Tag Archives: Makeshift

MAKESHIFT @ SAN FRANCISCO

Makeshift is a series of events, talks, workshops, and gatherings that invite a dynamic group of participants to explore the ways in which the fashion, art, and design worlds are inextricably linked to the world of craft and DIY, and how each of these worlds elevates the others.

In its fourth year, Makeshift conversations create an intersection where we can explore, discuss, and celebrate the role of local production, handmade, and craft/DIY in fashion and design as a way to empower individuals, businesses, and communities.

We continue to expand the ideas that were born from our first Makeshift event in 2012 to create a global conversation among artists, designers, and makers. Each year, panelists and participants share their stories and experiences involving collaborative projects and making within their industries. And in 2013, we introduced a method to facilitate the conversation: guests were invited to express their thoughts, literally or conceptually, using an organic cotton tote bag from Alabama Chanin as a blank canvas. A variety of materials were also provided to design, decorate, and customize each bag.

ALABAMA CHANIN – MAKESHIFT CONVERSATION @ SAN FRANCISCO

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ON DESIGN: WILLIAM MORRIS + ARTS AND CRAFTS

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.

From Natalie:

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.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGN: WILLIAM MORRIS + ARTS AND CRAFTS

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JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM GATHER BRUNCH

Last Sunday afternoon, we hosted a brunch—part of our Friends of the Café | Makeshift Dinner Series—to benefit Jones Valley Teaching Farm, an organization that works with students and within schools to create and supplement healthy food curriculum. Jones Valley’s Good School Food program encourages students to buy into the concept of “good food” by learning about where it comes from and how it can benefit their families and communities—beginning in early childhood through high school graduation.

This year, Jones Valley took a unique approach to fundraising; as part of an initiative called Gather, twenty-two restaurants and individuals hosted dinners on Saturday, May 16, with all ticket sales benefiting the farm. The following Sunday, Alabama Chanin hosted the very first Gather Brunch to wrap up the weekend’s festivities.

ALABAMA CHANIN – JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM GATHER BRUNCH

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DIY PANTS: VOGUE PATTERN V8499

In our continuing Makeshift series that demonstrates how design, craft, and fashion can influence on another, we adapt another pattern using Alabama Chanin techniques. This pattern is from Marcy Tilton, a longtime Vogue pattern designer, author of three sewing books, and a name well known to crafters and sewers alike.

As always, we encourage you to use patterns as a source of inspiration rather than absolute guidelines. The more personalization you bring to each piece, the more the final garment will mean to you as the maker—and the more you will elevate the making process.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY PANTS: VOGUE PATTERN V8499

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ON DESIGN: RAY AND CHARLES EAMES

“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality, per se.” – Charles Eames

Our first official On Design conversation and event centered on the Bauhaus—founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius. This movement’s core objective was a radical concept: to reimagine the material world to reflect the unity of all the arts. The main influences behind the Bauhaus were Modernism, the Arts and Crafts movement and, perhaps most importantly, Constructivism.

The Bauhaus school was closed in 1933 by its own leadership under pressure from the Nazi regime and many of the designers and artists who had been working within the school and those with similar philosophies, moved to the United States. Those of you who were present for our On Design: Bauhaus discussion (or who read about it) will remember that this movement came to change my life (and save my life), because the School of Design at North Carolina State University grew out of Black Mountain College—where some of the instructors from the Bauhaus settled. And, thus I essentially received a Bauhaus training.

The reach of the Bauhaus school is immeasurable. The foundations and design approach influenced designers like Frank Lloyd Wright, Edith Heath, Mies Van De Roe, Le Corbusier, Herbert Bayer, Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer, and eventually Ray and Charles Eames.

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MAKESHIFT DINNER SERIES (PAST AND PRESENT)

Last year, we launched our Friends of the Café Dinner and Factory Chef Series, which was quickly established as part of our Makeshift initiative. As with most things here at Alabama Chanin, the idea evolved over time from an interesting idea into something bigger. In 2015, we are continuing to host Friends of the Café dinners, combined with a corresponding workshop series—a branch of The School of Making. The series will combine our celebration of slow, sustainable, and inventive food with our ongoing conversations on craft, design, food, making, and community.

The initial idea for this series was simple—each month, The Factory Café would feature seasonal dishes inspired by regional chefs (or restaurants) that shared our values of celebrating place, artisanal craftsmanship, and good food.

MAKESHIFT DINNER SERIES (PAST AND PRESENT)

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ON DESIGN: THE HISTORY OF STENCILING

Our On Design conversation in December focused on the practice of stenciling—including examples of designs throughout history and various techniques used over time. Stenciling is at the core of our Alabama Chanin collections; currently it is the sole means by which we transfer decorative patterns onto our fabrics. We have explored DIY stenciling in our Studio Book series, and are even offering a one-day workshop on the topic next year.

The use of stencils dates back over 37 thousand years, as evident in Neanderthal cave art found in Spain. These paintings are outlines of hand prints; it is theorized that Prehistoric man or woman would place their hand against the wall, and then blow finely crushed pigment around it. These stencils were accompanied by shapes from the natural world and daily life: animals, hunting scenes, and ritual all figure prominently.

ON DESIGN: THE HISTORY OF STENCILINGPhoto by Stephen Alvarez. Link through to see the color version and see more of his caving photos here.

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ON DESIGN: THE SCHOOL OF BAUHAUS + CREATIVE PROCESS

In October of 2014, and as an extension of our Makeshift initiative, we began a new series of events and conversations called On Design. This series explores art, design, makers, relationships, and how those who create can elevate craft in general. Natalie hosted our inaugural event, which was an exploration of the school of Bauhaus and the creative process. While it’s no substitute for being there in person, here are some of Natalie’s thoughts from the presentation. Feel free to share your own thoughts and join the conversation.

From Natalie:

When making plans to expand The Factory beyond a space used solely for manufacturing, I initially imagined a place for our workshops to be housed along with a kitchen for catering. We now have a beautiful space for working and making, as well as a kitchen that accidentally developed into a weekday, lunch-only café that works in-service to our store and design + manufacturing facility.

This space has further developed into a place for the community to meet over tables and food and design and conversations and (hopefully) more.

I grew up in the community of Central, which is about 10 miles west x northwest of The Factory, as the crow flies. I grew up in a time when there was very little art in the school curriculum, but there was still much making being done in the home. My grandmothers and grandfathers planted gardens, raised cows, put up tomatoes, made bread, tatted lace, and made their environments as beautiful as possible with the resources they had available. This work came to inspire my entire work history and the space known as The Factory today. I always said that I went to the art school of “Pinkie and Blue Boy.” Those were the only paintings that hung in our home as I was growing up. These, along with several other paintings, with names like Tyrolean Hof, and Jesus on the Rock, were always in the background, subtle inspiration for our daily lives.

ON DESIGN: THE SCHOOL OF BAUHAUS + CREATIVE PROCESS

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ZINGERMAN’S @ THE FACTORY

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig and his business partner Paul Saginaw opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Today, that institution has evolved into a collection of food specialty businesses (known as the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, or ZCoB) that includes a bakery, mail order operation, a coffee company, candy manufacturer, a barbeque restaurant, creamery, and a catering and event planning service. The decision to build new, independent businesses (instead of franchising the deli) proved to be an sustainable strategy for operating a business, an effective approach for establishing growth opportunities for employees, and a way to ultimately give back to their Ann Arbor community.

In March 2015, we are delighted to be hosting Ari and our friends from Zingerman’s here at The Factory in Florence. I’ve long been an admirer and student of Ari’s work, teachings, and books. (And as an introduction to Ari, you might want to check out this interview with him on our Journal.) His philosophies and approaches to running a business have helped me and the Alabama Chanin family create a better work environment here at The Factory. Our staff studied Ari’s latest book, Managing Ourselves, as part of a workplace enrichment program, and we each wrote visions of how we want to take ownership of our individual roles, while benefiting the team and helping the company grow as a whole.

ZINGERMAN'S @ THE FACTORY

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ON DESIGN: A MAKESHIFT CONVERSATION SERIES

Beginning  October 13th, 2014 and as part of our ongoing Makeshift conversation, Alabama Chanin will host a series of discussions and lectures about design, art, business, community, and plenty of other topics. Events will be held at the Factory on the second Monday of each month. The format will shift, depending on topic and presenter, but you can look forward to informal talks, multi-media presentations, and hands-on workshops.

Makeshift began over three years ago as a conversation about design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—how they intersect and how each discipline elevates the others. Since its beginnings, we have expanded the conversation, discussing how making in groups can build relationships and communities, all the while examining what the design community can learn from the slow food movement.

