Tag Archives: Swatch of the Month

INSPIRATION: MAGGIE TUNIC

I assume that most folks imagine that the Maggie Top/Tunic/Dress is named after my daughter Maggie—and they would be right, in a way. What few people know is that the garment is named after an apron/smock dress that my Maggie wore and loved as a three-year-old. One day as I was dressing her and life seemed a bit out-of-control (what mother of a three-year-old doesn’t feel out-of-control at some point), it seemed like the perfect uniform to simplify my life—and it did.

It simplified my life, became a core staple in the Alabama Chanin collection, and is now the first pattern in our Build a Wardrobe program.

Using our Anna’s Garden stencil worked in negative reverse appliqué, we took inspiration from both the 2014 Swatch of the Month and the shot of the Maggie Dress shown above at right from our Fall/Winter 2010 collection. I’m a sucker for a pair of garden gloves, a garden hat, and a pair of rubber boots.

Pair your tunic with my favorites—The Rib Crew with long sleeves and The Rib Skirt. Use #buildawardrobe2016 and #theschoolofmaking to share your projects.

Join our 2016 Build a Wardrobe program here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: MAGGIE TUNIC

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Parchment
Fabric color for inner layer – Parchment
Button Craft thread – Cream #256
Textile paint color – Pearl Grey
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

P.S.: There are lots of variations of apron and smock dresses available. Andrea Zittel did a fantastic project around the smock. You can find her pattern here, and our version of the project here on our Journal.

Follow along on social media and on our Journal with the hashtags:
#theschoolofmaking
#swatchofthemonth
#buildawardrobe2016

DECEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

December has arrived, and with it come holiday parties, family get-togethers, and plenty of reasons to cook and bake. The Factory’s calendar is a little less packed this month, simply because we all have so much to do at home and with our families.

But—great news! December is National Egg Nog Month. No matter what you celebrate or when, December offers plenty of opportunities to participate. (We recommend Martha Stewart’s classic recipe—but drink with caution. Martha’s recipe packs a punch!)

December 3 – Café Nights: Wine Cocktails with Zach.  Join Chef Zach at the Factory Café for specialty drinks and cocktails. Small Bites + Snacks will also be available for purchase.

December 7 – The final First Monday @ The Factory of the year, from 8:30am – 11:30am. Bring your projects and sit, share, sew—and make plans for next year’s to-dos.

December 10 – Sip + Sew @ The Factory. Share your work from the year while enjoying some beer, wine, or your beverage of choice.

December 12 – National Ambrosia Day. An entire day to celebrate your favorite aunt’s favorite holiday dish!

December 21 – Winter Solstice. Today, the Northern Hemisphere is pointed at its furthest distance from the sun, bringing less light and colder temperatures. For those of us on the northern part of the planet, the shortest day of the year comes at the solstice. After today, the days will get longer and the nights shorter. This year’s winter solstice will occur at exactly 10:49pm CST.

December 24 + 25 – Alabama Chanin offices and The Factory are closed for the Christmas holidays.

December 27 – National Fruitcake Day. We recommend celebrating with one of Zingerman’s mail order offerings.

December 31 & January 1 – Alabama Chanin offices and The Factory close at 2pm on New Year’s Eve and are closed for New Year’s Day.

We have now reached the end of 2015’s Swatch of the Month Club with this month’s Inked and Quilted swatch in our Angie’s Fall stencil. Detailed instructions are available on page 56 of Alabama Studio Style. You can see additional options for varying your stencil effect with marker on pages 18 – 19 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DECEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Top layer fabric color – Dove
Backing layer fabric color – Dove
Stencil – Angie’s Fall
Treatment – Inked and Quilted
Textile paint – Pearl Slate
Button Craft Thread – Slate #26

If you’ve finished each of our swatches (or have every intention of finishing), you might want to use them to create one of our beautiful archived projects—like the DIY Swatch Wrap or the stunning Sampler Block Quilt. Those of you who have completed swatches—please share your creations with us. Thanks for stitching along with us this year and we look forward to sharing more projects with you in the New Year.

Follow along on social media and on our Journal with the hashtags:
#theschoolofmaking
#swatchofthemonth
#buildawardrobe2016

NOVEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

I looked down at my calendar recently and was stunned to realize: this year is almost over. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was thinking summer vacations and tomato sandwiches. Now, I have to shift gears and get into holiday mode—quickly. It seems the older I get, the more I seem to ask myself: where did the year go?

