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 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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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.


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!


Drawing lines.


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!).


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!


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...


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


Front and back - finished!




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


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.


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


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).


Pleased as punch.

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


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


Busy boy.



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


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!


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


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.


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.


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).


I made a beading cuff!


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


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!

A-line Dress-1

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."

A-line Dress-2

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

A-line Dress-3

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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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
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



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!)


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.


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.


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


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

But I could not stop.


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...


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.


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.


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.



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.


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


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).


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!


I think she loves it!


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



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


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!


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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!


And after washing. It softened up beautifully.



I absolutely LOVE IT!



From that to this.

This is not the last of that!

Edited to add:


 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.



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.


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.


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.



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 to choose the winner and will email the free-class link directly to them!

* * * * *

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.



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.


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!


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.


Workin' it

One day last weekend, walking into the house through the back door, I detected a little whiff of gas in the air. Later, I noticed that the gas company was working on a "gas thing" down the hill at the end of our road.

As I left for work on Tuesday morning, I noticed yellow flags and all kinds of paint lines in the snow in front of our house... immediately calling home and Rusty confirmed that the lines had been drawn in front of our house, the neighbors', and at the house across the street. They were unable to find a leak they were looking for, so had to move up the hill... and in front of my house.

When I returned on Tuesday, a hole had been dug and there was a small machine parked out front.

On Wednesday, there was a larger hole and a boring machine was brought in.



Well, actually, I snapped the photo this morning, but the scene is the same.

Everyday I come home and there's a bigger hole, a bigger pile of dirt, and a bigger piece of equipment (or two) in my front yard... not to mention a bigger chunk of my garden torn up. Bye-bye lovely brick walkway and Blue Angel Hostas, I'm really going to miss you!

Most people just have grass in the little terrace area between the sidewalk and the street, but I had a garden -- lots of hostas, astilbe, coral bells, a bunch of stuff that I didn't want, and plenty of weeds. It'll be interesting to see how it's all redistributed and what grows where.

If anything.


This in yesterday's mail was a bright spot! (As was Knit Night last night -- big group, new faces, lots of fun & gabbing.)

I took advantage of a recent Alabama Chanin promotion to purchase an all-over stencil (only one, and which one was an agonizing decision) (Angie's Fall), some thread, and color cards -- in preparation for next time, Charm Bundle(s). The stencil is still on the way and I can't wait! I have plans: a few more onesies, some tops for me (I have boatneck-on-the-brain), and eventually the Donna Karan coat from Natalie Chanin's Craftsy class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading and Embroidery (which I believe is on sale right now!).

In other news, Junah & I have our first official date tonight -- my first official babysitting gig while his daddy works and his mom enjoys a little girl time.



About 12 hours before Junah Michael Lee was born, I had a teary little pow-wow with Kate before she began her long journey back to Edinburgh. I'd had a few days off when she first arrived and we all spent a lot of time together. It was a great visit.

My first message was to Katie and, with only about 5 minutes to spare, I was able to relay the message, "It's a boy!" before boarding began in Chicago. I wasn't able to respond to any of her messages before departure, but at least she knew that the baby arrived and could relax a bit on the ride over the pond!

JML and Non
And on Tuesday I took my mom over for a visit and we had a 4-generation Skype chat with Auntie Kate! Are they adorable, or what?


I was originally going to take the week off of work to help Ali, but I went back on Thursday at noon.


I'll get some cuddle time tonight, and will probably take some "good" photos sometime over the weekend.

5 Days old already!


Ali had felt the first pangs of labor on Friday morning. I started sewing the Alabama Chanin baby blanket on Friday night and worked on it quite a bit over the weekend. I also knit my first stitches (not very many) (on Pepita) of 2014 while Ali labored! But I sewed instead of knit at Knit Night last night (the first one I've been to in AGES) and I'm almost half-way with the applique part. I sort of dove right into this project, so now I'm starting to think about the edges and how to finish them.

