Sunday, September 21, 2014

Alabama Scout: Construction

Wow, a whole week since I posted!  Over the course of that week, I spent the majority of my free time - about 15 hours altogether - and yesterday completed my Alabama Scout!

I know there are a few of you who were interested in the construction of a garment like this, so I was good and remembered to take photos while I was sewing the top together.  A LOT of photos!  A few  of these have been shared on Instagram over the last couple days, but most are new.

Each day this week, I spent approximately 2 hours working on the beading.  On Friday evening, I finished up the back, the last and largest of the pieces.  Here are all four pieces, in a picture I excitedly shared on IG after I'd gotten to this stage:


And another couple close-ups of the accent beading, which sadly doesn't show in most of the photos:



I couldn't resist sewing up the short shoulder seams that night, just to try it out.  I'd decided ahead of time that all my seams would be inside felled.  As per Alabama Chanin's instructions, I used a doubled strand of Button Craft thread and a simple running stitch.  Here is the original seam:



There are a few areas where I changed my construction from the method in the book, using techniques I normally use in sewing, and this is one of them.  Before felling the seam, I trimmed the seam allowance that would be on the inside of the felling in half:


That reduced a lot of bulk and made things much easier for me.  Here is the finished, felled seam:





Yesterday I spent about 4 hours sewing together the remaining seams and the neck binding.   All seams were worked as above, and in addition,  I marked all my seam lines to keep everything on track.


As I set in the sleeve, I actually felt like I had a lot more control than I do when I sew something like this on the machine.  Holding the work in my hands and being able to manipulate and ease the fabric stitch by stitch made the whole process a lot less nerve-wrecking than I usually find it to be.


Other than hand-stitching everything, I used the normal seam allowances and construction for the Grainline Scout.  (Note:  the pattern I used here is the one I adjusted several months ago to have the more swingy back and to fit my measurements.)  After setting in the sleeves, I sewed the side and sleeve seams in one continuous pass.  The bottom edges of the sleeves and body were left unhemmed, so that as the top is worn and washed, they will curl a bit.  In order to keep my layers sandwiched together, I didn't remove my pink silk basting threads until I was ready to sew each seam.

The neck binding is one long strip, cut on the crosswise grain, 1.25 inches wide.  I used the "Cretan Stitch" shown in the Alabama Studio books to apply the binding after sandwiching the neckline in between its folds, again with a doubled strand of thread.


And once I'd done that, I was done!  I almost couldn't believe it!  I quickly tried it on to check the fit and snapped a couple of bathroom mirror selfies:




One thing I'd been concerned about throughout the making of this top is that it wouldn't be comfortable against the skin.  You may have noticed that there are a LOT of knots on the inside:


I was afraid I might end up with a gorgeous, sparkly hair shirt.  So I was really relieved that the knots don't bother me at all!  And I expect that over time, with several washings, everything will soften up.




And now a few thoughts :-)

The whole time I was stenciling, stitching, cutting and beading the pieces, I treated them like gold.  They felt so delicate.  But now that the top is sewn together, the whole thing feels surprisingly sturdy.   I feel like I can wear this without worrying that it's too precious.  And there's an added level of comfort in knowing that any beads or seams that come undone can easily be repaired.

One of the things I struggle with most in sewing is understanding the relationship between the weight of a fabric on the bolt and in the finished piece.  I mentioned before that the fabric I used here is quite a bit lighter than the jersey sold by Alabama Chanin, and I was concerned that my top might be too flimsy in the end.    But now that it's finished, I think this lighter fabric was a good choice for the combination of techniques I used.  The combination of the 2-ply backstitching around each motif and the accent beading inside added significant heft to the finished garment, so that it's actually quite a bit heavier than it looks.  And while I do expect the whole thing to soften with washing, the final result is a fabric with more body than drape.  I think that if I'd used the heavier Alabama Chanin jersey, a top in this style would be far too heavy for me.  That said, the heavier fabric would make for a great jacket, dress or skirt.

I'm happy to have this project finished, and I had a great time making it.  It will probably be a few days though before I can get some "real" pictures of me wearing the top.  It's too cloudy today; I'm really hoping to get some good light so that the sparkly beads show.  And I'm also considering giving it a wash before taking any pictures, so the drying time will add to the wait.

Meanwhile . . . on to the next thing on the agenda!

