Time, the Stitch and the Wardrobe

Alabama Chanin Style Skirt

Alabama Chanin Style Skirt

When I wear my hand stitched Alabama Chanin style skirts, the reactions I get are these: “Did you make this?” (because it is clearly hand made) and then the next one: “BY HAND? It must have taken forever”. Funny thing, sometimes these reactions come from knitters! I was a knitter myself and know how long it takes to knit a scarf (or a pair of socks for that matter).  “No, not forever” I reply, and certainly not as long as it takes to knit a sweater by hand. Or making 500 granny squares.

I like to stitch by hand for many reasons, and one is that you don’t need electricity, or undisturbed time as you can do it with people around. I often have good ideas when I sew by hand. Because it is me and what I’m making and not the sewing machine, me and what I’m making.

Alabama Chanin Style Skirt

Nothing against sewing machines. They liberated many girls and women from tedious work with no escape. They are wonderful tools to get a job done. And I own one. She is nice and fast and has almost all the time… off.

I’m dreaming of a handmade wardrobe where one day, most of my things are hand sewn. It’ll be a slow process, but I will add to it stitch by stitch, item by item. And it will grow because I won’t throw anything out. Because I will mend them too! Just like a Boro textile from Japan.

The garments above are stitched with a simple running stitch. Anyone can do it. Probably much more quickly than most people think.

Does anyone else sew by hand?

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34 Responses to “Time, the Stitch and the Wardrobe”

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  1. craftgirl78 says:

    I sew by hand, but mostly small items and alterations; no skirts or dresses or anything, although I have a top on the go at the moment… Your garments are truly inspirational and absolutely gorgeous! Keep it up!

  2. kampinga says:

    What a lovely skirt and dress.. And you're absolutely right, handsewing is great – it makes me slow down, sit, breathe, and enjoy the moment. And you end up with something to wear at the end of it too!

    (I like your blog – found you through maya*made – will be back!)

  3. Vicki K. says:

    I love the the combination of appliques on your skirt! There's something very satisfying about Hand Made.

  4. mayaluna says:

    You already know how much I love your skirts, but this post has given me knew inspiration to get a hand sewing project going for a long drive I'll be taking soon.

  5. chppie says:

    I'm just getting back into hand sewing. I do like the social aspect of it. Your clothes are so inspiring it makes me want to design a new skirt right now! Thanks for sharing. I'm new to your blog ( I think I found you through a CRAFT link) and am enjoying your aestetic.

  6. kaze says:

    Da hast du aber Geduld gehabt. Ein tolles Ergebnis!!!! Erinnert an das japanische Sashiko.
    Geduldige Grüße, karen

  7. Maxabella says:

    Your philosophy is really inspirational and I love love love your handsewn skirts (fabulous modelling, too BTW!).

  8. Rowena says:

    I sew by hand! I've always been afraid of sewing machines, they just get so jammed up all the time, and it seems such a hassle. But I don't sew clothes by hand. I keep thinking it would be too hard, too time consuming, but I love this outfit here. And now I'm also thinking about altering some old clothes and making them something new with some hand sewing.

    plus, I came over because maya recommended you.

  9. Liane says:

    you are a kindred spirit! i dream of such things, too.

  10. Amy says:

    I am a knitter too. Hand sewing is much faster than knitting. I thought it had to be a back stitch for clothing sewing. Does a small running stitch really hold up?

  11. annekata says:

    Hi Amy,
    The running stitch really does hold up on its own, although I often 'fell' the seams to one side and top stitch ending up with a double stitched seam. I think the thread you use is crucial. All my clothing is stitched with button/craft thread that has a polyester core and is covered with cotton (so it feels like a cotton thread). I don't like the polyester bit, but it does add strength to make a garment more durable.

  12. Laura says:

    I think I'm the knitter who said that to you : )! LOVE those skirts, and your style, perhaps making one is in order when I need a break from the needles!

