- Pattern: Alabama Chanin Studio Style – long tank dress, size large
- Fabric: 100% cotton jersey in dusk
- Stencil: Magdalena
- Techniques: stencil, hand stitch, reverse appliqué (here’s a tutorial), felled seams, beading.
- Supplies: Perebo paint in grey, pearl and lightener; stencil sponge, white and grey button craft thread, blunt end needle, beads.
I’m calling this the Lakeshore West Dream Dress, as it was my commuting project on the Lakeshore West train to and from work, and because it just might be the dress of my crafty dreams!
I’d been dreaming of an Alabama Chanin style dress since I took the reverse appliqué corset tank class at the workroom in 2009 – eek, has it really been that long? We made the tank tops from men’s x-large t-shirts and I wore mine all the time, until a few years ago when it didn’t fit anymore (guess whose mom got a new top last week). I really love the look of their bridal collection and even briefly considered making one for my own wedding dress a few years ago, but reality spoke up – there was not enough time and we were having a winter wedding!
When my cousin announced her wedding date… aaaannd that knowledge just happened to coincide with a sale at Alabama Chanin, well, there was only one thing to do! I knew already that the tank style from the book would suit me best and I’d coveted the Magdalena for several months, so there was very little decision making to do! I opted for the blue dusk colour instead of the deep wine for summer, but that just means that there will be a second project in wine jersey one day.
Modifications: Alabama Chanin patterns come in 3 sizes, small, medium and large (my size). The original dress pattern comes to just below the knees, I lengthened it to sweep just above my ankles.
Cutting the pattern pieces: done with the fabric doubled with nice sharp scissors, then each doubled panel was basted along its length and width to keep everything in place.
Stenciling design choices: I chose to use two layers of the same colour fabric to keep the focus on the dress lines and the magdalena pattern on the skirt. I wanted the all over effect to be subtle, and after a few tests, decided that the desired affect was best achieved by blending the grey and pearl colours together with lightener to make a silver that was lighter and more subtle than the Perebo silver fabric paint. I was working in small batches, and only mixed enough to do 1 panel at a time. It was also two months between stenciling the front panels getting around to doing the back. If I wanted to guarantee that all the shapes would be the same colour, or if I was doing a different stitching technique, I would have blended enough paint to finish the entire job. Also, I purchased a placement stencil, instead of an all over stencil, it took some maneuvering of the stencil sheet to get the look of “scattered” blooms.
Reverse Appliqué: Stitching the panels was meditative, it was quite pleasant working on it, one hour each way, to and from work. Despite it being a full length dress, it was a very portable project, I needed only one dress panel, thread, needle and wee scissors for snipping threads.
For the first panel, I placed the tails and knots on the outside, there are some really nice examples of this style in the book, but I ended up not liking it. Thankfully, I hadn’t snipped the thread tails, so when I changed my mind, I was able to untie the knots to pull the threads to the back. Even still, it was a tedious process that took me almost 2 hours. Ugh.
Next the cutting – carefully snipping a hole only on the top layer to leave a small silver border around each shape. 4 of the 6 panels were completed on the GO train – leaving me with a knapsack pocket full of little sliver painted jersey pieces, and a lot of curious glances. There isn’t much elbow room on the train, so I cut out as much of the fabric as I could all in one direction, and later turned the panel around to cut away any remaining fabric going in the other direction.
And then a long pause… I’d made good progress in July, finished stitching all but 1 panel, and had cut the shapes on all the front panels of the dress. By the beginning of August, I had 1 panel left to stitch and the back 3 to cut. With my cousin’s wedding dress in full swing, and full days in front of the computer, I needed to give my hands a break, so I only picked up this project a few times over the first few weeks of August. Here and there I stitched and added a few beads while watching TV in the evening, but didn’t venture into full beading in case I couldn’t balance out the work on the remaining panels with the time I had left (sometimes I have smart thoughts).
I didn’t make a lot of progress until…
5 nights before the wedding: I finished stitching that last panel.
3 nights before the wedding: all the cutting finished. Not a lot of sleeping happening at this point!
2 nights before the wedding: assembling the panels and doing felled seams. I chose grey thread for the seams so that they wouldn’t compete with the pattern.
T’was the night before the wedding – and into the wee hours… I sat down to work on the dress around 11pm. While I was binding the neck and arm holes with stretch stitching, my mom and sister-in-law were fashioning a last minute belt from some fabric and a necklace for my mother’s dress -it’s contagious this last minute sewing thing! Excuse this next picture – taken with late night lighting!
Oh! See that tiny black pin on the right? Those are the entomology pins from Merchant & Mills, a gift from my aunt after I lamented (on IG) that I only had 2 super fine pins. I was also gifted another box of red fine pins from my mother as a result of her seeing the same post! Lucky me!
I also noticed late on this night that the dress has some weight to it! It’s just over two pounds. Although there’s still a bit of beading I’d like to do, I’m glad I held off so I can plan it more carefully.
2:30am day of wedding: Lakeshore West Dream Dress complete!
It was a marathon – at least a 20 hour push to finish this dress (I can hear my mother’s voice remarking “it’s crazy!”) but it was worth every stitch! It might be a while, but I’m definitely going to make another Alabama Chanin style garment.
The dress is amazing to wear, fits perfectly, feels like a favorite sweatshirt, I don’t even feel the (hundreds?) of knots on the inside! And may I say, it’s awfully pretty. I love it so so much!
*thanks to everyone who cheered me on to the finish line, Gail for sending me thread, mom for staying up with me during the late night finishing, Ariana for pics at the wedding, Robin for my hair the day of the wedding and to her and Gillian for encouraging me to take more pics of myself. The wedding dress post will be posted this fall 🙂