think of your local Thrift Store as a fabric source

Thrift Store shopping is an activity I've enjoyed for many years now, but it never occurred to me to use that also as a source for fabric...until yesterday.
Anna's blog, Pleasant View Schoolhouse, is filled with inspiration in her writings, lovely light-filled photographs, Alabama Chanin garments she sews and quilting projects she pieces together mostly with fabric she's cut down from garments purchased from thrift stores.  Her quilts are beautiful.

So yesterday when I stopped by my little local Thrift Store, I happened to mention to the very nice saleslady that I sewed, as I was trying to figure out their garment pricing with thoughts of how Anna cuts down old linen dresses for her quilt's fabric scraps spinning in my head.  The very nice saleslady said, 'you know, we have fabric' and led me to a mess! of fabric that was difficult to even sort through as there was so much other stuff in the boxes.  After finding a couple of pieces that were suitable and making my way to the checkout counter, the manager approached me and said if I wanted ALL the fabric, she'd sell it to me for a 'very good price'.  'What was a "very good price"' I asked.  'Everything for $10 - including what's in your hands'.  There was @$5.00 in my hands, so $10 sounded pretty good.  I said 'Sure!'.

She dragged out a huge box from their backroom, you can see a little of it there in my photo above, and she and the very nice saleslady methodically went through the entire mess, carefully folding each and every piece (even though I told them they didn't have to) and after waiting patiently for at least 15 minutes, maybe longer, my $10 box was purchased and it took 2 of us to carry it to my car.  It was THAT heavy laden with fabric.

I had absolutely no idea what was in that box!  The excitement was hard to contain as I slowly went through everything immediately upon arriving at home, checking out, feeling each piece.... it took me at least an hour or longer.  There were velvets, flannels, cottons, linens, a gorgeous pineapple taspestry panel (*squeal*), knits, polyesters and a myriad of scraps.  It was so much FUN going through that box!  It was worth the $10 in fun-factor!

Oh, and back in the store, while they packed my box of fabric, I found a Vogue pattern, already cut out in my size 10, with the instructions and all the pattern pieces in the envelope, for 25 cents that added to my treasures for the day...
...AND all clothing was $2.00 per piece, so a Jones New York, J. Crew, Eddie Bauer and Baranda silk cardi in my size, all came home with me too. 

Because this Thrift Store supports a local charity, there was no sales tax.  $18.25 total spent.

The Thrift Store manager's parting words were to be sure and come back....
...and she'll make me a good deal again.

I dreamed of fabric last night.

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Garment Plans for February 2014 'Make a Garment a Month Challenge'

I am fortunate enough to have my own personal room to sew and create to my heart's content.  It's also where I keep some of my exercise equipment handy to try not to, you know, um 'forget' that I should be doing some sort of daily structured exercise.  This screen wraps around my stationary bike, so it doesn't 'talk' too loudly, reminding me I need to be riding it more - and it's also where I keep my projects queued and ready-to-go.  I love clothespins.  :)
In keeping with the Make a Garment A Month Challenge, we are to post our upcoming month's plans.  Personally, I am embracing this planning stage!  It gives me a quiet, conscious moment to 'think' about my personal clothing needs and plan accordingly.
After recently completing a couple of daily outfit garments, (and catching up with my November 2013 MAGAM plans even if it is January 2014!), I feel like I am on some sort of a roll and am raring to keep on going.  So here are February 2014's humble choices.

Basic clothes are what I need for my daily life, so I'll be making another pair of pants and a coordinating top.

Top will be a long-sleeved peasant top, using NEWLOOK 6891, view A.  I made view E, a sleeveless version last year and have found it most comfortable.  So, knowing how this should fit, will make it an easier go in the long-sleeve version.  The stripes will go up and down, so hopefully, there won't be too much stripes-matching.
I have yardage left of the chocolate brown pants I just made (and love!).  Ever since Sarah Liz made her first NEWLOOK 6216 elastic-waist pants with (awesome!) pockets, I've been wanting to try that pattern too.  Using the same fabric as the Simplicity 7131 pants I just made, it'll be interesting to see how the NEWLOOK 6216 will fit.  2 elastic-waist pairs of pants to compare, out of the very same fabric made from 2 different patterns.  The Simplicity 7131 pattern is sans pockets.

