Last month, we began a conversation about the intersection of Fashion, Craft, and DIY. That dialogue started with our friends at Vena Cava and continues this week with a story and a pattern from Anna Sui.

Below are instructions for Alabama Chanin’s basic version of an Anna Sui dress pattern in coral, the newest color in our cotton-jersey fabric collection. This fabric is hand-dyed in Nashville, Tennessee, using the common madder plant, which is native to Africa, temperate Asia, and America. The dye is extracted from the roots of this plant and creates a beautiful coral color.

Get started on your own Anna Sui dress, either basic or embellished, and leave us a note about the intersection of fashion and craft in the comments section of this post.



Anna Sui Vogue Pattern #V1217
2 yards of 60”-wide 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
1 spool Coats & Clark Button Craft thread
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, pins, needles, ruler, rotary cutter

Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: All three of these books contain the basic sewing and embroidery techniques we used to make our version of this dress.

Follow the (very concise) Vogue instructions exactly as written, with the following exceptions:

Hand-sew all seams with a straight stitch and using a double strand of thread on a single layer of our Alabama Chanin medium-weight cotton jersey. We felled our seams for the dress above, but that is a matter of taste and desired style.

We made our bow 1/2 the size of the pattern piece provided because of the fabric thickness. Simply fold pattern piece #5 in half lengthwise before cutting.

For the neckline, we omitted the piping in steps 4-8 and applied our standard Alabama Chanin rib-binding with a Herringbone stitch, but any stretchable embroidery stitch (such as cross-stitch or zig-zag chain) will work as well.

We also omitted step 13 in the Vogue Pattern and chose to apply a rib-binding to the hem of our dress with a Herringbone stitch.

Finally, we eliminated the slip dress for underneath the dress as our cotton jersey fabric is thick enough that a slip is not needed.


Fabric weight –Alabama Chanin 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color – Alabama Coral Fabric
Button Craft thread– Coats & Clark color #155 (Dogwood)
Knots – When you start and finish a length of thread¸ double-knot on the inside of the garment.
Binding Stitch – Herringbone Stitch (This is the stitch used to sew the rib-binding at the neckline.)

I am going to make this dress for myself (without the bow) in the negative reverse appliqued Anna’s Garden fabric pictured below:

To make your own Anna Sui à la Alabama Chanin negative reverse applique dress:


Anna Sui Vogue Pattern #V1217
2 yards of 60”-wide 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey for top layer
2 yards of 60”-wide 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey for backing layer (in same color as top layer or in contrasting color – as desired)
4 spools Coats & Clark Button Craft thread
Alabama Chanin Anna’s Garden stencil
Textile paint
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, pins, needles, ruler, rotary cutter

Cut out your pattern pieces in the desired size from your fabric for the top layer and repeat by cutting matching pattern pieces for the backing layer. Stencil your cut top layer of the dress with the Anna’s Garden stencil and textile paint. Pin together the top and bottom layers of each pattern piece, right sides of both layers facing up. Using a double strand of Button Craft thread and straight stitch, embroider the Anna’s Garden pattern using Alabama Chanin’s negative reverse applique technique from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, leaving knots exposed on the right side of the fabric.

Negative reverse applique follows the same rules as our standard reverse applique (detailed in Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style) except you stitch 1/8” inside the stenciled line and trim 1/8” outside the stenciled line. After all of the pattern pieces are completed, sew the dress by hand using a double strand of Button Craft thread and following the instructions for the basic dress above.

Thank you again to Anna Sui for inspiring young designers across the globe – and for showing me a simple kindness when I needed it the most.




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Click to read 54 comments
  1. Monica

    What an adorable dress & I am so excited about the new color!

    I’ve been going through a reconversion about fashion this past year: although I grew up wearing hand-me-downs and handmade things (even the ugly Christmas dresses my mom sometimes made me wear), the pride for that lifestyle is just starting to sink in. I’m starting to make choices in my own personal wardrobe for handcrafted garments & encouraging others to do the same. Like what we eat, I think we are (in part) what we wear!

