Our local library is itty bitty. It is so small that I hardly ever take the time to browse the few shelves they have. I usually just stop for a quick run in, to pick up the books I have ordered online from the huge downtown library where I hate going because there is never any parking. Anyways….
All that to say, I can’t remember what led me to pick up a copy of Alabama Stitch Book at our itty bitty library that fateful day. I think it caught my eye because the binding was bright red (my favorite color) and it was a book about stitching in the cookbook section(two of my favorite things). Whatever the reason, I checked it out and as I flipped through the down home recipes and unique sewing projects, I fell in love.
It was written by a woman named Natalie Chanin who started a cottage industry in her Alabama home town selling hand made clothing for women out of cotton jersey. You know, the stuff they make tee shirts out of? I have sewn with a lot of fabrics, but I never thought to use jersey. I never thought you could make anything nice out of t-shirt material, but this woman was creating art work with it. And every stitch of it by hand.
I loved the colors she chose, the patterns she used, the time tested sewing methods she learned from her grandmother, and her old fashioned, waste not, want not approach to crafting. But her products are hardly old fashioned. They are like nothing I have ever seen.
I bought my first yard of cotton jersey shortly after that, the hubby bought me her other two books for Christmas, and I have hardly worked on any other project since. Some of her methods I have had a hard time getting used to. I mean, she doesn’t hem anything for goodness sake. What would my mother say? Her clothing is an interesting mix of simple and elaborate, rustic and elegant, but I love it because she gives you all her patterns, all her methods, and lets you make it yourself if you want. And since her ready made pieces are not exactly affordable for me at this point in my life, that is what I started to do.
One problem, of course. All this takes time. Lots of it. And I struggle with feeling guilty for spending hours and hours on a dress just for myself. Then my sister had a baby girl. I had plenty of scraps around, and a nice used t-shirt is just the right size for a baby dress. I sized down the patterns and stencils and finished the dress in a drastically shorter amount of time. An idea was born, and I am going with it. I don’t know where it will take me, but here are a few more dresses I posted on Etsy yesterday.
Oh, and Natalie Chanin is coming to town next week. I am going to try to meet her.