ON DESIGN: A MAKESHIFT CONVERSATION SERIES

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MAKESHIFT 2014: A RECAP

Two weeks ago, our team left New York feeling excited and energized—and with the conversation at The Standard the night before fresh on our minds. This was the third annual Makeshift, held in New York each spring during Design Week. Over the years the conversation has shifted—but our goal of learning how certain themes cross industries (and how they learn from each other and work together) stays the same.

Makeshift began as a conversation about the intersection of the disciplines of design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—and, on a bigger level, using this intersection as an agent of change in the world. Since then, we’ve explored making as individuals, and how making as a group can open conversations, build communities, and help us co-design a future that is filled with love and promise—for planet, community, and one another.

SIDE-BY-SIDE

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MAKESHIFT 2014

MAKESHIFT began three years ago as a conversation about the intersection of the disciplines of design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—and, on a bigger level, using this intersection as an agent of change in the world. Since then, we’ve explored making as individuals, and how making as a group can open conversations and build communities.

For MAKESHIFT 2014, we have once again partnered with Standard Talks in New York to host the conversation, and will cover a range of topics, including raw materials, craft, fashion, global communities, food, and the act of making. 2014 James Beard award-winning chef Ashley Christensen will also participate in the discussion, helping answer the question: What can design learn from food?

MAKESHIFT-04W

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MAKESHIFT POP-UP SHOP + ALLISON MOORER

We are in New York City this week for our third year of the MAKESHIFT initiative. MAKESHIFT is, at its core, a conversation about the intersections of fashion, design, craft, and food, and how each discipline can better work together to elevate those principles. Alabama Chanin has set up shop at our friend Lisa Fox’s beautiful East Village store, lf8, for the month of May. lf8 (elevate) is also featuring the work of photographer Mary Ellen Mark, as well as a special performance piece by musician and friend Allison Moorer. Event details are as follows: Store Hours Tuesday – Sunday 12:00pm – 6:00pm Closed Mondays lf8 80 East 7th Street New York, NY 10003 The pop-up features works by Mary Ellen Mark, the Alabama Chanin collection, and one-of-a kind, indigo-dyed Alabama Chanin garments and accessories, alongside the lf8 collection. Visit in the afternoons from 2:00pm until 4:00pm through Friday, May 16 to sit with Allison Moorer and sew, talk, sing, and conspire. ALLISON-LF8-01W Continue reading

THE TOTE BAG

The tote bag has almost completely replaced all other sorts of bags in my house. I have different types of bags for different purposes. There are organic canvas totes in a variety of sizes for trips to the grocery store and for holding my laptop and supplies as they are ferried between my home and office, plus smaller bags to keep Maggie’s school supplies and lunch in one place as we travel between home and school. Hers are clearly marked in case they wander off somewhere. I have wicker market baskets to hold large, heavy loads from the farmer’s market and a sizeable leather tote for when I need to carry an arm’s load of items to an event.

The tote bag has been described as the new “purse” by Style.com, Vogue, and the likes. And as the desire for sustainable living increases, the increased usage of the tote bag, particularly in place of plastic shopping bags or other disposable carrier bags, is a more than welcome sight.

THE TOTE BAG

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MAKESHIFT + JACK SANDERS

Long-time friend and artist Jack Sanders is also an architect, filmmaker, and baseball enthusiast. He is the founder of Design Build Adventure, a full-service “design, build, and adventure company” that focuses on collaboration.

I first met Jack when he was a student of Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee of the Rural Studio.  I sent him a box of t-shirts (which he never returned) in the hopes that I could convince Rural Studio to come up to Florence and build us a production facility. (It turns out that work outside of the Black Belt wasn’t possible.) But Jack (then known as “Jay”) and I remained friends.  Years later, he co-produced a feature-length documentary on Sambo, called Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio which won many accolades.

As you may remember, our MAKESHIFT initiative asks the questions: How do we define and transform the intersection of fashion, food, design, craft + DIY through innovation and collaboration for the better good? How can varied disciplines work together as one?
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MAKESHIFT + PHILLIP MARCH JONES

Phillip March Jones is an artist, photographer, and author of the photo essay book, Points of Departure. He runs the non-profit gallery, venue, and publishing house, Institute193 in Lexington, Kentucky, and curates shows in the U.S. and Europe for various artists, including Lina Tharsing’s recent exhibit of new paintings at Poem 88 in Atlanta, Georgia. He’s also a regular contributor to the Alabama Chanin Journal.

Phillip joined the global MAKESHIFT conversation about the intersection of fashion, food, music, design, craft, and DIY by crafting the above MAKESHIFT tote for the Image Quilt. The tote is hand-drawn in acrylic ink (and is one of our favorites).

MAKESHIFT + PHILLIP MARCH JONES

 

MAKESHIFT + BILLY REID

Fellow designer and neighbor, William “Billy” Reid (“Nobody calls me William,” he says), and his business partners, Katy and K.P. McNeill, have been friends to Alabama Chanin for over a decade. We’ve watched each other grow our businesses and our community. We’ve worked together on countless projects and events over the years, including our favorite and most accomplished to date – growing Alabama cotton last summer.

Billy worked in the design industry for many years, launching his label, Billy Reid, in 2004. In February 2010, Billy was deemed GQ’s “Best New Menswear Designer in America.” In November of that same year, he won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize, the first designer to ever receive both prizes in one year. In 2012, Billy received the CFDA’s “Menswear Designer of the Year” award. It is unprecedented for two designers in the same small Alabama town to both be prominent members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and we love that it’s Billy with whom we get to share this privilege.

Billy Reid has grown from their initial flagship store here in Florence, Alabama, and showroom in Manhattan, to ten storefronts across the southeast and Texas. His approach to classic American style with a touch of Southern charm extends beyond the clothing. Each Billy Reid space reflects this cultured style, from velvet upholstered antique chairs to the artwork and animal trophies on the walls, to the Persian rugs covering dark hardwood floors. It’s as if you are stepping into Billy’s home.

It is this Southern flair with a classic, modern aesthetic, excellent tailoring, and timeless design that sets Billy Reid apart from other designers. A bon vivant, Billy’s love of good music, good food, and conversation has made him an integral part in supporting and promoting local talent here in The Shoals, from bands to chefs to artists and photographers. Where MAKESHIFT represents shifting ideas on what it means to make and collaborate, Billy represents the core of the movement, intersecting fashion, food, design, craft, and music.

We are honored to have Billy participate in this year’s MAKESHIFT events. His tote for the Image Quilt represents the elements of design, manufacturing, fashion, and craft, each of which are present in his collections, from designing and manufacturing items that can be made responsibly, to using dead stock and non-traditional materials (like nutria fur), to sustaining traditional crafts like leatherworking, both in the United States and in Italy. He demonstrates that a successful business can grow out of an authentic voice and a desire for quality.

You can see Billy Reid’s crafted tote (above) on our MAKESHIFT Conversations Image Quilt.

 

MAKESHIFT + KRISTEN WENTRCEK

Kristen Wentrcek is the founder, owner, designer, and creative director of Wintercheck Factory, a Brooklyn, New York, manufacturer producing American-made, design-focused goods for living. Wintercheck Factory began designing and manufacturing furniture in 2009 and soon after, expanded into soft goods, including apparel, accessories, and home goods with a balance of aesthetic and functionality.

During MAKESHIFT 2013, Kristen Wentrcek joined us as a presenter and moderator for MAKESHIFT @ The Standard, an evening of conversation and making centered around the concepts of fashion, food, design, craft, and DIY and where they intersect. As a presenter, she helped lead the conversation, moving between three groups of makers and along with other presenters, shared her experiences with starting and running Wintercheck Factory, and how the elements of fashion, food, design, craft, and DIY have impacted her venture. She also re-crafted the above tote for the MAKESHIFT Conversations Image Quilt.

Kristen joins us today for a brief Q&A about Wintercheck Factory, making, American manufacturing, and MAKESHIFT.

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CRAFTSY CLASS (A RECAP)

This past February, Alabama Chanin partnered with the team at Craftsy, an online community of makers who offer projects, craft ideas, and courses on dozens of topics. Our online class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, has provided us with a new way to interact with our fellow makers and has given us the opportunity to share just a few of the techniques that we teach in our Workshops.

We have talked before about the concept of online learning and how the Internet is making education opportunities that were once expensive and inconvenient cheaper and more accessible. Enrolling in online courses takes geography out of the equation. It is no longer essential to sit in a physical classroom with other participants. You don’t have to plan your life around when classes are scheduled. Online classes, like our Craftsy course, allow you the opportunity to learn the same stitches and techniques as someone on the other side of the country, or the world.

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DIY MACHINE MANUFACTURING (IN ALABAMA)

We have written before about the rich manufacturing and textile history present in our community. The Shoals area and surrounding communities were working fabric and textile materials beginning in the late 1800’s. Those earlier years were often unkind to the mill workers and their families who worked long hours, lived in factory-owned apartments, and shopped in factory-owned stores. But, as the Industrial Revolution gave way to reform, textile manufacturing stayed in our community and flourished. Eventually, it was something that we in The Shoals were known for, as we were often called the “T-Shirt Capital of the World.”