As our calendar continues to fill up in the coming month, this is what November looks like for us, right now:

November 2 – National Deviled Egg Day—a true holiday for the people. Maybe we should petition to make it a Federal holiday? At any rate, try our recipe from Alabama Studio Style (or experiment with these pink deviled eggs).

November 3 – Election Day. While it is an off-year election, there are many local races and initiatives to consider. Please exercise your right to vote.

November 5 – Café Nights with Zach. Visit Zach at The Factory as he mans the bar and makes special drinks and wine cocktails. (Every Thursday this month, excluding Thanksgiving Day.)

November 6 – 8 – Classic Studio Weekend @ The Factory.

November 11 – Veterans Day. At the end of World War I, fighting ceased on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. It was declared a federal holiday by President Woodrow Wilson and since then has been a day to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

November 12 – Sip + Sew @ The Factory. Our sewing group meets the second Thursday to work on their projects over drinks. This group is open to beginners and experienced sewers alike. Or just come join us for a glass of wine and lively conversation.

November 14 – National Pickle Appreciation Day. Though its importance pales in comparison to Veterans Day, may we suggest a lighthearted celebration of the humble pickle? Here is Gram Perkins recipe for Fourteen-Day Pickles.

November 15 – America Recycles Day. Take the pledge to reduce personal waste by recycling. Learn more and get involved in your community at AmericaRecyclesDay.org

November 19 – Talented artist, friend, and collaborator Rinne Allen delves into her “Harvest series” for the New York Times T Magazine in this month’s On Design Lecture Series, “Harvesting America.”

November 26 – Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy the long weekend with your family and friends. To liven up your traditional Thanksgiving dishes, try Vivian Howard’s Buttery Turkey recipe or Natalie and Zach’s Mother and Son Thanksgiving Dressing.

November 27 – Join Natalie for our second monthly Stammtisch, part of our Café Nights @ The Factory. Come for lively conversation and fellowship. Small bites, wine, and beer available for purchase.

November 27 – Our Beautiful Black sale begins—traditionally known as the busiest shopping day of the year. The holiday season will be in full swing, and we will also offer special savings.

November 28 – Small Business Saturday. Support small, local businesses in your community. If you are in Florence or the surrounding area, we invite you to visit us at The Factory.

November 30 – We’ll have a few surprises online as part of our Holiday Shop.

November’s Swatch of the Month features embroidery using our Ermine Stitch and Alabama Eyelets, which you can find detailed on pages 80 – 81 of Alabama Studio Sewing and Design—part of our section about Decorative Stitches.

2015-Swatch-of-the-Month---Blues---11-November---Eyelets---Abraham-Rowe-(1)

OUR DESIGN CHOICES
Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Top layer fabric – Twilight
Backing layer fabric – Twilight
Treatment – Circular embroidery with Ermine Stitch and Alabama Eyelets
Button Craft thread – Slate #26

Explore our Journal for an archive of all past Swatch of the Month swatches for 2014 and 2015, including some projects you can create using swatches.

Follow along on social media and on our Journal with the hashtags:
#theschoolofmaking
#swatchofthemonth
#buildawardrobe2016

OCTOBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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SEPTEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

Here are a few things going on this month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – SEPTEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

Follow along on social media and on our Journal with the hashtags:
#theschoolofmaking
#swatchofthemonth
#buildawardrobe2016

AUGUST + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

The months of June and July were wonderful and hectic in lots of beautiful and fun ways. There was plenty of travel, including our trip to Blackberry Farm and the cross-country train trip that Maggie and I took to San Francisco. With August comes a welcome bit of calm, just before our house gets back into the more regimented groove of the school year. (I hear the collective sigh of, “Where did the summer go?”)

Even though they weren’t as fastidiously tended to as I would have liked, my tomato plants are still producing a few beauties. I’m savoring these all while questioning if I put up enough for the coming year and knowing that I didn’t.

But, if there’s some solace to be had it’s that peach season has arrived—and August is in fact National Peach Month. I’m going to dust off my favorite peach ginger smoothie recipe, throw some peaches on the grill, and hope that maybe Lisa Donovan will send over some of her famous peach hand pies. (A girl can hope.) For those in search of a perfect peach-related cocktail, The Peach Truck offers this recipe for Fresh Georgia Peach Bourbon.

Our Alabama on Alabama exhibit @ Heath Ceramics will continue through August 23rd, so you still have time to visit if you have not already.

August 3 – National Watermelon Day. I think we will slice one up on the back deck, pin on some napkin bibs, and get messy.

