Stitches

The Big Hang Up

Let's get back to my green overalls, shall we?

IMG_3547

Because they've been essentially finished for a couple of weeks now.
But not technically finished.
And certainly not wearable yet.

IMG_3552

What's the Big Hang Up, you ask?

Well. I can tell you it wasn't attempting a complicated, British pattern (written in English, sure, but I'm just gonna say that British-English and American-English are not the same, and there are slight - but key - differences in phrasing and nomenclature when it comes to sewing instructions).

And the instructions using only metric measurements didn't throw me at all (because I just used my metric measuring tools).

It wasn't the level of detail in the making. And it wasn't the topstitching (I secretly love topstitching).

IMG_3553

It wasn't the fact that I slipped up with my seam ripper and made a little slice in the bibs. (After running them through 4 or 5 wash/dry cycles to soften up the canvas, I actually like the "weathered" look that little slice gives the bib. Not even gonna mend it.)

IMG_3550

It wasn't the fit. (They do.)

It wasn't the buttonholes. (I did have to rip one, because it was wonky. But I'm fine with ripping/re-doing buttonholes.)

IMG_3617

So.

What WAS the big hang up in getting these things finished?

It was the hardware. The damn jeans buttons!

You know . . . the ones with the rivets on the back? The ones you need to hammer into place? 

I've never installed jeans buttons before . . .  and they freaked me (the hell) out. I almost chickened out and just used sew-on buttons. But, shoot. I'd gone full-on authentic with this particular pair of overalls, and damnit . . . I wanted the authentic buttons!

So I watched YouTube video after YouTube video about installing jeans buttons. It looked easy. But. . . each of them talked about the importance of using some sort of heavy iron base to do the pounding. A cast iron skillet would be fine, they all said. But I don't have one. So I stewed and hemmed and hawed . . . and finally broke down and purchased a little mini-anvil (about $10 from Amazon).

It arrived yesterday! 

IMG_3613

(It looks like it belongs in the scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel . . . where they use tiny tools to dig themselves out of prison!)

Let the pounding begin!

IMG_3614

Success!

And right out of the gates, too. It really is as simple as the YouTube videos make out . . . to install those damn jeans buttons. Especially when you can pound away - safely and securely - on an iron base. (Satisfying, too. There's just something very cathartic about hammering the shit out of something, y'know?)

IMG_3616

In no time at all, I had installed all six jeans buttons, and figured out the slide/fastener for the straps!

IMG_3618

They're finished!

They fit!

They're Just What I Wanted!

And . . .  I have tackled my Big Hang Up!

And when Tom gets home (he's up north, opening our cabin and discovering that we need a new water heater), I'll have him take some pictures of me and I'll show you the full glory of these overalls soon.

==

How about you? What are you making this week?

==

Note: My overalls are actually the shade of green in the last photo. They are a perfect Mr. Green Jeans shade of green. Kind of spring-y, but not super bright.


Overthinking Overalls

When I was in high school, I had a pair of denim OshKosh'b'Gosh overalls. I wore them a lot back then - and especially during the summer at outdoor swim meets (because I could just throw them over my suit - easy-breezy). I embroidered all over them . . . in that freestyle, mid-70s kind of way. (Lots of rainbows, flowers, and peace signs.) I couldn't wear them to school (we had a dress code that allowed us only to wear "dress denim" on Fridays, which meant . . . no embroidered denim overalls), but I did sew myself a pair of corduroy overalls (thus acceptable for ANY day of the week per the school dress code), and even one of my cheerleading uniform options . . . was a pair of overalls (also dress code acceptable).

So. I was enamored with overalls -- and especially my OshKosh pair. Comfy. Groovy vibe. Unexpected. When I went off to college, though . . . they didn't come with me. I don't know what happened to them, and I don't seem to have a photo of me wearing them anywhere. But I really loved them.

Which means. . . that even as a nearly-62-year-old woman, I have a soft spot for overalls! 

IMG_2734 2

(Look! The Selfie Project continues . . . and I inexplicably put on mascara the other day for no reason at all except I felt like it. What is happening???)

Over the last couple of years, I've noticed . . . more overalls on the fashion scene, including lots of sewing pattern designs. (Jumpsuits, too. But it's a hard no on the jumpsuits for me.) I looked. I contemplated. I considered. But . . . nah.