Terry Wylie’s family founded Tee Jay’s Manufacturing Co. here in Florence in 1976, and in doing so became the foundation for a local industry. Whole families were known to work together, producing t-shirts and cotton products. Typical of our community, the company and the employees were loyal to one another. It was common for an employee to stay at Tee Jays for decades. Our Production Manager, Steven, worked for the Wylie family for years – for a time, working in the same building where Alabama Chanin is currently housed. It was this way until the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Tee Jays and other local manufacturers eventually shuttered all domestic manufacturing. It was an undeniably tough hit for a community that had “worked” cotton for most of its existence. Some of those who hand stitch for us once worked in mills and lost their jobs when plants here in Alabama closed and moved to cheaper locations. This move left our building, once a thriving manufacturing center, an empty shell, as you can see from the picture above. Machines like the ones below were moved elsewhere, and the resounding hum of our once busy manufacturing community was silenced.

DIY MANUFACTURING IN ALABAMA

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MAKESHIFT 2013 TUMBLR IMAGE QUILT

This year, with MAKESHIFT 2013, we expand ideas that were born from MAKESHIFT 2012 to create a global conversation among artists, designers, and makers. The first part of the MAKESHIFT 2013 SERIES took place at the Standard, East Village where panelists and conversation guides Cathy Bailey – Heath Ceramics, Rosanne Cash – Singer/Songwriter, Natalie Chanin – Alabama Chanin, Jessamyn Hatcher – Professor of Global Studies, NYU, Nathalie Jordi – People’s Pops/Writer/Author, Tift Merritt – Singer/Songwriter, Andrew Wagner – Krrb, and Kristen Wentrcek – Wintercheck Factory, shared their stories and experiences involving collaborative projects and making within their industries. Throughout the evening, guests were invited to express their thoughts from the conversations, literally or conceptually, using an organic cotton tote bag from Alabama Chanin as a blank canvas. A variety of materials were also provided to design, decorate, and customize each bag.

MAKESHIFT TUMBLR IMAGE QUILT TOTE Continue reading

STUDIO WEEK

On the heels of MAKESHIFT 2013, we are inspired and invigorated by the conversations around design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY that took place last week during New York Design Week. We hope that you have followed our explorations throughout the events this year and have used our discussions to begin conversations of your own. We are even more convinced about the importance of making, sharing, and finding common ground, and look forward to expanding the conversations about design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY over the coming months.

One thing that resonates from those talks last week, are the concepts of collaboration and skill sharing.  As we continue to open source our ideas, our Alabama Chanin workshops will continue to grow. These events—like MAKESHIFT—have become an intimate, extraordinary way for us to connect with fellow makers, designers, and like-minded creators across the country (and the world).

STUDIO WEEK

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MAKESHIFT 2013: CHAIR WORKSHOP

On Sunday, as part of MAKESHIFT 2013, we co-hosted a Chair Workshop, modeled after the MAKESHIFT 2012 workshop, Crafting Design, sponsored by Partners and Spade. This year we teamed up with Build It Green!NYC (BIG!NYC) and Krrb and invited an array of makers to join us for an afternoon of collaboration, innovation, and chair re-design. While our event at The Standard focused on conversation (though there was plenty of making going on as well), the chair event has evolved into a make-centered occasion where a community of designers work both independently and together through skill sharing and mutual encouragement.

The event was held at BIG!NYC’s restore facility in Brooklyn – a warehouse filled with doors, fireplace mantels, sinks, mirrors, tiles and a number of other goods, much of it vintage and antique, acquired through donations and offered at low prices for those looking to save money (and the landfill) in home renovations. Or in the case of friend Kerry Diamond (of Cherry Bombe Magazine) and her chef/partner Robert Newton, the interior of their third and most recent restaurant, Nightingale 9, was designed with salvage bought from BIG!NYC.

CHAIR WORKSHOP

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MAKESHIFT 2013 @ THE STANDARD

“Craft” might seem like it’s for the amateurs, and “fashion” for the auteurs. Yet we live in an age where creativity and innovation are increasingly found in collaborations between makers and users, crafters and designers, designers and manufacturers, and in the loosening of the boundaries between them. – MAKESHIFT 2012

The MAKESHIFT conversation began last year to discover where and how various creative industries can work together as one. The discussion continued last Thursday evening at The Standard, addressing the intersection of industries on the artisan level, where the interchanges occur, and how we can transform those intersections through innovation and collaboration for the greater good.

MAKESHIFT STANDARD_21

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DIY PAISLEY TOTE

As this posts to our Journal this morning, part of our Alabama Chanin team will be in the air and on their way home from MAKESHIFT 2013. We hope that you have followed our explorations and conversations during New York Design Week via Instagram and have had conversations of your own.  Leaving MAKESHIFT this year, we are even more convinced about the importance of making, sharing, and finding common ground. You can expect a full recap of our experiences from New York Design Week in the next days, plus expanding conversations about design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY over the coming months.

One thing we do know is that, as we continue to open source our ideas, our Alabama Chanin conversations series and workshops will continue to grow.  These events—like MAKESHIFT—have become an intimate, extraordinary way for us to connect with fellow makers, designers, and like-minded creators across the country (and the world). See more in the coming weeks about the bag project we started at MAKESHIFT 2013.  In the meantime, here are some instructions for a different kind of bag (with an equally important message).

In the early spring of this year, Alabama Chanin designed and created a one-of-a-kind bag to support the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s “You Can’t Fake Fashion” campaign. We loved the finished product so much that I wanted my own version, adapting the Organic Tote Bag. This bag measures 11 1/2” x 13” x 3” and is large enough to use as a purse or laptop bag or to carry your sewing projects. The tote has been double-layer appliquéd all-over using our Paisley stencil in Alabama Indigo fabric.

The bag comes in Natural. We chose to customize this tote to match our CFDA bag by dyeing it indigo, but your design choices are endless.

DIY PAISLEY TOTE

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MAKESHIFT

Last night we kicked off our Makeshift 2013 conversations with an intimate dinner hosted by friends Lisa Fox and Rosanne Cash.

MAKESHIFT

It was wonderful to hear all of the conversations running through the night, from the study of 50 pages of Proust, to the intellectual property rights on patterns.

MAKESHIFT

Come back tomorrow for more New York Design Week, our conversation at The Standard, East Village, and make your plans for Sunday at Build It Green!NYC in Brooklyn.

MAKESHIFT

Use #makeshift2013 to join the conversation.

Make v. Tr. 

To cause to exist or happen; bring about; create.
To bring into existence by shaping, modifying, or putting together material; construct.
To compel.
To form in the mind.
To compose.
To prepare; fix.
To engage in.
To carry out; perform.
To achieve, produce, or attain.
To institute or establish; enact.
To draw up and execute in a suitable form.
To assure the success of.
To develop into.
To draw a conclusion as to the significance or nature of.
To cause to be especially enjoyable or rewarding.
To appear to begin (an action).
(Among others…)

Shift v. Tr. 

To alter (position or place).
To change (gears), as in an automobile.
To exchange (one thing) for another. 

SLOW DESIGN

There may be no more relevant time than now to talk about Slow Design, specifically Slow Fashion, as the body count in a collapsed garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh – a factory that churned out Fast Fashion for American consumers – surpasses 900.

As we prepare to travel to New York for MAKESHIFT 2013 to discuss where fashion, food, design, craft + DIY intersect and how we define and transform the intersection of fashion, food, design, craft + DIY through innovation and collaboration for the better good, we find ourselves asking why MAKESHIFT might be relevant in the wake of the Dhaka, Bangladesh tragedy.

The Slow Design movement’s roots are based on the same premise as the Slow Food movement, both historically intellectual factions often viewed as exclusive clubs. (Penelope Green wrote a great article in the New York Times on Slow Design that brings the concept to a relatable level). Slow Food has become more democratic in recent years, thanks to the many chefs who dedicate their kitchens and menus to locally, sustainably grown produce and humanely raised meat (the fashion industry has a lot to learn from these guys). Planting home gardens and buying from local farmers markets has become a trend and good habit for many of us. We can feel and taste the personal benefits even when we can’t tangibly appreciate the long term benefits on our local economy and farm land.

Ironically, Fast Fashion was established with the “democratic” moniker, where the latest trends and styles on the runway are not just available to everyone, but sold with a bill of entitlement to own them. We buy clothes, wear them once, or until they wear out (too soon), and throw them in the landfill. Not only do we further the demise of our environment and negatively affect climate change, but now we see how our Fast Fashion habits affect innocent workers abroad. According to Elizabeth Cline in her book Overdressed, only 2% of clothing is made in the U.S. today, down from 50% in 1990. Roughly 41% of our clothing is made in China. Many of those garment factories are unregulated and built illegally, posing grave danger to those reporting for work every day, and for very low wages.

