St. Rufus of Metz
About a year and a half ago I heard of the designer Natalie Chanin, who is famous for her intricately embellished hand-sewn knitwear. You can buy the garments themselves from her online shop, for a price that matches the level of care and attention that goes into each one, or if you have the skills or the willingness to learn, she’ll show you how to do it yourself, and even sell you a kit with everything you need to make your own. The idea of hand stitching knits was revolutionary to me, and I bought first one, then all of her books. In the summer of 2012, the project I took on family vacation was a length of knit fabric, a pattern, and my copy of Alabama Studio Sewing & Design. I quickly made a shirt, then a lightweight cardigan, then another shirt, and I’ve been hand-sewing with knits ever since.
The one thing I never really picked up, though, was the embellishment. This is a big part of what makes the Alabama Chanin designs so spectacular. The gorgeous reverse applique, embroidery layered over pleated ruffles, couching and beading, all kinds of designs adding such amazing texture and beauty to the clean-lined designs. It’s absolutely beautiful, but when I thought of wearing garments like that to work (which is the environment I mostly sew for these days), it just didn’t fit. Then I made myself a shell from a yard of white cotton pointelle fabric I got on super sale from Fabric.com, and it looked a little, well, plain. So I cut some leaves from leftover scraps, and appliqued them around the neckline.
The leaves looked awfully pretty, and I loved how they created shadows on the sheer white fabric. I don’t know how well you can see it in the picture, but I am immensely proud of how I matched up the fabric between the applique and the ground fabric. Lots of tiny little stitches with white silk thread! But it needed something more.
So I embroidered some scrolls on top of it. All of this was my own design, drawn freehand on the cloth with a washable marker. It’s very similar to the way I doodle when I’m bored. Don’t worry, I tested the marker on a scrap first and I know it will wash out just fine! I took pictures while it was still on there so that you could see the design more easily.
After a year and a half of sewing, and I don’t know how many hand-sewn garments, I think I finally have one I wouldn’t mind showing Ms. Chanin herself. Except the problem is, I don’t want to wear it. It’s too pretty, and kinda fragile (not really, just the fabric is so delicate), and precious. Usually I don’t worry about messing up my clothes – clothes were meant to be worn, and that’s why they invented stain stick. But I find myself worrying about this one. So I haven’t actually worn it yet. I will wear it, just not yet. In the meantime, it sure is pretty!