So, NEWLOOK 6216 pants, view D will be made using Sarah Liz's notes, where she said she
     made an 8 (I'll need a 10!),
     omit the drawstring (I agree! it only adds bulk and a lump under my shirts too)
     added tiny bit at front side of waist, (probably should be okay here as I'll be making the 10?)
     raised waistline 1"  (definitely need this so it will sit at natural waistline, instead of 1" below the waist as per pattern)
     and made back rise 1/2" higher (really like the thought of this, so gotta figure out how to do)
So those are my February 2014 plans for the Make a Garment a Month Challenge, nothing earth-shattering, but what I need in my closet.  'Pure Basics'!

UPDATE:  You can see the completed garments here
and here.


a new Poncho | McCall's 6209

I love my new Poncho!
This was part of my November 2013 plans for the Make a Garment a Month Challenge and I just finished it today.
Thank you to my husband for taking these photos as we hiked a back trail to a little hidden meadow on our property.  The poncho was perfect for our chilly mid-40'sF, South Carolina, Sunday afternoon.  LOVE the pockets!!!!!
Years, and years ago, I had a poncho I loved and decided I wanted to create one for the casual lifestyle I live today.  First I drew my plans on a piece of graph paper.  This has been a great tool as I've referred back to this simple drawing time and again to keep me on track of my 'vision'.  Also, note that the fabric came from Wal-Mart and cost $4.30 and was a gracious plenty wide at 58".  This was the perfect width for my poncho, as I used every-single-bit, including the selvages - these turned out to be the icing on the cake!
McCall's M6209 pattern was used for the 'base' poncho, cut a small, view B with no scarf attachment and decided in the end not to include a hood.  My fabric is so weighty, I was afraid a hood would not work well..... and I wasn't sure I really needed a hood anyway.
McCall's M6209
This pattern is noted as a '1 Hour' pattern, and if you made the poncho 'as is', it would probably take you around 1 hour.  I added a few little details, so it took me longer - obviously!

In the photo below, you can see the 'fringe' effect the selvage edges gave me.   I was careful to lay my pattern pieces straight over the selvages to include this beautiful 'fringe'.  
Then, with the smidgen of selvage I had left, carefully measured, and measured again, before cutting to use as binding for the neckline.
In the photo below, the back was very voluminous, so I took it in a little.  Still learning the vocabulary and not sure what to call what I did.... pleat?  It gave the poncho a little more dimension/definition in the middle back, as you can see by the way it is hanging on the hanger here.
Pleat?  (Help anyone?!)
My new poncho HAD to have pockets.  If one wants to hike in the woods, one needs pockets - and these are perfect.  These are self-drafted from a photo found on Pinterest via Carolyn.  Liked the idea of a cocked angle placement, which made for an even more comfortable fit for my hands.....
.....and lined them with a piece of flannel for more coziness.  I really think the pockets and the fringe 'make' this poncho.
I made the pants too.
As I'm in such need for daily basics, and because I'd just made a khaki elastic-waist pair of pants for the MAGAM new complete outfit, I made a chocolate brown pair of pants from the same OOP Simplicity 7131 pattern as I knew they'd fit.   These were also out of Wal-Mart fabric in a lightweight-twillish fabric that cost $1.00 per yard.  One of the thing I like about these pants, is that they sit at your natural waist. 
I truly cannot express the feeling of wearing one's own handmade clothes, that was created with a 'vision' and seen through to completion, to feel confident to wear in public..... that is one's identity.

UPDATE 4.18.2014 ~ I've added a big button to the pocket....
....and knitted an accompanying scarf...
 ...now my poncho's perfect!