Most of the designs I saw were more . . . fashion-y than I wanted. Or they were really simplified versions of standard, work overalls. And there seemed to be a lot of little futsy details: sideways pockets or paperbag waists or wrap around ties. I did succumb last summer and purchased this pattern. (I think I saw a pair that someone I know had made on IG that looked really great for summer - and without the fussy ties . . . ) But I never sewed them. (Too busy with masks.) (Sigh.) 

Besides. There was that silly little critical voice in my head that would whisper you're too old for overalls now when I got thinking about really making - and wearing - overalls. (I know this is NOT TRUE. I can wear whatever I damn well please, thankyouverymuch.) (But that voice still whispers, y'know?)

I haven't thought about overalls for several months now. . .  
Until last Tuesday!

I had ducked in to my favorite garden nursery for a quick breath of spring. They sell houseplants during the winter, and were having a sale to clear their stock in preparation for the gardening season ahead. I wanted to pick up a few succulents and maybe a plant or two for my house . . . y'know . . . to get me through the next couple of months inside. Anyway. Guess what I saw there????

A smart and sassy older woman with very cool silver hair . . . ROCKING A PAIR OF OLIVE GREEN DENIM OVERALLS!

If it hadn't have been the pandemic, I would've grabbed her and gotten all the details on her most awesome overalls. But it is the pandemic, so I admired her from over 6 feet away.

Ever since? I've been dreaming of a pair of olive green denim overalls for myself! Although, let's be honest. I've not been dreaming. I've been overthinking those overalls. . . 

I looked at ready-to-wear options online. But nothing seems to be what I want . . . in a reasonable price range. (And there are some WILD options out there -- including skinny-leg overalls with those ripped up legs. I kid you not.) I looked at farm-and-fleet store overalls online --  but they're just a bit too functional for me. (I don't think I need 96 pockets or articulated knees. . . ) And I looked at sewing patterns. Again. Most of them really are more fashion-focused than I'm wanting. Or there are some other details about them I'm not particularly liking. (The back, for example. I'm apparently very particular about how I want the back to look. And the pockets need to be Just Right.)

And then I found this pattern. . . 

Screen Shot 2021-02-26 at 7.53.08 AM

This is the Harlene from Merchant & Mills.
And it is EXACTLY what I want.

Ohlordhelpme
I'm going to sew myself a pair of olive green denim overalls.

==

Don't forget: the Read With Us Zoom book discussions are coming right up -- Tuesday, March 2. Be sure to let Bonny, Carole, or I know if you'd like to join us for the Zoom that evening at 7 pm Eastern. (Just comment on any of our blogs to RSVP, or send us an email!)

 


A Retreat of Our Own

Almost two years ago, Vicki and I took a trip together . . . to Alabama for an Alabama Chanin stitching workshop. Somewhere along the way, we stopped on the side of the road to take photos of the cotton growing in the fields.

Last Thursday, we were together again, driving in northern Michigan . . . and, once more, we stopped on the side of the road for photos.  This time, though, it was pumpkins growing in the fields that caught our eye.

IMG_5203

Vicki and I first hatched our plan . . . to create our own Alabama Chanin "retreat" where we could stitch and cut and paint and plan together . . . about a year ago.  I knew it would be lots of fun and inspirational to spend time with Vicki again.  I had no idea how productive we'd be, though!  Creating Alabama Chanin garments is complicated.  There are so many options and so many choices:  pattern, fabric, color, stencil design, paint colors, embellishments.  It takes a while to sort through and figure out exactly what you want to DO!  It's much more fun - and much more productive - to discuss and talk it all out with someone else who is as geeked about the process as you are! 

And then . . . even when you have your ideas all figured out and clear in your imagination . . . you still have to do all the prep work.  Which is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and messy!

I can't tell you how much better it is to do this with a partner-in-crime!  (Especially when she brings her air compressor and an airbrush.  And teaches you how to use it.)

IMG_6284

So now . . . in addition to my memories of a fun week with Vicki . . .  I have four (!) Alabama Chanin projects planned, (mostly) cut, stenciled, and ready to go.  (And - bonus - I have new airbrushing skills AND an air compressor of my own now.)

A great week - and a perfect retreat - all the way around!

 


Happy Legs

When the weather cools down, I pretty much live in leggings and tunics.  (The stretchier, the better!)  I sew tunics for myself all the time, but I've never sewn a pair of leggings before . . .

until last weekend!

IMG_7247

These awesome and most comfortable leggings (maroon with white polka dots FTW!) are made from Sonya Phillips' Pants No. 2 pattern.  A snap to sew (no serger necessary), super clear directions, a great fit, and . . . $3.97 for the fabric.