Oh, there's a Craftsy Flash Sale This Weekend - 1/18-1/19 with up to 50% off -- perhaps you'd like to hear Natalie Chanin talk about the physics of sewing, and why and how you should love your thread... I could listen to her all day long! And I could, if I wanted, because I bought that class and it's mine forever, to listen & watch on a loop 24/7 or just when I want a refresher on a specific technique. I'm not sure whether Natalie Chanin's Hand Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Applique, Beading, and Embroidery will actually be on sale, but it will be eventually. It's a great learning platform.


I began I mean to go on.

I don't think I did a single thing that I *had* to do yesterday. I took the "holiday" part of New Year's Day to heart and did only things that I *wanted* to do. That is something that I will strive for more this year: occasionally, a day off can be just that!

  • I slept until I woke up.
  • I had a nice breakfast with my husband.
  • I puttered in my PJs most of the morning.
  • I grazed for lunch.
  • I watched football.
  • I visited with my mother.
  • I sewed.
  • I embroidered.
  • I drank a beer.
  • I drank another beer.
  • I enjoyed a nice dinner with my husband.
  • I filled in the gaps from my erratic watching of Luther.

I had done some sewing just before Christmas, finally sewing up some burp cloths for the baby -- the materials for which I bought in JULY! They're made from a variety of fat quarters, cut and pieced, cotton terrycloth backing, stitched and turned, with some simple "stitch in the ditch" to join the pieces together.


I wasn't too terribly particular because, um, BURPING! It was fun to use my mother's old Singer Slant-O-Matic -- the ROCKETEER... it pretty much sews at the speed of light.


Yesterday's sewing was quite different, and has also been in the wings for quite some time -- ever since I purchased and watched Natalie Chanin's Hand Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Applique, Beading, and Embroidery last MARCH on Craftsy.


Since then, I bought the fabric & supplies to make the coat featured in the class, and recently fell hard for the Onesie & Baby Blanket because... well, for a lot of reasons, but the main one being ZIM!

Officially, 10 days. Unofficially, IT COULD BE TODAY! Probably not, but... waiting for Ali's labor to begin may be worse than waiting for my own! Haha. Not really. (That was a long time ago... I can hardly remember that part.)

Thanks to my fairly recent birthday and also Christmas, my collection of Alabama Chanin books is now complete (new books are in the works, but for now I'm up to date). I am well read on the subject and recently reviewed pertinent parts of the Craftsy class (one of the greatest things about it), but I still didn't want the coat -- or even the onesie or baby blanket -- to be my very first hand-sewing project. There's a whole page of free downloadable resources at Alabama Chanin, including a pattern for a baby bib (general assembly instructions here). I finally cut up some clothing items that I'd set aside for just this type of thing.


The printed fabric is from a pair of yoga-lounge pants -- the print is the "right side" of the fabric but was hidden on the inside of the pants! The black fabric is from a knit cardigan that's too big. I didn't realize 'til I was cutting that the cardigan was actually a ribbed knit fabric, but again... BURPING, ETC.! I also have a gigantic dress from J. Jill (oh, it's the background in the photo above) in the "cut pile," but I didn't like the gray with the brown of the pants.



I think it turned out great! I couldn't be happier. And I did the whole thing, start-to-finish, while watching the Wisconsin Badgers lose their bowl game -- cutting up the pants/cardigan, marking & cutting the pattern pieces and pulls, loving my thread, needling my thread, and sewing up!

I knew I wasn't going to cut this piece in the signature Alabama Chanin style, but that print was screaming to be embroidered, so pulled out my floss (it's been ages!) and did a bit of embellishing in the evening.


So flippin' fun. I have another already cut and ready to sew... and it will be cut! Practice makes perfect. I love that I can make tiny useful things from clothing I'd otherwise discard while practicing my stitches and other techniques. From now on, cleaning out the closet will be done with a completely different eye!


Loving my thread

I volunteer for many things at times like these, and when Ali stalled at the hand-sewing (finishing) phase of a project she was working on for her attendants... 

