Are you ready to take upcycling to the next level using the Alabama Chanin technique

Gepubliceerd op 26 oktober 2023 om 10:28

In this blogpost you will read how I discovered to implement the Alabama Chanin technique in upcycling.  You will also follow me as I show you step by step how to proceed.

Discovering the Alabama Chanin Technique

Some years ago when I began my journey in textile art, I discovered the lessons of Natalie Chanin on craftsy. 

Alabama Chanin is a fashion label that emphasizes sustainability, durability, and handmade quality. Not only does Alabama Chanin strive to create garments that will last for years, they also use zero-waste patterns and locally sourced organic cotton, making sure to reduce their environmental impact. The founder of Alabama Chanin, Natalie Chanin, has always been passionate about creating a more ethical and sustainable industry. Her commitment to this goal has been successful and her brand is now considered a leader in responsible fashion.

As I learned more of her way of stitching, I became a fan.

So I set myself to make embroidery swatches,  followed by creating my first skirt as taught in one of her classes.


Implementing the Technique in Upcycling Projects

Why not using the Alabama Chanin embroidery method in my upcycling projects, I thought. The clothes of Alabama Chanin are so beautiful, one in a kind. Imagine upcycling and producing gems of garments!

Soon I could put this thought into action. Let me show you how I proceeded.

Materials needed

- sewing pattern, when  making a new garment

- upcycled Jersey fabric, or two jersey garments, like two upcycled t-shirts, using the same  fabric weight

- stencil

- optional : textile paint

- sewing thread 

- buttonhole or other heavier thread such as silk thread or cotton perle

- embroidery and sewing needle



Starting the project

A friend of mine gave me her discarded t-shirt.  Ideal would be to have a bigger garment so you have enough fabric to cut out and remake it into a new t-shirt.  I didn’t have that luxury, since the t-shirt was my size. I had to figure out a way to still use it.

To make garments implementing the Alabama Chanin technique you need 2 layers of fabric.  I needed to find another jersey fabric, the same weight to be able to create my work.  The thriftstore helped me to find what I needed; a t-shirt in a contrasting color. 


Natalie Chanin uses stencils to paint a pattern on the garment.  She airbrushes the pattern on the fabric. Of course not everyone has an airbrush. The other option is to draw the pattern on the fabric and stitching around it.  Since I didn’t have textile paint, nor an airbrush, at that time, option two became my choice.   In the book Alabama Studio I found the Polka stencil, which I liked. The stencil in the picture was made by Fraedenart


The thread I used to embroider in this t-shirt is a silk thread.  It doesn’t have to be silk, heavier cotton thread is perfect too, such as buttonhole thread... .   When using buttonhole thread, you stitch with a double layer of thread. In my case, the silk thread was thicker, so I used a single thread.

Combining the two Layers

I decided to  embroider only the front of the t-shirt.  After I drew the stencil pattern on the upper t-shirt, I cut the other t-shirt the size of the front panel of the upper t-shirt. To attach it, I pinned the layers together, handstitching it to the back of the upper layer around the corners and also some handstitching in the middle so the fabric could not move.   For this I used regular sewing thread.  


Choosing an Embroidery Stitch.

Now, it was time to start the embroidery.  There are different embroidery stitches you can choose from; such as the blanket stitch, the backstitch, the running stitch, French knot... .  My choice for this particular project was the backstitch.  

Thread Tails

In the Alabama Chanin method you leave thread tails at the beginning and the end of your embroidery thread.  These tails are usually at the back of the garment or you could use them as an embellishment, which I implemented in this t-shirt.

Start the Embroidery

Once you have figured out the what and the how, the embroidery can begin.  It gives you lots of relaxing hours.   For me, I like to listen to uplifting audiobooks while embroidering.  What about you?


By using the Alabama Chanin method, we can take upcycling to the next level and set a positive example for our future generations. 


So, what are you waiting for? Make your contribution to the sustainable fashion movement today and implement the Alabama Chanin method in your  upcycling!

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