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Inspired by Alabama Chanin

Alabama Chanin style clothes and Lagenlook seems to be what I have been pinning these days.  What do you do when you have chemo brain? In my case, you spend a lot of time exploring Pinterest. I made a decision that 2014 was going to be the year that I defined my style but also I decided that I won’t be buying anything new this year. Well, almost anything, used clothes are still okay, but I want to limit even those purchases.

After looking at Natalie Chanin’s book,Alabama Studio Style: More Projects, Recipes & Stories Celebrating Sustainable Fashion & Living and checking out her website, I realized that while it would be great to have all three of her books, it simply wasn’t in the budget. Hard choice, books or chemo? I really rather have books. However, I already know how to do the basics of Alabama Chanin style, reverse applique, embroidery, stenciling, and couching.

Last year, I had bought a couple of  tee shirt knit slips thinking that I could wear them as skirts. It never happened. While the lavender one was a good length, the color was just off enough to not match any of my other things. The coral one was too bright and just a hair too short. Both of them sported the sort of cheap nylon lace trim most often found on inexpensive underwear of dubious taste.

Step one consisted of removing the lace, I didn’t take any photos, but you all know how to use a seam ripper. For some reason I saved the lace.  Since I was already dyeing a pair of Husband’s pants tobacco brown that had gotten bleach splatters on the leg,  it seemed like a good idea to put the  coral slip into the pot with the leftover dye. It’s now  an odd streaky shade of orange, so it’s hanging in the closet  while I ponder the next step.


Inside of purple skirt, showing reverse of embroidery

The lavender slip has fared better. First, I cut off an extra large dark purple tee shirt under the arms. The resulting fabric tube was shorter than my slip, so I ripped out the hem, still too short. Turning the slip inside out, I pinned the edges together. Then I embroidered them with feather stitch. I did a short and long running stitch on the top. Here is the inside of the skirt so you can see what I mean.


Since it gave a yoke like appearance to the skirt, I decided to reinforce the look by stitching a row of closed feather stitch under the running stitch.

running -stitch-closed-feather-stitch

detail of embroider on lavender skirt.



Venturing into the depths of my studio, I decided  a parrot stencil would work well with my colors. I had bought some fabric paint at one of the numerous craft stores here, unfortunately, it was thick and gloppy and didn’t come out of the tube like it should have. However, one of the benefits of having chemo brain is not always making logical decisions, yeah, I am choosing to call it a benefit. Instead of worrying about it, I just dabbed it on my stencil with my finger.





Here is my completed skirt. It’s not exactly Alabama Chanin but it is inspired by the look. Now to see if I will actually wear it.


About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Hi Theresa,

    We are retired in Ecuador. We decided to follow the crowd and we landed in Quito a year ago. I too sew, I am a larger woman and loved Natalie Chanin’s clothing styles. I have adapted them and have made some for larger women, shirts, skirts, and dresses, anything that pleases me. I have the same “Oh my, has it been that long since I posted too”? So don’t worry, it all evens out in the end. I was hand sewing and it was taking so long that now I do the shoulder seams and the sides by machine and complete the hand stitching on the collars and shirts by hand. My patience has been rewarded this way. Besides, I hear that Natalie did it too this year.
    I have read your page a few times and thought that I would reply and let you know that I am thinking of you and your projects, enjoy looking at them and can see real progress. I too spend some time on pinterest, it is loaded with ideas…
    so,, just a note, thanks for your pages.

    • Hi Denise,
      Thanks for the kind words. Quito is a beautiful city, a little too cold for me but I really liked it otherwise.

      I have been working on some other sewing projects but a bout with anemia and the accumulated effects from the last chemo have really slowed me down. However, I am getting my energy back and will be posting again soon.

      I love the Alabama Chanin look, it’s flattering to everyone with the clean princess lines. I’m also playing around with Lagenlook but trying to avoid the more eccentric variations.


