Tag Archives: Desktop of the Month



October is here and—finally—we are beginning to get a reprieve from the heat of summer. By now, my house has gotten back into the school, work, homework, bedtime routine. (I think every year Maggie manages to negotiate a later bedtime, while mine gets earlier and earlier.) October is one of my favorite months, because it starts to really look and feel like autumn. Leaves are changing and falling, and backyard fire pits are put to regular use. If you want to visit and make a drive down the Natchez Trace, this is a great month to choose.

We hope you have been enjoying the new hours, offerings, and libations at The Factory. October is National Cookbook Month and, given our obsession with cookbooks, we have plenty to flip through and share. Some of our current favorites are available in the online store and include the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, Heritage by Sean Brock, Pure Pork Awesomeness by Kevin Gillespie, Anne Quatrano’s Summerland, Hugh Acheson’s The Broad Fork, and Steven Satterfield’s Root to Leaf (among others).

As for the rest of the month, here’s what it looks like for us:

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September comes as a bit of a relief this year, as it brings more routine, less travel, and a few moments to relax. While I’ve enjoyed my unforgettable summer with Maggie (especially our cross-country train trip), most parents will agree that there’s just the slightest feeling of liberation when your child goes back to school (albeit a few tears—how can she already be in 4th grade?). Our fundraising Friends of the Café Dinner with Rob McDaniel sold out quickly and Billy Reid’s Shindig was a beautiful success. One sad realization as September arrives: We must say farewell to our beloved tomato sandwiches until next year.

Here are a few things going on this month:

September 2 – National Grits for Breakfast Day. Many of us enjoy grits for breakfast on many a morning. The Factory Café serves Anson Mills Coarse Yellow Grits for brunch each Saturday. Come out and join us this month as we launch our “adult beverage” program for brunch, lunch, and upcoming events.

You might also want to experiment with grits for dinner and use this recipe for shrimp and grits from Chef Chris Hastings of the Hot and Hot Fish Club.

September 7 – Labor Day. Labor Day is annually held on the first Monday of September. Alabama Chanin will be closed for this day as our staff takes some well-deserved time off from their labors. Enjoy!

September 11 – National Day of Remembrance. Everyone alive on September 11, 2001 remembers their own personal experience of that day. Breathe, reflect, remember.

September 13 – National Grandparents Day. Since I’m also now a grandparent, we’re going to celebrate with Sunday lunch on the back porch. I’m looking forward to squeezing my little Stella Ruth.

September 18-19 – Patagonia’s Worn Wear Repair Truck @ The Factory. The Worn Wear truck will be making a stop here as part of its fall tour. Bring your well loved and worn garments (of any brand) for a free repair by the Patagonia team. We will offer meals at The Factory Café on both days and have on hand a DIY Alabama Chanin mending station.

September 21 – International Peace Day. Breathe deeply and send positive energy into a world that certainly needs it.

September 23 – Autumnal Equinox. Welcome Autumn and the big, bright Harvest Moon. Celebrate the changing of the seasons and take time to think about what this moment once meant to farming communities. If weather permits, light a fire, find a glass of cider, and celebrate the changing of the seasons.

As part of my cross-country trip I found lots of time to be still, clear my mind, and, (gasp) stitch. Hopefully we can all find some time to do more of that with September’s Swatch of the Month—couching in our Medium Polka Dot stencil.

For detailed instructions and photos, please consult Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

Purchase a membership to 2015’s Swatch of the Month Club here.


Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Backing layer fabric – Dove
Couching layer fabric – Dove
Stencil – Medium Polka Dot
Treatment – Couching
Textile paint – Pearl Slate
Button Craft thread – Slate #26

This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background or smartphone screensaver, is available for download from our Resources page.

Purchase a membership to the Swatch of the Month Club at any point in the year and receive all prior month’s swatches together in one bundle, with an entire year’s worth of supplies and notions.

Visit our Journal for ongoing Swatch of the Month samples, photographs, and projects.



