another? Facebook leads to Aboutlander (I don't have cable) leads to curiosity about Outlander knitting (there must be something on Ravelry!) (but I googled it first) leads to a website with a section about dyeing with Impatiens capensis (jewelweed, touch-me-knot) and I have a fine crop growing in the ravine! So, of course, I grabbed a scissors and a basket to harvest some of that and next thing you know there's a dye pot on the stove.

Dinner was already taken care of, thanks to Plated -- I still had to prep & cook, but everything was there and I didn't have to think about it -- so for the rest of the afternoon I prepped & dyed yarn, did a little bit of cleaning, and organized some photos -- both from our last ScanCafe order and for the next.

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I've been working on an Alabama Chanin DIY Corset but before I continued with that last night, I had to do a repair on my Transformed Tee. A few weeks ago I noticed little hole in the rear hip area and knew exactly how I'd patch that! I've never been a big fan of "mending" before, but I believe that the "Alabama Chanin Experience" has changed me! I planned, cut, and sewed that entire top by hand; I love that top and love to wear it; how could I not fix it?!

Guess what I'm wearing today!

And I'll leave you with that.

 


Sooooo

We bought a house! Ha. My sister *bought* (accepted offer pending inspection blah blah blah) a house with the help of a committee.

That was so much fun!! Rusty, Ali, Junah, Annie and I drove up to meet the Realtor last Monday and spent several hours looking at houses. We each (except Junah) had a notebook and pen to jot down pros, cons, impressions, and thoughts about each house. (Don't worry, Junah had his say!) Agreeing beforehand not to get too hung up on or in discussion about any one thing while at any given house, we sat down afterwards to go over our notes and rate each property. Mostly, Annie wanted to know each of our Top 3 and the pros and cons about each one.

Let me just say that Vacationland Northeast Wisconsin has a very wide range of properties for sale, with an even greater range of prices. Ha. You have your in-town older home, in-town newer home, foreclosure, farmhouse, home with acreage, waterfront home, waterfront vacation home, cottage, and hunting/fishing shack.

I think we looked at every different type! Though it had some interesting features -- a chicken coop & silo among the outbuildings -- the farmhouse was out because it was the only place that Junah cried. It was also very remuddled and just not that great of a house. And Annie broke one of her own rules as we left one of the in-town homes, stating that it was a definite No.

After evaluation and discussion of all the rest, and considering some of the key parameters (move-in condition, timeframe), we all had the same Top 3, and mostly the same Top 1... or 2. After further discussion it was very clear which was the winner. Ann was back there for a couple of days later in the week; made an offer, it was countered, she countered again, and voila.

Remember two years ago when they sold everything to move to Brazil? Yeah, well, now they need it all back! Ha. She's hoping that their pared-down lifestyle over the past couple of years will carry over and that they won't accumulate quite so much. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I schlepped her to the airport on Saturday and after she checked her bag and had boarding passes in hand, we wondered how to kill the next hour or so! We loaded her carry-on back into my car and ran down to the mattress shop for the 45-minute sales pitch, testing out about a half-dozen mattresses, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were ordered before take-off.

Let's get out the paint and make something! Love this @alabamachanin stencil. #handsewing

I got out the paint and stenciled some fabric on Saturday afternoon. There was a bit of lightweight cotton jersey in the Alabama Chanin bag of scraps and I'm trying out a design where I can do some of the traditional applique & decorative stitching without it being an irritant to the skin. Oh, for another chemo cap. I finished the first and delivered it... and didn't take any pictures! So far, it seems that I'm better at photographing the process of sewing than I was the process of knitting, but much worse at documenting the finished sewing projects!

Decisions, decisions... black, gray, or maroon thread? #handsewing

Anyway, back to the new hat. First I had to decide on thread color!

Testing... prior to the cut (just underway). How do you like me now? #handsewing

And cut. Hm. #handsewing

That was not an easy task, nor was any of it very easy to photograph. The thread choices were gray (not as bright & contrasty as in these photos), black, and maroon. The fabric color is dark gray (first and last photos much more true to life), as is the paint. The paint has a touch of sparkle. I presented on both Instagram and Facebook and, as you might imagine, there were votes for every color, as well as votes for using all three!

I'm going for fashionable, understated, subtle, and stylish!

I have begun... slowly, because that is the only way... and I am using black thread. At this point, I think that if I use the other colors it will be sparingly. I also think that the plain stenciled fabric is really quite lovely and, well... argh! Why do I have to go to work? I want to paint and cut and sew! I don't have enough time! Send in the minions!!

 


Concert Tee Turned Corset

While in Point for the Taste of Wisco event last month, I scored a few t-shirts at the thrift store, among them a concert tee from the Hootie & The Blowfish Small Talk Johnson Tour 1996. It seemed like a great candidate for an Alabama Chanin Corset.

