A Bold Bolero

I made a bold move a few months back.  I decided to invest in my first Alabama Chanin stencil.  I chose Anna’s Garden because it’s a very versatile pattern, mostly floral but with a geometric feel to it.  Was it worth it – absolutely!  Do I now want to buy even more stencils – you bet!


My inspiration is a fitted dress that I found in Natalie Chanin’s book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.  I knew the dress was the end goal, but before I made the big time commitment that is involved in a dress (usually a couple of months), I wanted to make sure I liked the color combo/effect I was going for … so I decided to start with a much smaller piece, the sleeveless bolero.

I had already picked out my color story.  I still have plenty of the natural fabric left so I wanted to use that as my bottom layer.  I chose Ballet for the top layer.  I wanted to keep it very soft and neutral – I may wear it to a wedding coming up in a few months.  The boldest choice was to try out my local, store bought fabric paint, in gold of all things.  I love the idea of the paint in an aerosol spray can.  One day I will invest in a compressor and I’ll have an airbrush set up, but alas, no time soon.

The cutting and painting went smooth.  Not much can go wrong on such a small piece of fabric. I did have to make sure the stencil was facing the same way on all my pieces which was easy to do with the “Alabama Chanin” marked in the corner.  More about that mark in an upcoming post on the dress.  As you can see, I still haven’t bought spray adhesive so the stencil didn’t lay flat and I got a few fuzzy lines, but I don’t really mind that too much.

The stitching, snipping and assembly went really fast.  I ended up wearing it out before I even put the binding on because I was so excited.  While I was in the planning phase of this project, I was lucky enough to discover Karen Shonk Designs through my friends at ReVive – thanks Kathy & Karen – I bought a pair of earrings and a ring which will match the bolero and dress perfectly.  You should check out Karen’s pieces – she’s got great style – and she’s the only stranger I’ve met that was a previous TWA flight attendant like me.

I was loving it so much, and had a little vacation time, so I wasted no time adding the binding and working up a plain tank in the natural fabric to wear underneath.  Disclaimer: I’ve gone a little crazy with the jewelry lately.  I saw this necklace at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and I had to bring it home for a test drive.  I’ve always loved pieces with agate in them and this looked like the perfect mix of boho and graphic.  Should I keep it?

So, as I’m taking pictures of the bolero for the blog, a thought occurs to me, I wonder if I can wear it inside out.  That’s one of the beauties of Alabama Chanin pieces, many of them have their knots or seams on the outside.  I liked the bolero this way too.  Actually, I think it will look better if I can add even more stitching on the natural side.  I’m going to have to think about this: I’ve got some gold beads and sequins I was thinking of adding to the right side of the bolero, that would add more interest to the wrong side.  Or, maybe I could just try some tricky stitching where I only go through one layer of the fabric.  Not sure if that would work but that’s what makes it so fun to try.  I’ll let you know how it goes.