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Dear Ann,

I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me, but I’m suffering a distinct lack of lavender in the air here on the Upper West Side, now that I’ve returned from a weeklong workshop at Château Dumas in the South of France. I would like to take a restorative walk on quiet roads by fields of sunflowers, but all we’ve got are the cut ones in black plastic buckets on Columbus Avenue.

I’ve got some wonderful things to show for my time away. One of them is knitted, but this one is not:


This is the back of an Alabama Chanin pencil skirt, with kick pleat freshly installed.  I adore a kick pleat.


Its layers of organic cotton jersey are two shades of dark and light indigo that were hand-dyed in Alabama. The stencil is called Magdalena. Magdalena is one of the easiest-to-stitch stencils in the Alabama Chanin collection because of all those long, sweeping curves; you can really get a groove going, and bigger stencil motifs mean fewer knots. I chose to stitch the pattern in reverse appliqué, using running stitch, and without beads–also for speed. My reasoning was that I wanted to give myself the best chance of finishing the skirt while I was actually there. I didn’t want to bring home a partially finished project that would compete with my knitting. And needlepoint. And other Alabama Chanin sewing projects.


I came pretty close. On the last day, last Friday, I made the decision to sew up the skirt (Natalie Chanin calls this “construction,” which has such a satisfyingly important sound), even though I hadn’t finished stitching and cutting all the reverse appliqué motifs on the front. By mid-afternoon, I made the decision to sew on the fold-over elastic waistband even though I hadn’t finished felling (topstitching) the second of the two side seams. Thanks to these tactical calls, by the time my workshop-mates gathered for our last heure de l’apéro, I had a wearable skirt, albeit one with a little more optional stitching to be stitched.

If I’d brought home the front and back of the skirt, it would be months before I summoned the gumption and uninterrupted focus time to sit down for a few hours and do the seams and waistband.  It is vastly more fun to do these tasks with a supportive band of Chaninistas cheering one on. (And they did.)

I’m proud of myself. The fit is tight as a drum, because I know from experience, and from Natalie’s guidance, that there is a lot of give in cotton jersey, and that it will stretch.  With fitted Alabama Chanin garments, you have to aim tighter than you want to end up, or risk a baggy fit. Natalie says, “if it doesn’t draw blood, it fits.” By that definition (and only by that definition), I’m good.

Meanwhile, it may be helpful that fresh croissants are no longer showing up every morning.




  • Fantastic! (And slightly – ok – really envious). Although we have lots of sunflowers in the field out here in the Hamptons!

  • Oooooh, I was hoping that was where you were! I hope it was an amazing experience! Doing something like that, somewhere like that, is on my bucket list now…Tell us more? (And I love the skirt!!!)

  • I am soooo impressed by how quickly you put this gorgeous skirt together. It is very beautiful. And oh I feel your withdrawal pain. Longing for la france so hard.

  • Spectacular, the skirt and the Instagram photos. What an amazing trip!

  • Wow! What a treasure – beautiful and full of wonderful memories too.

  • I love Natalie’s classes. I made t-shirts for all my girls. Fun. Wonderful job on your skirt!

  • Stunning skirt. Outstanding job. Missed you both.

  • That skirt is just gorgeous. I was living vicariously on your IG last week. Looking forward to any more details you share.

  • That kick pleat is adorable!

  • Excellent! I love every color and all the dimensional sweeping swoopy swirls. Kudos on getting your beautiful new garment to a wearable state before getting on a plane – an item that lovely doesn’t not deserve to live in a project bag 🙂

  • Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing your adventure on Instagram. Have dreamed of attending a class at Chateau Dumas and working with Natalie Chanin. You’ve brought me that much closer.

  • Aw, you don’t really need to sit down while wearing it, do you? Fantastically beautiful.

  • Welcome back, Kay! I adored travelling with you (in my mind) via assorted Instagram feeds. Your skirt is amazing – and inspiring to me to finish the one I Indigo-dyed while you were away.

