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The blog of designer-maker Laura Thompson who specializes in fibre art, including art dolls, bowls, art journals and artful clothing.  Creativity, kindness, understanding and patience. 

 

 

Inspired Top with Hand Stitching and Beads

I'm a huge fan of  Alabama Chanin, the wonderfully creative clothing from designer Natalie Chanin. Recently I've made an Alabama Chanin-inspired top as part of two piece outfit I plan to wear in a few weeks. Alabama Chanin's signature style involves hand appliquéd knit on knit in richly textured patterns, frequently accented with beads. They use only 100% cotton knit fabric and the results are stunning. My approach with this top is slightly different than those used by Alabama Chanin. They stencil yardage with a sponge or air brush, cut the pieces out then apply them hand to the background fabric BEFORE the garment is cut out. Every seam is sewn by hand, no machine stitching is used.  I can't always find 100% cotton knits, and had came across a lovely grey (polyester) knit a while back and knew I wanted to use. Up close it has threads of white, grey and black running through it. I chose a solid grey, cotton knit for the appliqué pieces.  I decided to make the top first, sewing it all on the machine, not by hand. I like the idea of bridging the seams with the appliqué pieces, rather than embedding them into the seams. I like the control it allows for the placement of the appliqué design. My one concession to hand stitching was to flat fell the side seams by hand. I modified a t-shirt pattern (the subject of a future post) - to make a wrap top that does up with hidden snaps rather than buttons or ties. 

I'm a huge fan of  Alabama Chanin, the wonderfully creative clothing from designer Natalie Chanin. Recently I've made an Alabama Chanin-inspired top as part of two piece outfit I plan to wear in a few weeks. Alabama Chanin's signature style involves hand appliquéd knit on knit in richly textured patterns, frequently accented with beads. They use only 100% cotton knit fabric and the results are stunning.

My approach with this top is slightly different than those used by Alabama Chanin. They stencil yardage with a sponge or air brush, cut the pieces out then apply them hand to the background fabric BEFORE the garment is cut out. Every seam is sewn by hand, no machine stitching is used. 

I can't always find 100% cotton knits, and had came across a lovely grey (polyester) knit a while back and knew I wanted to use. Up close it has threads of white, grey and black running through it. I chose a solid grey, cotton knit for the appliqué pieces. 

I decided to make the top first, sewing it all on the machine, not by hand. I like the idea of bridging the seams with the appliqué pieces, rather than embedding them into the seams. I like the control it allows for the placement of the appliqué design. My one concession to hand stitching was to flat fell the side seams by hand. I modified a t-shirt pattern (the subject of a future post) - to make a wrap top that does up with hidden snaps rather than buttons or ties. 

 

I settled on a simple floral design of a large flower and small one, that I would randomly place across the garment.  I cut three stamps from a large eraser - a large petal, a small petal and a circle for the centre of both flowers. I mixed grey acrylic paint with water, in a roughly 2:1 ratio and used a small paint brush to apply paint to the edges of the stamp.

I stamped my way across the fabric until I felt I had dozens of petals and centres. I wanted to play with the placement of the flowers so I stamped many more than I thought I would use. Once the paint was dry I cut them all out.

After playing with the large and small flowers, I settled on a design that I liked. There is no specific order to my design, it's a random mix of large and small flowers with a few single petals thrown in here and there. I didn't carry the appliqué across the left front of the top because it will be hidden by the wrap of the right front. All of the pieces were pinned into place and the stitching began.

Once the appliqué was done I added clusters of beads. Smaller clusters were randomly scattered between the flowers and larger ones were added around the centre of each large flower. Hand beading is slow and tedious - but I love the results.

One sleeve had beading while the other remains plain.

One sleeve had beading while the other remains plain.

To keep the top closed, I added small, plastic snaps on each of the front pieces. They are lightweight, simple and discreet.

The finished top. Many hours of work, but a true labour of love. Now, on to the skirt!