Alabama Chanin is built on the Slow philosophy. Everything we produce is slow. Our fabric is custom dyed, then cut by hand in the studio, stenciled by hand, packaged and distributed to local artisans who hand-stitch every garment from seam to appliqué to beaded embellishment. It takes roughly three to six weeks to produce a garment. The very nature of our process is in direct conflict with the predominant practice for delivering clothing to the masses.

When we hear chefs dedicated to using locally grown products talk about where their produce comes from, they always talk about relationships, about knowing their farmers. Transparency and collaboration appear to be at the heart of the Slow Food movement and it seems natural to expect the same of Slow Design and Slow Fashion. MAKESHIFT was born from the idea of shifting the way we make. In essence, it’s a shift in the way we consume as well. Small, sustainable and environmentally minded businesses can’t compete with mass-produced, low-cost goods, but through collaboration, great things are possible.

We talked to pirate Richard McCarthy last year about cultural assets and Slow movements, and the subject of sustaining local commodities, like food, came up. In the same way locally grown food is distributed through supermarket alternatives, like farmer’s markets, Slow Fashion may also need distribution alternatives. The opportunities for collaboration and innovation appear to be ripe, and necessary.

Our hope is to see the possibilities for collaborative growth and conversations around Slow Design and Slow Fashion become as common as our predilections for locally, sustainably grown food.

 

 

 

BUILD IT GREEN!NYC (AND A PARTY)

As MAKESHIFT 2013 takes shape, we continue the conversation that began last year about the intersection of art, craft, making, producing, designing, and manufacturing.  One of last year’s most popular events, Crafting Design: Chair Workshop with Partners and Spade, found resonance with a league of artists, designers, crafters, and makers. And due its popularity, we are excited to be curating the workshop again, this year hosted by Build It Green!NYC, on the 19th of May, in their Gowanus, Brooklyn location, and in collaboration with Krrb. This year’s event includes a Chair Exhibition, followed by a party—both open to the public. Expect some local brew, a food truck (or two), and some surprises along the way.

Build It Green!NYC (BIG!NYC) is New York City’s only non-profit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building supplies and materials. Co-sponsored by Community Environmental Center (CEC), which assists New York buildings with energy efficiency, BIG!NYC works to keep building materials out of landfills, using all materials where possible (much like Alabama Chanin). You can find most anything at BIG!NYC, whether it’s shutters, panel doors or refrigerators. Construction and demolition waste is a massive portion of landfill content (over 19,000 tons of building material are thrown out each day in NYC) and that waste contains pollutants, GHG emissions, and contributes to climate change and global warming. All proceeds from sales through BIG!NYC go back into supporting CEC’s environmental programs throughout the city: BIG!Compost, BIG!Blooms, BIG!NYC Gives Back, along with a variety of other projects that continue to emerge.

Our friends (and Southern Foodways Alliance cohorts) Kerry Diamond (of Cherry Bombe Magazine) and her chef/partner Robert Newton (of Smith Canteen) built their newest endeavor, Nightingale 9, from materials found at Build It Green!NYC.

BUILD IT GREEN!NYC

Last October, Hurricane Sandy nearly destroyed one of BIG!NYC’s reuse centers, flooding their 21,000 square foot warehouse with five feet of water. Two days later, volunteers from across the state amassed on the site to help remove the unsalvageable and clean what could be saved. With the help of those volunteers, Build It Green!NYC was back in business within days, aiding those hit hard by the storm and providing needed building materials. BIG!NYC suffered major losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy, which only reinforced their mission to extend the usability of construction materials by keeping them out of landfills.

Like last year’s chair workshop, participants in this year’s event will  repurpose cast-off, found chairs into objects of beauty. And like last year, friends, makers,  and designers, like Natalie, A.J. Mason, Andrew Wagner, Tanya Aguiniga, Amy Devers, and more, will be on-hand to help and participate. While space for this workshop is limited, a Chair Exhibit and party will take place directly after the workshop and are open to all. Build It Green!NYC will also be open for business during the workshop with a portion of all sales benefiting Build It Green!NYC Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Come join us…

P.S.: The workshop is currently wait listed, but spots may open so go ahead and send us an email. We want to hear from you: rsvp (at) alabamachanin.com

 

PUNKS, DIY, AND FASHION

Last January, we had several conversations in our studio about punks and pirates spurred by Richard McCarthy’s analogy about pirates and “big food.” Just last week, the conversation continued in our studio about how the underground punk movement changed the way music was produced and delivered to the listening public. (More on this coming in the next weeks…)

I was surprised to see this title on the cover of the Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times yesterday:  “Anarchy in the Met: Punks and DIY looks they inspired, captured in a show.

The story highlights a new exhibit at The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Punk: Chaos to Couture, focusing on DIY Punk fashion.

Certainly music and fashion have been two of the more obvious arenas where the gatekeepers (music executives, producers, designers, magazine editors) have decided for us what we listen to and what we wear. The general anarchy that drove the punk era may have been debaucherous and even, violently, against mainstream culture, but the intellectual elements of DIY are lasting and poignant.

As we approach MAKESHIFT 2013, we anticipate continuing the conversation from MAKESHIFT 2012, when we asked and discussed where the intersection of Fashion, Food, Design, Craft, Music, and DIY intersect and how that intersection ultimately leads to collaboration. Pit stained, ripped t-shirts, and safety pin adornments aside, we have something to learn from the DIY Punk revolution.

DIY LEARNING

There are a growing number of programs tailored to adults in the workforce who want to advance their careers or earn a degree. These days, it’s not unheard of for someone to earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree online. There are also entirely new platforms emerging, called MOOCs, or massive open online courses. The expectation is that these new platforms for learning are going to change online learning, opening up opportunities to those who thought they’d never have the chance to further their education. While many of these courses offer no credits, the demand for them isn’t waning. People are looking for outlets to learn – simply for the sake of personal growth.

The trend is expanding into fields outside of higher education. Google search or visit YouTube and you will find an incredible number of courses in all imaginable subjects. Some courses are free; others require a fee or subscription. Still, the possibility of learning something – a skill, a subject, a language – all in your living room has a certain appeal to those of us who can’t imagine the thought of sitting in a classroom again. These classes can be taken on your time, fit between loads of laundry or after the kids have gone to bed. This time, it’s perfectly acceptable to go to class in your pajamas.

DIY LEARNING

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DIY MANUFACTURING

As a small business with an artisan-based production system, we are aware that Alabama Chanin is unique in the way that we create our products. We would not exist without the skill and hard work of our artisans. Our cottage industry-style method of production is a subject of interest at many trunk shows, workshops, and forums. We are proud of what we have accomplished as a company and proud that we have been able to keep our manufacturing local. We are also excited to see a trend emerging among other small companies: DIY Manufacturing.

We recently learned about the work of Amor Muñoz in a New York Times article. Muñoz creates a specialized form of electronic textile and seeks her workforce by pedaling down the streets of Mexico City shouting through a megaphone. She has created a “maquiladora,” or factory that pays workers roughly the same as American minimum wage – well over the average rate of pay in Mexico. “It’s about community,” Ms. Muñoz said. “I’m interested in sharing the experience of art.” She wants to create art, but she wants to improve the rate of compensation for workers. This strategy runs counteractive to government agents’ strategy of keeping wages low to make Mexico competitive with China when manufacturing contracts are being signed.

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MADE BY HAND, CLOSE TO THE HEART

Heirlooms aren’t created overnight, and it’s the time that goes into embellishing and constructing an artisanal garment that gives life to its one-of-a-kind beauty. Join me, Natalie Chanin, for my new online Craftsy class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and enjoy the process of creating a timeless piece of clothing.

In our first lesson, we’ll look at an assortment of our beautiful hand-embroidered swatches and discuss a vast array of embellishment options for the included Vogue coat pattern. Then, together, we’ll practice a variety of hand sewing techniques to make your coat come together seamlessly. Working with cotton jersey, we’ll cut out, mark, and prepare the pattern pieces for embellishment, using techniques to minimize fabric distortion. Now we are ready to embellish. We’ll create a stencil using the included PDF stencil pattern, and paint designs onto your fabric. After that, I’ll walk you through a multitude of techniques for appliqué and reverse appliqué. We’ll also explore how to sew bugle, chop, seed beads, and sequins onto your garment, and combine beads with embroidery stitches. In our final lessons, we’ll talk through constructing the coat, plus learn finishing details such as adding topstitching, ribbing, and more. Enroll in Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and mix and match hand sewing and embellishment techniques, creating a stylish garment that will be treasured forever.

