Friday, September 12, 2014

Hello Again!

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.

38 comments:

  1. Your work is beautiful ~ definitely a labour of love! I know what you mean about slowing down, and not sewing just for the sake of sewing ... looking forward to seeing more of this creation ... soon ... J

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    1. Thanks, Judith! I told myself I wasn't going to rush through this project, but now the weather has suddenly turned cold and I feel the pressure to finish this so I can wear it before it's officially winter, LOL!

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  2. Welcome back! Your hand-stitching is beautiful. I agree, slowing down can be very rewarding. I used to try and finish a garment in one or two days -- not even sure why. It wasn't necessarily about wanting to wear it. Now I prefer to spend some of my free time on sewing and some on other hobbies.

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    1. Thank you, Andrea! I often have the same attitude toward my projects. What is that about?! For me, I think it has more to do with obsession . . .

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  3. Hello!!! Welcome back! Looking forward to seeing your top finished. I've really enjoyed seeing the progression through all the photos on Instagram.

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  4. That is so beautiful. I'm so looking forward to seeing how you put it together. I can't sit still either, which is why I tried my hand at knitting on our last big trip, but it didn't take. This, I think I could do! Loved seeing all your photos.

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    1. Thanks, Debbie! This has supplanted knitting for the moment - pretty rare that anything does that for me! Thanks for letting me know you're interested in the construction too - I'll make sure to take some pix at that point, either to post here or on Instagram. :-)

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  5. Really enjoyed seeing photos of your travels and progress of this. It's beautiful. Welcome back btw...

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  6. welcome back! it was fun seeing your IG posts, will you be sharing more photos of your trip? everything looked so picturesque! interesting to hear your thoughts on sewing and making... you are generally super productive so i can imagine all that adds up quickly. i look forward to seeing your slower projects--basically all the things i don't have the time or patience for right now! your AC project looks like it's coming along really well, i'd love to see construction details as it comes together!

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    1. I may share some more photos - but that means I'll need to sort through them first ;-) I didn't take a whole lot of pictures in Turkey, because we didn't really see anything new. But I took a TON in Austria.

      Even in the day since I wrote this post, I find myself struggling with this "slow production." My hope was to focus that energy into projects like this and a well-fitted blazer. But the tendency to make a bunch of "quick" projects in the time I could make one "big" project is so strong! Must. Stay. Focused!! Because I truly don't have the space for all this stuff, or the time to wear all these items.

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  7. I LOVE this and that Alabama Chanin style isn't even my thing. (Andrea's stuff turned me around, though.) Your work is beautiful and I think it was very smart to re-think the beading. First thing I thought when I saw it in your last post was that it was going to weigh a ton.

    I also love hearing about how slow sewing might be your mechanism for producing less. You knit too fast! :-)

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    1. I didn't think it was my thing either, although I admired it on others (like Andrea). But all of a sudden, it's all I want to wear! I'm also suddenly drawn to solid-colored clothing over prints, but that's a whole other story . . .

      And yeah, I knit fast - IF I knit!! My knitting has pretty much ground to a halt since I started this project! It's love, I tell you!

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  8. Gail this is *gorgeous* -- I have long admired these projects but have yet to start my own. You have inspired me no end...I'm going to pull out my AC books...

    The high-production concept is interesting. You're not the first sewist I've heard express this concern. It's not one that's affected me yet (because of how often I end up with something I feel isn't wearable for some reason or another, plus a lot of my sewing time the last year is spent on testing stuff), but I know it will one day. I also love hand sewing work. Right now, the need to get pieces into my wardrobe (and it is a need -- truly, no sarcasm here) keeps me from spending a lot of time on one piece, but when that isn't the case, I can see myself landing on a similar conclusion to yours. Welcome home :)

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    1. Oooh, yay! Another one for Team Alabama!!!

      So interesting to hear your thoughts about high production. Like you, I've heard this from other sewists as well. I think it's really hard to limit oneself when one has the skills and machinery, and there are so many great fabrics and patterns available! And although I have had high output, I still haven't managed to make all the items that were in my mind!

      But I also noticed that my sewing output fell into the same trend as my RTW purchases: lots of (not so practical) fancy dresses and hardly any of the stuff I actually wear day to day. Well, not true: I have made a lot of t-shirts and I do wear those all the time.

      I'll have to keep reminding myself: just because I CAN, it doesn't mean I SHOULD.

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  9. This is so beautiful! I can't wait to see the final product. I love Alabama Chanin stitching, and your project makes me want to pick up the one I started and abandoned a few months back.

