Stenciling!

There’s no need to apologize for lack of blogging over the holidays, right? Yes? Good. Then forward we go.

I have been aiming to do sewing tutorials on my blog for some time now, and after the christmas doll rush was over, I had about a week to throw a few gifts for various family members together. I thought it would be fun to document that process, but didn’t get around to taking as many pictures as I wanted. But I did get a few. I have had some people ask about how I do the stenciling for some of my children’s clothing, etc., so I will try to explain how I do it.
I have also mentioned Natalie Chanin’s company on my blog before, and get most of my inspiration from her work. If you really want to know how to do some of this stuff, I can’t recommend these books highly enough.

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Not only do they include all the clothing patterns in the back, they also include some of her stencils, like these.

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I wanted to do three gifts- a simple skirt for my niece, and two scarves- one for my mother and one for the while elephant gift exchange we did with my siblings. I decided on the leaf stencil for the skirt, and the medallion stencil for the gift exchange, but wanted a different one for my mother. I looked through the books and found a lovely rose stencil.
I was excited since my mother loves roses, but it wasn’t included with the book. Fortunately, you can download printable stencils straight off of the Alabama Chanin website. http://alabamachanin.com/resources They are also available precut for purchase, but they are quite spendy, so I prefer to print and cut them out myself.
Here it is, just freshly printed.

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If you want to go this route, I highly recommend a little pair of cutting scissors like these, and a little patience. Just start cutting.

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Now you can use the paper stencil, but it is quite flimsy, and since this is a business for me, I prefer to make them sturdier, so I can reuse them many times. I do this by tracing the paper stencil onto a sheet of flexible plastic. You can buy stenciling plastic at most craft stores, but what I have here is actually some kind of leftover orange plastic material that my husband uses when he lays tile. Hey, waste not, want not. I don’t know what it is called, but it works great. I also have this handy dandy heat stenciling tool that melts the plastic as you cut and makes the work much faster and the end result much more professional.

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This may seem like a lot of work, but I have found it really pays off in the end if you want to do more than one project with the stencil. Since I started this business, I have built up a collection of several really beautiful stencils that will last forever.

Now we get to the fun part- transferring the pattern to fabric.

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But before I get ahead of myself and before this post gets too long, I want to show you what fabric I use, and how I cut it. So until next time, happy stenciling!

Upcycling

A big part of why I started this little venture of mine was to see if I could do what I wanted to do with the supplies I had on hand. I have always loved the challenge of making something without running to the store for a bunch of stuff. When we were small, for instance, my mother usually made us come up with our own halloween costumes from stuff around the house instead of going somewhere to purchase something ready made. This made for some highly interesting costumes.

We had some key accessories that we often fought over- a magenta princess cape, an old grey wig , my aunt’s yellow cheerleading pom poms, my dad’s old army uniform, and a mustard yellow Century 21 real estate agent’s suit. Don’t ask me where we got that last item- I have no idea. I was a real estate agent for Halloween a few years running, however. The grey wig was also used the year I decided to be an old lady secretary. And don’t laugh- the princess cape was unavailable.

The point is, having to come up with our own costumes made us think outside the box, or sometimes inside it. (One of my sisters wore a box one year that she painted to look like a barn. The rest of us were various farm animals.) It inspired creativity, and to this day, whenever I want to start a project, I hunt around the house first to see if there is anything I can use before I run to the store. I have a chest full of old clothes that I can’t stand giving away because I might want to use the fabric someday. That is a main reason I have such an interest in the work of Alabama Chanin. Most of her creativity came from using what she had, and that is why I got into upcycling cotton jersey.

I was watching a movie a few weeks back, called Coco Before Chanel – the life story of, you guessed it, Coco Chanel. I’m not sure what I thought about the film- overall it was pretty darn depressing, but the fashion parts were interesting. There is a scene where she is growing increasingly tired of all the gaudy dresses she sees around her. She is living with a guy at the time and she goes into his closet and pulls out one of his nice white dress shirts. Then she cuts off the white collar and cuffs and stitches them on to a simple black dress. He is furious with her. I started laughing to myself as I was watching it because I had just finished removing the sleeves off of one of the hubby’s old shirts for a project. I had his permission though. She then convinces a friend to wear the dress to a party and her reputation as a designer begins.

It’s still a popular design idea- the black dress with the white collar and cuffs. Just check out pinterest, or the rest of this blog post!

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I doubled the collar on this one and added decorative black stitching for fun.

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This is a view from the back.

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I would have used a model, but it came out a little smaller than anticipated, and I don’t think I know any eighteen month old babies right now. But if you have one, this should fit her beautifully!

A crazy day

So I have talked about my favorite designer, Natalie Chanin, a time or two on this blog. I think I also mentioned she was coming to town this weekend for a trunk show and open house dinner. We have had such a busy schedule that I missed the open house last night and wasn’t sure I was going to make it downtown to the show today, but I really wanted to at least see her new line. And maybe, just maybe, get to meet her.

The hubby was running around all morning with the van and he had some errands to do in the afternoon. During his lunch break he hurried home and grabbed the three oldest boys to run errands with him. The baby and I jumped in the other car and headed downtown. Just for fun, I wore some of the clothes I had made for myself from her designs, and arrived all hot and sweaty with a baby in tow.

I had no idea what it was going to be like, and I was a little disappointed. There weren’t a lot of people, and there was no sign of Natalie Chanin. It was held in a lovely boutique, and there were several racks of her clothing on display, along with books full of her swatches like this.

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I asked if I could take some pictures, but they weren’t very keen on the idea, so I just looked and looked. I chatted with a few ladies about her books until another woman came in. After a few minutes she came up and started asking me about my skirt. She wanted to know if I had made it, and how. So I started explaining about how I had come to be interested in Alabama Chanin designs and the whole business. She was the friendliest lady, admiring my work and my baby and declaring she was going to try to make some of her own clothing “Now that I had inspired her.”

I was flattered of course, but it was really time for me to be going, so I started to say my goodbyes when she grabbed my arm and told me to hang on a minute while she went to find her friend. So I waited, slightly puzzled, and she came around the corner with Natalie Chanin!

She brought her straight over to me and introduced me, and I was all giddy and nervous while I shook her hand. We had a long chat, and she asked me what other stuff I had made. I hadn’t really thought that I would have a chance to show anyone my work, but I had brought a few items along anyways. A girl can dream right?

So then all the shopkeepers and other shoppers came over to look at my little baby dresses, and Natalie, ( I call her Natalie now, you know) told me they were looking for new sewers for their company. (Is there a better term than sewer? Seamstress I guess?)

Well, then I was flattered all over again, but the problem is, she runs a cottage industry in Florence, Alabama and because of certain labor laws, she can’t ship the garments to me to be sewn. I would have to come pick them up- a three hours drive away. So she gave me her information, I thanked her and she even took a picture with me. The baby was more than ready to be leaving at this point, so we said goodbye, and I headed out the door, all of a flutter.

I am not sure what I will do with what happened today. I will probably just inquire as to what working for her company would entail, other than the three hour drive. But even if all I get out of it is a picture,(and not a very good one at that) it was a pretty neat experience, and it has encouraged me to keep plugging away, even though I’m not sure where I am headed.

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