Tag Archives: Craft

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

TARTAN + TARTAN

Use the Tartan Stencil to achieve a plaid look on your fabric using the most basic stitch—the Straight (or Running) Stitch. Tartan embroidery is achieved by using strategically placed straight stitches on the square grid (as covered in The Geometry of Hand-Sewing) laid out by the Tartan Stencil. This design is made up of 1/4” squares that are evenly spaced with some larger spaces that you can leave empty for a more traditional Tartan plaid look—or fill them with appliqué and beading for more embellishment. Because of the straight, geometric nature of this stencil and technique, we recommend using it on garments that have more straight lines, such as the Cropped Car Jacket shown above.

On the original Tartan embroidery design, we used three different colors of Button Craft Thread with the colors passing over and under each other to further mimic a classic plaid pattern. We now use Embroidery Floss to achieve this look since there are more colors to choose from. The embroidery can be completed using a single color of Embroidery Floss or Button Craft Thread if you’re going for a more tonal look.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

We’ve had a number of requests to share this technique, so we’ve provided instructions and illustrations below for the Tartan embroidery treatment using three different colors of Embroidery Floss (or Button Craft Thread, if you prefer).

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

You will work this stencil in blocks as shown above to cut down on the number of times you need to knot off and start a new stitch. Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. To begin one 16-square block, come up at A and sew a Straight Stitch as shown above until you go down at B. Turn and come up at C and sew a Straight Stitch as shown until you go down at D. Knot off on the backside of your fabric.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

To complete the four columns of vertical stitches in this block, repeat this process in the center of the next two blocks as shown above. Come up at A and sew four Straight Stitches. Go down at B, turn, and come up at C. Sew four Straight Stitches and go down at D. Knot off.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

Next, you will complete the horizontal stitches in your 16-square block with the same method used to complete the vertical stitches. Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Come up at A and sew a Straight Stitch across to B. Go down, turn, and come up at C. Sew a Straight Stitch across and go down D. Knot off on the backside of your fabric.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

To complete the four rows of horizontal stitches in this block, repeat this process in the center of the next two blocks as shown above. Come up at A and sew four Straight Stitches. Go down at B, turn, and come up at C. Sew four Straight Stitches and go down at D. Knot off. Complete all vertical and horizontal stitches before moving on to diagonal stitches.

Next, you will stitch the diagonal lines across your blocks in a second color. You may complete each 4-square block individually, but we recommend sewing two 4-square blocks at once to save time and cut down on the number of knots on the backside of your fabric.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

To complete the diagonal lines in your second color, you’ll be working two 4-square blocks at a time in an alternating pattern as indicated above by the darker squares. If you wish to bring in a third color, this will be sewn as indicated by the lighter squares above.

Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Come up at A and go down at B. Come up at C and go down at D making a slightly shorter stitch than the rest. Come up at E, go down at F, and come up at G. Repeat this pattern to complete the rest of your block. Sew all diagonal lines in the same direction for an entire row of blocks before going back across with the same color (much like sewing cross stitch).

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

Once you’ve completed a row of diagonal stitches in one direction, go back across the row crossing the stitches you’ve just sewn in the opposite direction. Come up at A, go down at B, and come up at C. Make a short stitch and go down at D. Come up at E, go down at F, and come up at G. Continue this pattern to complete the blocks. Sew all diagonal lines in your second color before moving onto the third.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

Once the second color is complete, thread your needle with your third color of choice, love your thread, and knot off. You will be filling in the blocks that were skipped before. Using your third color, come up at A, go down at B, and come up at C. Make a small stitch and go down at D. Come up at E, go down at F, and come back up at G. Finish the block using by continuing the pattern. Complete the row of blocks working in the same direction in your third color.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

To complete the Tartan embroidery, you’ll now go back across the same row working with your third color until you have crossed all of the stitches in your third color on the same row. Come up at A, go down at B, and come up at C. Make a small stitch and go down at D. Come up at E, go down at F, and come back up at G. Finish the block using by continuing the pattern. Complete the row of blocks working in the same direction in your third color.