Though my mother once gave me a gorgeous Elna sewing machine, my initial forays into sewing were consistently shaky. Yet, the memories of my grandmothers sewing and creating had long ago taken root deep within my consciousness; these memories eventually bore fruit when I set out , at eighteen years old, for a life away from home to study fashion and design, live abroad, and gain valuable experience as a stylist and designer. When I eventually returned to the ranch-style house my grandfather built in rural Alabama, it was to start Alabama Chanin, my lifestyle clothing and design brand. Alabama Chanin maintains and celebrates the traditions and materials of my grandparents, creating garments by hand, using sustainable practices, and exclusively featuring hand and small lot-dyed organic cotton and recycled materials from local artisans. I look forward to sharing the unique Alabama Chanin process with you in my new Craftsy class.

CRAFTSY-IN-THE-STUDIOMy class was filmed at the Alabama Chanin studio in Florence, Alabama, but you can join me for these lessons from anywhere in the world. Just like the skills you’ll learn, my class is yours to keep—you can watch it whenever and however many times you like. Plus, the Craftsy classroom lets you pose questions, so that your classmates and I can get back to you with answers. You can also use Craftsy’s video notes to mark and return to important techniques easily, plus you can utilize the thirty-second repeat feature to loop a technique without taking your hands off your sewing. My class has a wealth of information that I know you will enjoy, but if for any reason you aren’t satisfied, you can receive your money back with no questions asked.

Sign up for Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and learn a collection of enduring sewing techniques for unique garments with invaluable appeal. All supply bundles are discounted on our website.

P.S.: Photo of Maggie, Stella, and Natalie by Joe Baran.

 

MAKESHIFT 2012: THE CONVERSATION

“Craft” might seem like it’s for the amateurs, and “fashion” for the auteurs. Yet we live in an age where creativity and innovation are increasingly found in collaborations between makers and users, crafters and designers, designers and manufacturers, and in the loosening of the boundaries between them. Open sourcing and the emergence of DIY everything (from apps to dresses to education) are THE design stories of the 21st century.

If the philosophers and economists are right, such stories reflect renewed possibilities for building communities, for growing businesses, and for practicing everyday forms of enchantment, ethics, and sustainability. It is time to expand our way of thinking about the relationship between craft and fashion, between the self-made and the ready-to-wear, between fashion as intellectual property and fashion as an open source. What can we learn from the fields of music, product design, and education? Does a backward glance help us see how fashion was at the forefront of these innovations from the start? What is a Vogue pattern if not an open source? What are les petits mains other than artists?


MAKESHIFT 2012:

SHIFTING THOUGHTS ON DESIGN, FASHION, COMMUNITY, CRAFT & DIY

Over the four days of New York Design Week (May 19-22, 2012), Alabama Chanin–in collaboration with its fashion and design partners–is organizing a series of talks, workshops, and gatherings with leaders in the fashion, design, and craft/DIY communities. The events bring together a dynamic combination of industry leaders to explore the ways in which the fashion, art, and design worlds are inextricably linked to the world of craft/DIY and how each of these worlds elevates the others. We look to create an intersection–a meeting point–to explore, discuss, and celebrate the role of local production, handmade, and craft/DIY in fashion and design as a way to empower individuals, businesses, and communities.

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DIY MUSIC: SONG READER OR “DO WE? WE DO.”

You know how we at Alabama Chanin feel about open sourcing. We offer our techniques and the information necessary to recreate our products, should you decide that you want to do-it-yourself. After three books, countless DIY Kits, and an amazing array of workshops, we have learned some important things: people will take your ideas and run with them; what you put into the world will come back to you in ways that you never imagined; the world is a creative place; and you never know what people are capable of until you give them the tools and the opportunity to create.

That being said, I think we’ve found a kindred spirit in the musician, Beck. While listening to one of my podcast staples, All Things Considered, I caught an interview where he described his newest album – an album that he, himself, hasn’t actually recorded. Song Reader (published by, awesome, McSweeney’s) is a set of 20 songs that Beck has released only in sheet music format. His hope is that other musicians will take the material and record their own versions. After releasing so many solo albums, he said that crowdsourcing his music seemed like a way to make the process less lonely.

From All Things Considered: “When you write a song and make a recording and put out a record, it’s kind of [like] sending a message in a bottle,” Beck says. “You don’t really get a lot of feedback. This is a way of sending that song out, and you just get literally thousands of bottles sent back to you.”

There are plenty of artists that have taken up this artistic challenge. You can hear many of them at Beck’s Song Reader website. Maybe, you’ll find your own inspiration there.

To hear the entire interview and some of the songs that have been recorded, listen to the All Things Considered segment here.

P.S.: Sheet music image from “Old Shanghai” by Beck and included in Song Reader. Illustration for that piece by Kelsey Dake.

MAKE THINGS (AND FLY)


Next week we return to our regularly scheduled programming:

Monday – Beautiful Life: Things, stories, and people that inspire us.
Tuesday – Sustainable Life + Design: Good, good, and more good.
Wednesday – In the Kitchen: Food, of course, recipes and cookbooks, and occasional garden updates. And a cocktail (or three).
Thursday – DIY + Sewing: Do-It-Yourself, Design, Craft, or what ever you would like to call it.
Friday – The Heart, Travel + Other News, or, anything we find fascinating: Stories about our studio, interviews with our team, where we have been, where we are going, what people are talking about, and, sometimes, cotton.

(Disclaimer: Natalie reserves the right to mix it all up from time-to-time.)

We also have some new categories on our mailing list. Take a minute to join or to simply update your preferences, email address, or information. Tell us how much you want. We really want to know. Look for a monthly newsletter, coming soon, and a weekly update, coming later.

In the meantime, make things (and fly),
xo and Happy New Year from all of us @ Alabama Chanin

P.S.: Film about Chabott Engineering by Henrik Hansen

2012: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

It’s the time of year when most of us start to look back at the past year to take stock and plan for the next. As a company, Alabama Chanin is no different. With a lot of help from our friends, we’ve brought the year to a (BIG) close with our first online Garage Sale.

This online event seems indicative of what an amazing year (decade) it has been. We were, quite honestly, bowled over by the outreach of support, excitement, and, well, love for what we do at Alabama Chanin.  (We will be doing it again soon. Check our events page for updates and/or join our mailing list to stay in touch.)

Looking back on the whole year, it’s staggering to see just how many projects we’ve tackled, people we’ve met, and journeys we’ve taken – all infused with the same love that we experienced during our Garage Sale. Honestly, I can hardly believe that so many things happened all in one twelve-month span. It’s been 12 (REALLY) good ones.

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FASHION AS CRAFT

It’s no secret that there seems to be a disconnect between the worlds of fashion and craft. The terms, themselves, can be a bit polarizing despite their incredible commonality.

Alabama Chanin is no stranger to straddling that line between the two; to us, craft and fashion definitely go hand-in-hand. On a recent weekend, I spent some time catching up on a pile of magazines and some of the images I found make me think that the larger fashion world is beginning to see the commonalities, too.

Keep an eye out as you peruse your favorite fashion publications. You might be surprised at what you find. The images above from the September issues of W and Vogue (yes, it sometimes takes us a while to get through them) made us smile; craft and fashion, moving together at last.

P.S.: For those of you who joined us or followed online during MAKESHIFT: SHIFTING THOUGHTS ON DESIGN, FASHION, COMMUNITY, CRAFT & DIY, a series of events and talks during NY Design Week, you probably know how strongly we feel about bridging the gap between DIY, design, and high-fashion.  We hope that our efforts may be paying off. While we can never know for certain what is sparking this monumental shift in philosophy, I can’t help but feel that all of us are helping to pave the way. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

DIY THURSDAY: GUY LAROCHE

Today, for DIY Thursday, we are featuring a Guy Laroche pattern from Vogue Designer Patterns constructed in the Alabama Chanin style. I never had the chance to meet Guy Laroche, nor have I met the house’s current artistic director, Marcel Marongiu, but I admire their focus on impeccable tailoring. Laroche’s collections once featured billowing empire line dresses; the pattern that we chose to adapt combines the flowing nature of those garments with their famous tailoring skills.

Because this garment was dressier than some of our other Vogue Pattern adaptations, we only made a basic version. We think it is spectacular without embellishment. However, it would be gorgeous with some beading around the neckline or the hem. Either way, this dress is perfect for any upcoming holiday parties.

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APPLIQUE CAMISOLE DRESS FOR CREATIVEBUG

Our Camisole Dress from Alabama Studio Style is highlighted in a video class on Traditional Appliqué at Creativebug.com. You fill find the pattern sheet for this dress at the back of the book and can follow along step-by-step with our instructions on Creativebug. We now offer this project as a DIY Kit from our online store and all the supplies we used are listed below.

