Last Summer, Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin visited Verb, which is a cause for celebration. We invited the Verb community to gather and and to share in her company. There were many beautiful handmade, Alabama Chain-inspired clothing in the room. There was a heavenly buzz, as people chatted, swapping stories about the process of making their clothing. Natalie and I had a conversation about a topic I am very interested in; how clothing, what it is made of, what it is dyed with, motifs which are embroidered or appliqued on it, can communicate what is meaningful to the wearer and how it can be used as way to map our journey. Natalie shared with us her process of creating new patterns and stencil designs. I wanted to give Natalie a gift inspired by the evening's topic of conversation. I used flowers from the Verb garden, to print a pattern on Alabama Chanin cotton jersey yardage. So she would have a little piece of California to bring with her, home to Alabama.
In The Modern Natural Dyer, there is a project which teaches how to print with flowers, it is called Flowers at My Fingertips Sewing Kit. I used a process very similar to this when dyeing Natalie's fabric, though I want to take a moment to describe the process of printing Natalie's fabric, as it is a bit different, in the case you would like to create your own printed, Alabama Chanin fabric.
The main difference between the fabric I made for and the fabric used in Flowers at My Fingertips, is Natalie's fabric is made of cotton, also referred to as a cellulose-based fabric, where as Flowers at My Fingertips is made of wool, a protein-based fiber. So I followed the cellulose-based fiber instructions in The Modern Natural Dyer when I went to scour and mordant the fabric (p. 57 and p. 59). And I skipped the chalk / wheat bran bath all together.
Once completed, proceed to Flowers at My Fingertips for directions on how to print fabric using flowers and leaves from your garden. To print Natalie's fabric, I mainly used weld leaves and coreopsis. I decided to go with a less-is-more approach, and used fewer flowers, spaced apart, as I really wanted each leaf and flower to be well defined. Weld, coreopsis, and marigolds make great prints, and are trusted dye materials, though it is always fun to experiment with flowers in your own garden. If your flowers fade over time, you can always print your fabric again with new flowers.
In the next few weeks, I am going to print a new piece of AC fabric, and have many ideas of what I might make it into. Right now, I think I will print on the natural jersey, layer it over a piece of white jersey, and probably make an A-line dress. I hope this process inspires you to create your own printed Alabama Chanin garment. If so, do share with us what you think you might make!
Next month, May, the focus of The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along, will be on the project titled Flowers at My Fingertips. In case you would like a little help souring the materials, we have a kit you can purchase.