For as much as a mother of teenagers complains about social media, the interwebs really do have great things to offer. I could spend hours scanning Pinterest and stalking my friends on Facebook. BTW – if you haven’t checked out my Everyday Artisan Pinterest page you really should. I have organized hundreds of Alabama Chanin images by type (stencil, pattern, color, technique, etc.) It really does make it easier for me to narrow down my focus when I have a question such as; “hey, I want to make something using my June’s Spring stencil…how have other people used it?”
The other day, I found myself traveling down the rabbit hole of consignment shopping and plugged “Alabama Chanin” into the search bar on a popular resale site. You wouldn’t believe what popped up; a fantastic Alabama Chanin original dress in a style I have never seen before, listed for only $175. WHAT! I’m guessing this is from the 2014 collection. Even though it was a small and I’m more of a medium-large these days, I pressed buy.
You know how people say, “if something appears too good to be true it probably is.” Well, they are right. Although my transaction went through that night I got an email the next morning saying, “the seller no longer has the item.” Darn, I was already imagining how great this dress was going to be, how it will fit in with quite a bit of my AC wardrobe because navy and black are some of my go to colors (see my walking cape post).
Sure enough, I couldn’t get this dress out of my head so I decided, why not try and make it. I think the only reason that was even feasible in my mind is because there is no stitching embellishment so it wouldn’t be a huge investment of my time. So if I screwed it up, I wouldn’t cry over it. Much.
So, here’s the thing. I’m not a pattern maker in the least. In fact, it wasn’t until after I started down the road of making my own pattern for this that I realized the original is the Alabama Chanin Panel Tank pattern. And actually, it may not even be that but that is the closest they have right now. I wanted to modify a current AC pattern that I have but there were a few things to consider:
- the corset style is close but it does not have the seam down the center which you need for the angles to be effective
- this dress is very full around the bottom and I didn’t think I wanted it that full, so rather than a 12 panel dress, I was thinking 8
- it would be difficult to modify the tank dress pattern because the center piece is so small that trying to split it down the center would make for very skinny pieces in the front and wide pieces on the side
- the fitted pattern has the center seam but it’s shape doesn’t work great on me
Finally, I decided to modify the fitted pattern by adding an extra seam in the front and making it a little wider in the mid section 🙂 This is where someone who knows what they are doing would pull out a french curve and make a perfect new seam right on the center bust. Me, I just winged it with a pencil. I did try and make sure the top of the seam hit about the same place on the original and I have to say, it worked out okay.
I just made the pattern out of some old sketch paper I had on hand. I decided I wanted it a little shorter than the mid-length, hence that 2 inch piece cut off the pattern on the left. I did realize that by using the pattern this way, I was going to have to add an extra 1/4 inch seam allowance to the seams where I made cuts. Both vertically and on the horizontal cuts.
Next up was deciding where I wanted the three different horizontal sections to fall. From the picture of the original, it looked like the top third came all the way down to the hips. Then from there, I just split what was left on the bottom in half. Not total symmetry, but it works. Hopefully you can see my pencil lines on the pattern splitting it horizontally. From there I had to figure out cutting the angles. After once again studying the picture for a bit, I decided just to angle it up by two inches. Anything less would lose the effect and anything more would make a very distinct arrow pointing right where…well, you know. I measured down two inches from that pencil line on the insides and just used a ruler to draw my angled lines.
Now came the really hard part. The fitted dress is different in the back then the front (it has a slight train) so it was very important that after I cut each piece, I marked exactly which piece it was. There were a lot of small pieces that all look very similar.
Next came painting the center pieces. Fingers crossed that the black paint would show up on the black fabric. It did, but not as much as I was hoping. I will say, there is another blog post in my future about stencil placement. My mistake here was that after I painted these two center back pieces, I said to myself, since I have 8 pieces total, this would go a lot faster if I do three at a time the next two times because they will fit. The Magdelena stencil is a little different in that it gets smaller in size as you go up the stencil so I could only use the bottom of the stencil. Anyway, I wasn’t paying good enough attention and I accidentally put one of my center front pieces on an area of the stencil without much design, so one of the most obvious panels of my stenciled area doesn’t have much on it. Live and learn!
Construction presented another challenge. First I sewed all three vertical pieces together horizontally. Does that make sense?
Then I had to make sure I lined up the pieces just right so that the angles met up before I could sew the pieces together.
It really did sew up really quick. I did decide to go a little fancy on the binding. I think the feathered chain stitch really compliments the Magdelena stencil.
Voila – the finished product.
I really like how it turned out. And of course, I had some extra navy fabric because this did take very much at all so I decided to make a sleeveless bolero to go with it. Navy on navy. Black paint, thread and binding. Reverse appliqué. Is also worked up quick.
Please forgive the wrinkles on the dress – I actually wore it the night before and it was in the dirty clothes pile.
Now, I’m so inspired by the black and navy that I decided I need a bag in these colors. Remember I said I wanted to look up how people are working up their June’s Springs stencil … well, it was because that is what I am going to use on my bag. Tricky part here was it’s too cold to airbrush with paint so I used a sharpie to draw the stencil on this time.
This will have to be a blog post for another day. Next I want to make navy drawstring pants. Then, I think I like this dress so much I want to try again. I posted my dress on “The School of Making Stitch-a-long” Facebook group and a fellow stitcher posted this:
Looks like I have another dress to add to the list of things I want to make.