Since this treatment focuses on embroidery rather than cutting away fabric (like Reverse Appliqué or Negative Reverse Appliqué), this technique is great for outerwear or a structured skirt as it adds a bit of weight to a garment. If you try it out, be sure to share your work with us on Instagram using #theschoolofmaking and #thegeometryofhandsewing.

Blue fabric detail with couching and black beads

COUCHING INSTRUCTIONS

Couching is a traditional embroidery technique that’s been used for hundreds of years. Historically, yarn (or some other form of rope) was laid on top of a surface and sewn into place with a satin stitch. At The School of Making, we define couching as a type of appliqué in which cotton jersey ropes are appliquéd to the base fabric using a parallel whipstitch—often following the outline of one of our stencil designs.

Couching can add weight and warmth to a coat or elevate a wedding dress to a work of art. The technique gives garments a sculptural quality, and it has become a customer favorite. It’s simple in concept but is best executed by more advanced sewers since it’s nearly impossible to pin the couching ropes into place—you must use your fingers to hold the ropes in position as you sew. Don’t be afraid to experiment with techniques—couching and armor beading mix well together as shown in the fabric detail above (more on that next week). To make it easier to achieve this technique at home, we are now offering pre-cut Couching Ropes in our full range of 25 colors to match your next project. Find the instructions for couching on pages 110 – 111 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, or continue reading below.

Cut couching ropes in black

SUPPLIES

Stencil
Cotton jersey fabric for top layer
Cotton jersey fabric for backing layer
Cotton jersey fabric for ropes
18” transparent plastic ruler
Rotary cutter and cutting mat
Textile paint
Spray bottle or airbrush gun
Embroidery scissors
Hand-sewing needle
Button craft thread
Pins

1. Stencil Fabric and Prepare Ropes
Stencil the right side of your top-layer fabric, and set it aside to dry thoroughly. Using the fabric for your ropes, cut 1/2”-wide stripe, cutting them with the grain and making them as long as you want. Pull each strip from both ends at the same time to make ropes about 3/16” in diameter.

2. Align Top and Bottom Fabric Layers
Align the top and bottom layers of fabric, both right side up and with the grain lines running in the same direction, then pin the two layers together.

3. Prepare for Couching
Thread your needle with a double length of thread, love your thread, and knot off with a double knot. Choose one shape in your stenciled design as a starting point. Place one end of a couching rope at the edge of that stenciled shape, leaving about 1/2” of rope free beyond that point; insert your needle from the back of the fabric up through the middle of the rope to secure it with a couching wrap stitch (or small whipstitch centered on the couching strip) at the edge of the stenciled shape, bringing the needle back down through both pinned layers of fabric to prepare for the next step.

4. Couch First Stenciled Shape
Using your fingers, hold the secured rope along the edge of the stenciled shape, and work one couching stitch around the rope to anchor it in place by bringing needle up on the edge of the paint line and going back down through the same hole through both layers of fabric. Realign rope with next part of stencil design’s edge, sew next couching stitch about 1/8” to 1/4″ away, and continue this process around this stenciled shape to arrive back at your starting point.

5. Finish Couching First Stenciled Shape
Trim the couching rope so it overlaps the beginning end by 1/8”, and secure the overlapped ends with a couching wrap stitch, stabbing the needle through the ends and pulling the thread through to the back of the work. Knot off your thread using a double knot.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW: ARMOR BEAD COLORS

NEW: ARMOR BEAD COLORS

While our basic, unadorned garments provide a great foundation for your wardrobe (and are quick and easy to stitch up), it’s the embellishments you add that make them truly unique and turn them into statement pieces for your growing hand-sewn wardrobe. Beads, sequins, and decorative stitches can transform a simple hand-sewn garment into an heirloom.

We have developed a variety of beading styles with which to embellish garments, and one of our favorites is Armor Beading. Armor Beading combines chop beads, bugle beads, and sequins applied in a random order. It looks beautiful as an accent around a neckline—especially when applied heavily at the edge and then fading out towards the body of the garment—as well as a stripe around a hemline. Armor Beading can also be used to fill a stenciled space.

