We are finally back after a month abroad. Our family visits took us to Turkey, Germany and Austria*; we had a lot of great times and a couple of not so good times too. We've been home since Saturday night, and as you can probably imagine, I've spent the better part of the week catching up on things like grocery shopping and laundry.
*Plenty of pictures on my Instagram feed!
But now I'm ready to get back to my normal routine, and in this post I'm going to pick up right where I left off and tell you all about the Alabama Chanin top I took with me as a travel project. When last we spoke, I was getting everything ready: cutting the stencil and the fabric, painting on my design, and putting all my materials together into a kit. I even did a bit of stitching before we left, as a test. And what I found is:
I love doing this work SO MUCH!!
This was the perfect project to take along for hot climates, and also for the particular situation I find myself in when we visit Turkey. That is - it's not the type of vacation where we go around exploring. Most of the time we are sitting around, chatting with family. I'm not so great at just sitting, so I always take handwork with me wherever I go. Usually it has been knitting, but this hand sewing project was absolutely the right choice for me this trip as the weather was very hot and humid.
I posted pictures of my project in progress on Instagram when I could while I was gone, but I thought I'd re-post some of them here and add a couple new ones so you can see the progression.
Here are the two sleeves - both have been stitched, and one has been cut.
Here are all four pieces after all stitching and cutting had been done. I'd estimate that at this point, I had about 20 hours of stitching and cutting invested.
My original intention was to completely fill each negative space with small glass beads and sequins - a technique Natalie Chanin calls "armor beading." I'd done a small test before we left:
I loved how it looked, but I realized after working a couple small areas that doing the entire top this way would make it much too heavy. I was also surprised by how much weight and heft the stitching added - I used the recommended Button Craft Thread, doubled, and of course using backstitch means you're using a lot more thread than if you use a running stitch. For the four pieces I worked, I used 4.5 spools of thread just in outlining the design.
So I removed the beading I'd already done and started to work "accent beading" instead. I wasn't sure I'd like it as much, but I'm very pleased with how it's coming along.
I have eked out a total of about 4 hours work on this since we got back, and at this point I've beaded both sleeves and about a third of the front. I ended up not doing any beading on our trip, although I'd taken all the beads with me. It worked out so that by the time I'd finished all the stitching, our schedule became more active so I didn't really have any free time to fill up.
I've always enjoyed hand stitching, so it's really no surprise to me that I'm loving this project. But there's another element: during my 2 month sewing hiatus, I thought a lot about how sewing consumes my time and space. I love my hand-made wardrobe, and the clothing I've made for myself is what I reach for first these days. However, I don't really think it's sustainable or wise for me to continue making SO many garments per year. Although I wear my me-mades regularly, there are some I've never worn, because they just don't fit my lifestyle. At this point, I'm a housewife with no children to care for. Many days, I see no one but my husband. Although we do go out fairly often, the number of beautiful dresses in my closet far exceeds my needs.
All this is to say that I'm starting to feel like it's time for me to slow down, output-wise. However, making is a basic need for me. A hand-worked project like this, I feel, perfectly balances these two desires.
So expect to see more . . . probably as early as tomorrow.