Creativebug is a subscription service and just in time for the holidays has gift subscriptions available starting at $24.99 for a month. I love this as a gift for my crafting friends as there are so many great classes available for the holiday season.

About our appliqué class from the Creativebug website:

“Appliqué is beautiful way to add texture, pattern and color to a project. Natalie uses applique to stunning effect in her Alabama Chanin collection, and in this workshop, she’ll share with you her basic technique. She’ll also show examples of how using different stitches and thread result in dramatically different finished looks.”

Our camisole dress is shown in Apple (double-layer) with Anna’s Garden appliqué in Natural placed around the bottom of the dress . The appliqué is sewn with a whipstitch with a single layer of Cream #256 Button Craft thread. We used Red #128 Button Craft thread for construction of the dress and also for the Cretan stitch along the binding. Seams are felled on the wrong side (inside of the garment).

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DIY THURSDAY: TRACY REESE

Continuing our conversation around design, craft and fashion, this week we present a Tracy Reese pattern from Vogue Designer Patterns for DIY Thursday.  In all my years as a designer, I have not had the chance to meet Tracy, although I have been familiar with her work since the launch of her collection in the mid-1990s. At that time, I was working as a stylist in Europe and spent much of my time in boutiques, reading fashion magazines, and working with clients.

In an effort to understand Tracy Reese’s philosophy, we reached out to her press office for information and received a note stating that they could “not provide any information at this time.” However, this is what I found on the CFDA website:

“Detroit native Tracy Reese is a graduate of Parsons School of Design. Reese apprenticed under designer Martin Sitbon and worked as design director for Women’s Portfolios at Perry Ellis before launching her eponymous collection in 1996. The collection blends the ultra-feminine and nostalgic with modern polish. plenty by Tracy Reese, was introduced in 1998, after a trip to India provided endless inspiration. A joyful color palette, art-inspired prints and playful details are seen on essentials with a bohemian spirit. With flagships in Manhattan and Tokyo, the Tracy Reese and plenty brands have expanded to include footwear, handbags and home goods.”

Martine Stibon remains one of my all-time favorite designers and I used those pieces often during my days as a stylist.  I do love the dress that emerged using our organic lightweight cotton jersey fabric with Tracy Reece’s pattern.

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DIY THURSDAY: ANNA MARIA HORNER PAINTED PORTRAIT BLOUSE OR DRESS

In January, we began a conversation about the intersection of Fashion, Craft, and DIY. That dialogue started with our friends at Vena Cava and progressed to our Makeshift events, and continues with adapting patterns from designers like Anna Sui and Donna Karan (one of my personal favorites that I wear often). This week we extend the conversation with a collaboration and pattern from textile designer Anna Maria Horner.

Below are instructions for Alabama Chanin’s basic version of Anna Maria’s dress pattern in Light Golden and Goldenrod, the newest colors in our hand-dyed, cotton jersey fabric collection. These fabric colors, like our Indigo and Coral, are hand-dyed in Nashville, Tennessee, using the osage orange wood and myrobalan fruit in varying amounts to create variation in shades.

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BASILICA HUDSON WORKSHOP

We will host our first One-Day Retreat of the fall season in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley on Sunday, September 16th. Our day will be spent in a restored nineteenth century factory and will feature local food from Barbara Goldstein of Blima’s.

We were able to talk to friend Melissa Auf der Maur from Basilica to find out a little more about the history of the space, future plans for the center, and where to spend the rest of our weekend in the Hudson Valley.

Below we share what learned – which includes lessons on historic preservation and roof gardens.

xoNatalie

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DIY RANDOM RUFFLE T-SHIRT – AT CREATIVEBUG

Check out our classes at Creativebug.com and make this Random Ruffle T-shirt:

From the Creativebug Website:

“Basic sewing skills can transform a plain t-shirt into one of your favorite go-to wardrobe pieces. The random ruffle t-shirt uses a simple appliqué technique that’s quick and easy, yet true to the Alabama Chanin style.”

Shown here our T-Shirt Top with Cap sleeves is appliquéd with five ½ inch vertical rows cut across grain of random ruffles. This t-shirt is a single layer of light-weight Silt with the ruffles in light-weight Black. The t-shirt is constructed with Slate thread, using a straight stitch along the sleeves and side construction and a Cretan stitch for the binding. The ruffles are sewn with black thread.

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MADE IN AMERICA (PART 2)

We recently shared companies that are making quality products in the United States. To continue this ‘Made in America’ post from last week, we feature another round of companies who practice the same excellence and pride.

Some of these products have been staples in my daily wear for ages; they’ve held up to the test of time. I look forward to incorporating newer products into my lifestyle for years to come. Please share with us your experience with these makers, as well as any other companies, artisans, or manufacturers from the United States that have a presence in your wardrobe, and life.

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CREATIVEBUG.COM

Beginning Tuesday, our video workshops will be available on Creativebug.com.

Subscribe to Creativebug to view.

THANK YOU to the Creativebug film crew, it was such a great experience to have them in our studio…
xoNatalie

THE CIRCUS BOOK

As we were in the planning stages of MakeShift, Andrew Wagner told me that he didn’t want to call our talk at The Standard, East Village a “Panel Discussion,” but rather a Circus, or Carnival, or Party, or Making, Doing, Conversing—anything but a “Panel Discussion.”  This idea made a real impact on the how the event (and all of the events around MakeShift) unfolded. We didn’t quite reach the level of Ringling Brothers, but I think that we started a beautiful conversation that is continuing to GROW.

Today, I take inspiration in a book (and my Mother’s Day present this year from Butch and Maggie) which has quickly become one of my favorites.

CIRCUS
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MAKESHIFT 2012 + ONE LAST THOUGHT

Today we share our final MAKESHIFT post (for this year) of observations and thoughts from participants.

Many have already written, photographed, or posted about their experiences during the week.

Ellie Levine at STC Craft  created a timeline of the MAKESHIFT events – a beautiful recap using images and social media platforms which you can read here.

Compiled below are reflections and lingering thoughts to help continue our MAKESHIFT conversation into next year.

Keep in mind (and close to heart) what is valuable and inspiring as you design, create, and make.

xoNatalie

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MAKESHIFT + A DIY POP-UP SHOP

As part of MAKESHIFT, we collaborated on a pop-up shop with the Billy Reid team in their New York store. The shop was called ‘Crafting Fashion,’ and featured hand-crafted garments, hats, shoes, jewelry, and home décor from seasoned designers who pair fashion and craft beautifully.

We encourage you to join with crafters, makers, and artists to curate pop-up shops in your community. Find a space- or make a space, work towards creative collaboration, and share your vision with your community.

If you’ve already done so, we’d love to hear about it.

xoNatalie

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MAKESHIFT 2012: CRAFTING DESIGN + A BLOODY MARY

We finished our week of MAKESHIFT with Crafting Design, a chair workshop hosted at Partners & Spade in New York City.

From the New York Times piece “Pull Up a Chair, Then Fix It” by Andrew Wagner:

“Last Saturday, as part of a conference called MakeShift, Natalie Chanin, the founder of the fashion label Alabama Chanin, held a workshop to rehabilitate some of these castoffs at Partners & Spade on Great Jones Street. The event, which she called Crafting Design, was dedicated to resurrecting the bent, twisted and broken remnants of what the poet David McFadden has described as ‘the most ubiquitous and important design element in the domestic environment’: the chair.”

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MAKESHIFT 2012 HIGHLIGHTS

After taking time to reflect on our recent week in New York for MAKESHIFT, I’m already thinking about MAKESHIFT 2013.

Here are some highlights from the conversation at The Standard Talks. We reported the MAKESHIFT events here on the blog throughout the week, and had great press coverage from the New York Times, Style.com, Page Six, and Jezebel. Here’s a recap of our memorable conversation.

From The Standard Talks panel discussion:

Andrew Wagner began with a grand introduction and also referenced Ettore Sottsass’s essay, ‘When I Was a Very Small Boy’.

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HOME.

Home from Makeshift 2012 and there are SO MANY ideas still stitching themselves together in my mind.  Tomorrow we are back to our regularly scheduled programing; today we rest (and think and plan).

Makeshift 2013 anyone?

MAKESHIFT 2012: HUMAN-TEXTILE WELLNESS POP-UP CLINIC

It’s a mouthful. But then, as people (and especially Southerners) do have an undying love for the complexity of words, stories, and the beauty of textiles.

Last Tuesday night at The Standard, East Village, we were riveted by Jessamyn Hatcher’s stories of processing unwanted clothing in a clinic format. Today in New York City, you have the rare and amazing opportunity to experience Human-Textile Wellness first-hand with a stellar team including Jessamyn, Professor, Global Liberal Studies, NYU, Hanna Astrom, Designer, Sarah Scaturro, Textile Conservator, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (and incoming conservator at the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art), Michelle Zahabian, artist and co-owner of JEM, and the fascinating Emily Spivack, Creator and Editor, Worn Stories (www.wornstories.com) and Sentimental Value (www.sentimental-value.com).