Armor Beads are available as a product and offered in six colors now—Black, Dark Grey, Gold, Red, Silver, and White—to use on a wide range of the 25 available colors of organic cotton jersey. As with any of our beading techniques, Armor Beading works best with our Beading Needles and a single strand of Button Craft Thread.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW: ARMOR BEAD COLORS

Armor Beading is used in the June’s Spring fabric treatment (shown above) as well as Beaded Stars. Find instructions and a Fabric Map for June’s Spring on pages 118 – 119 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

INTRODUCING THE LARGE PARADISE STENCIL

Inspired by the work of French naïve artist, Henri Rousseau, and originally used in our 2015 Collection, the Large Paradise stencil is now available through The School of Making. The stencil features a tropical-inspired motif that harkens back to Rousseau’s lush, jungle setting of his 1910 painting The Dream.

The Large Paradise stencil is available cut on 10mil Mylar and as a digital artwork download. Large Paradise is also now a stencil option for Custom DIY Kits as well.

Follow @theschoolofmaking on Instagram and share all your projects with using the hashtag #theschoolofmaking.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

The Wrap Dress style made its first appearance in the Alabama Chanin collection back in 2008. Over the years, it has been made in many different variations—dressed down in a basic tank style for summer as well as dressed up as a fully embellished dress for a wedding. The sleeve variations and length options make this garment endlessly versatile and easy to fit into your existing wardrobe.

Below you can find design choices for some of our favorite versions throughout the years.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Pattern variation – Wrap Tunic (shown above)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Black
Fabric color for inner layer – Black
Button craft thread – Black
Stencil – Stars
Textile paint – Slate
Technique – Beaded Stars
Sleeve variation – Sleeveless
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Herringbone

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Pattern variation – Wrap Tunic (shown at left)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Ballet
Fabric color for inner layer – Ballet
Button craft thread – Dogwood
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Textile paint – Pearl Silver
Technique – Negative Reverse Appliqué
Sleeve variation – Sleeveless
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Pattern variation – Wrap Tunic
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button craft thread – White
Stencil – Facets
Textile paint – Pearl Silver
Technique – Negative Reverse Appliqué
Sleeve variation – Cap Sleeve
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Pattern variation – Wrap Dress (with lengthening border added)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Ballet
Button craft thread – Dogwood
Sleeve variation – Long Fluted Sleeve
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Herringbone

ALABAMA CHANIN - FASHION POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM 6

FASHION, POLITICS, AND PATRIOTISM

Since America’s earliest days, individuals have used clothing and fashion to project their social status and political ideals. Even the first colonists used clothing to demonstrate their wealth or political status. Purchasing power meant social prominence and cultural importance. Some communities, like the Puritans and Amish communities, used their clothing as a different type of political statement—using garments to demonstrate their philosophical rejections of what they often saw as the frivolity or unnecessary focus on things that might take away from their primary focus on religion and faithfulness.

ALABAMA CHANIN - FASHION POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM 2

American women changed the face of fashion and culture during the World War II era, when millions entered the workforce. By the end of the war, over 35% of women held jobs, many of them non-traditional and generally associated with men. These women often dressed in practical garments in order to operate machinery or work in the defense industry. The act of wearing pants became something akin to a patriotic act, with Rosie the Riveter serving as a symbol of pride. Women also participated in the armed services, as members of the Women’s Army Corps (WACs), Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), and Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). Until these positions were created, women had generally not been issued regulation uniforms.

ALABAMA CHANIN - FASHION POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM 3

In the early 1940s, fashion and race collided in what became known as the “Zoot Suit Riots”. Zoot Suits were oversized, long-tailed coats worn over high-waisted pants and were inspired by Jazz culture. The fashion was adopted by Mexican-American and Latino youths in the Los Angeles area. White American soldiers took offense to those who wore this style of clothing, as they were often made of wool, a fabric rationed during wartime. Zoot Suit wearers became—often unfairly—seen as thugs or draft dodgers. Tensions boiled over into actual riots and brawls between the two groups, where soldiers attacked those wearing the garments—even stripping them of their suits. The riots grew into a larger, race-based conflict focusing on Latinos in general. Los Angeles banned Zoot Suits almost immediately thereafter.