  • Is that your Rhinebeck skirt?

    “If it doesn’t draw blood…” That is perfect. It was so much fun to follow you and some of your fellow stitchers in France — it made me yearn to do something like that with my sisters one of these years. Since one of them is moving to Spain on Saturday for at least two years, it’s nearly 1/3 done! My primary focus, though, is getting myself to Florence for a week, saving all the $5 bills that come my way in my specially designated “$5 for Florence” savings account. 😉

    • Oh,that is brilliant!

  • It’s absolutely drop dead gorgeous!!

  • Your trip sounds magical. And that skirt is sooooo wonderful. You have made me want to try my hand at hand sewing.

  • It’s gorgeous. Worth all the “suffering” abroad.

    • It will fit you better than me just saying.

  • Work it! Channel your inner Mrs Whiggins!

    • Day 1: Stand perfectly still. Breathe gently.

  • its wonderful. i swoon.

  • Wow! A funky pattern and color, combined with that fit — Natasha Fatale is reborn! (But Boris, vat about Moose and Squirrel?)

    Seriously, good call on omitting the beads. This is not an evening skirt destined for the red carpet at the Oscars. Besides, beads are uncomfortable to sit upon and chairs, sofas, benches, etc. get jealous and try to steal the beads.

    Glad to hear you’re home and survived Olive’s welcome back. You should be able to find lots of lavender at your local flower markets, florists, and herbalists. Sunflowers are easy to grow, but don’t try this in Manhattan — they can grow larger than your apartment! (Ann, you should try them in your yard, though — birds love the seed heads!)

  • Happy gorgeous skirt. Makes me want to finish mine. I like the incompleteness of how you worked the appliqué.

  • Gorgeous! So envious you know how to do and are so good at all that sewing stuff!

  • LOVE, LOVE it! Well done, you! Sounds like a wonderful time away….sigh… I am SO missing travel adventures. Taking care of my mom reminds me of those toddler days, in that getting away is no small feat. :-

  • Welcome back! That skirt is absolutely gorgeous. You have a lot of fabulous blue goodies to show that your time away was productive. And even if you didn’t, the time away to refresh yourself is worthy in itself. You double win!

  • Your skirt is breathtaking. Following you ladies on Instagram was so entertaining. And woad! I had to read all about it on Wikipedia. Now Chateau Dumas is on my bucket list.

  • Well done, beautiful Kay! I’m proud of you too

  • So freaking gorgeous. And I was one of the droolers following you on Instagram as well!

  • You did it beautifully! I think I better start surfing Alabama Chanin on John’s computer, so he gets some inspiration for our 15th anniversary. (That’s the jersey anniversary, right?)

  • Are those hand sewn seams? Hiw do you sew jersey? I’m a knitter, but I’m still stumped!

    • Just a running stitch, with strong thread.

      • Thank you!

  • Love the skirt…the pattern, the color, etc. – all fabulous! I love the s-l-o-w stitching of AC garments – a refreshing change of pace from this crazy, frenzied world of ours! I stitched one skirt as a gift – you crossed the finish line in lightening speed! I was drooling at Instagram pictures all week…the Chateau is definitely on my bucket list!
    I’ve never dyed fabric or yarn – just finished reading The Modern Natural Dyer…I’m more than intrigued! I had to Google “woad” as this was entirely new to me. Will you please do a post about it…or tell us where/how we can learn about it in detail?
    Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you…I had a wonderful trip!

  • Wow! I love that skirt! I like the contrast on the front of the unappliqued /appliqued areas. I like that the back does not have the contrast but has more of an all over pattern- I’m never a fan of making a contrasting statement across one’s backside. And a kick pleat to boot! Attractive and easier to walk in. I hope you have a fabulous time wearing it.

  • Swooningly gorgeous! And, nice strategy to the finish line.

  • Loved watching your skirt make it to wearable. That was so smart. I have one panel of mine finished though I’m loving the slow process.

    And tight as a drum – it looked fabulous on you!

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