Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

SWAP ’15 Stall


I started my anticipated most complex item for SWAP ’15 – a heavily embellished bolero.

There’s not much seaming to be done on such a small garment but I was aiming for this look….


Alabama chanin original













From this..


to this…


Here’s where I am right now….


Dog’s dinner? I don’t need to tell you how much time has already been wasted spent so far.

So, do I give up nowย or carry on?




77 thoughts on “SWAP ’15 Stall

  1. The two inspiration items are truly worthy of being copied. Your version is more… cosmic. More pictures (maybe draped on you?) would help a decision but as it’s a brighter blue, it might work with one of your many bright coordinates (in orange or lime).

  2. All of your Alabama Chanin inspired pieces have truly been beautiful and Inspiring. I have two tops started. Do not stop now.
    You will be very pleased with your finished garment and your “FINISH” of the project. Looking forward to seeing it completed.
    It is beautiful already.

  3. I agree that it is worth continuing, and that it is difficult to judge the amount of contrast, etc., just from a couple of pictures. Perhaps if the final product is not to your liking (I love the “cosmic” description) it could be overdyed to make the colors more subtle?

    • Yes Rowena, I had thought of that too – dyeing it a deeper, richer blue. But I don’t want to spend hours and hours sewing on all those beads, dyeing and still not liking it! Such a dilemma.

      • Do you have any fabric scraps? You might be able to get an idea by machine-sewing a swatch and playing with that a bit. But I have to say, the more I look at those pictures, the more I like it. Particularly with the cold weather we are having here, I think that something like that could be really fun to wear.

  4. What don’t you like about it Ruth?

    I agree with sew2pro that it is much brighter, but that isn’t a bad thing. If you want a more “aged” or classic look you could overdye, with grey or navy perhaps.

    My initial reaction is to take out the white embroidery on the right as it looks like a little willy.

  5. I’ve gathered snacks and a comfy chair to watch this gorgeous labor!

  6. I’m with Kate, ditch the white thread and make sure you do not go nuts and completely cover the fabric as the eye needs a place to rest to stop and appreciate all the close connections and embellishments. The dark sequins are a little jarring, can they be replaced with clear or lighter blue to blend in?

  7. I think you are at one of those points in the project where you are on the brink of ‘will this work or not?’ Keep going, I think you will be happier with more detail, lots more detail.
    What’s bothering you? The colours, the details? If you can figure out what’s bugging you sometimes you will find the solution.

    • Everything’s bugging me at the moment Lizzy – it’s not just what I had thought it would be. My imagination is much better than the reality. You’re right though, if I could put my finger on exactly what’s wrong then I might be able to sort it out

      • If it’s the colour, perhaps you could lightly dye it a slightly different shade of blue to create less difference between the two fabrics & make them more tonal??? I’d definitely experiment first. Sometimes you just need to put it away for a few days – I tend to hang my ‘problems’ up somewhere, then walk in & look at it in different lights & angles. That often triggers an idea.

  8. Wow! I am very impressed! This is a piece of art!

  9. Take short breat, take distance and go on!

  10. And this Yank is wondering what a willy is.

  11. Men have them, women do not! What do you call it?

  12. My first reaction is that you have a lot more “holes”. The first inspiration piece seems to have larger, fewer reverse appliques. More negative space in the inspiration pieces. So, I will be a lone voice saying “ditch it” and start over, with less busy-ness in the design, and fewer colors in the embellishment.

    • I didn’t mean for that to come out so bluntly. I admire your work tremendously. I was just trying a analyze the problem in a clinical kind of way. Just looking at the inspiration, the elements (reverse appliques and embroideries) are larger and fewer in number than on yours. With more negative space between the appliques the embroideries could be larger. Thread and beads of a less contrasting color could make a difference, too.