ALABAMA CHANIN - FASHION POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM 4

During the 1940s and 50s, nonconformist youth adopted fashions meant to antagonize what they saw as oppressive and unnecessary social norms. Beatniks who idolized Jack Kerouac and Che Guevera emulated their dress with leather jackets, berets, and black jeans. Of course, popular culture adopted these fashions and they became emblematic of rebellious youth, as represented by Marlon Brando in The Wild One or James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. What had once been a sign of defiance became stylish and cool, and therefore the opposite of rebellious. The same patterns emerged in later years when major designers created designs inspired by the punk movement and so-called grunge culture. Over and over again, outside culture was co-opted by the mainstream which stripped the fashion of its original intent.

ALABAMA CHANIN - FASHION POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM 5

The 1960s introduced the iconic counterculture and flower child movements, which rejected conventional dress, viewing it as a symbol of the mainstream political and social attitudes that were seen as oppressive. Women’s clothing became a direct and overt protest of the ultra-feminine fashions that became prevalent after WWII, exaggerating women’s curves—with comfort being undeniably secondary to sexuality and objectification. Their fashions were intentionally anti-establishment and often had DIY elements of embroideries and handmade embellishments. “Hippie” fashion adopted counterculture symbols like peace signs and flowers. As a political statement, some women opted to go braless as a rejection of what they viewed as subjugated and limited roles of women in society and as a way to adopt a more natural, back-to-the-earth point of view. In general, the counterculture movement sought to flaunt convention through fashion. Men grew long hair and beards and women also favored long hair and natural looks, sometimes opting to keep armpits and legs unshaven as a physical objection to societal norms they saw as oppressive.

The American flag became popular in both mainstream and popular fashion. Hippies, who often wore Army jackets as a protest against the Vietnam War, also integrated the flag into their garments as a way to draw attention to their dissent. Abbie Hoffman, founder of the Youth International Party (the Yippies) was arrested in 1968 for wearing a shirt that resembled the design of the American flag and indicted and convicted of the act of desecration. However, the American flag became an integral part of youth fashion in 1976, the year of the US Bicentennial. Flag patterns were emblazoned on everything from bell bottoms to shoes to belt buckles.

The Civil Rights movements in the 1960s-inspired fashion that focused on African American identity. This included everything from clothing made of Kente cloth, dashikis, African jewelry, and natural hairstyles. The Black Panther Party adopted a uniform for members that included a powder blue shirt, black pants and shoes, a black leather jacket, a black beret, and black gloves. This was meant to reflect their militant attitude and act as a celebration of their blackness. The Black Muslim community expressed their ethics and political perspective through formal dress, particularly dark suits and bow ties.

ALABAMA CHANIN - FASHION POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM 7

In the later years of the 20th century, fashion designers began to express their own political points of view through their collections. Imagery became more overt, focusing on issues like gay rights, AIDS, the environment, and politics in general. Vivienne Tam’s 1995 Mao collection caused a great deal of controversy by using propagandist imagery (specifically the face of Mao Zedong). Jean Paul Gaultier produced runway shows featuring men wearing skirts. Celebrities wore red ribbons to major events to encourage AIDS awareness. And PETA created a stir with their “We’d rather go naked than wear fur,” advertisement that featured a group of recognizable supermodels. Katharine Hammet pioneered the political slogan t-shirt, primarily using bold words on white shirts. One of her most famous designs was the “Choose Life” shirt made famous by George Michael, but she has continued her work—focusing on subjects like environmental sustainability and AIDS activism.

ALABAMA CHANIN - FASHION POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM 8

Most recently, designers and fashion houses like Prabal Gurung, Christian Siriano, Missoni, and Dior have been inspired to include their strong patriotic sentiments as part of their runway collections. No matter what your political affiliation, displaying your own form of patriotism through fashion is an American tradition. Fashion has always been used as a form of expressing identity and either separating oneself from a group or demonstrating your allegiance to a tribe or movement. We view all of this expression as a form of patriotism and the true American spirit.