IMG_7249

My legs?

IMG_7252

VERY happy!

==========

I've decided to knit for Christmas this year, so while there is no unraveling going on, there is also no knitting I can show.  But you can check out what others have been "raveling" over at Kat's!

 


All About the Pockets

Last week, I finished a pair of Alabama Chanin drawstring pants . . . in the knee-length shorts version.

IMG_6673

I was a bit hesitant about making pants . . . with hand stitching.  Because, really, you want the butt seam and crotch seam to HOLD, y'know?  But last fall, when Vicki and I visited the Alabama Chanin Factory, I tried on a pair.  And they seemed surprisingly stable.  And super comfortable.  So I decided to give it a go.

This particular AC pattern includes drawstring pants (4 lengths) and a drawstring skirt (also multiple lengths) -- and a variety of pocket options.  I planned to try ALL pocket varieties when I stitched up my shorts.  Kind of a . . . pocket sampler!

So.  We've got side seam pockets . . . 

IMG_6671

a cargo pocket . . . 

IMG_6670

and patch pockets!

IMG_6672

These really are the most comfortable pants in the world.  (And I'm happy to report that with two full days' wear, both the butt seam and the crotch seam are holding fast!)

Now . . . I'm thinking I need a long pair.
(And maybe the skirt . . . )

==========

Be sure to head over to Kat's today . . . to see what else is Unraveling!


Just a Bit of Messing Around

Earlier this month, I had a notion to make myself an Alabama Chanin tunic.  Just plain-vanilla.  A single-layer black tunic using the Factory Dress pattern.

IMG_4697

It was my first project using Natalie Chanin's new book, The Geometry of Hand-Sewing, and the Really Useful Stitching Cards that come with it.  (Those white dots you can see on my edging above?  I used a chalk pencil to mark my binding strips so I could make uniform stitches.  The dots will wash off, leaving near-perfect stitches that make me look like a better hand-stitcher than I actually am.  Highly recommend.)

IMG_4698

I finished the tunic in record time -- but decided I wanted to mess around a bit with those Really Useful Stitching Cards and some beads. 

So I marked up the front edge of my tunic . . . 

IMG_4681

dumped out a bunch of beads . . . 

IMG_4682

and started messing around.

The trick here is . . . moderation, mixed with a bit of random.  I'm working slowly, just a little at a time.  I want to be sure I strike the right balance of bling here -- nothing too uniform, and nothing overdone.

So far, I like it . . . 

IMG_4684

this particular kind of messing around!

What are you working on this week?

==========

Be sure to stop in at Kat's to read other Unraveled posts this week.


Sewing. So Much Faster Than Knitting.

I'm, basically, a tunic-and-leggings kind of gal.  It's what I wear about 90% of the time.  Often with some sort of sweater thrown over the top.  So when I first heard about the Knit & Sew Uniform book (published by Madder), I got myself on the pre-order list right away!

A variations-on-a-theme book of patterns for tunics (the "sew" part of the Uniform) and cardigans (the "knit" part of the Uniform), the whole concept is really perfect for me.

I whipped up a tunic for myself over the weekend.  

IMG_3759

I opted for the tunic version with pockets, no sleeves, and the rounded neckline.

IMG_3791

I pretty much love it.  (Although I have a few issues with the placement of the darts.  And from what I see from photos of other finished Uniform tunics, this is pretty typical. They're just . . . too high.)

The size options are good.  The directions are very clear.  The sewing is straightforward.

IMG_3790

I gave myself contrasting pocket linings.  Mostly because I like pops of color -- and a "surprise inside."  But also because I wanted to cut down on the bulk of fabric over my middle section (ahem).  (Because who wants four layers of heavy-ish linen over their middle section?)  So I used a lightweight cotton print for the pocket linings.

IMG_3793

I also used the cotton for the armhole bias facings.  Again, pop of color.  AND it really cut down on the bulk around the armholes.

IMG_3794

I'll probably make another tunic, as I really want to try the split-hem variation.  But I'm going to have to think about those darts for awhile first.  (It's such a pain to move darts.)

One thing is certain -- don't expect to see a completed knit Uniform cardigan around here anytime soon.  Someday, sure.  But not this summer.  

