In the Dye Studio x Stitch Exchange: 2013 Indigo Alabama Chanin Dress & The Alabama Chanin DIY Trunk Show

Posted by Kristine Vejar on August 13, 2013 4 Comments

I have been working diligently on creating a handmade wardrobe since June 2012. I am a participant of Seam Allowance and have taken the pledge to make and wear at least 25% handmade a day. On a daily basis, this could be a shirt, a dress, pants, even socks. What I haven't been as diligent about is documenting it online. Let's see if I can rectify that starting now.

 

Last Summer, I took an epic road trip to Northern Minnesota to visit my Mom. While there, I stitched my first Alabama Chanin dress. I had indigo dyed the fabric. Made the stencil. It was magical.

 



So this Summer, I decided to focus on a new indigo dyed Alabama Chanin dress. The top layer of fabric I chose to dye a solid blue. As I have been interested in expanding my resist-dyeing skills, I chose to resist-dye some of the fabric before stitching.

Unlike last year, this year I wanted to use one of Natalie's stencils. I thought June's Dream would be fun, as I'm always fond of polka dots and thought that this motif would allow us to peek through to the shibori side of the garment.

 

I added embroidery, using the chain stitch, which is the favored stitch of the Rabari, the nomads I worked alongside in India. It was nice to think of them as I stitched.

The completed dress, modeled alongside a cornfield in Iowa. Part of my trip included visiting my Grandma, who lives on the border of Nebraska and Iowa.

Now, I am onto another indigo resist dyed Chanin dress. It is almost done! I'll post the details soon.

Something very exciting arrived on Monday afternoon. In April when Natalie last visited, her and I discussed the rising popularity of the DIY side of Alabama Chanin and how it could be fun to create a DIY trunk show. Well, the 1st ever Alabama Chanin DIY trunk show showed up on Monday. I raced over to the boxes, excited to open them, only to realize that this process needing my full attention so I could relish in every detail.

Today, the trunk show opens to the public. It is available to see during store hours. Natalie has sent every garment pattern featured in her 3 books - in sz XS - XL. This way, you can see and be confident in your choice of size when making your next garment. There are also garments which have been embellished with applique, reverse applique, beads, and embroidery. Natalie has included 3 binders full of (I can never say this again without thinking of the presidential debate) gorgeous samples of embroidered, appliqued, and beaded fabrics in a range of colorways. I consider these books as bible for inspiration. They are simply incredible. I am available, if you would like to make an appointment, to help you choose a kit, size, color, style. All kits are custom made and will be 10% off during the trunk show. The trunk show is available for your perusal until Monday, August 26th. Hope to see you soon!

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Stitch Exchange: Favorite Things

Posted by AVFKW Staff on June 08, 2013 4 Comments

     Since we launched our California Wool Project, and released Horizon in May, I've learned so much about wool, the production process, and the California wool market. One of the most gratifying lessons, was the overwhelmingly positive response to our new yarn, in California and beyond. We woke up on May 1st, with excitement, but also with trepidation. Verb had worked so hard to make the perfect yarn: local, organic, soft, and naturally-dyed. But it came with a price tag! Would our customers recoil? Were we crazy? Were makers willing to pay for our labor of love?

    Turns out, I didn't give our community enough credit. People loved Horizon, they loved the work and energy that went into it, and they wanted to make beautiful things from our California yarn. Making anything in California is expensive; making something quality, even more so. But if I had any doubts that people are ready for this paradigm shift in both the clothing industry, and DIY culture, they've been put to rest. As we prepare to expand the California Wool Project, and I develop and mature as a maker, my commitment to using sustainable materials just gets stronger. 

    One of the purest joys of this process was getting my hands on Horizon, and making myself something with it. Nothing fancy. I didn't want to show off my chops to other knitters, or be stuck with something that felt "too special" for everyday wear. I wanted something lovely, but quick to make, flattering, comfy, and easy to throw on. This isn't an art piece. This is a sweater.


me and my grande favorito

 

"Oh, my gosh, did you MAKE that??!!"
How many times have you been asked this question?
To the non-maker, knitters, spinners, sewists, and weavers seem like wizards, keepers of some long-dead alchemy that somehow turns two sticks and a bunch of string into a garment. And it’s true, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of wearing something you made. I love putting on a piece in the exact color, fiber, and measurements that I chose. Of course, I can’t resist being praised, particularly for something that I put my own time and work into, not just my dollars. For a second, it’s fun to feel a little cleverer than the brainless hordes who buy their clothes at a fast-fashion outlet during their lunch break.
 
    Wearing my new Horizon sweater, though, I find I can’t give a straight answer when people ask, “Did you make that yourself?” I picked the perfect pattern out of multitudes, I bought my yarn, I checked my gauge, and I adjusted the sizing a tiny bit. I knitted it, pulling half the stitches off the needles periodically to try it on (the merino wool is so nubbly and lofty that the open stitches stayed right where they were, and didn't unravel at all). I wove in all the little ends and snipped them. I soaked it in the sink, squeezed all the water out, and pressed it into shape, then waited a day for it to dry. But I can’t say “yes” when someone asks me if I made it myself.
    So that’s why I hesitate when asked if I “made” this sweater myself. I’m like the waiter who puts a sprig of parsley on the plate after the meal is farmed, shipped, washed, planned, prepared, and cooked to perfection.  

