Hand sewing. It was always the last thing I did. I put it off because it was just too slow and by the time I got to that point I was done with the project anyway and just wanted to finish. I was all about getting whatever I was working on done so that I could wear it and move on to the next thing.
Then I had babies. For a few years, my sewing machine and all of my supplies were packed away in the closet on the third floor. The extra room was now a baby nursery. There was no space and very little time to sew. I felt pretty lost. One day in early 2008, I was reading Liesl Gibson's blog, Disdressed. She was introducing the Alabama Stitch Book. It looked so familiar. Wait, What??? Alabama. Like Project Alabama? Natalie Chanin? I remember seeing her clothes in NYC just a few years before. I would look at these great deconstructed tops she made and try to figure out how in the world she put them together. It was her! I immediately ordered the book.
It came and I couldn't wait to get started. My first project was the Over-the-Arm pincushion. I still use it everyday. It is a favorite, it rolls up so it's perfect for traveling or just moving from room to room.
Her method and philosophy completely changed the way I thought about sewing and my approach to design. It is where I first heard the term Slow Fashion. Slow-anything appealed to me at that time. I could begin to sew and design clothes again without having to haul everything out of the closet, set it up only to pack it back up an hour later. Now everything I needed could fit inside a tote bag. I could sit on the floor for seemingly endless hours with tiny kids, nursing, doing puzzles, building blocks and have a small project beside me. This brought me unmeasured peace and happiness.
In 2009, Natalie Chanin came to Richmond for a workshop. I bought a ticket and we decided to take the kids to the Great Wolf Lodge for the night. That way I could go to Richmond to meet Natalie and take her class, leave to nurse the baby, and return to finish the class. It was worth every minute.
Natalie Chanin is such a well read and interesting person. I could listen to her honey-ed voice all day. She entertained us with stories of her life, her kids, travel, cooking, design and sewing. It was a modern day sewing circle. One day I will visit her studio in Alabama for a weekend workshop.
Every year since, I have made another item of clothing in her unmistakable style. Each piece takes months to make and I couldn't be happier with the result. As my children get older, having a project that I can take with me to work on at the pool, in the car, or any marathon waiting session where my presence is required by not my participation is a lifesaver.
When teaching kids to handsew, I try to make it entertaining and approachable. I want to create a feeling in them that will inspire them to go out and make something beautiful. I love to show them pictures of things they can make with only a needle, thread and some plain cotton fabric. No machines, nothing fancy. Just some good stitching, peace and time to dream.