Run, don’t walk:

You are invited to attend a

HUMAN-TEXTILE WELLNESS POP-UP CLINIC

Sunday, May 20, drop-in from 11am-3pm

@ JEM Fabric Warehouse

 355 Broadway, between Franklin and Leonard

BRING A PIECE OF CLOTHING TO REPAIR, ALTER, OR TRANSFORM AND A WORN STORY TO SHARE

The Human-Textile Wellness Center is a research lab run by Jessamyn Hatcher that documents people’s relationships to their clothing, and a place where you can come to repair, alter, and transform your garments, and share stories about textiles that are meaningful to you.

Meridith McNeal, “Palm Portraits” (used with kind permission of the artist)


MAKESHIFT 2012: REVERSE APPLIQUÉ AS METAPHOR

Our sewing circle at The Standard, East Village was a rich mixture of folk from a range of professions and diverse lives. Cathy Davidson, one of our first time sewers, has written the most beautiful essay about her time with us and created a fantastic example of Reverse Appliqué as metaphor: Reverse Appliqué @alabamachanin or How the Shallow Distracted and Lonely Pundits Miss the Beauty.

Here you can read just a snippet from her observations on the day:

“We sat quite quietly, talking, introducing ourselves, and, in my case and Ken’s, learning how to do things like:  thread a needle (you bring the needle to the thread, not the reverse), tie a knot, love the thread (to get out the kinks and align the polymers in the cotton plys).

Here’s the secret: when the world seems too connected, too overwhelming, too full of work, the hand-work of sewing slows it all down.

Here’s the other secret: all those tiresome handwringing pundits, who think that, because young people (and all the rest of us) spend a lot of time online, that means, ipso facto, that we’ve all become shallow, distracted, and lonely:  well, those pundits just need to spend more time–a lot more time–with some of the connected, wired people I know: we wired ones also love to make things. We connected learners also love DIY. Those are not contradictions, they are continuous parts of life. Why don’t the tiresome pundits realize this?  Why do they make us into stereotypes, automatons, not complex and multi-dimensional human beings, stitched together in all kinds of ways, by all kinds of circumstances.

Think about the possibilities for the handstitched, the handmade that the Web makes possible.  Outlets like Etsy allow handwork and handcraft to thrive by providing a vehicle, without intervention of an overseer or price-gauging middle-man, to reach the people who want it, an online bazaar (the original metaphor of the World Wide Web:  it’s not a cathedral–with flying buttresses and other stable architecture but a crowd-making, on-the-fly-suited-to-the-needs bazaar). Heath Pottery thrives now online. Alabama Chanin thrives online. And those of us who live so much of our lives online, also know the preciousness of, well, hand sewing, of reverse application, as metaphor and lifestyle.”

Be sure to read the entire essay here: Reverse Appliqué @alabamachanin or How the Shallow Distracted and Lonely Pundits Miss the Beauty and her brilliant new book, titled Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.

Browse her website, look for all of her titles, and be inspired.

Thank you to Cathy and everyone who has added their voice to Makeshift 2012.

Join our growing conversation by contributing in the comments section below and by using your voice in your own community…
xoNatalie

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MAKESHIFT 2012: CRAFTING FASHION @ BILLY REID

Crafting Fashion, a pop-up shop curated by Alabama Chanin and Billy Reid, featured designers- Alabama Chanin, Susan Cianciolo, HEATH Ceramics, George Esquivel, Hugo & Marie, Imogene + Willie, Pamela Love, Leigh MagarMaria Moyer, Billy Reid, Albertus Quartus Swanepoel, Tucker, and Kenlynn Wilson. Thanks to everyone for the great turn out. And a bigger thank you to Billy Reid and his staff for their hospitality and Tift Merritt for the beautiful performance.

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MAKESHIFT 2012: JESSAMYN HATCHER

Among the most meaningful things I’ve ever found in a thrift store was a pair of dresses I unearthed at the Goodwill in Durham, North Carolina. One was a white summer dress with a fitted bodice and a full skirt dotted with embroidered flowers.  The other was a pink sequined number straight out of an old Italian movie.  What made the dresses so arresting wasn’t their cut or color, or even all the flowers and sequins. It was the fact that inside, attached to the labels, their former wearer had pinned stories:  “Picnic. 1957.  Hillsboro, North Carolina.” “Eastern Star Dance. May 8, 1958. Danced with M.K.”

I’ve since learned from my friend Emily Spivack who created and edits a blog about clothing and memory to call these stories “worn stories.”

On Tuesday night, as part of MAKESHIFT, we invited members of the audience to write their own worn stories. Rosanne Cash, Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics, and Natalie read excerpts of their stories to inspire us.

Here’s Natalie’s.

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MAKESHIFT 2012: ROSANNE CASH

To begin the evening at MAKESHIFT @ the Standard Talks, Rosanne Cash opened with a performance of “Fair and Tender Ladies,” a traditional Appalachian folk song that has been recorded by many singers. The song had been performed by her step-mother, June Carter Cash.

Rosanne began by sharing her thoughts on crafting and writing music. In turn, she asked the audience to collaborate and “craft” a new song from the original version. This posed the question: “What can we learn from the field of music as we creatively approach a collaboration between amateurs and auteurs, makers and users?”

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MORE MAKESHIFT 2012

We had the best intentions of posting lots of pictures and stories from our Makeshift event yesterday and the day just got away from us. There IS so much more to come and to write about, but for the meantime, here some great pictures of the making process at The Standard East Village on Tuesday night.  More to come soon… xoNatalie

Join us for our Crafted Fashion pop-up shop tonight at the Billy Reid store 6pm-until at 54 Bond Street in New York City, with a performance by Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Tift Merritt at 8pm.

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MAKESHIFT 2012

Thank you to everyone who braved the rain and came out last night for MAKESHIFT at the Standard Talks. On behalf of myself and all of the panelists, we appreciate everyone’s enthusiastic response to MAKING.

It was a beautiful evening. As a group, we crafted a song and sang together, finger-knitted, and shared our ‘worn stories.’ Throughout the day, we will share some of our MAKESHIFT moments here.
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MAKESHIFT 2012: TALK. MEET. UNITE.

Our conversation for MAKESHIFT is about finding the point where the professional worlds of craft, fashion, design, and DIY intersect. It is our belief that the simple act of MAKING will be found at that point of intersection. However, it is also our understanding that this convergence has yet to be defined, because there are nearly as many interpretations of it as there are people in the world.

We believe that by MAKING together we will become more aware of how to use our understanding of this intersection as a tool to affect change in our local communities at the micro level, and the world community on a on a grander scale.

This may seem like an idealistic goal. It is idealistic, but there are growing numbers of writers, thinkers, designers, and creators who believe it is attainable.

“When I Was a Very Small Boy,” the Ettore Sottsass essay about the act of making , embraces the idea that when we are young, we don’t have preconceived notions about what or how to make, we just DO. And in DOING we learn. In the last paragraph, he says, “I’d like to find somewhere to try out things, together…” In keeping with the Sottsass essay, we believe that by taking ourselves out of our comfort zones and trying something new, we can evolve together. This evolution is attained by exploring, not thinking or judging.

As design and craft professions (of all mediums) have emerged, walls have grown between these practitioners and new ways of thinking.  By living and working within these walls, we close ourselves off from new experiences and more evolved ways of thinking and doing. MAKESHIFT is about reawakening to the wonders we find when we move beyond those walls and step out of our comfort zones. Our hope is that, by initiating this step and beginning this conversation, we will find a natural— and comfortable— meeting place that fosters unity. We further believe that by finding this meeting place, every maker, as well as the designs, products, and lives they touch, will be enriched.

Join us tonight @The Standard, East Village, at 7pm for the first of our MAKESHIFT events for New York Design Week.

MAKESHIFT 2012: INTRODUCING CATHY BAILEY OF HEATH CERAMICS

Cathy Bailey of HEATH Ceramics has frequented this blog for a number of years as a friend and a colleague. After loving her work (and her) from afar, we were fortunate to collaborate with HEATH Ceramics to produce a line of table and dinner wares that were launched last fall.

Cathy (her husband, Robin), and I share much of the same passion about design, craft, and local production. Next week, Cathy and I will share the stage at the Standard Talks. This coming Tuesday, Alabama Chanin presents MAKESHIFT: Shifting Thoughts on Design, Fashion, Craft, and DIY, our first event in a series of many as we continue a conversation on the intersection of design, fashion, craft, and DIY.

Heath Ceramics: An impressive view from within from Heath Ceramics on Vimeo.