Summer is now officially in full swing. As adults, we rarely get to indulge in a full-scale month of vacation—as our children often do. But, in July I like to take a few extra days to enjoy summer with my family and friends. Maggie absolutely loves July (and July 4th festivities are some of her favorites) and her excitement is contagious. So I am preparing for a month or so of fireworks and sparklers, cookouts, swimming pools, cocktails, and beaches.

My garden is producing peppers and (the beloved Alabama) tomatoes. The summer is just such a challenge: How many tomato sandwiches can one person eat?

Here is what some of my July looks like. I’m leaving room for improvisation:

July 4 – Independence Day and my neighborhood’s epic parade and potluck.

July 6 – National Fried Chicken Day. I’m headed to Nashville; hello Hot Chicken.

July 20 – On this day, back in 1969, Neil Armstrong took man’s first steps on the moon. Maggie and I are headed to San Francisco on the California Zephyr for our upcoming events @ Heath Ceramics.

July 24 – Opening Party at the Boiler Room @ Heath Ceramics in San Francisco. Come out to celebrate our new collaboration with Heath Ceramics. If you can’t make it to the party, the show will run through August 23rd.

July 25 – National Hot Fudge Sundae Day. If you are in The Shoals, a trip to Trowbridge’s is definitely in order.

July 26 – One-Day Sewing Workshop @ San Francisco, CA

July 30 – Makeshift Conversation @ Heath Ceramics. Cathy and I will be lead a conversation around design, craft, and fashion—followed by an interactive workshop. Reserve your (free) spot for the talk in advance here. And purchase your ticket to the workshop here, where we will be designing, creating, and making a DIY Tote Kit.

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We’ve written each month about how quickly this year is FLYING by—and this month is no different. I caught myself telling someone the other day that I’m only going to be away a couple of weekends this coming month; I plan to spend the other weekends at home working in the garden, which could use a little (a lot of) love. My lettuces and spinach continue to produce with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant tucked neatly in between. Hopefully, by the end of the month I will taste the first tomatoes of summer. (Hello, BLT.)

June is National Iced Tea Month. I would like to say that we will drink more iced tea to celebrate—but our iced tea consumption at the café is never at a lull. Sweet, Un-sweet, Half-and-Half… we love them all.

Here is what June has in store:

June 1-5: Patterns + Alterations Studio Week @ The Factory

June 8-12: Classic Studio Week @ The Factory

June 12: Downtown Wig & Mustache Bash: A Drag Spectacular – throw a little glitter and some shade as Shoals Pridefest kicks off its inaugural event.

June 19: Juneteenth Day – the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States

June 21: Summer Solstice and Father’s Day—all wrapped up into one. A great day to get outside and celebrate the great dads in our lives.

June 26-28: Our Classic Sewing Weekend at Blackberry Farm. Find more information here.

June 29: Mother/Daughter One-Day Sewing Retreat at Blackberry Farm. Classic Sewing Weekend registrants, click here to reserve your spots.

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February is technically a short month, but it was so fast and furious that I had to make conscious efforts to be mindful AND productive. March looks to be just as busy, but in the best way—full of things I want to do and people I want to see.

It is National Women’s History month, so we hope you will take time to revisit some of our favorite stories of Real Women and to share your own.

Here is what March looks like for me (deep breath):

March 2 – Dr. Seuss’ birthday, now known as Read Across America day. I’m currently working on several books, among them: The Optimistic Child by Martin E. P. Seligman, Encyclopedia of Needlework by Thérèse de Dillmont (in research for a possible new book on the tools of handwork), and revisiting Mary Renault’s The Last of the Wine.

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Our final Swatch of the Month for 2014 combines several techniques explored (and hopefully mastered) in previous months’ swatches—including appliqué, negative reverse appliqué, and eyelet beading. The design, titled Natalie’s Dream, is beautifully intricate and one of my personal favorites (hence the name).