August 8 – I laughed out loud when I read that this day is known as “Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day”. Anyone who has ever been overly blessed with their zucchini and squash harvests knows exactly what this means…

August 9 – Wrapping up our Studio Style DIY Trunk Show at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, California.

August 26 – Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote. If you are not registered to vote, there is no better day than today.

August 27 – We’re happy to announce our upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner @ The Factory with chef Rob McDaniel. A fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance and in celebration of the Billy Reid Shindig.

Hopefully, you can find some downtime this month to work on the August Swatch of the Month—embroidery, appliqué, and reverse appliqué in our Small Polka Dot stencil.

For detailed instructions and photographs please consult Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. It has information on each technique and its variations.

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JULY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 30 – Makeshift Conversation @ Heath Ceramics. Cathy and I will be lead a conversation around design, craft, and fashion—followed by an interactive workshop where we will be designing, creating, and making a DIY Tote Kit.

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JUNE + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

Here is what June has in store:

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

June 8-12: Classic Studio Week @ The Factory

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

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

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

June 26-28: Our Classic Sewing Weekend at Blackberry Farm.

June 29: Mother/Daughter One-Day Sewing Retreat at Blackberry Farm.

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MAY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

I am happy to greet May, partly because April came “as advertised”—dropping buckets of rain—but also because May is filled with so many good things. So many, in fact, that I might feel differently by month’s end, but for now I am ready. There are workshops, both at home and afar. Maggie finishes school at the end of the month, which (in her mind) means summer has begun and it’s time for a backyard barbecue. (May is, after all, National Barbecue Month.)

Here is what the schedule looks like for the rest of the month:

May 10: Mother’s Day (the second Sunday of May). We are hosting our first-ever Mother’s Day Brunch at the Factory Café. Seating available at 10:00 am and 12:00 pm, purchase tickets here.

May 11: On Design: In the Kitchen + Biscuits @ The Factory

May 14: One-Day Studio Stenciling + Pattern Design Workshop @ The Factory.

May 15 – 17: Classic Studio Weekend Workshop here @ The Factory.

May 17: Sunday Brunch: Pies + Casseroles, a Celebration of the Southern Oven—a Makeshift | Friends of the Café fundraiser for Jones Valley Teaching Farm featuring acclaimed pastry chefs (and all-around amazing women) Angie Mosier and Lisa Donovan. Seating is limited, so purchase yours today.

May 20: Stay up late for David Letterman’s final Late Show.

May 21: Two-Hour Sewing Workshop and Book Signing at LF8 in NYC.

May 25: Memorial Day—in remembrance of those who died in service to our country. Many in our community still refer to this day as Decoration Day and spend time picnicking and cleaning or decorating memorial plots and monuments.

May 26: National Biscuit Day. While this is celebrated daily in many Southern kitchens, it is nice to know that the mighty biscuit has its own day to shine.

May 28: Last day of the school year for Maggie.

Somehow, in the middle of all this madness, I have to find time to transplant my tomatoes and okra, and tend the rest of the garden. Wish me luck.

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APRIL + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

With the arrival of April (and the announcement of our partnership with Nest), it feels as though we are finally settling into the year. April’s warmer weather is also welcomed with open arms (and horseback rides). April is a busy month.

April is National Poetry Month. Poetry lovers can begin a project using our Poetry stencil—available for download on our Resources page or work your favorite poem or quote directly onto any garment.

Here is what’s on the horizon for April:

April 2 – International Children’s Book Day—Maggie recommends favorites by Maira Kalman.

April 5 – Easter Sunday – however you choose to celebrate, we hope you approach today with a spirit of renewal.

April 7 – Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns launches (very exciting)

April 11 – This day we host our Alabama Chanin Open House + Community Picnic, plus our One-Hour Mini-Workshops at the Factory. Spend a day with our team at The Factory. Sign up for mini-workshops on dyeing, stenciling, and/or sewing. For the potluck-style picnic, we provide barbecue and “fixins”—so bring your favorite side dish or dessert to share. The open house is free and open to the public.

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MARCH + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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

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FEBRUARY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

We began our 2015 Swatch of the Month back in January but neglected to write about the swatch and share pictures here on the Journal. Many of you reached out to let us know that you missed these posts. We heard. We listened. And herewith, our February post (and the slightly late January below).