  13. Thanks Becky. It’s the same stencil but I didn’t include the fern leaves on mine, just the holes. Maybe the problems started way back at the beginning. I’m ditching it for a while anyway. Thing is – I have two sleeves, two fronts and no back! I’ve no fabric left – LOL

  14. Ooh…what a lot of work. I’m no expert, but I quite like it (minus the willy – we use the expression in Canada as well) and I like the brightness and contrast of yours. I think it’s going to look great once the sleeves are on.

  15. Carry on, it looks amazing. One standout piece makes the entire wardrobe sing.

  16. Keep going! You always pull it out of the bag in the end. Can’t wait to see what the finished article looks like.

  17. I love your beadwork. A few things to consider- first we are looking at this piece under a microscope compared to how it will be as part of an outfit. (I do this with knitting all the time). Second, we are looking at it out of context. Can you lay it out with fabrics from the other pieces it is meant to go with and get a better idea? A big part of your awesomeness is how you put items together with each other.

    When I compare yours to the inspirations, what strikes me is that the values of your colors are in much more contrast than the inspirations. If you looked at the them in black and white, the inspirations would be rather close grey tones. So that makes your reverse applique circles much more prominent. Not a bad thing, necessarily. I notice that the applique where you scattered some beads from the edge inward is blending with the background more. So if you decide what you don’t like is the high contrast you could add a transition color along the edges between the blues- either threads or beads would do it.

    Thanks for sharing this photo and your worries. I have a piece cut out that will be reverse appliqued, a black with a very light grey. So now I am wondering if I should find a shade in between to paint my stencil and help with the transition between the two colors. I was going to trace my stencil in ink. Hmmmm so many things to consider.

    • Maggie, a very sensible approach if I say so. You’re right I’m looking at this in isolation and only focusing on a few square inches at a time. I need to step back. There are too many decisions to be made with AC aren’t there?

  18. Ruth, how about taking the photos into a Paint type app and playing with the tools to see if a darker more saturated colour will give you a better idea.

    What l would possibly do is to dye the lot and then you would get two shades of one colour.

    The thing I tell myself (regularly!) when I have a dilemma is so what, it’s only a bit of fabric and some hobby time and there is plenty more of both left. If I am sure I don’t like what I am doing I get rid of it quickly so I don’t have to keep looking and wondering about it.

    Best Wishes


    • That’s a brill idea about digitally retouching first and would certainly save me physically dyeing it and then regretting it even more. Thank you Cynthia.

  19. Think I would get rid of the willy and perhaps the darker beading and then it might look more subtle .

  20. Gosh, Ruth, the colours are beautiful, but I can see what you mean about being in a rut. I agree with the white thread going, but I’m not sure that more of the dark beads …. LOTS more… wouldn’t even it all out, too. That would be my solution. Just keep going and put a lot of dark beads and embroidery wherever you can find the space. There’s a lot of black beading in the original piece of inspiration. I think you just need more, and then you’ll be happy with it. It’ll be very cosmic, which is totally worth finishing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • At least I’ll sparkle Tia. I might just need scaffolding though – it’s getting heavy already at this stage and I haven’t even started on the front or the sleeves!

  21. Too much contrast with that too light and too bright under fabric. I think making the whole thing and then dyeing is a bit overwhelming. But it’s made to be part of an outfit, right? Maybe it doesn’t need to be matchy-matchy.? (Autocorrect is loving that!)

  22. carry on.

  23. I think you’re being too hard on yourself. It looks like the Alabama Chanin inspiration piece to me. Keep going.

  24. Oh, so sorry Ruth. All of your other AC work has been FABULOUS but this one just isn’t the same. I’m thinking the color contrast is too high, and the density of the work seems to be too evenly spaced somehow. I wish I could put my finger on it. Just put it in the corner for a few weeks and then look at it wih a fresh eye before doing anything drastic.

  25. Is this like one of those pictures that I have to stare hard at to see something? Because I missed seeing the willy! Just kidding… Well no not really… But … Maybe if you go away and come back you will see what you don’t like and take it off. You have done some beautiful work before, I am sure you can make this one beautiful too!