    Less than six months ago, my little raglan sweater was a twinkle in Verb’s eye. Kristine dreamed of a soft, hardy sweater yarn made from organic California wool. Sally Fox had bales and bales of luxurious greasy merino and needed to bring it to market. A hundred-some-odd sheep were hard at work being fiber-and-compost-machines, and Sally was devoting her life to their upkeep, and applying her vast knowledge of fiber and farming towards growing the best wool she could. Kristine met Sally, and my sweater was begun months before I cast on a single stitch.

    There was still the question of milling all this wool into the yarn of our dreams. Enter the amazing worker/owners of the Green Mountain Spinnery, in Putney, Vermont. They were the ones with the knowledge and the tools to carry out every step of the milling process, from scouring to skeining, at the scale we needed, 100% organically and with the intention of making the finest possible knitting yarn. Our beautiful new yarn came back to us in four natural colors. My sweater was halfway finished. 

 

    So far at least a dozen people have helped make my sweater, not to mention those who loaded the raw wool into trucks and drove them across the country to Vermont, then drove the milled yarn back across the country to California. Someone else had to build and maintain the roads those trucks traversed, and still more people had to extract fossil fuels out of the Earth to power those trucks. 

    Once the big boxes of natural yarn arrived here at Verb, the work of even more hands went into my sweater. Kristine mordanted the yarn and dyed it with madder extract, Adrienne washed and re-skeined it, and one of us on the sales floor labeled it.

    Meanwhile, I was starting to plan my sweater. The perfect pattern had already been designed for me, by Isabell Kraemer. All I had to do was get the gauge, follow the directions, and tweak the measurements ever-so-slightly.

work in progress

    My only pattern modification, crocheting a border around the collar instead of working a 2x2 rib, was the suggestion of friend and Commuknitty Stitcher Maggie.

    The California Wool Project has completely changed my perspective on my role as a maker. It has certainly challenged my previous assumptions about my role as a knitter, and about the entire “DIY” movement. Because no one really “does it themselves.” 

    Now, when I choose any yarn, I want to know who made it, where, and with what. I want to know what the sheep ate who grew the wool, whether or not they were mulesed, and, if the yarn is dyed, what it’s dyed with. Whether I make a garment or buy it ready-made, I want to know if this garment nurtured its makers and its environment, or if it only consumed energy and resources without giving anything back. 

    Realigning my relationship to my clothing in this way isn't easy. It takes a lot more time, and it costs a lot more money. My budget is tiny, and it takes a lot of work and planning to assemble a serviceable wardrobe with what I have to spend. Rather than grabbing a few tops from a rack, I'll spend a day making one, or pay a higher price for one that was ethically made. I have to pay a lot more attention to quality, since I'm buying or making something that will get constant wear for several years. This means I own a fraction of the clothing I used to, and what I have, I wear all the time. Different colors and shapes appeal to me, since I want wardrobe pieces that all go together as much as possible. I find myself, like my friends in Bulgaria, wearing the same outfit three days in a row. But since it's a beautiful outfit, I don't mind at all. 

    I’ve worn my sweater non-stop since it dried. As far as this wool has traveled to get here, its long life has only just begun.

How does your role as a maker affect your decisions as a consumer? How do you choose materials for your projects? Do you have a favorite garment or project that you wear all the time? Share your thoughts! -HD


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Stitch Exchange: Seam Allowance Year 2

Posted by Kristine Vejar on July 09, 2013 0 Comments

Over this past year an amazing group of people have grown to know one another, over the subject of making garments. In June 2012, a large group of us gathered for our first Seam Allowance meeting and pledged to make at least 25% of our clothing. Among us were people with a wide range of experience and expertise. While many of us in the group have had sewing and knitting experience, many of us had not sewn a garment in some time. Some people had taken time away from sewing garments due to having children, a hectic schedule, the availability of inexpensive clothing, or simply not really wanting to think about one's body, and furthermore having to create a garment that fits. That said, many of the people in the group were interested in joining Seam Allowance and coming back to sewing and knitting garments, for themselves, driven by the desire to stop supporting mass manufacturing, tired of purchasing clothing not made well or that looked flattering, and to use sewing garments as a way to connect with themselves, even if that means confronting perfectionism, and to work towards creating garments that fit. For many of us, this first year has been a lot about organizing space and time to accommodate our desire to make garments. As members of the group made garments, we came to commiserate over the need for space to cut, a space to set up our sewing machine permanently, instead of having to break down our sewing spaces. We worked on and supported one another in strategies of time management. And worked together to create a solid foundation for further sewing exploits - like taking through body measurements, debating the usefulness of a dress form, the pros and cons of sewing patterns and types of fabrics. Through witnessing each others' progress through the form of show and tell, we learned from each others' mistakes, heard a wide array of advice given by fellow group members, and witnessed the follow through to see what outcome was chosen and how it fared.

Our June 2013 meeting marked for many of us our 1 year anniversary of Seam Allowance. Members graciously modeled garments they had sewn and are particularly enamored with at the moment. 

          

         

We've decided as a group to continue meeting for Seam Allowance Year 2. Many of us have been successful at carving out that space and time for sewing and are looking forward to honing our sewing and knitting garment making skills. This year, we are offering studio hours as part of the Seam Allowance membership. That way, members will have a space to cut out garments and sew without interruption. If you would ever like to join us, please do. We welcome all levels. We meet the 2nd Sunday of the month from 5:30-7:30. Our next meeting is this Sunday, July 14th.

-- Kristine

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