I'm not talking about six months ago ~ I'm talking about six years and six months ago, when I met Natalie Chanin in 2009. Why did I not blog about the encounter then? Who the heck knows? I've certainly spent countless hours poring over her books since, but it wasn't until the publication of the fourth volume, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, that I finally threaded my needle, "loved my thread," and took the plunge.
I started with my "practice" skirt, made from an assembly of thrifted Ts. Some even had printing on them, so I kept the Bloomers stencil motif below anywhere I'd cut and reveal. Applied craft-store fabric paint with a brush (as this was before I watched Natalie's Craftsy video that suggests using a makeup sponge). Used too skinny fold-over elastic I bought to make hair ties for my girls. Navy thread. Outside knots. I was so hooked – and proud – that I bought shoes to match!
That was in late spring this year. Over the next few months, I attacked the stack of Threadless Ts I'd konmari'd from my towering collection, and started giving them the Frankenshirt treatment. This gave me a chance to try different stretchy binding stitches, piping, and a fitting adjustment between the two. Both are shorter than the fitted-top pattern suggests, but I had to work with what my recycled materials offered.
Finally it was time to try out one of the new patterns from the book, conveniently available on a CD I took to the FedEx for large format printing – not that I couldn't have pieced together four rectangles that comprise the wrap skirt, but I went for the Magdalena stencil, too. With a design plan in mind, I cut my own stencil of just a portion of the large design. Have X-acto, will travel (especially since I have a few quilter's cutting mats, too). Still working with recycled Ts (these were three for a dollar, all from some family reunion), the wrap skirt provided my lesson in negative reverse appliqué, the technique where, rather than cutting away a portion that's been stitched around, you cut away everything except what's been stenciled and stitched. This time I applied the paint with a spray bottle, having mixed brown and white to achieve some kind of beige.
Now, here's the thing about Alabama Chanin sizing and my body: my hip measurement falls solidly in the Medium camp, while my waist edges toward what they call Large in a range from XS to XXL. No worries with the stretchy swing skirt, but I cut the wrap with a grading between the two. And when I tried on my masterpiece, the thing was too darn big. Lucky for my friend Deb, who's about eight inches taller than I am, and proportionally larger!
Back to the drawing board – er, cutting table – I went. As I didn't want Deb to be my twin, I used straight brown paint, and finally daubed it on with a sponge. I had to go back to my last scraps of reunion Ts, so the hidden flap reveals some of the original screen printing. I cut this one a couple inches shorter, too. I love how the outside knots on both skirts feel botanical. After a pair of these, though, I doubt another is in my future any time soon!
OK: that's three skirts and two tanks, not to mention the "boa" that happened while I was working on the first skirt. I was quite ready for a softer hand after those scratchy blue Gildan Ts, and there were still some Threadless Ts to work with; they're a better quality of cotton to begin with, as well as having been loved for several years. So I made another swing skirt, slightly shorter (again accommodating the T-shirt length), using their existing designs for a few reverse-appliqué elements on two panels and stenciling one Bloomer repeat on each of the others. Four shirts total, one of them also used for binding a tank. I love the results and tend to wear it with two seams in front & back rather than at the sides – I choose which design to feature depending on mood or top.