    This series is very inspiring!
    Oh, and I hope I win that lovely dress :)

    1. Renae

      I am loving the posts exploring the relationship between AC and other designers! Anna Sui is one of my long time favorites as well. This AC interpretation is beautiful. The dress is beautiful.

      Please talk more about the dying process (and this beautiful color). I have tried using vegetable dye with no success.

      Have a wonderful day!

  2. joyce

    What a lovely dress — if I win I believe my daughter will likely raid my closet (as she has tried to do with the skirt I made from your kit). This reminds me to commit more time to reusing what I already have — I would love to remake something older into this dress.

    1. Antoinette

      I wish I learned to sew. I went to a Fashion H.S. and college and majored in Merchandising. I love and appreciate the art of the clothing. The color of this dress is great. Thank you.

    2. Robyn

      I am planning my first Alabama Chanin top with the the
      help of your books. I would love to win this beautiful dress, love the new color!

  3. vicki delong

    Alabama Chanin is the first place to land in order to understand what it looks like when fashion and craft intersect. You all show us beauty and heart in your design while at the same time pulling us in by allowing us to see your process, teaching us skills our grandmothers wanted us to learn and encouraging us to find our own comfy place and join the conversation. Thanks for including me.

  4. Anne

    I have always used ‘craft’ in my sewing and have never felt there was a hard line between it and fashion. Using things like embroidery, old neckties, or unusual buttons is what sets handmade fashion apart from storebought. Love this Anna Sui dress!

  5. Martha

    For me the intersection of craft and fashion is style. My handmade clothing, based in craft, will only be worn if they, and I, have style. At that point, if I can carry it off, they are fashionable — regardless of what’s on the cover of a magazine or on the runways. Alabama Chanin really elevated my “homemade” clothing that looked like Home Ec projects (because I lacked both the skill to get them to fit properly and the confidence to carry them off) to “handmade” garments that I feel great wearing — fashionably! Thanks for the chance to win this beautiful dress.

    1. Tonya

      I have always loved fashion and learned the craft of sewing very early in life. This passion to create beautiful clothes led me to a college degree in Home Economics with a major in textile design. Sadly, I got away from sewing until I had a baby girl late in life and I was able to joyfully indulge myself again for a while. The baby is now 14 and has asked me to make her confirmation dress from Alabama Chanin. I am beyond thrilled to have this opportunity and most of all to have instilled this belief of craft and fashion being special in my child.
      I have ordered the kits for the confirmation dress and will definitely be making the beautiful Anna Sui dress!
      Thank you so much for the much needed inspiration!

  6. Patti

    I have always loved to make things. Your series is inspiring me to reach beyond my usual box, and step into the world of patterns and fashion. Your books are wonderful guides; your online store of goods unsurpassed; your blog and pictures are every day inspiration to really give it a go. So hang onto your hats, cuz I know I’m in for one wild ride, and I can’t wait to start. Thanks for reaching out and giving us that extra spark.

  7. Monica S

    What a beautiful color! Thanks for the creative inspiration. I’ve always been a DIY person. I try to instill the value of handmade and repurposed in my daughters. This dress would be a lovely homecoming gift for my daughter who will be home (back in the US) in June after a six month stay and study at Oxford. Keep doing what your doing at Alabama Chanin. You are inspiring and encouraging to so many of us!!

  8. jamie

    wow! what a beautiful dress. i love clothing and have been inspired by the recent sewing/craft revolution to start sewing again. i was lucky to have learned from my grandmother, and i feel her love and spirit with me when i sew. thank you for being an inspiration, natalie! love your books.

    1. Janine Washle

      When designers are.inspired by a culture’s folkart, tribal motifs, crafting such as weaving, looming, quilting and then take elements of that and apply it to their unique concepts via beading, stitchery, color blocking, whatever, this is the intersection of inspiration; a road travelled via crafters, seamstress, fabric artists the world over.