  26. Never give up! You are just tired. Put it aside for a little while. I was working on a jacket that I decided I hated. Left it alone for a while and then I decided to go at it a different way, different trim, etc. Or sometimes you do all this handwork and then instead of throwing in the towel, what about making it into a handbag. Sleep on it!

  27. Best advice already up there. Here’s what I see. It’s not objectively “bad”; it just creates a different effect than the inspiration pieces. The biggest difference isn’t willy – although having pointed it out, it must now exit – it’s the contrast. The dark circle of bugle beades; the pale embroidery threads; the palest cut circles. They create visual energy that the more monochrome pieces didn’t.

    Ask if you can be happy if the bolero turns out to be more of a “statement” piece than a subtle thing. If yes, keep sewing. If not, try dyeing an embroidered sample sandwich, or even this piece as you see it. If you wouldn’t wear it now, what would you be losing?

    A day or three of absence will clear the eye. Good luck. I feel your pain. Been there, have the scars.

  28. You carry on….I often suffer half way through syndrome.

  29. Please please finish this, it’s beautiful!

  30. I would not change the color. I am not an Alabama Chanin fan, but I do like this and see nothing wrong with it. May I suggest you treat this much like a border print with the embroidery tapering out until there is none at the hem?

  31. The willy?! My son would love some of these comments! Don’t give up, unless it’s going to be too painful for you to work on, anyway. Like others, I think it has promise, too. I think maybe the contrast is bothering you, and I think of you being in some more of the lighter blue as embroidery or beading, it would balance things a bit. I can imagine that the hours of working in small sections is playing ticks on your eyes, and more of a view from 30,000 feet may help you feel better. Take a day off and come back to it. Your brain will fill in some blanks during your break.

  32. It’s very difficult judging such close work- I got lost when beading the train of my wife’s dress… apart from the willy [lol] i think you may be jarred by the circles being very…circular! Perhaps snip into a few, making some teardrop/petal shapes to break it up a tad. You could also experiment [using a bit of organza over the top] with doodling some loose tendrils/spirals to vaguely connect the shapes, bringing a slightly more organic vibe into the galaxy? I think that’s why the willy evolved, he was trying to fertilise your flowers lol! It’s definitely one to carry on with though

  33. I don’t know if you have seen “notes from a voodoo cafe blogspot”. She has made some very colourful and inspirational Alabama chanin style garments, boleros amongst them. And with lots of lovely beading and embroidery work. It is certainly worth a look if you haven’t come across that site before. I think all the previous comments have covered everything. Sometimes you need to step away from it for awhile and look at it with fresh eyes. Also with embroidery, sometimes you just need to keep on going and let it evolve, which I know it will, and can’t wait to see your finished garment.

    • Gosh that Voodoo cafe gal is good huh? Been there and felt very inadequate…..Thank you Shirley, I’m stepping away as I’ve been well advised so watch this space.

  34. Nice work on the bolero – definitely NOT dog’s dinner! Take a break and give it some thought, look at it from various distances and lighting conditions, not only at close working distance. Just because it’s not what you imagined, doesn’t make it bad. If you’re still not happy, maybe take out the white and the dark beads, and use colors that are closer to the fabric colors? That’s the big difference I see between yours and the original – the original has a much narrower color palate overall.

    • Thank you Gail. You’re right, my colours are so different from my inspiration and I don’t intend to copy the inspiration just use these as a starting point.

  35. Pingback: Jersey Blue Relax | corecouture

  36. Ruth, I love your work and always look forward to your AS posts. Too me it appears, the stark contrast in fabric, threads, and beads is unsettling, is it just how my laptop shows the color? I would love to see a small sample over dyed to decrease the contrast, as that is the one difference, I see, between the original examples and yours. It is not, a dog’s dinner.

  37. Sorry, did not mean to hit enter and post without my name

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