Last fall, as an extension of our Makeshift initiative, we began a new series of events and conversations called On Design. The series explores art, design, makers, relationships, and the elevation of craft. Our conversation in January explored William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Here are some of Natalie’s thoughts from the presentation. Feel free to share your own thoughts and join the conversation.
When I started the company that Alabama Chanin has become today, I had a vision for what I wanted to accomplish. At the time, I wouldn’t have identified that vision as a business model—but as the company expanded, I understood that I wanted to design and grow the business in a sustainable way. In a world of fast fashion, mass production, and machines, I wanted to design slowly and thoughtfully. I also wanted to promote skills that seemed to be vanishing, particularly hand-sewing skills—like those used by quilters.
This week, we take another look at the lives our clothes have led and the memories forever linked with them. For some reason, we associate memories with objects—or in this case, clothing. Every time I look inside, I think that my closet is, in a small way, some sort of prism through which I see the world.
Project Alabama Garment #17821
Built in September 2005
Pattern: A-359 Long Coat
Fabric: 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Outer layer color: Sapphire
Backing layer color: Black
Beads: Black bugle and chop
Sequins: Gun Metal
Seams: Inside felled
Owner: Natalie Chanin
The Beaded Facets Coat was originally created for the Project Alabama Spring/Summer 2006 Collection, as you can see in the picture above left. It was presented in the first and only runway show we ever produced (thank you Gail Dizon, Jennifer Venditti, Lori Goldstein, Jake Xerxes Fussell, Ruby Jane, and to UPS—who sponsored the show). I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that show made the cover of Women’s Wear Daily the next morning. I had to look three times to realize that it was actually the cover and not from the interior of the magazine. There were eventually 14 of these coats produced in both the Amber and Sapphire colorways shown above for Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Jeffrey Atlanta, and a few special clients.
In January, we added to our ongoing Makeshift series, adapting available garment patterns using Alabama Chanin techniques with a Merchant & Mills pattern for the Shirt Dress. This month, we’ve created another Merchant & Mills garment in our own style—an Alabama Chanin version of the Factory Dress (love the name). This piece is shown here without embellishment to highlight the simple design, but you can choose to utilize any of the techniques from our previous posts or our Swatch of the Month Club to embellish your project
Keep in mind that Merchant & Mills is a UK-based design house and that UK sizes differ a bit from US numbered sizes. Their website has clear size charts that can help you select the right pattern size for your body. Also note that their patterns are priced in pounds, not US dollars, and you should take into account shipping costs when shopping. Alternatively, there are quite a few stockists in the US with ready links available here.
Barbeque lovers are often staunch proponents and defenders of their favorite preparation, favorite meat, and favorite sauce—or lack thereof. Just as there is an entire range of styles of barbeque (everything from pulled pork with slaw to smoked chicken to a plate of burnt ends), there is a whole spectrum of barbeque sauces. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of sugary red sauces; but as an Alabama native, I must wholeheartedly profess my love of our native white barbeque sauce.
Many of you may be unfamiliar with this particular variety of sauce, as it is a North Alabama specialty. But, it is a staple of almost every barbeque restaurant in the area and has found its way to our tables and local grocery store shelves. White sauce is a tangy condiment made of mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper. While that might sound a little odd to the uninitiated, those in the know are evangelists for the stuff.
While white barbeque sauce has been served in the area for years, local lore suggests that Bob Gibson of the legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, invented it in 1925. Bob worked for the L & N Railroad Company, but would host barbeques on the weekends, smoking meat over a hickory pit in his backyard. Eventually, his food became so popular that he quit his job at the railroad and opened a proper restaurant.
Indigo – electric, deep, light, or tropical
Indigo can be bright, violet-blue, midnight blue.
Electric indigo represents the sixth chakra—the Anja—that includes the third eye.
It is the color of intuition and self-awareness.
Today, the New Leaves stencil + layers of indigo of the Indigo Shell Top made me think of this:
A creation of Miya Ando: a representation of the bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico.
Phosphorescent leaves floating on a pond, lighting up the night with a dreamy, radiant blue glow.
