Archive for the ‘Swatch Club – Alabama Chanin’ Category

I am on a roll completing my monthly swatches, having already started December yesterday! Since starting in January, I will have completed eleven blocks, with one final block to do for December. Feeling much too impatient, I quickly made a collage of all eleven blocks to see how they would look if laid out in a quilt!

PicMonkey Collage

October was a fun block, free cutting circles and spirals and sewing them down with running stitches.


I enjoyed mixing up the color of thread and the free form look of the spirals. No compass used here!


November was an interesting swatch as there was no stencil design, only a blank canvas to embroider stars on.


I snuck in beads on a few of the stars. Very understated beading on this one!


And I passed the time imagining I was stitching the milky way across the fabric with the darker purple embroidery thread … A galaxy to get lost in!


I am pondering what to make with these (soon to be) twelve completed squares. Sew them all up into a quilt? Make each on into a pillow? What would you make with them?


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Where does time fly. Daylight savings this weekend – time to fall back! Fall back to September that is. I’ve had September’s Swatch finished for many weeks now, and just realized I hadn’t posted pictures yet!

I was excited for September’s technique of using couching. It is a technique I’ve long admired the look of and I enjoyed getting to try my hand at stitching it.

For the embellishment, I choose a simple straight line diagnol stitching, alternating between chop and bugle beads.
I like the thick appearance of the couching, with a bumpy texture coming up off the fabric. Of course this swatch was polka dots … Again! That’s okay, I think I am starting to accept polka dots. Three swatches left to this year, October – December, and then I’ll be sewing them together for a finished quilt top. I already have an idea of what my hand stitching project will be for next year! It’s never too early to be planning and dreaming, right?

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July and August swatch of the month were a joy to stitch. I now carry this project with me everywhere, and each moment I have a few extra minutes I sew.

I have to be honest, that seeing July and August were more polka dots… Can you guess? It was so disappointing. I am done with polka dots! But perhaps continuing to work in a simple theme allows more creativity?

At a ladies’ night, I was sharing this frustration of mine with polka dots, and one woman said wow, polka dots, that’s so cool, kind of like spirals. And I was thrilled. Spirals!
So with that, the July swatch of the month polka dots became spirals, and I stitched with beads and a running stitch spirals over it all and loved it. I also threw in one extra dot not matching the pattern just because I could.
While the August swatch of the month was still polka dots, this time it combined many of the previous techniques, which perked my interest. I also chose to embellish with sequins and running stitches, combining many colors of thread to mix things up.
I’ve really been enjoying stitching repeating rows of running stitches, in addition to using beads for embellishments. Probably because of my quilting background! I am drawn to the texture and simplicity of multiple rows of running stitches next to each other.
Now I’m off to September’s swatch of the month, which while still polka dots, is using the couching method, which I’ve always wanted to do. More on that when it is complete!

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June’s Swatch of the Month started off with excitement as it was a new technique of applique and a stencil pattern I enjoy. It was also my first chance to try out my new sewing nook in our new home!

I had some trouble matching up the pieces of the applique to the base fabric, but I made my best guess and I suppose it turned out alright.

The “puffy” applique was a bit challenging, probably because of the lack of preciseness. Instead of matching up lines or keeping fabric flat, I had to purposefully stitch down the applique in “puffs.”
And then some pieces didn’t really “puff” at all, so not sure why that was. For pieces too small for applique, I chose to do a backstitch outline of each piece with embroidery thread.
For embellishment, I chose to do a mixture of running stitches and beaded accents around the larger petals.
I like the multiple layers of texture, with so many different thread colors, types, and stitches. It took a long time to finish this Swatch because of the detail but I like how it turned out.
In this swatch I start to show a divergence from following the suggested color choices and pattern and putting my own take on it. I think it is what I need to keep engaged. More color and variation!

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April’s swatch barely held my attention. Circle’s again?!
DSC02160But I persevered, which included having it sit away for several weeks while I fumed in my mind about more circles. Guess polka dots aren’t really my thing.

DSC02162The swatch finally caught my attention when I decided to embellish with beads and stitches, making a clam shell pattern.

DSC02251May was a tad better, at least it was a different stencil design! But the technique of reverse applique was the same we had done previously. Perhaps you can hear some impatience in my tone.