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    1. Thank you, Jessica! Your projects are inspiring me even more to start making some muslins from the patterns in the books!

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  10. This is amazing. It's like scrapbooking and art with fabric.

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  11. Welcome back, Gail! I really enjoyed seeing your trip updates on Instagram. I've loved seeing your AC project come along, too. I think this is the year where I'm starting to experience the wish to slow down my sewing (although somehow it always feels like there's a rather gaping wardrobe need to fill, those useful projects can fall to last on my list!) I'll be interested to hear about your approach. The nice thing about sewing/creating is that there's always some aspect of a project that can be done more slowly, more thoughtfully and with more design.

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    1. Thanks, Morgan! So true - with this project I really felt it let me focus in an almost meditative way. Gotta love that!

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  12. Welcome back! I like to keep up with the progress of this AC project as I only have a vague idea of what the end result is going to be.
    Sounds like you had a good holiday, spending time with family is precious!
    It was interesting for me to read your thots at the end of this post. I don't sew that much but I have been thinking about being more focussed and sewing for my wardrobe needs. For a start, I am trying my best not to buy fabrics that are lovely but which I know I wont wear :)

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    1. You and me both! I hope it ends up looking like it does in my head!!

      Yes, it's the old Cake vs. Frosting debate. Sadly, I love both!

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  13. Welcome back! Glad you had a mostly enjoyable holiday. Your top is looking amazing. I too feel like I've got to slow down a little - my husband thinks I neglect other parts of our life to sewing (like home improvement stuff and the garden) and I'm conscious of what I actually do and don't need. But I love it so much! Hard!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! I'm the same - I know there have been times I've neglected things I ought to be doing in favor of sewing, because it's so darned fun! It's one of the things I'm hoping to improve now that I'm back home.

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  14. Welcome home! I loved getting to follow your progress on Instagram - some beautiful piccies. And I love what you are doing with your AC top - the accent bling is perfect. I really want to do a dress (handsewing is a perfect activity when you are waiting for kids, and don't want to get stuck into endless small talk with other moms), but it will likely have to wait till after Christmas. I'm excited to see how your projects turn out!

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! I want to do a dress too. And a jacket, and a skirt . . . I've just about finished the beading on the front now, and I'm so happy with the accent beading. It's not super noticeable, but then the beads catch the light in the most attractive way!

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  15. Welcome back!!! I really enjoyed your IG pics- looks like you had a great time in Austria and Germany! This project is so interesting... it really looks striking! This sort of thing isn't usually my style, but this is really beautiful.

    I think it's wise to take a step back and take your time on projects if you feel like you don't need to sew at a high volume (all the more so if you enjoy this kind of time-consuming handwork!). I've kind of taken a break from sewing fancy dresses as I just. don't. need. them. I think I focused too much on sewing that sort of thing when my day job was so, so casual (I mean, working outside almost every day meant that I often spent an entire week at work without ever taking my jacket off! There just wasn't any point in sewing every day clothes then!). But now that I'm looking for a more "normal" job, I'm realizing a huge hole in my wardrobe for work clothes. But holy cow, I never need another cocktail dress EVER again!

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    1. Thanks, Sonja! Yeah, there's always that "need" vs. "want" debate, isn't there? In my mind, I'm a super chic city lady who wears heels and fancy dresses. But in my real life . . . not!

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  16. Gail, this looks awesome! I'm glad to see you back and hope that you are able to quickly get caught-up on laundry, so you're able to get back to working on fun projects like this!

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! I did get your email, BTW, but wasn't able to reply. Hope you got some good stuff with the Groupon!

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  17. Welcome back Gail! This is absolutely beautiful. I'm so impressed because you can clearly see how much time and care you put into it. I know I don't have the patience at all to do this :)

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    1. Thanks, Debbie! Yes . . . lots and lots of time and care! I'm nearing completion though! Yay!

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  18. My goodness, so much work! It is looking lovely and will act as a holiday souvenir too as I'm sure you'll be reminded of your holiday when you look at it

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    1. Thanks, Kerry! I think the same - this top will always remind me of our trip this year!

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  19. Wow! That is beautiful! So much work goes into it and I love the outcome. I don't sew many dresses for the same reason you gave; I don't go out much and the kids and hubs are usually who see me. :)

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    1. Thank you, Kristin! Yes, like I said before: in my mind, I'm always stylish! But in my real life, I just don't often have the motivation!

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