  13. Carol says:

    I just picked up the Alabama Chanin 2nd book at a used bookstore, I couldn't believe it!!! I love your skirts and have high hopes of making one soon. Did you use recycled jersey or new fabric?? love your blog

  14. annekata says:

    I used 2 XL t-shirts bought at the salvation army. Mine are a simple A line pattern made to my size. They were really fun to make. And they are super comfortable, too. You will love wearing yours.

  15. DevineDesignStudios says:

    I love to sew by hand. People ask how I have the patience. I think it actually helps me have patience because it is so relaxing, and i can whip it out and work on it in waiting rooms, in the car when waiting for my kiddies, etc…I look forward to having long waits, its another chance to relax and sew. I think is probably very good for blood pressure!

  16. norlinm says:

    I actually prefer to sew by hand. And I find it quicker than when I'm using a machine. I usually mend, do decorative stitching, apply appliques by hand as it's easier to control and I make less mistake. Also, hand stitching makes the item look more refined sometimes, than machine stitching. Although I haven't yet sew skirts or tops by hand.

  17. peutetre says:

    Hello there! I just happened upon your blog and I am absolutely enamored with this idea <33
    I would love to have a similar skirt myself…you don't happen to have a shop or anything, do you? I would also like to try my own hand at making something similar, but it is such a beautiful, unique idea, and I don't want to seem like I'm trying to take it! Would you feel comfortable having a goofy girl in another town wearing a skirt from your idea? I would be sure to tell people it's not my own!

  18. annekata says:

    @ peutetre: Glad you like the skirts! And they are not my idea either. The talented Natalie Chanin from Alabama Chanin (alabamachanin.com) came up with it and wrote 2 books on how to make upcycled T-Shirt projects (http://www.amazon.com/Alabama-Stitch-Book-Celebrating-Contemporary/dp/1584796383/)
    To make a skirt similar the ones above is actually not difficult at all. Especially it you make a simpler version like I did. If you make one, will you send me a picture? I'd love that!

  19. peutetre says:

    I absolutely will! Thanks so much for the info : -)
    I'm waiting to finally get a bit of time off, and I'm so excited to have a few projects lined up for when that happens!

  20. lettergirl says:

    I love sewing by hand, have made a dozen or so garments so far, and just got back from the Weekend Workshop at Alabama Chanin. One of my biggest inspirations there was, as you say, the idea that I could create an entire personal collection BY HAND. I've had similar thoughts before, but being there & seeing Natalie wearing her own clothes somehow put it all in perspective for me.
    Incidentally, my personal favorite comment about my hand-sewn clothes is "You must have a lot of time on your hands." Ha!

  21. annekata says:

    @lettergirl: The Weekend Workshop must have been an incredible experience. You made "a dozen or so" garments by hand? Wow. Is there any place on the web, where you show them? I'd love to see your work. The "time on your hands" comment made me smile, too.

  22. lettergirl says:

    Yes — I have posted about the workshop and some of my garments on my blog: http://www.richinnerlife.typepad.com. (I tried to sign in with that when I left my original comment, but was having difficulty, so used my boring google account instead.)
    I can't wait to explore your blog further, but will need a late night for that!

  23. meggiecat says:

    Thank you! This is an inspirational post. I've had my copy of Alabama Studio Style for a while now and want to begin to refashion the wardrobe I have.

  24. Shelley Noble says:

    Loving your style and philosophy so hard. :)

  25. Tina S says:

    I sew by hand! My mom loves her sewing machine and makes quilts and baby clothes on it, but I prefer handsewing. I've made rag rugs I've sewn together and I just finished making a whole ton of yoyos that I am sewing into accessories.


  26. I have several old skirts sitting on my “alter me” bench and you have just inspired me to PUSH AWAY FROM THE MACHINE! It’s why I haven’t altered them yet. It takes me away from my family and my cozy chair to do it at the machine. So, tonight, skirt no.1 is getting fun stitches, a new waist treatment, a little leather and will go to work on my body tomorrow! Oh yeah, work…”Dear Champagne, get out of this blog and go back to work before you get fired!” Thanks for all the inspiration with my coffee this morning! I am seriously going to eventually read every post!

