Tag Archives: Stencils + Patterns



Part of the excitement of living in The Shoals is seeing how the area has changed over the years. Though we have such an impressive collection of musicians in the area—musicians who have been an important part of the American musical landscape—when I was young, it was difficult to find a place to hear live music. There were family gatherings with guitars and impromptu songwriters’ nights—but there was no real place for people to gather and listen to a live band. On the flipside, local musicians—whether upcoming or established—had no place to play, reach their audiences, and try out new material.

The renowned FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound musicians were primarily studio session players. They created iconic sounds, but often during business hours and behind closed session doors. Because those musical talents were being developed in studios and not in bars or venues, we never had much of a music “scene” to speak of. This directly impacted the musicians who eventually founded Single Lock Records. Each learned their trade in makeshift music venues like garages, house shows, or anywhere that would have them.

That is why The Shoals’ newest music venue 116 E. Mobile (conveniently, the physical address) gives locals and visitors a place to see musicians from at home and abroad in a comfortable space. 116 (as it is often called) is located in downtown Florence and is owned and operated by Single Lock Records, in tandem with Billy Reid.

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I’ve been toying with the idea of scale and pattern recently. This thought arose because of a presentation I gave in March on Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group. The talk was part of the monthly On Design Lecture Series that we host in our studio as staff development but is also open to our community as part of The School of Making educational programming. (It’s on hiatus for the summer, but we’ll let you know as soon as we start back.) Many of our young in-house designers are fascinated by the 1980s and wanted to know more about the design influences that fueled this era. I went to design school from 1983 to 1987, so this concept of 1980s design seemed appropriate and very exciting to revisit.

While unearthing my thoughts on the 80s, I realized that the most prominent design trend in my memory was Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group—the Italian design collective during the 80s who challenged the “established” rules of design. Their playful use of scale and pattern remain strong influences in design today (and my personal design aesthetic as well). While putting together the talk, I realized it had been such a long time since I played with scale. So, I pulled two gorgeous books on from my library: Ettore Sottsass Metaphors and Ettore Sottsass (which we also sell in the design section of our store as it is one of my all-time favorite books). Ettore Sottsass Metaphors sets the stage for playing with shapes in nature and Ettore Sottsass is incredibly inspiring for its illustration of scale, pattern, and color in design—aside from being one of the most beautiful books I own.


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Since the launch of The School of Making, our team has been inspired to create new resources, to design more beautiful DIY kits (that complement our newest book), and to give our online store a new look.

Shop our updated Fabric + Sewing section here and find tools and materials to inspire your next project. And use those tools with our newly updated PDF stencils: Abbie’s Flower, Angie’s Fall, and June’s Spring.



Photos by Abraham Rowe



As we’ve written in the past, there are many ways to define a mother. Merriam Webster opts for “a female parent” but we at Alabama Chanin feel the term mother is often more verb than noun. A mother can also be a member of your “family of choice” –or any woman that has offered you guidance and support. Mother can be many things, many people:

Woman, Provider, Friend, Sister, Wife, Daughter, Mom. (To mention a very few.)

We sold a version of the shirt pictured above many years ago, and—in honor of Mother’s Day and The School of Making—have now revamped the design and made this new Mother stencil available as a free download on our Resources page. (Step-by-step instructions on how to print a stencil can be found here.)

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Natalie's Apron - Alabama Chanin


Natalie’s Apron—now available for purchase as a downloadable sewing pattern from our Resources page—is a version of an apron my grandmother wore nearly every day of her life. The cut of the apron was adapted from the shape of our Camisole Dress pattern from Alabama Studio Style, and it features an optional large, two-sided pocket across the front. The seaming and wide-sweeping hem make this apron a comfortable and flattering fit for every woman’s body. It is beautiful and incredibly practical—especially for those of us that need full-coverage protection in the kitchen (and a large pocket to keep up with the bits of everyday life). I also wear a version of this apron when I help out in our café—pocket filled with pens, pencils, papers, phones, and hair ties.

Due to the popularity of this style (and after many requests), we’ve made this sewing pattern available for download—following our DIY Unisex T-shirt. The pattern comes with both full-scale or tiled-for-printing versions. See our post about printing a pattern here.

The apron is also available as DIY Natalie’s Apron Kit in our Small Polka Dots stencil for a limited time in our DIY Gift Guide. It comes with our faded fabric as a backing layer and our Black Variegated embroidery floss; choose your outer layer and thread colors. You may also choose to design your own Custom DIY Kit for this apron, or creating your own sewing pattern by altering our Camisole Dress pattern available in Alabama Studio Style as a paper pattern and Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns in digital version.