  2. Hola Theresa! Those parrots are incredibly gorgeous. Excellent job! You are as creative as ever. I’ve been away from blogging for awhile too, and when I got back to it, I saw what was going on with you and must say I admire your gumption, your sense of humor, your unshakable optimism and the whole DIY trip you are on. I can relate to it on many levels. I’m trying to make this the year of the house (check my blog if you care to hear about it) but I feel I don’t know what I’m doing so I have trouble sticking with the plan. Reading about how you see yourself through one project after another gives me courage… thanks and will keep tuning in to calm my own panic attacks! P.S. The writing group sounds neat!!! I’m going to check out your writing blog.

    • Hi Minshap!
      How nice to hear from you. I’m glad you like the parrots, I wore the skirt downtown the other day and it was fun.

      One thing that is helping me with my planning and figuring stuff out is that I have a pinterest board (http://www.pinterest.com/theresainmerida/) where I post all the ideas I see on other pinterest boards, DIY blogs, and on the web in general (I like Home and Gardens a lot these days). It helps me see what attracts me and to refine my ideas. In the old days I would have done an ideas book, where I would have glued things that I had cut out from magazines. This is a little faster and easier. Anyway, then I can see what I like and what I don’t like. I also like having an app called chip it from Sherwin Williams where you can either upload an image or copy and url and it will tell you the paint colors. Right now I am spending a disproportionate amount of time on pinterest but that’s mostly because I am so easily distracted right now.

      Enjoy the blog, I am off to look at yours.

  3. Hi Theresa,

    I’m glad to see that you aren’t completed dominated by your chemo. I have been wondering how you were, and was at the point of dropping a quick e-mail, but then saw your post. Sorry it took me a bit of time to make a comment. I’ve been having trouble with my internet. Hopefully it is finally fixed.


    Kim G

    • Hi Kim,
      My life just goes on, I have to admit I was totally shocked when I realized how long it had been since I posted. I do post things to my FB author page more often but that doesn’t usually require writing. Just links to things I think are interesting. Most of them are about food and diet.
      Thanks for commenting.

  4. As just a FB fan, it is hard to know what to say. But I want you to know that I have thought of you often and looked for a blog entry. I was worried about you and am happy to know your status. I wish you all the best as you move throught your treatment and recovery from treatment. Love, carol

    • Hi Carol,
      What a kind thing to say, thank you. I don’t post much about the chemo because I don’t want to turn this blog into a pity party. Though to be honest, people who haven’t seen me for awhile peer at me and say, “You look pretty good.” I am not sure if I really look good or if they were expecting something worse and are relieved!

      My hair stayed on my head, but my belly is totally bloated because of the prednisone that I take to alleviate the symptoms of the chemo (eg photosensitivity, diarrhea, and I can’t remember what other gawd awful thing) so I am now an apple shape rather than an A shape. I have a lot of brain fog and some fatigue but really I am okay.


  5. Hi Teresa,
    LOL You aren’t the only one who has been wondering about me. I have gotten some emails from other people. I am doing remarkably well. Except for a couple of blue days, I am blessed with an upbeat nature so that helps a lot. I kept my hair, which is a minor thing but one less thing to deal with. The main side effects that I have from the chemo have been fatigue and chemo brain. Also my sense of taste is off, many things just don’t taste like they should to me. Though I am NOT losing any weight, so obviously I am doing okay with my eating.

    The chemo brain has kept me away from the sewing machine, I figure I would be cutting too many things incorrectly and sewing them inside out. I think we all have different talents, I am not a good planner so I sew in bursts and fits.

    I’m not up to any big projects, but I have several small ones that I have done, which I hope to write about soon.

    Thanks for writing it really means a lot to me that I have so much support.


  6. hi theresa,

    looks like you are being creative as ever and continue to have an upbeat attitude. since you hadn’t posted in so long, i was going to e-mail you but was happy to see your post. wish i knew how to sew but just don’t have the patience-believe me, i tried. how have you been feeling lately? just want you to know i have been thinking about you.

    take care,

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