To create the swatch, begin by stenciling the design to the top layer of fabric using your transfer method of choice. (The Facets stencil employed here is available for download from our Resources page.)

Align your top and backing layers of fabric, with right sides up, and pin together. Thread your needle and knot off.

Using your stenciled top layer of fabric as a guide, select a flower shape and begin straight-stitching directly on the edge of the stenciled shape. Cut the top layer of fabric 1/8” outside the edge of the stenciled flower shape, leaving a sliver of top-layer fabric beyond your stitching line. This creates the negative reverse appliqué effect.

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The October Swatch of the Month highlights one of our most popular embroidery treatments—Alabama Fur. The technique, first presented in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, combines our Spiral stencil with backstitch-worked embroidery floss, and incorporating exposed knots and tails. Simple, yet time consuming, the end result is a hypnotic continuation of curves that is both a beauty to behold and touch (the texture is irresistible).

To create the swatch, begin by stenciling the design to the top layer of fabric using your transfer method of choice. (The Spirals stencil is available for download from our Resources page.)

Align your top and backing layers of fabric, with right sides up and pin together. Using four strands of embroidery floss (or two strands doubled) thread your needle. When you knot off, use a double knot and make sure to leave a 1” tail of floss (note that this tail is longer than we use when working with Button Craft thread, for effect).

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The Swatch of the Month for September continues August’s emphasis on texture as it relates to an overall design perspective. Couching has a sculptural quality and it places significant focus on the stencil or design motif it highlights. This stencil, Anna’s Garden, works well with the couching technique, as it has lots of curved shapes and forms.

Traditional couching is a very old embroidery technique in which yarn is laid across a surface fabric and sewn into place (usually with a satin stitch). While we have used cotton yarn in some of our couching designs, we most often substitute our cotton jersey, cut into strips and pulled to make a smaller version of our cotton jersey pulls. These are more substantial and look beautiful on coats, dresses, pillows – and many other pieces.

Couching is simple in concept, but more difficult in execution. It is difficult, if not impossible, to pin the yarn or rope to the base fabric before stitching it down, so you must use your fingers to turn and shape it into place.

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August’s Swatch of the Month combines the beading and ruffle elements we explored in May, June, and July. The stencil, Kristina’s Rose, uses curved lines to create a somewhat abstract floral design. Those curves, when accentuated with beads and appliquéd fabric strips, create a texturally rich fabric treatment. We used three different techniques to create this swatch: folded stripe appliqué, beaded chain stitch appliqué, and beaded rosebud stitch.

Begin by cutting ½” strips of fabric in two colors. The number of strips needed will depend upon the surface area your stencil will cover and the number of shapes you choose to appliqué.

Transfer the design to your fabric using your stenciling method of choice. An enlargeable version of this stencil with accompanying instructions and fabric map are shown on pages 126-127 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. You can also download a copy of the Kristina’s Rose stencil from our Resources page.

Select one rose shape to embellish using folded stripe appliqué. To do this, hold together two of your ½” strips (using the two different colors), then randomly fold them back and forth along the line of the stenciled rose shape, while sewing them into place with a beaded straight stitch. Refer to page 108 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design for detailed instructions and photographs.

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The July Swatch of the Month demonstrates one of our popular beaded embroidery techniques, the Satin Stars design. This technique is highlighted in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, where you can view an in-depth fabric map of the embroidery. Use the Satin Stars design to add embellishment using either an allover or placement technique, as it works well in both small and large quantities.

An enlargeable version of this stencil can be found on page 128 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design or you can download a version from our Resources page. Transfer the stencil to your fabric using the stenciling method of choice.

Begin working the smaller star shapes first. You will fill the “arms” of each small star using a satin stitch, adding one seed bead or chop bead to each stitch. (See page 84 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design for more information on the satin stitch.) Next, you will work a beaded backstitch – adding one bugle bead to each stitch – around the inner circle of each small star shape. Fill the center circle of the small stars with full chop or seed beading.

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