Natalie's Apron - Photographer Abraham Rowe - Alabama Chanin

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When I first started brainstorming what was to become Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, I had a dream that as an elevated service to all of our sewers, our garment patterns (including patterns from our previous books) would be neatly packaged onto one convenient CD with an additional size (XXL), which had been so often requested.  That dream became a reality last week when our book was released. But as happens so often, the things we think are going to change our lives in a particular way are often the ones that surprise us in a new way.  Such is the case with the CD included with Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. While many of our customers LOVE the new format, there are a small number who feel frustrated by it.

In our first three books, we recommended that the paper patterns be copied (or traced) before using in order to preserve the original patterns. Many of our readers followed that advice and copied patterns at print shops that had large-format copier/printers in their own communities. This made me think that the switch to CD would be a welcome change: it would eliminate the need for tracing (as the original pattern would always be preserved on the CD) and it would make printing easy (just email the file to a shop with a large-format printer and then have the printout mailed to you or go pick it up).

A reader commented on social media in the last days that I certainly didn’t make the decision to include the CD and blamed our publisher for the new format. That was not the case. The CD was my idea of elevated service. Certainly, I discussed this at length with the publisher and, together, we strove to create the best reader experience possible. On the CD we included not only the three new patterns featured in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns (Short and Long Wrap Skirt; Classic Coat/Jacket/Cardigan; and A-Line Dress/Tunic/Top) but also artwork for all of the stencils used on the garments featured in the book and all of the garment patterns from the previous books with the additional size.

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New Patterns, New Resources


Today, we launch our new Unisex T-shirt garment pattern—available in PDF form through our newly re-organized Resource downloads page. Available for purchase at $12, the PDF download includes the nested pattern and comes in sizes XS to XXL along with instructions for fabric selection, cutting, and garment construction. All of our patterns are the results of hours creating drawings, drafting patterns, making samples, readjusting the patterns, sewing more samples, and finally, grading each pattern by hand into a range of sizes that are then translated to our digital, nested versions. These new PDF patterns (more styles coming very soon) are designed for printing on wide-format printers or desktop printers. We ask that you respect our policies and use our patterns for personal projects, as they are designed for individual use and not intended for commercial ventures or reproducing and distributing.

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With the launch of Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns and our updated online Resources page on Friday—including new garment patterns and stencils offered as downloadable PDFs—we are offering a growing range of designs that require printing, either from a home printer or from wide-format printers found at print shops across the globe.

Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design included paper pattern sheets that allowed home sewers to create Alabama Chanin designed garments. And while this is a straight-forward process, there are new printing options available that may streamline patternmaking for the home sewer.  Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns comes with a CD filled with ready-to-print PDF files for new garments and stencils, plus all of the garments from our previous three books. Additionally, beginning this Friday we will offer new garment patterns and stencil designs for purchase from our Resources page—also in PDF form.

Electronic versions of all of these designs can be emailed from your computer or brought to a local copy/print shop and printed out on extra-large paper so that there is no joining or overlapping of the pattern pieces necessary. Wide-format printers are readily available that print up to 36” (90 cm) and sometimes as much as 44” (112 cm) wide and as long as the roll of paper fits the machine. Look for a copy/print shop in your community that works with architects, who also have large-scale printing needs. In our experience, prices for printouts can vary widely from shop to shop, and so it pays to take the time to research the best value available. If you cannot find a wide-format printer in your own community, there are a range of online services that will print digital files and ship to your door. Continue reading



It’s a BIG week for us here at Alabama Chanin. Our newest book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, lands in stores and into the hands of the makers tomorrow. This fourth book in the Alabama Studio Series includes all the patterns from our first three Studio Books on a convenient CD, plus instructions and patterns for 12 new skirts, dresses, tops, and jackets, with illustrated guidelines for customizing the fit and style of each. The book teaches readers the ins and outs of refashioning garment shapes, raising and lowering necklines, taking in and letting out waistlines, and many more key forms of customization; it also offers guidelines for adapting patterns from other popular sewing companies to the Alabama Chanin style—stitched by hand in organic cotton jersey and embellished with stencils, embroidery, and beading. Check back on Wednesday for information on the best ways to print our patterns and stencils.

On Friday of this week, we introduce a newly re-organized Resources section. This re-formatting will make possible our first-ever downloadable garment patterns for purchase—beginning with our popular Unisex T-Shirt. Additionally, new and improved stenciling patterns will be available to purchase in PDF form with full-scale artwork for wide-format printing and also for tiled printing on both 8 1/2″ x 11” paper, or A4 paper. Look for additional garment patterns through 2015.


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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 STENCILINGThe photo above, by Stephen Alvarez, can be downloaded to use as wallpaper for you desktop here. Link through to see the color version and see more of his caving photos here.

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