My Alabama Chanin Dress

Last July I was one of the very lucky participants at an Alabama Chanin workshop in Florence, Alabama, led by company founder and creative director Natalie Chanin (also the author of the STC Craft book Alabama Stitch Book and the upcoming Alabama Studio Style).  When the workshop started, after I had tried on an assortment of beautiful Alabama Chanin dresses and skirts in different sizes, I decided that I would make the Camisole Dress in size medium. Next I chose my fabric colors, my stencil design, and my textile paint color. Then Natalie's staff cut out my 6 pattern pieces, stenciled my design onto the fabric, and handed me their work so I could start mine: working reverse applique around all of the shapes in the stencil design and beading around or inside of some of them. While I was there  (Friday night - Sunday morning), I happily stitched for hours and hours and came close to finishing the reverse applique and some of the beading on 11/2 panels (with a little help from Alabama Chanin stitcher Diane Hall, who very kindly offered to work on one panel while I worked on another when she didn't have other responsibilities to attend to). After I returned home to my "real" world, where I didn't have the luxury of stitching for hours on end, I worked on the dress when I could, on the train, during long car trips, at a couple of my son's soccer tournaments, and sometimes while watching movies on television on Sunday afternoons. After all of the panels were finished, I stitched  the seams and added binding around the neckline and armholes. All in all, it took me about 10 months (and I have no idea how many hundreds of hours) to finish. And I loved every bit of it. The process of making my dress by hand was soul-enriching. Wearing the dress, which is comfortable, feminine, and subtly sparkly--is wonderful. I especially enjoy looking at the seams and feeling how strong they are, knowing that they are that way because of the stitches I made with my hands. I am so grateful to Natalie and Diane and everyone else at the Alabama Chanin studio who helped me that weekend, to the other participants in the workshop, who made the beginning of this experience so much fun, and to Lori Adams, a local photographer who saw me working on the dress last Fall and promised that when I finished it, she would take my picture in it. Below are Lori's photos of me wearing the dress that makes me feel so capable and happy.