  9. Denise

    My craft of choice has been loom knitting and needle knitting. I have recently picked up sewing more especially as influenced by the idea of slow design.
    I have to say, that while before I was mostly looking out for function in my loom knit designs, now I am much more aware of fashion, and how I can meld fashion,craft and function all together in one piece.
    I think I have come a long way on that journey, and that is reflected in my latest work.
    Thank you for teaching me to slow down (which is hard for an NJ girl to do) and reflect on my work in this way.

    1. jill skeie

      I can paint a picture, and someone will have to come to my studio to see it. I can write a poem, and someone will have to take the time to sit and read it. Or I can wear a wonderful
      creation, and everyone that crosses my path will be able to enjoy just a bit more beauty, a bit more enjoyment to their hectic day. :-) How’s that?

    1. Mareena Hunter

      As a plus size petite person, I also am not entering this…my thigh wouldn’t fit into it!
      But since I have discovered you, Natalie and your talented staff of people, you make me look at patterns a whole new way. Living over here in Germany we can get fun pattern magazines from the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and I don’t have to think of these cute styles as only made in ugly prints. Alabama Chanin makes me try and think “out of the box”. Especially being plus and petite. You make and inspire me to make beautiful handmade garments that don’t have that horrible “crafty” look we all did in the 70’s…I think that is one reason I was so against making my own clothing anymore. They always felt homemade. But by taking a good designed “basic” style, it can be a knock-out in an Alabama Chanin way! You’ve shown us with 2 different styles that I would not have thought would make up in cotton jersey so beautifully.
      Thank you for this series on craft and fashion. Keep it coming. It makes me feel good!

    2. Margaret

      What keeps me coming back to drink from the trough of your blog is the intersection of fashion and craft at Alabama Chanin. Your blog thoughtfully distills the essence of this movement. The allure of fashion is not only the esthetically pleasing look of a garment but the joy of sliding a dress over the body and having it fit like a dream. I shop with an awareness that EVERY single item of clothing for sale, whether a t-shirt or a couture gown, was made by someone. It was touched by someone’s fingers and hands and made into something beautiful. For me, it is the touch of a human hand that symbolizes the intersection of fashion and craft. Although not a couturier, I too can take needle and thread and stitch a garment. I too can take paper and glue and make a collage. I too can take pen to paper and write a novel. The DIY movement empowers us to create just like a professional artisan. For any human, the creative impulse extends from our heart to our hands. As technology overtakes our lives, our humanity craves the joy found in making something, and we clamor to hold, touch, stitch, and create on our own.

  10. Mary

    Creativity isn’t exactly my thing, but being fashion forward and stylish on the other hand is something I strive for daily! I think it’s safe to say that this dress sums up all of my favorite things. The color? So up and coming and springy. The shape? In my opinion, there isn’t anything much classier than a girl in a dress of this shape. It would make anyone look slender and feel beautiful. The bow? PERFECTION. So simple and southern. Definitely my favorite detail. Speaking of detail, the Anna Sui dress takes the cake for precious detail as well as great versatility. I can picture myself wearing it dressed up and dressed down all summer long. If I was crafty, this would definitely be at the top of my to do list. But, since I’m not, congratulations to whoever wins this dress. ROCK IT!

  11. Keri

    We can’t all be designers, but many of us have the skills to take a beautiful design and turn it into our own piece of clothing or art. It is such a gift when designers share their talent with others so that we too can wear (or display) our works of art with the that pride that comes with hand-work. And i would think, likewise, designers are grateful when others appreciate their creative work by turning them into finished pieces. Seems a symbiotic relationship.

  12. Heather

    What can I say? When fashion and craft intersect… when I first saw one of your pieces in a window in Barneys, I think my heart stopped. Like many of your fans, my mother taught me to sew and knit/ crochet at a young age. For her, it was a necessity to sew all of my and my sisters clothing. She was simply just passing down her knowledge. So when I saw this coat (it was a coat in navy and cream, seams on the outside as well as the knots…) I was so awestruck. I can do this, I thought!! I also thought, my mom would shudder if she saw those seams :) I have always thought fashion, especially Japanese designers who have such ‘free thinking’ about what fashion is… and craft, are amazing. How can the two not intersect?? When you create something, being it from a ‘high’ fashion designer or my mom sewing for her children, such pride should be given to each and every piece, thus making it a ‘craft’. And just yesterday, I sat down with my mom, with Your books she picked up from the library, as I taught her your ‘craft’ and we worked on her first piece from you. A bag kit I bought her for her birthday!!!