(Sewing.  So much faster than knitting. . . )

 


On Sleeves and Stitching

When I knit a sweater, I always knit a swatch first.  If I can, I really like the sleeve-as-swatch approach.  Somehow it just feels like I'm more productive that way.  Y'know . . . moving forward right out of the gates and all.  (Even though I end up knitting more than two sleeves for one sweater sometimes.)

Anyway, I decided to apply that same logic to my big (and really rather overwhelming) Alabama Chanin wrap dress project:  Start with the Sleeves.

IMG_3054

This is a big project with many pieces and a complex stencil.  I'm using the sleeves to kind of find my way with the stitching and the cutting and the beading.

The sleeves are manageable pieces to work with, both to handle for the stitching and to look at.  Because it's hard to find your way at the beginning of a project like this one.  (And after the inspiration of the Alabama Chanin workshop I attended last fall, the ideas are just . . . oozing!)

IMG_3055

One stitch at a time.

Dreaming and scheming as I go.  

(It looks a lot different before it's cut, doesn't it?)

IMG_3056

(That beaded bit right there?  So far, it's my favorite part!)

You can learn a lot from a sleeve or two, y'know?

How about you?  What's your approach to a big project?  Where do you start?

 


The All of It

15/30

I'll just begin by saying Alabama Chanin is a magical place.

IMG_0978

It's not just being surrounded by the sample garments everywhere (seriously . . . it was like my Pinterest board had come to life right in front of me).  It's not just the bins of fabric scraps in every corner.  It's not just the perfectly designed work spaces or the charming quilts on the walls or the chairs (oh, the chairs. . . ) or the button jars.

IMG_1094

It's really kind of . . . the All of It.

Even time moves differently there.  Speeded up in a sort of fiber-y warp speed thing.  (I know that sounds kind of crazy, but every day we were shocked by how quickly time passed.)

IMG_1093

The 3-day workshop was perfectly paced.  There were classes on technique and construction and embroidery, mixed in with open studio time and one-on-one instruction, mixed in with a behind-the-scenes tour of The Factory, and - of course - a chance to meet Natalie Chanin and hear her speak about the history of the company and her own path.

The first day, we had several hours to make our decision about what we wanted to make as part of the workshop.  (An Alabama Chanin School of Making kit of our choice was included in the price of admission.)  When I first saw the hours attributed to this particular task on our schedule, I kind of rolled my eyes.

Because how hard would THAT be?

I mean . . . I've ordered kits online before.  I am already very familiar with the various styles of kits available.  I traveled to Alabama with something already in mind.

Let me just say . . . HA!

I ended up needing Every. Single. Moment. of the allotted time to make my choice!  Turns out . . . that having access to all the sample garments to try on . . . and color swatches to play with . . . and stencil swatches to pore over . . . and embellishment and embroidery options to consider . . . just complicate the process.  So. Many. Decisions.

In the end, I chose to make the wrap dress.  In black with a grape under-layer.  With the Magdalena stencil.  With some beading.

But don't be looking for a progress shot quite yet.  Because I didn't even begin to work on it.  Instead, I worked with a sample swatch to try out different stitching, beading, and appliqué techniques that I might want to use (kind of like a knitting swatch).  With a project as big and involved as this wrap dress will be, I want to make some decisions before I even get started.  And that sample swatch was the perfect thing!

IMG_0973

Another really great thing about the workshop is that the instructors tailored their teaching to the things we wanted to learn, individually.  Once I saw the crocheted snap covers that are standard for Alabama Chanin garments, I wanted to learn how to do them for my coat.

My.  Are they ever fiddly!  (Because tiniest of crochet needles.  And thread.)

IMG_1095

The first one I tried took about 2 hours.  (And lots of swearing, but I was quiet about it.)  It turned out quite wonky (because tension was a big issue for me), but it'll work.  

IMG_0970

The next one only took about 45 minutes (and significantly less swearing) -- and it was much neater.  Only 4 snaps to go now.  And then I can finish my coat.

Our instructors were wonderful.  Patient.  Generous.  Incredibly skilled.  They always showed us the "Alabama Chanin Way" (because they have Standards), but also encouraged us to go our own way and do our own thing when making our garments.  I very much appreciated their attitude and relaxed approach to Making.

IMG_1002

Making this trip to Alabama turned out even better than I had imagined or hoped!  It was such a pleasure to meet the other women in the workshop (and what a varied bunch they were!), to experience Alabama Chanin up-close-and-personal, to meet Natalie Chanin herself, and to just . . . live among those incredible garments for a few days.

IMG_1081

It was just . . . inspiring.  The All of It!