Here’s what February has in store for me:

February 1 – Super Bowl Sunday. Watch the Puppy Bowl with Maggie instead.
February 2 – Groundhog Day. (Note: Groundhog Day movie marathon on television)
February 3 – Full moon. Literally anything can happen.
February 7 – National Send a Card to a Friend Day
February 14 – Valentine’s Day
February 17 – National Act of Kindness Day. I will buy lunch for some guests at the Factory Café.
February 22 – Downton Abbey finale (It’s a guilty pleasure. No apologies.)
February 24 – Start seeds: broccoli, cauliflower, peas

Make time to begin February’s Swatch of the Month—backstitched reverse appliqué. For a detailed description of this technique, view page 97 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

You can experiment with different versions of reverse applique: traditional reverse appliqué, beaded appliqué, outside reverse appliqué, or any other technique that suits you.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: DECEMBER 2014

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

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

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

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

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2015 SWATCH OF THE MONTH

In 2014, we were inspired by our extensive fabric library—and readers expressed interest in trying new techniques—to create our first Swatch of the Month Club. Our library of sample swatches archives over 500 techniques, embroideries, fabric treatments, and colorways that we have experimented with or used in past and upcoming Alabama Chanin collections.

If you have visited one of our trunk shows or attended a workshop, you have likely browsed giant binders of these swatches. Each individual sample represents a small moment in our company’s history and growth—as a whole, they represent a decade of design history. In 2015, we are offering a new Swatch of the Month Club with an expanded selection of stencils and techniques. We learned a few things about this process during our 2014 run and have updated the program this year to reflect those lessons and streamline, saving packaging and reducing our carbon-footprint.

When you enroll in Swatch of the Month 2015, you will receive the full year’s necessary notions (thread, embroidery floss, and a label), along with the first month’s swatch in a beautifully wrapped box. For those who want to add additional embellishment to swatches, you have the option to add 6oz. of chop beads, 6oz. of bugle beads, and 1oz. of sequins for an extra $30—or you may choose to purchase sequins and beads separately. Select this option upon ordering and you will receive all beads, along with your notions, in your first package. After the initial shipment, we will mail your 10” x 16” fabric swatches and an informational insert via United States Postal Service (USPS) at the beginning of each month.

SWATCH OF THE MONTH 2015

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: NOVEMBER 2014

The Swatch of the Month for November highlights one of my all time favorite designs, Climbing Daisy. The technique uses ribbon embroidery, which beautifully adds dimension and detail to projects and garments. The concept is simple: we use cotton ribbon rather than thread or embroidery floss to stitch the design. This technique can be applied to almost any of our stencil designs and combined with any of our stitching practices.

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

Stitch the larger petal shapes using 100% cotton tape and a large-eyed embroidery needle. (Note: over the years, we’ve found that upholstery needles with a large eye also work quite well with this technique.)

After the larger petals are stitched, create French knots (see page 75 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design) with the cotton tape at the center of the petal shapes, as well as along the stems.

Next, stem-stitch (see page 85 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design) long, curving stems using the embroidery floss. Repeat this process until you have stitched each of your stenciled shapes.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: OCTOBER 2014

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

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

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

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: SEPTEMBER 2014

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

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

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

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DIY SWATCH TOTE

Each month, we invite our fellow stitchers to create a favorite Alabama Chanin pattern, embellishment, or embroidery technique through our Swatch of the Month Club. As a companion to that monthly series, we are also offering DIY projects that you can create with your completed swatches. Past projects include DIY Swatch Pillows, DIY Book Covers, a DIY Clutch, and a DIY Swatch Wrap. This month, we illustrate how to add an embellished pocket to a finished tote bag using August’s Beaded Kristina’s Rose swatch.

SUPPLIES
August’s completed Swatch of the Month (or your favorite swatch of choice)
1 – 1 ¼”-wide strip of fabric, measuring 16” long, cut across the grain, for binding
Alabama Chanin #3 Organic Tote Bag

Basic sewing supplies: needles, embroidery scissors, pins, rotary cutter, ruler, cutting mat

Complete your swatch of choice according to the instructions – or create a swatch using your personal design choices. Alabama Studio Sewing + Design can provide instruction on techniques and embroidery options, if you need additional guidance or inspiration.

DIY-SWATCH-TOTE (5)

Use your iron to press your 1 ¼” binding strip in half, lengthwise, with wrong sides together. Position your swatch horizontally and encase the top edge of the swatch with your binding. Pin or baste the binding strip into place. Whipstitch the raw edge of the binding to your fabric swatch to secure. You may also opt to use a decorative or stretchable stitch, based on your personal design preference.