  13. Karen K.

    As a child of the Sixties (albeit, a very young one;)), I have always been deeply steeped in the DIY/ craft tradition. In those days, there was no cool and groovy acronym for it…it was simply what many of us did to pass the time while asserting our “individuality”. (I’m sure many of a certain age can recall embroidering cut-off jeans, stringing seed beads, macramé and even crocheting a bikini or two!) “Fashion”??? I don’t think we were sophisticated enough to consider it that. Then, and to a large extent even now, “fashion” was for stick-thin models, runways and glossy magazines. How far have we come? Clearly, still not far enough but with companies like Alabama Chanin, Vena Cava and retailers like Anthropologie and J.Crew, the gap is clearly beginning to close in. To start with a simple cotton t-shirt, “deconstruct” it, stencil paint, hand stitch and bead, and then wind up with the jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring “collections” of Alabama Chanin…I’d say that is the ultimate intersection between craft and fashion.

  14. Heather

    Craft and fashion have been intertwined for centuries, yet today seem so distant. In the past women spent afternoons and evenings pouring over the “new” fashions and constructing their versions for themselves and their families. There was thought and WORK put into it. Pride, beauty and function could be the ultimate results.
    Today we see something “new”, go to the mall and wear it the next day. We have no connection or thought for the person who made it- and there is most likely not much craft involved.
    I have become some version of a minimalist who appreciates fashion. I find that slow fashion is so appropriate because it gives each piece weight and worth. I don’t need to have so many pieces, so there is time to create and take pride in it. Thank you for being such an eloquent and worthy voice on this topic. And I would love that goreous dress! :)

    1. Kelly R

      fashion and craft: how can you separate the two? beautiful fashion leads to beautiful craft, and vice versa. i love to take out alexander mcqueen’s book and think about how he got started as a tailor: how could he best learn about what made outstanding clothes than by learning the craft of how those clothes come together? the dress in this post, BTW, is beautiful.

  15. erika stuart

    What an incredible color! Just seeing it has inspired me…I look forward to your daily inspirations and I know that what I am now making is influenced by your craft.

  16. Zer C

    I really agree with Mareena’s comment above. Your books and styles have allowed me freedom when thinking about clothing. I have always been a crafty person, adding fabric on the pocket of my jeans or embroidering a design on a shirt, but I never considered it fashion, I just wanted to not have my clothes look exactly like everyone elses’. Your work, especially in this series has helped liberate my ideas of seams and what the “right side” of the garment ought to look like. Such simple stiches can create such amazingly nuanced stye. Thank you for allowing me to use my craft to make beautiful fashion.

    1. Cathy Smith

      Lovely, my sister in law who has modeled AC fashions in the Songbirds collection just texted me and asked me to make this dress. Of course I said yes! Am just waiting to hear what color she wants it in. She is a singer/performer and I can just see her on stage in this one. Beautiful lines!

  17. Beki Biesterfelt

    This dress makes my heart sing for many reasons. First, I have begun eco-dyeing and bundling using plants and windfall items native to my area. I like the color you got from the madder plant and embrace your attention to natural methods. Second, I am a seamstress by trade and love your style & business story. I also like the idea of offering kits available to the DIY crowd alongside the rtw items. Lastly, I enjoy each & every journal/facebook post and I find they support my yearly goals –simplify, slow down – enjoy the process, guality over quantity.

  18. Elissa

    So lovely! That’s what I’ve always hearted about Alabama Chanin’s line and Natalie’s vulnerability in telling all her fans how it’s done, so they can repeat it at home. It’s high fashion in the hands of crafters everywhere, and for that, I say, kudos. It allows personal expression. It allows the creativity to extend to the maker and wearer. I LOVE that!

    Imagine a Venn diagram (remember those?) of two overlapping circles. One circle is Fashion. One circle is Craft. Alabama Chanin sits in the intersection. AC IS both.