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A Quilted Toile and a New 'Old' Box

My husband surprised me with a new 'old' box he made for me.  
This is not stained - it's 'aged' to this color.
This box is made of very old wood he'd found in his father's workshop when we cleaned it out a few years ago.  A treasure!  A box this special will hold my current handsewing projects, so I wanted to line it with some sort of 'quilted' liner.

I chose a piece of toile fabric from my stash and decided to practice my free motion quilting skills.  I don't know what was going on with my machine, but I had so much trouble with my bobbin thread.... but in the end I found that when I held my 'sandwich' real tight, my bobbin sewed beautifully.  So it all came back on me really.... right?
This 10 1/2" x 15" free motion quilted piece wore me out!  I practiced all sorts of squiggles, zigzags and swirls.  Hard to see below, but the effect here sort of looks like flowing water under the bridge.
It was important the liner was completed today as I've already got my next handsewing project prepped and ready to go.  This will be another Alabama Chanin inspired garment  - a scarf.
My special box will stay in our hearthroom to keep my handsewing projects handy to work on in the evenings..... and look beautiful simply sitting out for all to enjoy.  
UPDATE 2.21.2014 - the Alabama Chanin inspired scarf is done.  You can see the finished scarf, along with a mini-tutorial of how it was constructed, here.

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Answering a Reader's Fabric Question

Recently I received a very nice question from a reader in Hawaii asking about where I purchased the fabric and the fabric content of my Alabama Chanin inspired top and straight-leg pants I recently made.
Related Posts can be found here:
Even though I responded in a private e-mail to Josie, I thought other readers might be asking the same questions, so I'd like to share my e-mail response also here.

Hi Lisa,
Thanks for sharing your sewing skills. Two questions, For the long sleeve shirt, and pants, if I may ask, what kind of fabric, and where do you purchase them?
I live in Hawaii, and finding quality fabrics is a challenge.
Hi Josie!
You asked a couple of good questions! 
I live in the country and do not have easy access to fabric shops unless I drive 45 minutes to 1 hour to the nearest larger town..... and.... because I am so new to garment sewing for myself, I have not ordered fabric online, as many blog sewers do, because I like/need to 'feel' the fabric first.... and... I don't want to stress over investing a lot of money in fabric that could possibly be ruined as I learn how to fit a pattern to my body shape.

We are lucky that in our little South Carolina town, we have a brand new Wal-Mart SuperCenter that has a (very!) small fabric department.  Most of my fabrics are purchased there and cost between $1.50 and $3.00 per yard.  So far this has worked well for me.  Most of the fabric I buy from Wal-Mart is labeled "unknown content - end of remnant" or something like that, so I'm never quite sure exactly what's in there, so that's where the 'feeling' comes in handy!  :)  Occasionally when I'm in the city, I'll shop at Hancock's, Joann's or Hobby Lobby.
Both the shirt and pants fabrics you've asked about came from Wal-Mart with the shirt a soft lightweight knit fabric with a little stretch, and the pants a cotton-ish lightweight twill-ish type fabric.  I just found my pants fabric receipt and looks like I paid $1.00 a yard for that..... purchased 3 yards.... so have @$3.00 total invested, not counting the notions.... with a little fabric leftover.  Both of these fabrics were on the 'clearance' shelves.  It will be interesting to see how well the fabric will hold up.  I always wash and dry my fabrics in the dryer before sewing, and these laundered well..... so far.

Hope this helps!  Thank you so much for reading my blog and asking such good questions.  Good Luck! 
Lisa Spivey

I also just found my shirt fabric receipt and I purchased 2.5 yards at $2.00 per yard - so there's $5.00 invested in that little top with @1 yard to spare.  Fabric was 60" wide.  The pant fabric was 55" wide.

Thank you so much Josie for taking the time to send an e-mail with your questions.  I'll try to share a little more about the fabrics I use and their cost, as I complete more garments and write about them on the blog.

