1.17.2014

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.
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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.....
DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: OCTOBER 2013
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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Thank you for taking the time to leave a note.~Lisa

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