    Thanks for this series…and including us all in the opportunity to win! xo

  19. Brenda Marks

    Wow! This blog is truly a never-ending source of inspiration. I love this madder fabric and hope to see it in person some day. Do you bring swatches to your workshops?

  20. Julie Bowersett

    I’ve sewn garments for myself for years, using what I see in the fashion world as inspiration. But the real advantage of crafting one’s own fashion is that I can take what I like from an inspiration and make it my own, perfecting the fit and using colors that suit me (rather than what the designer thinks is en vogue). Sadly, “handmade” has had to live down a lingering reputation from home-ec days gone by. Only recently has “handmade” been elevated to something desirable, and Alabama Chanin, you guys are part of the reason why.

  21. sacha

    I recently saw an older woman in my town wearing a long tee that she had embroidered down one side over leggings. I was so smitten with her look. She is 80 and was wearing something that she had embellished herself with daring colors and some beads to boot! Needless to say, she looked great. When I complimented her, she was very forthcoming about having gotten the idea from AC- I think that is where fashion and craft merge, when fashion ideas and concepts become something for all of us. Because it shouldn’t be something that goes on in New York once a year for the wealthy few, we should all be able to achieve a look we are proud of using our own fingers and materials that we love. You have made the process and craft so accessible – everyone wants to look great, and most of us need a little help.

  22. Connie

    I think those of us who craft do look to fashion for inspiration, but it also goes the other way. Marc Jacobs’ spring collection is full of crocheted pieces that come straight from the “crafter”

  23. Sloane LaCasse

    Fashion and craft crashed into each other for me this week. After being invited to a Mardi Gras ball unexpectedly, I rejected all of the gowns that I saw in stores and online, and forced myself to make something of my own. My skills are beginner, and I constantly worry about doing things the “right” way, so it was hard and scary, but in the moments that I almost gave up, I know I kept my head in the game by remembering some of the things we talked about at the Alabama Chanin workshop I attended, and one thing in particular jumped out at me…(paraphrasing here…) “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” Natalie reminded us as we nervously tried something new. The worst thing that could happen was only that I would have had to buy a dress from a store, and I would have had to do that anyway if I hadn’t tried to make my dress. Alabama Chanin’s special brand of fashion+craft is a major force that keeps me inspired while I try to be fashionable and true to my values all at once. And now I have a new, homemade dress which is going to Mardi Gras. Thank you so much!

  24. anissa

    I love the craftiness creeping into fashion. I love when a higly polished high end looking outfit turns out to be hand sewn. And when a shabby one flashs a shiny label at me. I love staying up at night sewing for therapy and then walking that process around town. I love demystifying the creation of garments for folks. Handmade is not secondrate, it’s a labour of love and that love sings louder than money if you sing it from the heart. x

  25. Kathy

    Fashion is what is current and modern, worn by those who enjoy the design lines, color, texture or pattern of that fashion. Craft is detail, fine workmanship and pride in works of the hands. Intersect those two and you have a signature piece of work. At AC the intersection is loud and clear. I love this work!

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  27. Jonn

    My belief is good design is tasteful and never goes out of fashion or style. It is not dictated by current runway shows or magazines. In my opinion, a Chanel Suit or a time intensive piece from Alabama Chanin are the epitome of fashion, craft, art, timeless, and heirloom. My first vintage Chanel pieces were acquired while thrifting. I bought them to serve as art, inspiration, and motivation in my sewing room; the beauty, details, and hand stitching. [Alabama Chanin cured my loathing of hand stitching, which is now my preference for sewing.] The Alabama Chanin clothing, books, website, company, and workshops provide even more than the Chanel pieces.

    With my grandmother’s guidance I started sewing at age four. Sewing is my favored hobby, as necessary to me as food or shelter. I started sewing and smocking for my niece before she was born and have never stopped, though I have since taught her sewing. It is a part of our bond we continue sharing that is both exclusive and inclusive. She is studying design and engineering. It is my plan to gift her an AC workshop together after her graduation.