With sachet and shawl knitting complete (though will still some finishing to do), I picked up needle and thread last night and made a good run at the finish line -- not quite there yet, but the sewing was a nice change of pace.

I fell a little bit in love with Natalie Chanin after watching her Craftsy class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading and Embroidery. I loved listening to her speak so beautifully about sewing, and I learned so much! I smiled every time last night as I cut a length and "loved my thread" before needling it.

Craftsy Logo

I'm looking forward to watching/listening to Natalie again, sometime after June 15th (and again and again and again, as many times as I'd like, because that's how Craftsy works). I have some beautiful fabric and my pattern for the coat featured in the class, but also found some lesser "practice" materials when I recently cleaned out my closet. I feel primed and ready!

The reduction of swelling in my body due to dietary changes has really made a difference and I do not suffer the carpal tunnel problems as much or as readily. I'm sure I wouldn't be quite so excited about hand sewing if pinching a small needle for five minutes resulted in a day of tingling and aching! I did some pretty intense sewing for about 2 hours last night and feel fine today! Woo!

Oh. You want a sneak peek of those shawls?

Okay! That's my Frambuesa at the top, Ali's Mexican Wedding below. LOVE.THEM.


Right now

Winter is just not letting loose its grip! Nothing about 2013 is like last year, or even "normal." I'm just working at keeping it together day-to-day.

image from

Bleeding hearts in my garden at this time last year!

With that great set up (and thanks to Kym), here's what's holding together in my life  . . . RIGHT NOW.

Watching: Call The Midwife, Elementary, Blue Bloods; I like Hawaii Five-O for background music and occasional eye candy; loved House of Cards on Netflix; if I had cable, I'd surely be watching Madmen (I just finished a marathon catching-up of last season); if I lived in the U.K., I'd be watching The Great British Sewing Bee.

Reading: Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: A Guide to Hand-Sewing an Alabama Chanin Wardrobe

Sewing! I've been threatening for the past few years to really get my sewing maching humming. I have the pieces for a quilt all cut out and ready to go, but now it'll be a race to see whether that pulls me in before I'm completely overcome by the hand-sewing/embellishing craze.

I recently signed up for Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Applique, Beading and Embroidery on Craftsy. Not an inexpensive class, I watched the whole series over a couple-few days on my lunch hour and can't believe how much I learned about sewing! There's a great Donna Karan jacket pattern included in the price, and a one-time discount on kit or project materials from Alabama Chanin. (I took advantage of an even deeper discount on April Fool's Day for some of my materials. I'm in no particular rush, and there's much to do before I needle my thread, so I'll just keep watch for further promotions.) It's the finer details and geeky stuff that has me totally pumped about hand sewing, not to mention a serious Alabama/Natalie Chanin love affair going on over here.

Knitting: Mindless is in order much of the time right now, so another color-blocked Vintage Baby Cardigan is on the needles. I have plans for more!

I should be knitting wedding things. I've stalled half-way on the shawl. I made a mistake resulting in the need to start Ali's gauntlets over. I never quite got the attendants' off the ground... problems with procuring suitable materials... there's still a chance for it all to come together; we'll see. Ali's are the priority.

Listening to: Justin Timberlake. Macklemore. Rhianna.

Thinking about: Alison's wedding.

Dreading: The idea of cleaning out my studio/office/junk room in preparation for a little remodeling project. This little project will result in a big (and overdue) paint job in our living area and some major rearranging of a few spaces.

Planning: An overnighter in Milwaukee next month. A quick trip to Lake Geneva later in summer. Not quite in planning mode for Scotland, but soon.

Celebrating: Small accomplishments and little victories.

Drinking: Coconut water.

Itching to: Go outside without a jacket on; opening windows and doors!

Needing to: Get some things ship-shape for upcoming company. (Some of these projects make me feel like a candidate for Hoarders.)

Organizing: Everything.

How about YOU?  What's up with you?