I’ve been following Alabama Chanin for years. It’s a small, cottage-industry-based studio that makes exquisite hand-made garments. Their pieces always grab my attention and fashion daydreams.
(The pictures above are credit Alabama Chanin and used with permission.)
More than anything else, I’m enchanted by the way Natalie Chanin pursues her vocation. She has done an extraordinary thing by bringing us all into a reverence of our maker roots, and then turning that passion into an incredibly successful business. And she’s at the forefront of our growing sense that sustainable materials, crafted with care by artisans we compensate and respect, produce the best that clothing has to offer. Garments that not only look great and last well, but which also wrap and nurture and enfold us in good things.
(It doesn’t hurt that her garments, while on the fringes of my own personal style, are absolutely stunning.)
Her ready-to-wear pieces are totally out of my reach, but I snapped up all of her books with alacrity the second they came out. And when I saw that she was offering DIY kits a few years back? I grabbed some of those, too.
If you don’t own Natalie’s previous 3 books: The Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, you should. They’re fantastic books to read in and of themselves, they’re incredibly visually inspiring, and they give a wonderful introduction to her techniques.
…that said, despite regularly poring over them and fondling my kits, I haven’t actually ever made anything from them beyond the basic home-type projects.
Don’t get me wrong! I grew up a decent seamstress, stitching at my grandmother’s knees. But that was a long time ago. Alabama Chanin’s garments are so exquisite – I really wanted to “do it right”. And while I’m comfortable making modifications while knitting — inserting darts to fit my bust, waist, and hips, and lengthening sweaters as I go — modifying a sewn garment is a different matter. Accommodating my long torso and short legs, as well as my bust, in a dress? Daunting!
Kind of ironic, isn’t it, coming from someone who spends their life helping others get over their fear of fitting?
The new book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, solves my hesitance.
It’s easily as gorgeous and inspiring as the others, but is also full of action.
It provides proper sewing patterns that are much more explicit than previous guidance/sketches, not only for the garments from all previous books, but also for three new patterns: Their A-line dress/tunic/top, their Classic coat/jacket/cardigan, and (most excitingly to me) their Wrap Skirt. All of them can be extended with any of the embellishment techniques Alabama Chanin is known for, in a wide range of colors and patterning styles.
But what’s better is that after the patterns, Natalie includes an entire chapter on fit and customization. It’s meaty and wonderful, covering everything from darts to princess seams to perimeter vs. internal alterations to mix-and-match sizing and more. Everything is discussed clearly, with great illustrations, and the book even comes with a CD of all of the patterns, in all of the sizes. It’s incredibly helpful and thoughtfully put together.
My own personal issue with garments like these, especially pants and skirts, is that I have extremely short legs – my inseam is just 27” despite my 5’6″ height. And although I’ve definitely gotten used to it over the years, hemming ready-to-wear is often a problem! The easiest way to alter – simply cutting length off of the bottom – tends to change the proportions of patterning and silhouette. So I was especially grateful for the detailed guidance on different ways to approach length alterations.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Although I didn’t create this garment (major thanks go to the incredibly talented Alabama Chanin team), it was created to fit my own unique body, using the techniques described in the book. And I can’t even tell you how excited I am about it.
This is the gored skirt, with paisley reverse applique, shortened properly to my preferred knee length of 20”. The patterning is intact and lovely, and I think it looks fantastic. In Knit Wear Love parlance, I’d say my style is fairly Sporty – though I have a few fave Classic and Bohemian pieces I wear a lot too. The pictures above show how I’ll wear the skirt in my daily life.
…But I couldn’t help playing around with the Knit Wear Love sweaters, and I noticed that the skirt looked phenomenal with the Avant-Garde bolero too! So I pulled a very-unlike-me outfit together to show you:
(Custom buttons by Jennie the Potter, yarn by Sweet Georgia, bolero pattern is my own.)
In short: This book is a fantastic resource. Clearly and thoughtfully written by someone who has lots to teach us about dressing ourselves, actionable and useful, and visually inspiring. What more could a maker want?