Saturday, May 26, 2012

Slow Sewing: Alabama Chanin

I have been bitten by the Alabama bug.

Like many other similarly obsessed artisans, I have taken up my needle and thread and I am slowly sewing some tops out of recycled t-shirts. This new hand stitched clothing project began after I treated myself to the Alabama Studio Sewing & Design book. I have been wanting to purchase one (ALL) of the Alabama Stitch books for a while, but I could never decide on which one to get because I like all the patterns equally. The only reason I got the 3rd book instead of the first (I am DYING to make the corset) is because the third book looked to be the most comprehensive in terms of techniques. Well, about a week after I received the first book I ordered the Studio Style book because I decided I need to have those patterns also. 

So, with my start-itis in full swing I decided to make some comfy tank tops. 

One top is from the Sewing & Design book;
CF & CB seam tank top

and the other is from the Studio Style book:
Princess seam tank top

First, I went to Mood and splurged on some organic cotton yardage ($12/yard, 2 yards), then I got nervous about what to make with my precious organic cotton so I went to my local Salvation Army and bought about 15 t-shirts to recycle. ($.99 each!).
 I found that XL and XXL with no side seams and only small printed logos work the best to get the most salvageable material out of.
3XL!!!! SOOOOooooo much green cotton!

Cutting the Pattern

I cut off the sleeves at the seams, then snipped off the shoulder seams and the neck band.

I traced off the patterns** onto oak tag because I know I will use them again and they are easy to trace around with tailors chalk. I have lots of heavy jars and containers in my sewing room that I use as weights. 
I was able to get the entire tunic out of this t-shirt... a bunch of pulls.

Stenciling the Design

bought a little spray bottle at a local art supply store for a couple of bucks. It is especially meant for watercolor use, but to tell you the truth it is pretty generic. I will remember to save my next travel sized spray bottle.  I also bought some Jacquard textile paint (it requires heat setting) but when I got home and went through my paint drawer I found that I already had a bunch of Createx paints that don't require heat setting.   
The spray bottle works well, but I when the paint level get's low it starts to sputter. I also had a hard time (I didn't test enough) getting the right water/paint ratio. The info is in the books, but I just didn't do a very good job following those instructions. It worked fine with more water than necessary, but my first stencil suffered from all the water and eventually started to disintigrate. 

I started out with an oak tag Rose stencil, but cutting it took FOREVER and it hurt my hand. When it started to fall apart I quickly decided that the (pricey) sheet of mylar (also purchased at the local art supply store) was probably worth taking the time to cut if only to have a sturdier stencil. 

I traced the stencil using a sharpie.
Cutting it out sucked almost as much as cutting the oak tag, but this one will last longer. 

I used Scotch reposition-able spray mount to adhere the stencils to the fabric. It worked out pretty good. 

center front & back panels of the princess seam tank drying on a rack

I started working on the princess seam tank first. This one is is going to be a negative applique with bright pink center and purple sides. (2 grey, 1 purple, 1 pink, large t-shirts). I'm using navy button craft thread. 
I wasn't able to avoid the logo on the back side panels because I didn't have a large enough grey t-shirt. I don't mind. It reminds me that these are reclaimed materials.

I've made good progress in the last week. I'm trying to decide if I'm going to cut out the leaves as well. I'm thinking yes, and I'll probably add beads as well. 

I knew I had these beads for a reason.

The green top will be a single layer with embroidery and probably beading as well.
center seam tunic 

That's about it as of today. I hope to post more progress and finished pics, but don't hold your breath.

** The Sewing and Design patterns don't indicate wish seam is the center fron and back!!! As a fashion person I find this MADDENING!!! The only way I can even guess is to look at the shoulder seams. In theory the slant should tell me which side is center. 


Unknown said...

Oh man. Why did I read this? Now I need to go buy all these books...

It looks amazing! Can't wait to see the finished product.

Barbara J said...

I just got the Studio Sewing + Design book a couple of weeks ago. I've been fretting about purchasing some organic cotton since it is $$.

Your idea about using recycled T-Shirts is super! I think I will need to try that and sew some simple T-shirts with minimal embellishments just so I know it fits.

kslaughter said...

I bought this book recently, too! I have felt most tentative about the painting process, but thanks to your post, I feel much more ready to forge ahead with it. Thanks so much for sharing all this good stuff ;-). Looking forward to seeing more of your creations~

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