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 So I cut it up and then sewed it back together!

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The seams are on the inside, all felled; the bound armholes and neck are worked in a large cross stitch; and I left the bottom unhemmed (and untrimmed, so it's a little uneven) (and I like that).

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It was a bit snug on me, but Maddy gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up the last time she was home. So I gave it a wash and then gave it to my girl!

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I think she loves it!

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I also think it might be a little bit big on her, and the neckline could be tightened up in the front, but otherwise... it's a huge WIN!! I loved working this top and I just can't wait to start another project. But before I start anything else, I want to fashion a nice, soft, Alabama Chanin style hat suitable (and comfortable) for someone undergoing chemo.

Also, notice Maddy's newest tattoo? The pansies are a nod to me!  :)

 


Eye Candy Monday

Snugbug

Seriously.

In case you've forgotten, it's the Comfy Hooded Jacket by Lion Brand, which I've Ravel'd as the Chunky Hoodie.

12wks

12 Weeks. Can you believe it? His hair is definitely coming in on the red side; not anywhere near the red of his mum and Aunt Kate (there was never any debate), but it sure seems more reddish than brownish!

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In case you missed the update, it did happen! My finished and modeled transformed tee! All of a sudden, I've become so crazily interested in sewing -- more for how and why it all works, and for fit -- that I'm learning about how to make a moulage and a sloper! Two things I'd never even heard before last week.

 


The 2-week Tee Transformation

From a man's 4X pocket tee to a woman's boatneck swing top.

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I love how my first top turned out, and was a bit more careful with the traced chalk line this time around. I used two tried-and-true tops from my own wardrobe as a pattern template: the same boatneck that I used for the previous project as a guide for the top of this shirt and a favorite swingy A-line for the bottom. I had the fabric and it's a favorite shape, so why not?

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I fell in love with some tone-on-tone polka-dot tops at Alabama Chanin and had those images in mind when I drew a chalk-line grid on the front of my shirt. I used the top of a spice jar to trace 2" circles and cut them out. My first inclination was to cover the front with dots... that's a lotta dots! I decided to space them out more, figuring that I could add easier than subtract.

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I attached the dots with blanket stitch; seamed and felled on the outside; used a vertical stitch to apply the binding to neck, armholes, and hem.

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There are "those moments" in sewing just as in knitting. More black thread wouldn't be hard to get, but I had only the one spool and no more at hand! It was SO CLOSE.

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It's not easy to photograph a black-on-black top! The photos above and below are when sewing is finished and before I threw it in the washer. My chalk-line design guides faded but remained visible throughout the process.

I purchased the 4X t-shirts on Wednesday, March 18th and finished on Wednesday, April 2nd -- the sewing up was complete the day before, but Wednesday is when I pulled it out of the dryer and over my head, ready to wear!

I'd have finished a bit earlier if I hadn't forced myself to put it down after the applique was finished in order to finish knitting a hat. I couldn't pick it up again until the hat was done!

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And after washing. It softened up beautifully.

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I absolutely LOVE IT!

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From that to this.

This is not the last of that!

Edited to add:

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 Finito and a modeled shot! New haircut, too!!

 


Alabama on my mind

I'm celebrating my 10th Blogiversary on the First Day of Spring, with the St. Patrick's Day observance of 9 years Quit (Smoking) along the way! To mark the occasion, which totally blows my mind, I thought I'd share TEN for TEN.

TWO - SEWING

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Alabama Chanin Baby Bib
1. My first @alabamachanin project, needing all the scissors!, 2. There will be no cutting on this one, 3. I cut one!, 4. Cut.

While I've always sewn -- there's never been a time when I've not had a sewing machine -- and I've even done some sewing in the past 10 years (skirts, a bag), it's never something I've been passionate about. I've had fun over the years sewing up curtains, making a few pieces of clothing for myself, and sewing some things for the girls, but mostly "sewing" has always been more like "mending" and that's not something I've ever enjoyed. Part of the problem is that I've never had the ideal location for sewing and set-up/tear-down of the machine was always a chore.

It's funny that hand sewing has never crossed my mind. I'm a cross-stitcher from way back, working plenty of reproduction samplers on tiny-count linen, and I've even done some (a very little) hand piecing and quilting, but I never thought to join to pieces of fabric together by hand to actually make clothing.

Enter Alabama Chanin. I'm pretty sure my introduction was via Kay, as I read all of the Alabama Chanin-tagged posts at Mason-Dixon Knitting and this one, in particular. I didn't hesitate for a second when Craftsy introduced Natalie Chanin's Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading and Embroidery.

