Saturday, May 17, 2014

Alabama Chanin Love

A few months ago, I saw a photograph of one of Natalie Chanin's beautiful skirts on Pinterest and became interested in the idea of making clothing using her techniques. I purchased her book, Alabama Studio Sewing and Design, and a new obsession was born.

Her website is Check out her DIY store.

My first project is a long sleeved t-shirt, (the first of three), constructed for the wedding of a close friend. They are opting for a very informal wedding on the beach at Tofino, and are wearing jeans and t-shirts. We opted for a long sleeved design as it is often very windy and cold on the beach in May. I am making a shirt for the two bridesmaids and the bride.

Here is the completed first shirt:

The clothing is sewn 100% by hand. The design is stencilled on to the hand-dyed organic cotton fabric, hand embroidered and the top layer of fabric strategically cut away. Swarovski pearls have been applied to the design. The pattern is Simplicity 5428. I adapted one of Alabama Chanin's stencil designs to make a border that frames the neckline of the shirt.

Needless to say, the bride's shirt will be more elaborately beaded and embroidered.  I have stencilled the neckline, front and back and the sleeve hems on her shirt, which will feature white on white embroidery, beading with pearls and crystals, and glass beads. I have two weeks to get the other two shirts finished....

Detail from embroidery on second bridesmaid's shirt.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sidelined Again

In my last post, I vowed to finish my unfinished Christmas presents before starting anything new....
Finished stocking for Adella

I was only partly successful. Alas Dad's Christmas socks and Callum's Christmas stocking remain in UFO limbo. I have a good excuse this time....


A friend of mine, Sharon Leitch, who is teaching a nursing program, asked me to create a quilt as a teaching aid. This quilt was to be approximately 3 feet square, and the theme was to be person-centred senior's care. She gave me a list of words/concepts she wanted included in the quilt, and asked me to brainstorm. 

I immediately became completely absorbed it the project, to practically the exclusion of anything else, for about 3 months. I finished it in April, sewing on the label 10 minutes before handing it over to Sharon! 

I envisioned the quilt as a 13 block quilt, medallion-style, with 12 smaller blocks surrounding a centre block. We talked about the word reflection, and discussed using a reflective substance in one of the blocks. I became enamoured of the idea of somehow mounting a mirror in the centre block. 

I decided to crazy quilt the squares, using parts of vintage linens and doilies in the blocks. I wanted to incorporate photographs into the quilt as well. I learned a lot about playing with photos in Photoshop Elements on the fly, and then printed the photographs on to fabric. I crazy pieced and hand embroidered my blocks, embellishing them with beads and words. Each small block took approximately 8 to 10 hours to create. The centre medallion block took hours longer -- I am not sure how many. I hand-dyed many of the embroidery threads and silk ribbon used in the piece.

So here it is...

"Do You See Me?"

Quilt concept by Sharon Leitch, designed and created by Susan Sharkey. Texada Island, BC.  2013

Do You See Me? - You can see me in the mirror taking the photo!

Center Medallion block. Who do you see??

Respect. I am particularly fond of the doily/button detail.


A block to represent work history.

Some photos of friends and family at leisure.

Love/Companionship. The doily and buttons make another appearance.

Family. Relationships cross generations.

People will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
-Maya Angelou
Service. This is Sharon's grandmother and grandfather. Photos of them when they served in the war, and with their grandchildren. 

Life History - Billy
Life History - Louise

Without dignity, identity is erased.  I love this quote by Laura Hillenbrand.

This has been a pivotal project in my quilting career. I have found my true love, a marriage of the quilting and the hand embroidery that I love so much.  I love the spontaneity and the creativity that comes with the fly by the seat of your pants method of crazy quilting. 
Sharon is going to be exhibiting the quilt at a senior's care conference in London, England this spring. She will be subsequently using it as a teaching aid in classes with her nursing students. She has promised me the loan of it for the upcoming quilt show at the Texada Artist's Studio Tour in August 2014, and for the Timberlane Quilt Show in Spring 2015.