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  • Writer's pictureLonda

Textures of Alabama Chanin – Part V

Breath-Taking Texture

THAT is what first – and still – draws me to the ‘look’ of Alabama Chanin, the amazing TEXTURE that she and her artisans have created.  What dropped my jaw was the STACKS and STACKS of technique books we were shown on the tour of The Factory! All techniques identified by number, etc. Even these lovely large binders are covered in the signature cotton jersey!

Technique Book
technique books

A Closer Look at The Textures

I call this one, “Bunched Strips”  and can ‘see’ it embellishing a yoke, or run vertically on a panel of a tunic, or how about around a cuff or hemline?

Bunched strips

Scrunched Leaves!  Descriptive, I’d say.  I think this one would be just plain fun to manipulate and ‘do’.  Note the chainstitch ‘stems’ from which the leaves hang.  I’d love to watch one of their artisans stitching one of these leaves. The stitch use is what they call the Parallel Whipstitch.  How long do you think just 1 would take?  Try it and let us all know in the Comments.

Scrunched Leaves

Scrunched & Outlined

The way I see it, the ‘look’ of Alabama Chanin is a combination of: stenciling and applique (regular and reverse) and hand-stitched embellishment with both the thread and embroidery floss.  (More on the threads and floss in tomorrow’s post.) Note on this close-up the appliqued scrunched leaves, stitched on with the perpendicular stitching as above.  Remember, these shapes need to all be CUT before stitching.  Then note too how the stenciling has been outlined with the backstitch.  

Chained Borders

Compared to the others, this embellishment looks quick and EZ.  The chainstitch is simply outlining the stenciled shapes.  Perhaps one could watch a movie while doing this one?

Chained Borders

Running Chains w Knots

Knots at Alabama Chanin:  In their lovely book:  Sewing Patterns, they describe them as one of 3:

  1. Knots that show on the Right side of the garment – which you either ‘like’, or don’t at all imho.

  2. Knots that show on the Wrong side of the garment

  3. A combination of the above.

I’m keeping the photo below very LARGE so that you can see that a double thread is used for everything.  More on that tomorrow.

Note that the large leaf with cream-colored running stitch is actually a stenciled leaf, cut out with a border of the background fabric remaining.  The tips flip in, which is just more texure.  

Running Chains w Knots

Beaded Rows

I observed lots of bugle beads used in the beaded embellishment.  Beading is not something I’ve done that much of, so I’ not going out on a limb here to state much of the how-to’s.  When one loves all this stitching, I’ve determined one has to establish some LIMITS.  I could go crazy of ALL of it, but neither my budget of time nor funds allows.  Hence, beading will have to wait til I’m in heaven on duty as a seamstress.  Some of their techniques and needles will be shared in tomorrow’s post on Tools & Techniques.

The beads they use include bugle, chop, seed beads and 4-6 mm flat sequins.  More in tomorrow’s post on the how-to’s.  With ALL the beads available, especially if sticking to their ‘Pottery Barn’ color palette, I think the beads are one thing I WOULD purchase directly from their website:

Beaded Rows

The book, Sewing Patterns, is a treasure chest of stitches and how-to’s.  For example, Natalie teaches:

  1. “Needling your Thread” as a technique to thread the needle.  How many re-threads do you think a garment takes?  They recommend a length of thread, doubled, no longer than your fingertips to your elbow plus 2″ or so for knots.  Read all about her technique to thread the needle in her great book HERE.

  2. “Loving Your Thread”.  Since I’ve done English Smocking, that is familiar to me.  I’ll leave it to your imagination, or learning in this GREAT BOOK, Sewing Patterns that you can purchase HERE.  $5 off Coupon Code:  AC$5

Reverse Crazy

Upon a very close examination, this garment has reverse applique with not only the lighter peach, but the darker peach also! I’ve looked and read closely in the book, Sewing Patterns, but I can’t determine if the knots are the French Knot or the Colonial Knot.  Either would work.  I think I’d opt for the Colonial Knot.  Perhaps I see some new Videos in my future on the difference, or at least how I learned them both….

I just have to wonder how much of all this detail is precisely planned on the garments, or if the techniques, pattern, and supplies are established with some basic design guidelines, and then the artisan has some latitude on exactly how the embellishment is done…..  Just wonderin’.

Tools & Techniques

A girl can always change her mind, and that’s what I’m doing regarding the thread, stitches, needles, beads, paint, airbrush tools, etc… as this blog post is already plenty long and plenty full of inspiration.  Watch for that post to be published on Monday, Sept. 25.  Meanwhile, feast your eyes at their wonderful new website:

I’m off now to go and add ALL of Natalie’s wonderful books to my website.  Just search for ‘Alabama Chanin’ and everything related.  I’m offering a $5 Coupon Code for use on any of her books:  AC$5.  Find it all at my website: by just using the search tool and inputting:  Alabama Chanin

Enough for today.  Please send me some photos of your work if you’ve done any of the ‘Alabama Chanin’ stitching!  I’d just love to see and share!) it.  Please, please, please.  Feel free to share this post anywhere you might be so moved to do:  Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram… I’d really appreciate it if you would, as social media is ‘where it’s at’ for growing my business now that I’ve drastically curtailed my traveling in favor of teaching here at my Sunroom Sewing Studio and…having a LIFE in our new TN home.


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