24 September 2014

Alabama Chanin

A few months ago I stumbled fortuitously across Alabama Chanin — an American couture house that not only hand sews all its garments for sale, and pays its sewers a living wage, but also makes all its patterns, stencils and techniques open source. Swoon.

I haven't been this excited and inspired by hand crafts for a long time. I love their philosophy, and their designs.

I bought their third book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, and practically hyperventilated when it arrived.

This is the 'baby doll tunic' that I made, using the patterns from this book. I started sewing on 22 July, and finished the garment on 14 August, so it only took about three weeks. I did made some adjustments to the fit after this, but that was the work of an hour, at most.

Something about sewing this entirely by hand appeals to me so much. It's portable. It's simple. It's careful, slow work, akin to knitting. You can do it on the train, or while watching TV — no need to be plugged in to a sewing machine to work. You don't get things caught up or stitched wrongly, because you're making one stitch at a time, and you can see both sides of the work easily, not like with machine sewing.

I love my slightly erratic stitches, the look of them, the fact that they're not perfect. The seams that show on the outside. I love learning hand stitches and techniques that have been used through the ages, like stretch stitches, and how to do a flat felled seam.

So yeah. Totally. In. Love. Little bit obsessed.

The decoration on the bodice is reverse appliqué — the black top layer is cut away, after the stitching is done, to reveal the grey lower layer. I used the Alabama Chanin stencil designs as a starting point, and just drew the design on in chalk, as I went.

 The inside of the bodice piece. I used upholstery thread, waxed, for all my sewing on this garment — strongest thread I could find.

Both the bodice pieces done. Each piece is so small and portable — a bodice half, plus thread, needle, scissors, and beeswax (great for handsewing thread) — into a smaller bag than a knitting project.

Starting on construction — doing the shoulder seams here.

The outside of the shoulder seams.

 Binding for the armhole and neck, with a great stretch stitch.

Changed to black edging for the front of the bodice.

Sewing the gathered skirt on took a loooong time. This vertical stitch is a stretch stitch.

After I was finished, I decided to cut some out of the lower back, and stitched a dart in there, and I needed to shorten the straps too. Very happy with the result!

04 September 2014

Failsafe Choko Salad

I must admit I was surprised to discover that chokos are rather good raw. Whole vistas have opened up in front of me! Here is a simple failsafe salad I made last night. It was very tasty.

choko saladIngredients

1 small choko
¼ cup bamboo shoots
1 spring onion


1 part canola oil (or other failsafe oil)
1 part citric lemon juice (4 Tbspn water, 1 tspn sugar, ¾ tspn citric acid)
salt to taste
maple syrup to taste

Shake together in a small jar.


Peel and thinly slice the choko into matchsticks.
Slice up the bamboo shoots too (just roughly).
Finely slice the spring onion.
Combine in a bowl, and toss with the dressing.

And you're done!