Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stabby Stitching

Many moons ago, I started to make a tunic from Alabama Studio Style. Sometimes it's hard not to get all swept up in a book when you're editing it. I started working on this second book by Alabama Chanin at a later phase in the editorial process, when the headaches had been mostly dealt with, the icky questions had been answered, and photography was in place. It was my job to read through the book with a fresh set of eyes and make sure things made sense. It's sort of fun coming in at the late stage because you catch little things and feel pretty smart. But also, it's in good shape so you're not all stressed out about it, and therefore you have a little bit of brain space left to dream and drool. By the time I got to the end of it, I was ready to hand-stitch my whole wardrobe, make pickles from scratch, and move to Florence, Alabama. I also had a peculiar hankering for coconut cupcakes.

What I decided to do was make the Camisole Tunic, but without the swirls. I know, I know, the swirls are exciting...but I wasn't feeling very swirly that day! The beauty of hand-stitching your very own Alabama Chanin tunic, however, is that you can add on to it later. Want a beaded hem a few months down the road? Go for it! Suddenly feel you need some applique? Why not?!

When the mood strikes to make something, you just reach for the materials you have at hand and go for it. On that night last spring, I didn't have any proper pattern paper at my house (ahem...I still don't), so I used wax paper instead. I just traced the pattern onto my wax paper with a Sharpie and cut 'em out with scissors....actually, the wax sorta worked as a lube, so the scissors slid through the paper in a very satisfying way. Was that TMI?

The patterns then hung on the wall in my craft room for awhile, right between the bulletin board and a shelf. I never know what to do with my pattern pieces. I hate folding them up because the crease makes it hard to lay on the fabric when you're cutting it out, so I like to just stick a push pin through all the pieces and tack them to the wall. Does anybody else do this? Is this extraordinarily weird and silly?

I eventually got around to cutting out the fabric pieces, and then just last weekend, I actually started stitching them together. Can you believe it? Usually when something goes unfinished that long in my house, it's dead in the water. But I did it! Well, most of it anyway!

What I love best about hand-sewing is that my stitches look terrible. I mean, really really awful. Primitive, actually. Look at how uneven they are! Was I angry? Distracted? It looks like I was stabbing the fabric with my eyes closed! I mean, just look at this section, above, where I got off track and started sewing in the open spaces instead of parallel to the existing stitches. But did I go back and fix it? Nope! For this type of garment, it's just not necessary. In fact, I sort of kind of believe that it looks even better when it's off.

As of today, I now have the front and back of my lovely tunic finished, and I just need to sew them together. So satisfying! This is truly a weekend project! (Well, a weekend plus about ten months.)

P.S.: Note that in the photo above, I am only wearing the front side of the garment. To pin it to myself, I used these red flower hair clips and snapped them onto a tank top underneath. Know where else I wore these red flower hair clips? My wedding.

Isn't it fun to see what people do with treasured heirlooms after their special day?


  1. You should hand-stitch the hair clips into the dress, because they look totally cute at the shoulders like that (says the sister who knows *nothing* about this stuff).

  2. I thought they looked really cute too! Though probably not machine washable. Or I could just never wash it? Hmmm...