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MAKESHIFT 2012: INTRODUCING ANDREW WAGNER

When Andrew Wagner was asked to moderate the MAKESHIFT panel conversation as part of New York Design Week 2012, he jokingly insisted that he be considered MC rather than moderator. That’s exactly the type of robust, experienced personality I look forward to sharing the stage with next week at the Standard Talks, as we discuss the intersection of design, fashion, craft, and DIY.

We’re happy to introduce Andrew on our blog and welcome his participation in MAKESHIFT. His long- running list of big DIY ideas and achievements makes him a veteran in that community. As “What You Make of It” columnist for the New York Times, he has recently delved instructions on how to turn an old rusty bicycle into a beautiful hanging lamp – Isamu Noguchi style- and how to repurpose egg carton trays into stunning and sturdy stools.

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TART APPLE PIE + Q&A WITH JOHN BIELENBERG

John Bielenberg and his work with PieLab aren’t new to Alabama Chanin, or our blog. We were curious what John has been up to, so we caught up with him between his travels to learn more about Project M, PieLab, and recent goings on in Greensboro, Alabama.

We also got our hands on a delicious recipe from the pop-up café, PieLab, for our Wednesday Recipes.

Their Tart Apple Pie with White Cheddar Crust has a beautiful lattice top that looks like the pies I ate growing up. Combining the tartness of the apples with the savory of the white cheddar makes for a fabulous slice of pie. If only it weren’t a three hour drive down to Greensboro to get a slice. Recipe then Q&A with John to follow:


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CRAFT

For the past few weeks, my mind has been on the subject of ‘craft’ even more than usual as I continue to work on MAKESHIFT: shifting thoughts on design, fashion, community, craft & DIY- a series of events, discussions, and workshops held during ICFF New York Design Week.

How appropriate it is to have received this beautifully hand-printed postcard from our friends at Rural Studio.

For more information visit www.ruralstudio.org.

ROSANNE CASH: WORN STORIES (INTERVIEWED BY JESSAMYN)

Last month, we introduced Jessamyn, a new contributor to this blog. Sharing the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fires cast a sad light on the history of labor laws in the U.S; however, she showed us how to find better joys in fashion, ecology, and ethics. She has since written about the meaning of D.I.Y.

This week, in a conversation between Jessamyn and Rosanne Cash—another dear friend and colleague—Rosanne shares sentimental stories on the garments that occupy her life and closet.

Please welcome back Jessamyn – and Rosanne – part of the growing heart and soul of Alabama Chanin.

Rosanne and Jessamyn will also be participating in MAKESHIFT: shifting thoughts on design, fashion, community, craft, & DIY.

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DIY MUSIC: THE CIVIL WARS

At the Factory, we play music to help set an inspiring tone for our work environment, and sometimes to just get us through the day. At any given time, you will hear a range of genres including folk, classical, rock, country, and independent artists. We don’t usually pick favorites, but The Civil Wars’ sounds are often heard floating through the shelves of organic fabric in the studio.

Joy Williams and John Paul White’s soothing and harmonic melodies have provided the soundtrack to many FULL workdays. The songs are sometimes bluesy, sometimes haunting, and always powerful. Their voices simply sound natural and right together. Perhaps we’re partial to them—not only because of their poetic music—but also because they are rooted in the Shoals; The Civil Wars are a vital part of our artistic community. But, we also feel connected to the band because of their approach to making, or “crafting” music.

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ANNA SUI (+ ALABAMA CHANIN DIY DRESS) WINNER

 

Thank you to those of you who shared your thoughts on the intersection of Fashion + Craft. We are truly inspired and excited by everyone’s interest in the conversation.

As it was difficult to choose a “best” entry, we decided to place everyone’s name in a hat and draw names.

Congratulations Margaret on winning our Anna Sui (+ Alabama Chanin DIY Dress). We hope you’ll wear it fashionably and proudly!


WE (HEART) ANNA SUI

We all encounter bumps in the road, but with encouragement and tenacity, we persevere.

Back in 2001, I faced one in my life. I returned to New York to continue developing my life’s work into what is now Alabama Chanin. At the time, I was living in the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street while I was developing the line, working with partners, and sorting out production issues. One Sunday morning, I woke up feeling extremely frustrated. Continue reading

VENA CAVA (+ ALABAMA CHANIN DIY DRESS)

Last Thursday, we wrote about Vena Cava and began a dialogue (one we plan to continue every Thursday) about the intersection of Fashion, Craft and DIY. While in New York a few weeks back, I sat down for a quick coffee with Lisa Mayock – half of the Vena Cava design team – to share our DIY Dresses and talk about fashion, life, and open sourcing.  We appreciate all the response and emails from our post last week and look forward to continuing this conversation.  Here, a little chat about the Vena Cava/Vogue Designer Patterns collaboration:

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ECO SALON FRIDAY: PIRATES + PUNKS

Check out my post this week for EcoSalon and join in the conversation about Pirates, Punks, Fashion and Cultural Assets today on our Facebook Page @ 1 pm CST.
xoNatalie

I never really thought much about what punks, pirates, and the Spanish Armada had to do with farmers markets or sustainable life until I saw Richard McCarthy – a pirate of the very best order – speak. He has quite an amazing story to tell, made palatable by his charming humor, an easy-to-understand presentation, and, more importantly, good works.

I have thought so much about Richard, his work in the farmers markets – and the Spanish Armada – since hearing him speak at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi. We will have to trust Richard’s accounts of naval history to be true. But, correct or not, I have thought about this presentation countless times and wrote to Richard on New Year’s Day.

I told him that working to change a fast-fashion industry feels like swimming upstream backwards –on a good day. His talk, with its simple illustrations, some good punk analogies, and the account of the sinking of the Spanish Armada give me hope and make my swim seem a little easier.

Watch his talk here and follow my rough summary of his talk and illustrations below. The illustrations pasted in here don’t have the wit, charm, and power of the man himself, so take the time to watch when you can.

I have pulled out the core that relates to all cultural assets (food, clothing, shelter) but please watch the entire presentation for more literal workings of punks and pirates.

Richard begins his presentation: “I want to start where, I am sure all SFA talks begin, obscure 16th Century Naval Military History.”

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VENA CAVA (ALONG WITH VOGUE PATTERNS + DIY THURSDAY)

They make fashion; they curate a magazine called “Zina Cava;” Maggie Gyllenhaal models for them; they are, in my opinion, the coolest duo to come along in the fashion industry in years.

They host dinner parties instead of fashion shows and give away posters like the one below celebrating their 8 years in business. It’s the kind of party you hope you’ll get an invitation to…

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INTERNATIONAL DESIGN SEMINAR – FOLK FUTURES

I am very excited to be included in this seminar and looking forward to visiting Stavanger and seeing The World of Folk exhibition:

International Design Seminar – Folk Futures With: Li Edelkoort, Tord Boontje, Natalie Chanin, Dick van Hoff, Hella Jongerius, Peter Marigold, Mike Meiré, Fernando & Humberto Campana.

As part of this summer’s A World of Folk exhibition, Folk Futures will discuss the future of unique design in a day-long symposium featuring presentations by distinguished international designers: Tord Boontje, Natalie Chanin, Dick van Hoff, Hella Jongerius, Peter Marigold, Mike Meiré and the Campanas brothers.

The seminar will examine how craft and design will provide an important and continued stimulus in this new century and analyze the implications of commercial production on uniquely made objects. Exhibition curator and trend forecaster, Li Edelkoort, will introduce a dynamic line-up of speakers, illustrating the importance of telling stories through the creative process and previewing how craft and technology will merge in symbiosis in the coming years.

The Alabama-born designer Natalie Chanin will explain how soul can be ingrained into a product through the handmade, while Dick van Hoff will talk about the challenges facing industrial production when maintaining craftsmanship principles. London-based Peter Marigold will discuss how chance and performance can influence the design of a product and Hella Jongerius will be interviewed by Li Edelkoort in an interesting conversation about the integration of local folklores in contemporary design. German art director Mike Meiré will discuss local food and its integration into the design field. Tord Boontje will revisit his journey through decoration and embellishment while joining Fernando and Humberto Campana to also describe their recent collaborations with artisans in Africa and South America.

NEW RULES, NEW WINNERS

From Small Is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas by Seth Godin :

Small is the new big. Recent changes in the way that things are made and talked about mean that big is no longer an advantage. In fact, it’s the opposite. If you want to be big, act small.

Consumers have more power than ever before.

Treating them like they don’t matter doesn’t work.

Multiple channels of information mean that it’s almost impossible to live a lie.

Authentic stories spread and last.

The ability to change fast is the single best asset in a world that’s changing fast.

Blogs matter. If you want to grow, you’ll need to touch the information-hungry, idea-sharing people who read (and write) them.

There are no side effects. Just effects.

Indulge short attention spans.

Aretha was right. Respect is the secret of success in dealing with people.

Do something that matters.

Small Is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas by Seth Godin