“Chanin” and “machine” – now, those are two words that don’t usually travel together. UNTIL NOW. To my surprise and delight, I recently found that the t-shirt pattern included in the Alabama Studio Sewing + Design book fits me pretty well in the places that matter most. (Speaking of Alabama Chanin, Thread Cult recently did a fantastic interview with Ms. Chanin herself; it’s really worth a listen if you haven’t already!) I first tested the pattern out by machine – heresy! sacrilege! – and three more versions quickly followed.
In chronological order:
1. A cropped tee
I have to admit that the cropped length has nothing to do with style and everything to do with the fact that I accidentally traced the wrong line on the overlapping master pattern in the back of the book…
Even though it was an accident, I like the length for tucking into this higher-waisted skirt. This is a lot more feminine than I usually dress; as my sister/photographer eloquently surmised, I had my lady drag on.
From the pictures, it looks like I could use both more width under the arms and a sway back adjustment. The only change I made to the pattern was scooping the neck out.
The pattern is quite close-fitting. The book advises that their sizes have little ease but suggests washing with air-drying to achieve the perfect fit over time. They also create their patterns for 100% cotton jersey. I’ve worn, washed and air-dried this t-shirt and the fabric has relaxed quite a bit. (I used an interesting cotton double-knit from SCRAP in Portland.) I’m thinking it was originally meant for a baby onesie and/but I love it!
2. Tiny stripes tee
This is a striped cotton interlock from Organic Cotton Plus with absolutely no stretch. Like it’s cropped predecessor, it’s relaxed beautifully.
The fit through the upper back looks even better; I think this fabric stretched out even more. Swayback issue on full display, however.
3. Plain black
The fabric is a black cotton-lycra blend from Our Fabric Stash.
I made the same size as the other two t-shirts, but I think I’d like to go up a size for fabrics with recovery. The bottom hem especially tends to creep up towards my waist.
4. Super tight dress
Finally, I tried my hand at turning the pattern into a very fitted sleeveless dress!
And it feels veeeery fitted to me! It’s ridiculously comfortable but… well, by my estimation, we’re looking at 30%+ less fabric than my voluminous tunics and waistless dresses normally swathe me in.
I used two layers of my fabric (a beefy cotton lycra, also from Our Fabric Stash) because I like to feel secure and one layer was visible-everything city. Once they were cut, I treated them as one layer.
I did a fake twin-needle turned-up hem.
If this super-sassy dress sees the light of day again, this is probably how I’ll wear it. Yep, by covering most of it up. Prudish habits die hard!
So… I think I made these four garments up within the space of two weeks, tops. I was addicted! I’d revisited the Renfrew pattern this fall and even after – or especially after – experimenting with the shoulder angle and chest length, I hadn’t really achieved the right fit. What I found so compelling about this pattern was how the chest length and – perhaps correspondingly – the arm scye fit right away.
What I regret about sewing these in such rapid succession is that I didn’t stop to try making the back fit adjustments earlier in the process. In woven projects, I’m usually aware of fit issues from how they feel; it’s just so obvious when I don’t have enough room across my back. The give of knits made the fit issues less obvious to me and I kept on sewing.
Relatedly, I’ve been really, really enjoying the discussion in bloglandia about the concept of “fast sewing“. I’ve been gathering my thoughts on the topic, and I think there’s a distinction to be made between sewing that is merely done quickly, and sewing that is done so quickly that some of what I perceive as the benefits of sewing for yourself – better construction, good fit, joy at creating something and a useful finished garment that adds value to a wardrobe – get lost. These four projects feel like they live in somewhere in between; I didn’t compromise on my construction standards and, with the probable exception of the dress, they’ve been in heavy rotation. I just wish I’d spent a little time working on the fit of the back and I did feel a bit burnt out by the time I finished the dress.
I’m happy to report that this erstwhile Chanin Machine has been returned to her standard sewing pace, but I’m (oh yah, we’re one and the same) very much looking forward to sharing a few other projects made in the May-June sewing frenzy!