DSC02256I haven’t done a club where the pattern is decided for you. I find that I am balking at the limitation of being told, do it this way.

DSC02254And yet with that restriction, comes creativity. It is often once I get to the embellishment with beads that I begin to enjoy the swatch.

DSC02253For May I decided to play with sequins, and the Alabama Chanin book has some great examples of how to stitch them down using only threads in different patterns and using beads too!DSC02252I also enjoyed adding not just beading, but simple running stitches. The piece fairly sings with all the layers and textures. Was my perseverance rewarded? Yes! And June and July (which both have already arrived in my mail box) look promising as we are going to dive into doing a different technique. Yay! Even if July is polka dots … again.

Have you had a project that challenged your interest and still you pushed through? Did you find a benefit come out in the end?

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As I set out to start on the March swatch of the month, I was somewhat disheartened with the pattern. I had waited long enough to start my March swatch that April had already arrived. Eagerly opening the package, I saw that April was circles, March was circles, and January was circles.DSC01847While the stencils were different sizes of polka dot (March was medium), they were still the same pattern. Instantly I felt bored. But I persevered, and asked myself how can I enjoy this month? I told myself just start it and see.


Both the top layer and bottom layer were apple color. The suggested treatment was negative reverse applique. The stitching of the polka dots was finished quickly, and then I was cutting out around the circles.

DSC01854So then I had a swatch of funny little circles popping out of the background fabric. At this point, I was thumbing through the book, looking for ideas on how to make this month’s block more interesting. And I settled on adding some star embellishment with embroidery thread.

DSC01848Random circles received a random number of little red embroidered stars. Cute! But I quickly ran out of interest in doing the stars, and left most of the circles blank.

DSC01849What next? I had committed to myself to experiment more with adding beading, so wanted to find away to add beading. Since so much fabric was cut away from around the circles, this area between circles intrigued me. Grabbing chalk, I tried sketching a random pattern around the circles. And. I. Loved. It. Finally I found the thing that makes this swatch sing!

DSC01850I love the undulating curve of the beaded line, the way the sparkly beads catch the light and make the whole piece move. I used the bugle beads with button craft thread and a simple running stitch went quite quickly.

DSC01853I love that depending on the angle or direction you look, the overall effect has so many different repeating patterns. I started this month’s swatch less than infused, and ended up really enjoying myself. Or maybe I found myself somewhere in the thread.

721e84f2adc74a2d68645da8382da5f5Quote from www.slowstitching.com




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Opening up the February Swatch of the Month mail, I was thrilled to discover that it was the Angie’s Fall stencil pattern. This is one design I have long admired in the Alabama Chanin line. The top fabric was a lovely Italian Plum, and the bottom fabric a Ruby color. Yum!

IMG_3368The guide suggested to work in backstitch reverse applique with embroidery floss. I immediately started in, and enjoyed every second. Because of the intricate nature of the design, this swatch took a lot longer to complete, but was also very portable.

PicMonkey Collage2

Only needing the spool of embroidery floss and scissors, I could tuck in my bag and bring with me anywhere! I stitched a lot at work on my lunch break, and on the weekend in coffee shops. Anywhere I sat for a second I was stitching.

DSC01696After the stitching was done, I cut away the center pieces of the designs for the reverse applique. Many pieces were so small I didn’t cut them, so the pattern was very diverse. Adding in beading embellishment, I chose to do varying patterns in specific spots to emphasize the stencil.

PicMonkey Collage

As this swatch took me so much longer than the other swatches I’ve stitched, this recent  article in Quilting Daily really spoke to me. I didn’t realize there was a growing interest in the “Slow Stitching Movement”, as I’ve always loved to hand stitch.

DSC01697In the article, they suggest to stitch intentionally. “When you slow stitch, think about what you want to accomplish with your stitching and focus on it intently.” The beading has been difficult for me, so I just try, and think about where I wanted to go, and do it slowly. The beading adds more time, but the end result is interesting and different. At first I was unsure of the beading, but as I added more, it added a pop and pizzazz that wasn’t there before.

DSC01699And of course here is my requisite back of the swatch photo. I love the tail ends of the string. There is one Alabama Chanin technique that keeps the knots on top of the fabric, I hope to try it on one of the swatches!



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