  27. Paperdoll says:

    I was begining to think that no-one else enjoys handsewing their own clothes! I’ve made a couple of things now, I think it stems from being a knitter my whole life! Great post.

  28. Sara says:

    I wore many hand stitched clothes as a child as my mother didn’t like to use her machine too much. I learnt to sew by hand but I also conquered the machine as I didn’t want to be afraid of it like my mother. As a teenager I did both. I made items of clothing completely hand sewn – dresses, tops and skirts. I used back-stitch. I even made some occasionally for other people.

    As a young mother I sewed a lot but by machine. I made lots of clothes for my daughter and some for myself. As she grew up and clothes grew cheaper and fabric more expensive I put it aside. In recent times I have come back to crafting and do mainly knitting and crochet and some embroidery as I like their portability and easy assess. But recently I came across Mairuru’s blog and was so inspired! I saw that she makes all manner of things – whatever she wants, by hand; hats, ornaments, toys, clothes anything at all. I started to remember that I used to do this and did a web search to try and find others but I found next to nothing. I found you doing a google search on Japanese sewing as I love the styles and patterns. I intend to start hand sewing again. A zip up pouch is first but then a skirt for me. I have found it strange in my searches that many people seem to wonder if it is even possible to sew a garment by hand. What do they think we all wore for all those years before machinery?

    My mother sent us to school in hand-stitched school skirts and we had lovely dresses. They were just normal clothes. Both I and my sister but also my daughter always loved the things we had made for us. They were just so lovely. I have kept all the dresses I made for my daughter (machine) but one of them has the sleeves sewn in by hand as it was too tiny to go under my machine. I did make dolls clothes by hand. I am no longer very interested in clothes I find which may be a bit sad but I am finding I am becoming interested in making them again!

    I was thinking about how long it takes to sew a garment and although it is longer than by machine you are right, in comparison with knitting or all those crochet squares it compares favourably. I was thinking that only yesterday.

    Anyway thank you for sharing your beautiful work I shall keep on reading now!

  29. kathrin says:

    Hi Sara, you’re are so right. People often look at me in astonishment that I sew by hand, but I think hand-sewers are a growing group. Mairuru’s blog is fantastic and her tutorials clear and well explained. I often battle the time issue, like so many of us, but often manage to squeeze in a little sewing project. I would like to do more embroidery, because it is so portable; a skirt or shirt takes up much more space. I’m amazed your mother sewed by hand and wonder how my daughter will relate to craft and hand-made when she’s older. Right now, hand-made always wins, but that might change when the teenage years approach. Your comment is so encouraging and makes me want to start sewing another garment really soon. I also love the idea to combine and upcycle used clothes and incorporating hand-stitching in already existing pieces. I’ll be off to the thrift store tomorrow. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

  30. Joy says:

    Wow! I am utterly impressed! It looks like you raised the usual, rather plunging neckline??? Was that difficult? Thank you, joy

  31. kathrin says:

    Oh, I’m so sorry, just found this comment. I actually did raise the neckline and it wasn’t too difficult. I agree, Chanin’s necklines are a bit low for me too…. You might want to make a mock up first;o). It’s sad when you hand-sew and the garment doesn’t fit or feel the way you envisioned it.

  32. WOW nice! This is creative!

  33. Hi to all, the contents present at this site are truly awesome
    for people knowledge, well, keep up the good work fellows.

  34. Lorena Laforest says:

    I’m delighted to find you! I am stitching by hand also. My handsewn wardrobe is expanding. I want it all to be handsewn and recycled materials. My dream wardrobe is small, interchangeable, and mixes with seasons by adding or removing layers. I just finished deconstructing two sweaters and making a new design “as I go.” I’m so happy with the results. It became a sculptural sweater, all sewn by hand. I love the running stitch!!!

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