I purchased Natalie's class last March and watched straight through. After agonizing over which one of the three AC books to make mine, I finally bought Alabama Studio Sewing + Design in April. I had the brilliant idea to actually send the link to my Amazon Wish List to my family this year, so between birthday and Christmas, my book collection was completed!


The rest of spring and summer was busy with wedding details, and then baby prep! In my case, that meant months of non-stop baby knitting!

On the first of the year, though, things changed and in the spirit of "I begin as I mean to go on," knowing that I wanted to make it a priority this year, I began... to sew. There's a very real possibility that I suffered a little knitting burn-out as a result of all those baby projects and, as it turns out, there's been a LOT more sewing so far this year -- hand sewing -- in the knitorious Making and Doing departments.

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Alabama Chanin DIY Onesie + Baby Blanket
1. Alabama Chanin Baby Blanket, 2. Stitched by me!, 3. One of these is not like the other, 4. Onesie.

The bibs were practice for the DIY Onesie + Baby Blanket. I lucked out with the fabulously printed fabric for the bibs, and the Onesie + Blanket came already stenciled. There's a lot to these projects, start to finish, and having a few steps already done was a great way to begin without feeling overwhelmed.

The bib pattern is available for download in the DIY Resources section of the Alabama Chanin website, along with a few other patterns, artwork for all of the stencil designs, and background images for your cell phone or computer.

I'm all for Slow, but I also know a few things about myself. For instance, I know that I don't want to cut a large stencil by hand. I don't even want to cut a small one. After agonizing over the choices, I ordered the pre-cut all-over stencil for Angie's Fall during a recent promotion. I intend to use it instead of the Paisley design for the coat pattern that's part of the Craftsy class... and much more.

I made my first Alabama Chanin-style top using a favorite boatneck to cut the pattern and stenciled with Angie's Fall! I rushed in and made a couple of mistakes -- not cutting the armholes and neck as close as I should have (figured out in time to fix) -- and it was just a wee bit wonky overall. I cut a white t-shirt for the front & back, and rummaged around in Rusty's closet until I found a tan t-shirt I liked for the underlayer. An experimental piece in many ways, I only doubled up the front; the back is a single layer of fabric, left plain.

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Boatneck Top in the Alabama Chanin Style
1. Cutting. New project..., 2. I'm pretty sure there was an involuntary audible gasp, 3. Basted, 4. Decisions, decisions, 5. More than a little bit thrilled, 6. The best way to spend a Wednesday morning..., 7. The sewing is done!, 8. Maddy snapped a couple, 9. Boatneck

For the stenciling, I mixed acrylic paint with fabric medium that I found in my craft cupboard, and thinned it with water to fill a small pump spray bottle. I used the dogwood-colored thread for the reverse applique stitching, leaving all of the smaller shapes and the stems unstitched. I very crudely worked a large cross-stitch for the armhole and neck binding.

I am THRILLED with the result. I love this wonky little top!

I mentioned that I found some t-shirts while thrift shopping over the weekend. Fascinated by the construction of the piece, while not at all certain it's actually going to work for me style-wise, I have begun to sew the Corset Top from the Alabama Stitch Book. After one false start -- lessons learned and a trashed t-shirt -- I'm on my way with an old Hootie & The Blowfish concert tour tee.

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As it so happens, Craftsy contacted me a couple of weeks ago to ask if I'd be interested in hosting a giveaway. The timing couldn't have been better! Follow the link below and you could win the Craftsy class by Natalie Chanin that I love so much -- or any other Craftsy class, your choice, up to $59.99 value!

Enter to win a Craftsy class!

*Giveaway has ended*

You will need to either log in or create an account to enter the giveaway. Entries will be accepted through midnight CST on Thursday, March 20th -- the First Day of Spring and my 10th Blogiversary! Craftsy will use Random.org to choose the winner and will email the free-class link directly to them!

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Previously:  One - Knitting

There's plenty more to come... Eight to go!

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In the interest of redundant disclosure -- it's always on the sidebar -- I participate in Crafty's affiliate program and generate occasional income by doing so. I pay to host this blog and if I can help to offset that by linking you up with things I like, use, and believe in... well, I'm okay with it.

 


Weekending

Friday night began with the stenciling of the Alabama Chanin style boatneck top that I'm making. I could not be happier with how it turned out! 

Thrilled with the stenciling but having to wait for it to dry, I took that good mood into the significant ripping of Follow Your Arrow. I didn't frog the whole thing, but went to about the mid-way point of Clue 1.

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Maddy, my sister Karen, and nephew Daniel were all here for one reason or another so we invited Junah and his parents over, too, and had a little brunch on Saturday morning. My mom came over and we all played Pass The Baby!

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Karen instigated a little after-brunch crafting hour and while they (Karen, Ali, Maddy) embossed some drinking glasses, I pulled out my boatneck and did some basting. Then I contemplated thread colors.