38 comments:

  1. Excellent work!
    -- stashdragon

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  2. This top looks so beautiful and precious! You did an excellent job on it!

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    1. Thank you, Carmela! I'm pretty proud of it :-)

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  3. Amazing work Gail. It looks fantastic. You should be really proud of this.

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  4. This is such a lovely top! I am very impressed by the uniformity in your stitches! I hope you enjoy wearing this one and that you are showered with well-deserved compliments! :-)

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    1. Thank you, Jessica! Honestly (and this is something I'd meant to put in the post but forgot) - the stitches aren't really all the uniform if you look at them individually. But taken as a whole, the effect is that they are! Magic!

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  5. This looks amazing! I've thought about getting this book as well. May be I should after seeing your lovely work! Amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! I have 2 of the 3 books, and I'm considering getting the one I don't have yet! I love paging through them, getting inspired for the next project!

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  6. Fabulous. Love the colors, the accent beading, the lovely handstitching, all of it. In my plans to do an AC-inspired top, I've been tempted to do the actual construction by machine, but I really adore the way the handstitching creates slight dimpling at the seams.

    Thanks for sharing the details, verrrrry inspiring... :)

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    1. Thanks, Susan! Maybe we'll see one from you soon?

      I totally agree with you about the machine vs. hand-stitching. And I admit there was a split second where I considered the machine! But I think the hand stitching really highlights the rustic feel of these garments. Plus I was afraid to injure my machine by sewing over a bead ;-)

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  7. Wow. just wow. I don't have the patience for all of the hand-sewing but I greatly admire those that do. It looks beautiful.

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  8. this is so beautiful! thanks for sharing the construction, it's so interesting to see how it comes together. the beading you did is just perfect, too bad the camera doesn't pick it up better!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! Yes, after I changed my original beading plan, my goal was for the beads to be unobtrusive, but to just catch the light every so often. For my camera though, they're a little TOO unobtrusive!

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  9. Very nice. That's such an understatement. It's pretty friggin amazing!

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  10. Just beautiful! Love it ... all the work that went to it. I know what you mean by incorporating sewing norms into a garment. For the shoulder seams I reinforce it with a strip of twill tape. Just like how we would sew a knit top. Another AC garment in the agenda? :)

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    1. Thank you, Barbara! Yes, I've got two more in my immediate plans, both less involved than this one. And I've dragged my airbrush and compressor up from the garage. Haven't touched them in 25 years, so I'll have to relearn how to use them!

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  11. Amazing, it's completely handmade. Thanks for showing all the details in the construction, a truly fascinating read! I'm picking up lots of pointers here, and paying attention to relationship weight of fabric and the finished piece. That is something I am learning as I go along too.
    Handwash this lovely top, it deserves tender loving care :)

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    1. Thanks, Erin! I did wash it already - hand wash, squeezed out the excess water in a towel, air dried for about 3 hours and then popped it in the dryer to finish (on low). Now it's nice and fluffy and the folds have come out!

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  12. I love the accent beading, it's just enough to add that finishing touch. I'm going to pick my skirt up again now I'm back from holiday, I might add a little beading to that if I can get some nice quality beads and sequins.

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    1. Thank you, Sam! In the future, I want to try beading in the negative space too. I also want to try one where the knots are on the right side. So many options with this work!

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  13. I love this! I have to alabama chanin books. I've made a couple of the patterns without using the embroidery techniques to test the fit/ style, but I haven't gotten around to doing a full on embroidery project yet! This is such a special top, I think I need to commit to doing something similar soon!

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    1. Thank you! I say yes - if you have any interest in this kind of thing, go for it! It doesn't have to be as involved as this one; I was trying to make this project last for an entire one-month vacation! There are so many ways to use these techniques!

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  14. A looooot of work has gone into this! It's turned out really special and I'm very glad you'll get to wear it often, not just as a delicate special occasion piece, it deserves to be seen!

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    1. Thank you, Sabs! I wish I'd kept track of how many hours I put into this project :-) I'll definitely be wearing it - I tried on a few outfits this morning and I like it both dressed up and down. Win!

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  15. This is such a work of art, Gail. So pretty!

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  16. Looks beautiful! You've done an amazing job!

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  17. Gosh this is so pretty ! It looks very time consuming though but worth it :)

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    1. It was time-consuming! But enjoyable :-)

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