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Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: A Guide to Hand-Sewing an Alabama Chanin Wardrobe Hardcover – March 1, 2012
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This is a truly outstanding book from cover to cover for a few reasons:
1.) The stitch charts are very easy to follow.
2.) The samples are presented in LARGE, close up photographs
3.) The garments included are very basic and can be made by hand with one of the easiest, green friendly, most forgiving fabrics out there- cotton jersey.
4) The instructions are very good. Even a beginner could make the tank, tee, skirt, bolero, wrap, or fingerless gloves by hand with a minimum of notions except for quality fabric and thread. Those particular items would probably not give a beginner a fit over fitting either. You'll need more tools for stenciling or beading, but even they are pretty simple to acquire.
5.) The book's index includes photos for fast referencing
6.) The embellishments shown are beautiful and accessible!You can go as elaborate (full beading and applique on a long dress) or simple (adding a basic ruffle to a tank) as you want. This is truly "luxe casual" at its best.
All the things above tied together with the author's encouraging narrative (friendly without being too exhausting)
make this a wonderful book. Very few things I consider a "must have". However, if you are in to hand sewing garments or just curious about how to add embellishment to clothes you make or own, this book does an excellent job and has enough ideas to keep you busy for a very long time.
I have only tried one pattern, the sleeveless tunic dress, and was not thrilled with it, however. First off, the sizing is VERY small. I'm on the small side of medium and I had to use the large for this pattern. Secondly, it fit so strangely that it got stretched out of shape after the first couple of wears. I'm not sure what body type this was intended to fit, but I'd think having a larger back and broader shoulders like I do would have helped, given that the arm holes are what stretched out, sagging down and outward. It seemed to me that the neck was far too wide (hence I thought the wider shoulders might've been helpful), and the arm-holes too close to the arm for this to work out in the long run. The arm, being able to move in all sorts of directions, needs a certain amount of clearance, otherwise it'll stretch out certain fabrics (like cotton jersey) creating the unsightly sagging that I got. I even modified the arm-holes to make them a little bigger, but the pattern isn't designed to have hardly any extra in the bust to take away from, or in the back, because the straps are set so wide. In the end, that didn't help the sagging anyways.
tl;dr, I don't imagine that the sleeved patterns will have this problem, and the other ones - the skirts, bolero, poncho - should be fine as well, though will probably need a lot of tweaking just for sizing alone. I'm sad that this pattern just does not work for me whatsoever, because all my go-to tops are sleeveless. I'll have to keep looking for that perfect tank top pattern - or just suck it up and draft one myself.
Thankfully, the tips and knowledge presented in the book are amazing. The two pages dedicated to hand-stitches was worth the cover price alone for me.
Mar 2017 addendum:
Having made another go at the tank-style pattern, I think I have a better idea of what's going on.
First off, for those new to working with cotton jersey like this (like me), basting edges and seams isn't just important, it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. With my previous project, I tried on the garment before edging the arm and neck holes without basting them, and that's what began the irreversible stretching. If you're worried about sizing, make a muslin and account for stretch.
Secondly, the sizing is confirmed for being -really weird-. The problem I was having with the armholes previously has happened now with the bottom front neckline - an unsightly outward sagging. I realized that this pattern was drafted with very small chests in mind (none of the models in the book have bigger than an A or B cup, you'll notice). AC's actual product sizing is probably much more thoroughly engineered, but for the purposes of this book, it's likely that they simply enlarged a base size small without any further adjustments. IF YOU ARE A SIZE MEDIUM OR LARGER, EXPECT TO DO A LOT OF ADJUSTING OF THESE PATTERNS TO ACCOUNT FOR CHEST DISCREPANCIES AND MORE. Also, be prepared to put a dart in the middle front of the neckline edging. Without it, the extra fraction of an inch of fabric will have nowhere to go and it'll sag outwards. This is not a problem with flatter chests.
Another recommendation for M-sized folks (possibly L, though I'm not sure): do not use stretch stitching for neck and armholes on the tank-style patterns. They are large enough to not need them, and doing this will prevent further stretching.