More one-of-a-kind Indigo pieces have been added to our current Collection.
Those traveling to The Shoals often ask for the best routes into and out of the area. I’m not sure what your definition of “best” may be, but I personally love to travel visually interesting routes, when time allows. For those that have the time and inclination for a scenic drive, I always recommend taking part of the journey on the Natchez Trace Parkway.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile historical path that travels from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, and connects the Cumberland and Mississippi rivers. It follows a geologic ridgeline that prehistoric animals followed in search of new grazing land and water sources. The Trace connected tribal homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations. Native travelers used the same pathways repeatedly, creating natural sunken sections in the ground.
We love you all. We love the Fourth of July. We love our staff. We love for our staff to spend time with their families. In celebration of Independence Day this year, The Factory Store and Café, the Alabama Chanin offices, and our production studios will be closed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 3-5, 2015. Some of our staff will celebrate by spending time on the Tennessee River and barbecuing with family and friends. Maggie and I will be eagerly awaiting fireworks and participating in our yearly neighborhood parade.
Here are some ideas on how to get ready for the weekend festivities:
Get started on a DIY Flag Quilt
Decorate 4th of July napkins
Sip a Strawberry Rosemary Prosecco Cocktail
Make (and share) a cobbler
Dress your best in one of our Made in the USA garments (we’re sporting Indigo this summer…)
Happy Birthday America (coming soon).
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
According to Wikipedia, supply chain is defined as “a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer.” At Alabama Chanin we strive to responsibly produce quality, sustainable products—at every level of the supply chain. We believe that responsibility means transparency and understanding where each material comes from and whose hands it touches before it arrives to the end consumer. For over a decade, we have worked tirelessly to secure a supply chain that is, as much as is humanly possible, Made in the USA.
With events like the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, consumers are asking questions about how and where their clothes are made. We’ve noticed an increase in emails, phone calls, and questions about our 100% organic cotton jersey fabric—and we welcome those questions. In response, we have compiled all the information here. Each time we take a closer look into our supply chain, we discover something new. This is the projected course of our supply chain in the best case scenario, which is often altered by Mother Nature. Unfortunately, there are always circumstances out of our control, so we share this information with that in mind. As of 2015, this is every step of the supply chain for our medium-weight cotton jersey—from Texas, to the Carolinas, to Alabama. Look for more posts on supply chain for threads, beads, and our other notions coming soon.
Once our garments are born and leave the nest, they have rich lives. At least that is what we hope—what we believe. We work hard to design and construct pieces that will last for many years and become heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. For owners of Alabama Chanin garments, it’s common that the garments are integrated into their lives for years and years. In celebration of this sentiment, we decided to highlight garments from our archives—and, where possible, to follow their journeys and see where they have landed.
My closet seemed the natural place to start, and so we begin with a very personal dress from my life:
Project Alabama Garment #5387
Built in August 2002
Pattern: A-67 Slip Dress (18 pattern pieces)
Stencil: 116 Star Flower
Fabric: Recycled T-shirts in shades of Navy
Seams: Outside Felled
Owner: Natalie Chanin
This week, we feature another in our series of posts from makers we admire highlighting Alabama Chanin garments—specially tailored for the wearer, using techniques outlined in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. Previous posts from Amy Herzog and Heather Ross reveal what we really already know: we are not defined by our garment fit issues and owning something that truly fits your own body can enhance your confidence.
Today we are delighted to post kind words from Amy Butler. Amy is a designer whose fabric prints are instantly identifiable; her sewing patterns (we love her unique bags) are exciting and feel fresh. Over the years, Amy has created a signature line of home goods that include lush looking rugs, covetable wallpaper, and lovely wall art and stationery. Make time to browse her website—I guarantee you will end up with a wish list a mile long.
In the past, Amy has had varying degrees of success finding the right garment length, so we tailored our Classic Coat pattern to fall at exactly the right place for her height. View Chapter 2: Fit + Customization, pages 112-115 in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns for more suggestions on how to best alter your garment’s length to your own measurements.