Lay your tote on a level surface and smooth the fabric to make sure it lies flat and unwrinkled. Center your swatch – with the finished edge on top – in the center of the tote’s face. When positioning the swatch, align the top edge with the opening of the tote. Pin your swatch onto the outside of the tote bag.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: AUGUST 2014

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

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

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

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

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DIY STARS TUNIC

Each month of 2014, we have been demonstrating some of our favorite embroidery techniques as part of our Swatch of the Month Club. The month of July features our satin stitch-embroidered Stars design, embellished with beads and sequins.

To highlight this stencil and technique – and as a way to celebrate Independence Day all summer long – we suggest purchasing a machine-sewn Racerback Tunic in the size of your choice and all the supplies needed to embellish your tunic with our Stars design, including our Stars stencil, Red Button Craft thread, bugle beads, chop beads, and sequins.

This project combines our hand-worked techniques with a machine-made garment. Look for more projects combining hand with machine coming soon.

SWATCH OF THE MONTH: JULY 2014

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

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

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

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DIY SWATCH WRAP

Each month, we feature a favorite Alabama Chanin embroidery technique as part of our Swatch of the Month Club. Additionally, we offer suggestions as to how you might put your completed swatches to use. Past month’s project offerings have included the DIY Clutch, DIY Book Covers, and DIY Swatch Pillows. This month – with 6 completed swatches to utilize – we offer instructions on how to construct a Tied Wrap. Our wrap uses our completed swatches from January through June; each reworked using a White/Natural colorway.

SUPPLIES

6 completed Swatch of the Month panels (or 6 – 10” x 16” cotton jersey fabric swatches of your choice)
1 – 20” x 48” rectangle of cotton jersey fabric, for optional backing layer
2 cotton jersey ropes 18” long (see page 8 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design)
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, needles, thread, pins, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, which includes all necessary instructions for completing swatches and Tied Wrap.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: JUNE 2014

The Swatch of the Month for June combines a number of embroidery techniques into a single design. This stencil, appropriately titled June’s Spring, combines both basic techniques, like backstitch embroidery and appliqué, with more elaborate treatments, like beading and Feather stitch embroidery. The combination of these elements on one swatch results in a lush, rich looking textile.

Detailed instructions for completing the June’s Spring fabric treatment and a fabric map illustration can be found on pages 118-119 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. This particular swatch allows you quite a bit of creative freedom, since you decide what elements to embellish and to what degree they will be decorated. We recommend that you make a plan (like the fabric map shown in the book) ahead of time for how you will decorate each element. But, you might think it is more fun to improvise and make decisions as you create. Either approach will undoubtedly result in a beautiful completed swatch.

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DIY CLUTCH

Each month, we highlight one of our favorite embroidery techniques through our Swatch of the Month Club. As a companion to that monthly series, we have also put together a selection of projects you can create with your completed swatches. This month, we have created a beaded clutch bag, which you will need one finished swatch to complete. We created our bag using May’s beaded ruffle swatch.

SUPPLIES

Supplies for May’s Swatch of the Month (or your favorite swatch of choice)
1 – 10” x 10” 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey panel, unembellished, for pocket
1 – 10” x 1 1/4” strip cotton jersey (cut across the grain), for rib binding
Basic sewing supplies: fabric scissorsrotary cuttercutting matrulertailor’s chalkneedlesthreadpins.

Complete your Swatch of the Month according to the instructions – or create a swatch using your own personal design choice. Refer to Alabama Studio Sewing + Design as a resource, if you need additional guidance. 

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: MAY 2014

The Swatch of the Month for May demonstrates our beaded ruffle stripe technique. This is a variation of our random ruffle technique, featured in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. You can add several rows of ruffles for a more elaborate textural design or use just one if you want to highlight the technique itself.

Detailed instructions on how to apply ruffles can be found on pages 107-108 in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. To add ruffles to your swatch, you will need to use tailor’s chalk to draw a line (or several lines) on the right side of your top layer fabric. This will be your guide for where to add your ruffles.

To make a ruffle stripe, cut a 1”-wide strip of cotton jersey, sew with a basting stitch down the middle of the strip, then pull on the ends of the basting thread to ruffle, or gather, the strip. Attach the ruffled stripes to your double-layer fabric swatch by first basting them down (along your chalked line) with an all-purpose thread and then securing them with a stretch stitch or another decorative stitch down the center of the ruffle. We used a zigzag chain stitch on our version of the swatch.

For our swatch, we have opted to add chop beads to the stitches securing the ruffle to the base fabric. The beading adds a bit of sparkle, dimension, and detail.

