Harley helps.

Harley helps.
Harley, my hard-working sewing assistant.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Alabama Chanin Factory Dress, and an update

Right! So I've been thinking lately about making three "uniform dresses" with pockets in Alabama Chanin cotton jersey that can be worn by themselves or over t-shirts and leggings, under cardigans, etc.

And then I got this new "accessory" in May (which I'll explain in a sec) and couldn't get a red dress out of my head. To match, sort of—even though I hate it—but also, I love red and for some reason have none of it in my closet.

So anyway, here's the first Factory Dress!

It's single-layer medium-weight cotton jersey in Carmine, in a straight size medium, with hand-stitched seams (although I machine-stitched Eloflex within the SA afterward for extra stability). I used the punch cards from The Geometry of Hand-Sewing for the Cretan stitch around the neckline and armholes, which worked out great. 

Bad closeup of neckline:

This was a really enjoyable make—I had fun with the combination of machine and hand-stitching. I might keep going on it, just to add some scattered armor beads around the hemline.

For the next two dresses, in Blue Slate and Black, I'm going to shorten it by a couple of inches, add pockets, and maybe frankenpattern on the armholes from the Fitted Dress, which I think fit better—the big complaint about the Factory Dress pattern seems to be the wonky armholes.

And now, the news:



(this is so bizarre.)

(I feel so weird saying this. It's so melodramatic, like that scene in A Christmas Story. SOAP POISONING!)

I'm now registered as legally blind.

Most people know, but if I haven't mentioned it, I have retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that affects the rods and later the cones of the eyes. It causes night blindness, flashes and spots, diminished peripheral vision and, later, diminished central vision. (This is over, like, decades.) My central vision is still good, I'm still working and all that, but in January I visited a low-vision optometrist who said I'm just over the threshold for legal blindness. 

So! I'm now registered with the state, getting services, mobility training and all that good stuff. And that glamorous new accessory, which helps, even though it's really strange to identify myself that way to everyone, especially strangers. It's by far the weirdest shit I've ever gone through.

On the other hand, I'm tired of hiding it, and if the cane keeps people from yelling at me, good.

It's all been more earth-shattering and life-changing than I thought—adjusting is definitely a process. And it's affecting my sewing plans too. 

Last fall, I went to a tech fair at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, where they demonstrated a voice labeling system. Basically, you use a recorder and stickers to label and scan things, whether it's clothing or kitchen gadgets. So if you have three pairs of jeans, light wash, medium wash and dark wash, you can label and scan them and the device will tell you which is which. The downside is, there's a limit to the number of things you can label. (In the hundreds, maybe?)

I have to admit, it got me thinking about how to organize stuff—and downsize my wardrobe. At some point, I'm going to have to pare things down, although I'm no Marie Kondo fan and will never be (that's a post for another time, I guess). I won't need anything like the voice labeler for a long time, but when the time comes, it'd be nice to be able to pull one of three dresses out of the closet (in AWESOME fabric that I LOVE), throw on a pair of leggings and go.

I don't know if it'll happen (I love clothes and fabric!), but that's the goal.


In other (good) news, we have a new foster:

Her name is Dottie and she's a sassy senior. Likes: Rolling, snuggling, petting. Hates: Moisturizer and/or funny smells of any kind. I'm enjoying having her as a work-from-home buddy.

That's all for now!


  1. I of course know about Alabama Chanin, but this is the first time I’ve heard of the factory dress. I love the handworked neckline, but like you I’d need some machine stitching in the seams. I busted out of an entire torso of a garment when I was about 20 in a bar. Now past 50, it wouldn’t be at all funny!
    This being only the second time ready no your blog, I didn’t have any clue why you had the cane in the photo. It must be a hard thing to explain, both here and in real life. I’m glad you seem to have a very good support system for what must surely be a very difficult transition.
    I plan on going back and reading some of your earlier entries now that I’ve found you. I’m going to raid your blog reading list as well!

    1. Hi Barbara! Yes, I also feel better with some machine-stitching in the seams, even with a doubled hand-stitched thread. Eloflex is a game-changer!

      Thank you for your kind comment -- it's been really weird (and I've been debating how to talk about it on the blog -- if at all). The cane makes it more real somehow.

      Thanks for reading my blog! Tracy

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