    My desire to win the Anna Sui dress is for it to be my niece’s first authentic piece of Alabama Chanin clothing. The color and size suit her. She would love and care for it, appreciate the time and effort it took to create it. From an early age she has valued and preferred handmade to off the rack mass produced.

    Thank you for the beautiful post and the opportunity for consideration.

    1. Pamela Keown

      This is the most beautiful dress I have ever seen. I love the color. My hopes are placed on winning the dress. But I will need to know how to recreate the color if some other wonderful person receives the (my) dress.

    1. Michele Anderson

      Truley inspirational as I have commented on every time I see the work . I made my first nightie in school 42 years ago all by hand . My mother taught me to sew from the age of 6..I stopped when she died 25 years ago while we were working together making wedding gowns. But some time ago I realized that it was in my blood and i missed it. I love your web site love the clothes and promise i will make one. I used Vogue patterns all my sewing days and used to love the challenge of making the hardest ones..Couture Vogue..I won a first prize at The Royal Melbourne Show as a student . What you are doing is helping take the Myth that we lived under that if you werent a smart student you did craft!! Thankyou thankyou …and it makes me so happy to see all the younger (girls and boys) enjoying sewing..on my bucket list is do one of your workshops..just have to get there from Australia..

  28. Julia Morehead

    I find so much inspiration in your work!
    For me fashion and craft were meant to be interwoven. Just look at the beautiful, oppulant clothing from a few hundred years ago. It was all made by hand by super talented craftspeople.
    What I think may be the best part is that when you have the talent to craft your own fashion, you have a perfect, custom fit. High fashion, tailor made just for your own body :-)

  29. Alison

    Beauty in the simplicity of the design of the dress and the embroidery and the color just brings it to all to life.
    I am the granddaughter and neice of women who sewed professionally and for pleasure. I love the fact that when you sew you add your touch to the garment and bring individuality to your creation. I’ve been collecting embroidered items for a while now because I think of the pieces as Women’s Art. An embellishment of just a few stiches can make something commercial or repurposed unique. Years ago my aunt bought a sweater in California and embroidered it for my daughter. She sent it to us in NJ and when my daughter saw the plain sweater in a department store she was even happier with her lovely gift .
    I’d love the dress as a post-maternity gift for my daughter whose favorite color has always been pink.

  30. Virginia Burrow

    This dress is absolutely gorgeous and would suit both my daughters beautifully! I would love to know more about the dyeing process to get the stunning coral colour. I am currently madly stitching up a basic camisole dress (from Studio Style) to dye at an indigo dyeing workshop I am attending next weekend. The idea of using Chanin hand sewing techniques with commercial patterns is something I also definitely want to explore. Thank you for providing so much inspiration!

  31. Jennifer Bowles

    Thank you so much for such an inspiring post. I’ve collected so many of the supplies for AC projects and I’m so looking forward to making this dress as well. I have the ambition to make some things for Christmas and since the projects are so portable I can take them with me to work on any where I go! Someday I hope to get a weekend in Alabama at a workshop! Thank you for being so generous with your ideas and creativity.

    1. Leah

      I am constantly amazed at the beauty and seemingly endless creativity that comes out of Alabama Chanin! I just received the new book “Alabama Studio Sewing + Design” the other day and keep taking peeks throughout my busy days. The clothing and samples are gorgeous, and I love how the end of the book has detailed information about all the specific design choices you made for each item or fabric close-up. Thank you! You have enriched my life! I have made a few t-shirts for my 18 month old daughter and several for my 10 year old. Right now we’re working on one together with lots of applique and beading she designed herself. I always get compliments on these outfits and refer everyone to your website and books!

      About craft and fashion intersecting–I think they go hand in hand when dealing with couture garments and maybe also in countries where traditional dress is still created by hand (weddings, ceremonies, etc) but I think craft is definitely missing when we’re talking about the majority of fashion. It is so refreshing to see what you and your company are doing–from the slow design concept to using locally sourced materials to empowering people by sharing so generously your techniques and patterns. Your positive energy is contagious! Thank you.

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