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DIY BOOK COVERS

In service to everyone who showed such great response to our Swatch of the Month, we are featuring a series of DIY projects that you can create with your completed swatch(es). This month’s project is a book cover adapted to fit the size of our Studio Books. It requires one swatch and four blank panels of fabric to complete. Make your own Studio Book cover, or adapt the size to fit your favorite book.

We chose to use this month’s appliqué swatch for the main portion of our book cover. The additional four panels were left unembellished in order to highlight the intricate Anna’s Garden design.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: APRIL 2014

The Swatch of the Month for April allows you the opportunity to experiment with a basic, traditional appliqué technique in our Anna’s Garden stencil design. Appliqué is a way of “applying” one fabric on top of another. We use appliqué for many reasons – to add color, texture, dimension, and more elaborate design work to a piece. You can use any number of stitches to appliqué your top design to the bottom fabric. Here, we demonstrate the most common way that we add an appliquéd element to a base fabric: a simple parallel whipstitch.

Detailed instructions on appliqué techniques can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Match up each appliqué shape with its correct position as you cut it to avoid creating a complicated puzzle for yourself. Take care to position your appliqué pieces precisely by pinning each cut shape of the stenciled design into place. Then, stitch each appliqué shape to your fabric using a parallel whipstitch, which will attach your appliqué pieces securely.

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DIY SWATCH PILLOWS

Each Thursday on the Journal we post DIY projects and ideas. On Thursdays following our highlight of the Swatch of the Month, we will be creating projects made from our completed swatches as a source of inspiration for those of you following along. At Alabama Chanin, swatches start out as a design concept for new collections, but as we have discovered over the years, you can do almost anything with them.

We have chosen to take the swatches from the past three months and create decorative pillows. We re-worked the swatches from January, February, and March using the Neutrals color scheme, in order to create a cohesive look for the entire project. Follow the instructions for creating a pillow on page 109 of Alabama Studio Style, making accommodations for the size of your chosen pillow.

Whatever their size, these pillows make great accents for a couch, chair, or bed. I love them in simple color-blocked versions and, as we’ve done here, with the front side embellished with swatches.

March’s swatch, the Beaded Fern, is appliqued to a 12” x 20” double-layer White pillow, lined with White piping, with a whipstitch and Dogwood thread.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: MARCH 2014

Each month, as part of our Swatch of the Month Club, we are demonstrating some of our most popular techniques so that you might try your hand at creating new designs and embroideries. If you join the Swatch of the Month Club, you will receive a ready-to-sew package each month with the supplies needed to make that month’s unique piece. Just provide your own needles, pins, and scissors (or purchase an Essential Sewing Kit from our online store). Techniques and instruction can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: FEBRUARY 2014

February’s Swatch of the Month illustrates a variation on Alabama Chanin’s basic reverse appliqué technique in our Anna’s Garden design. With a membership in our Swatch of the Month Club, you can try out a different technique each month. You may purchase a Swatch of the Month membership at any point in the year and will receive all swatches from previous months. Follow along on the Journal as we demonstrate some of our most popular embroidery and embellishment techniques.

This photograph shows the second installment of the year: outside reverse appliqué. View January’s swatch—basic reverse appliqué—here. Outside reverse appliqué is very similar to basic reverse appliqué. The only difference between the two techniques is that outside appliqué does not leave any textile paint on the fabric.

Each Swatch of the Month kit comes ready-to-sew with all of the notions needed to complete the project. Just provide your own needles, pins, and scissors (or purchase an Essential Sewing Kit from our online store). Techniques and instruction can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: JANUARY 2014

January’s Swatch of the Month incorporates Alabama Chanin’s basic reverse appliqué technique with our Paisley stencil. Explore our techniques and build your skills with a membership to our Swatch of the Month Club and follow along here on the Journal.

The photograph above shows one of many options you can create when making your own swatch.

Experiment with your swatch. You can work it in reverse appliqué like we did, or use another treatment: negative reverse, backstitched reverse, quilted, or embellish with beaded stitches. Reverse appliqué can be done by beginners and experienced sewers alike and is worked on two layers of fabric: The top layer is stenciled and then stitched to the backing layer; next, part of the top layer is cut away to reveal the backing fabric underneath.

Each kit comes stenciled and ready-to-sew with all of the notions needed to complete the swatch—just provide your own needles, pins, and scissors (or purchase an essential sewing kit). Colorway options include Navy/Black (our design choice), White/Natural, Neutrals, Reds, and Blues.  Techniques and instruction can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

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