We hate posts that start with a litany of reasons why the blogger ain’t been bloggin’. So I won’t do that. Life has been chock full o’ distractions. But many of the distractions have been of a crafty nature. Help me, Ann–I’ve come over all multi-craftual!
For months now, I’ve been deep into all things Alabama Chanin. This is a long-percolating love. I had pored over each of Natalie Chanin’s books as they came out. They were Right Up My Alley. I love handsewing. I love recycled fabric, and cotton jersey. I love the photography, styling and spirit of these books. But something was always in the way of actually starting a project. The handwork skills are elemental– the basic sewing, embroidery and beading than many of us learned in Home Ec and Camp Fire Girls–but the materials require preparation. There are t-shirts to be hacked up, there is stenciling. Something like cutting out a pattern or figuring out the straight grain of a piece of cloth can blow me off course; basically, I never got it together.
Then, one day this past spring, a knitting pupil/pal started testifying about Alabama Chanin. She showed me her beloved collection of Alabama Chanin clothing and her own DIY project, and I began to covet like crazy. I fell into a hole reminiscent of my first glimpse into a Rowan Magazine back in the early 90s. I was all “MUST MAKE THIS NOW”–trembling to cast on. And to my delight, I learned that nowadays I don’t have to do my own t-shirt processing or stenciling. Alabama Chanin sells kits for many of the designs. You can make your own bespoke Alabama Chanin wardrobe for the price of handknits (albeit the handknits of a fiber snob; I’m looking at you, everybody). You can look like Rosanne Cash in this amazing video, which is Made In America, down to the Alabama Chanin jacket she’s wearing.
What I want to shout to the rooftops of the knitting world is that this type of sewing– piece by piece, by hand, in your lap–pushes the same buttons as knitting. It’s mindful, centering, and satisfying. And the clothes are great. That’s my beaded swing skirt up there under the book–can you dig it? ME–Miss I Know It’s Not The 80s But I Still Wear A Lot of Black– in a beaded anything? It fits and looks great and was very fun to do. Bonus is that the painted stencil is so nicely done that you can wear the thing before it’s technically finished. I’m still pondering how to deal with the stems on my floral stencil. More beads? French knots? Cross-stitch? I love the fact that every stitch of the garment–including all the seams, and the elastic waistband–is by hand, yet it’s not fragile. It blows my mind that I flat-felled the seams BY HAND.
Lesson Learned (Again)
This is my second Alabama Chanin project, the corset top. I made it for Carrie, who modeled it dutifully but has not worn it in Real Life. Luckily it also fits niece Kristin, who has worn it willingly and fetchingly. But when am I going to learn?
Here are the steps to follow to get a teen to wear something you’ve made by hand:
1. Make it for yourself.
2. Say out loud, as casually as you can muster: “This is mine. I love it and do not particularly want to share it.”
3. Reluctantly, let her borrow it, or better yet, steal it.
This is the only method that has ever worked for me. Clip ‘n save, knitting and sewing mothers of teenage girls. (Note: also works with purchased clothing, especially favorite jackets, scarves and accessories, and anything you still own from 1987; in fact, if you want to hang on to them for yourself, first try to give them to Teen.)
Next Alabama Chanin project for me: a blanket. Of course. Of my own design, sort of.
I’m going to be back again soon, as I have GREAT BOOKS TO GIVE AWAY. So bear with, and stay tuned.