Hope all is enjoying a wonderful weekend!

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How I made my Alabama Chanin inspired top

Growing up in northern Alabama, riding my horse around cotton fields, when I learned that Alabama Chanin garments were hand-made in a small northern Alabama town, made with 100% cotton (cotton jersey) in the U.S.A., that certainly caught my attention.  Then throw in her construction techniques, coupled with her designs, and it makes for an eye-catching and stunning garment I thought was beyond my abilities to duplicate.
Natalie Chanin, designer and owner of Alabama Chanin, not only sells her beautiful hand-made completed garments, but encourages people to sew their own Alabama Chanin garments.  She has written 3 books explaining in detail her construction techniques, including her design patterns, with free downloads from her Resource page on her website.  You can also purchase her fabric and supplies she uses from her shop.   Alabama Studio Sewing + Design  is the book most often referred to when making an AC garment, and also what Natalie usually refers to when sharing new tips and information.  (*As a side note, a signed copy of this book can be purchased for $35 from her shop).  She has a very inspiring story and I find much inspiration from reading her Journal.
I do not own a copy of her book (yet!), but checked one out from our local library about six months ago when I was investigating exactly what was an Alabama Chanin garment.  Stencils, paint, handsewing and embroidery seemed overwhelming at the time, so the book was returned.  But the inspiration seed had been planted.

Still new to garment sewing for myself, I'd not made this pattern before, but thought NEWLOOK 6735 view B, had the look I wanted after modifying the pattern to be long-sleeved and a little longer length. 

I machine-stitched the back, side and sleeve seams without finishing the the seam allowances. This gave me a sort of 'organic' feel that led to making the top to the point of adding the neck band when I (finally) decided to embrace AC and add embroidery stitching to the neckline.  My local library's copy of AC's book was at a different branch, and not wanting to wait while the inspiration was high, I checked out an embroidery stitch dictionary-type book that explained all the different embroidery stiches and how to complete each.  I also began researching online how other AC tops were finished.  I pinned this photo, below, to get an idea of her neckline stitches.....
Alabama Chanin
...and found Projects from Alabama Stitch book flickr group that included this  white tee flickr photo, all of which inspired me in how I chose to finish my top in the herringbone embroidery stitch.
Originally I envisioned a black thread for contrast but could only find a chocolate brown in my stash, and it was perfect.  Have you noticed that sometimes when you have to wing-it, it works out even better?!  I wrote a needle puzzle explaining how I learned to open that little devilish container you see below.
The neckline I created was completely different than NEWLOOK 6735's pattern instructions (obviously!) but since I had already cut out the neckband from the pattern, I decided to use it because it was already 'sized' for this neckline.  After sewing the back center seam, right sides rogether, I simply folded it over lengthwise to the right side of the neckline fabric overhanging @1/2" in the front, which made for a longer overhang to the inside.  Thought it needed to be stabilized before adding the embroidery stitches, so I basted it on the underside with a long and wide zigzag stitch.   The photo below, shows it's ready to be embroidered.  The way it's pinned was critical to the handsewing and the longer overhang to the inside made 'catching' the back much easier while embroidering.
Below you can see the completed neckline embroidered in herringbone stitches, with the zigzag basting stitches removed and the inside overhang cut back to the embroidery seam.  All that is holding the neckband on are the embroidery stitches. 
When the neckline was finished and it turned out so pretty, I decided to do the same technique to each sleeve 'hem'.
Right now I've left the bottom hem alone, but am thinking about finishing it off with some embroidery too.  Still thinking 'bout that.
Doesn't look like much on the hanger, but fits like a dream.  I am chomping at the bit to begin another and will definitely be including more Alabama Chanin techniques in my future garments. 
I think I will order one of those signed copies of her book, as I definitely need it in my own personal library.
For more photos of this top see:  top inspired by Alabama Chanin original post.
and for fabric information see:  Answering a Reader's Fabric Question

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