Images from SlateLip Magazine, E! Online, Gizmodo, Biography.com, and Everyday I Show.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE WRAP DRESS

2017 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE WRAP DRESS

Universally flattering and a staple of any wardrobe, the Wrap Dress is the focus of the third quarter of Build a Wardrobe 2017 and is available for the first time today as a digital pattern download. Offered with five sleeve options and five length variations, the pattern is available in sizes XS through  XX-Large. The $18 download also includes construction instructions and is formatted for both wide-format and tiled printing.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE WRAP DRESS

Make a basic version or use any of the techniques in our Studio Book series to take your Wrap Dress from casual to special occasion worthy. Be sure to share your project with us using the hashtags #theschoolofmaking and #buildawardrobe2017.

Check back with us in October for our fourth and final quarter release of 2017.

Purchase the Wrap Dress pattern.

Visit The School of Making’s Facebook page here.

P.S.: We ask that you respect our policies and use our patterns for your own personal projects. They are designed for individual use and are not intended for reproducing, distributing, or commercial venues.

ALABAMA CHANIN – PROJECT PLANNER WORKSHEETS

PROJECT PLANNER WORKSHEETS

Thoughtful design is at the core of everything we do at The School of Making and Alabama Chanin. Our collections take months of planning—from choosing silhouettes and colorways to making sample blocks and testing out techniques. Once the designing and planning are complete, samples are made for photography and decisions are made about how the finished products will be available. We never take for granted the time that it takes to make something of quality and always have keeping waste to a minimum in mind.

We’ve introduced products and programming over the past few years to enable you to take that same thought and consideration into your own sustainable wardrobe planning at home. Swatch of the Month introduced new techniques each month to build up your hand-sewing and embroidery skills. Build a Wardrobe was created to give subscribers patterns to work into their existing wardrobes. Our Design Bundles are carefully curated selections of fabric, paint, and notions put together to give you a starting point for exploration with colorways and various embroidery techniques. You can also order individual sample blocks through Custom DIY if you already have a particular colorway, stencil, and technique in mind. And we sell color cards for our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey and many of our notions to help with project planning as well.

With all the options available, we wanted to give you yet another tool to help you build and customize a handmade, sustainable wardrobe—because a sustainable wardrobe is not only one made from organically-sourced materials, it is also one that is well planned and contains only things that you love wearing.

You can now find a free Project Planner on our Resources page for downloading and printing at home. Included is a measurement worksheet so you can record your measurements and use them to help you choose the correct size plus two pages with every detail you need when planning a basic or embellished handmade project (or one of our Custom DIY Kits).

We hope this Project Planner will be something you’ll use over and over and that it helps you be more mindful when making project decisions. As always, we hope you’ll join in the on-going conversation on Instagram using #theschoolofmaking and share your progress and projects with us.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW TO MAKE A HEADER (+ NEW BINDERS)

HOW TO MAKE A HEADER (+ NEW BINDERS)

We’ve written before about the importance of sample blocks and how we use them to design our collections and other projects. As you explore new techniques and color ways using our Design Bundles, we encourage you to create your own fabric library to document your process. The most efficient way we’ve found to do so is to attach what we call “headers” to each one of your sample blocks.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW TO MAKE A HEADER (+ NEW BINDERS)

To make your own header for a 10” x 16” sample block, follow the instuctions below:

  1. Cut an 8 1/2″ x 11” piece of white cardstock in half lengthwise so it measures 4 1/4″ x 11.”
  2. Fold your 4 1/4″ x 11” piece of cardstock in half lengthwise again so it measures 2 1/8” x 11.” Your header will have one long side that is a fold and another long open side.
  3. Using a three-hole punch, punch each long side of your folded header to create a total of 12 holes.
  4. On the open side of your folded header place a 10” piece of double-stick tape just above the three holes. The double-stick tape will hold your fabric swatch in place and prevent shifting.
  5. Place one 10” edge of your fabric swatch on top of the double-stick tape, making sure that it is centered on your cardstock.
  6. Thread a needle with a double strand of Button Craft thread, love it good, and tie a double knot following the instructions from our Alabama Studio book series.
  7. Attach your fabric to your paper header by sewing through the fabric at each of the punched holes, alternating from front to back until you arrive back at the beginning.
  8. Knot off securely. Your fabric swatch is now attached to your header.

We have our headers printed locally with our logo, but in the past, we used a rubber stamp to add our logo to our headers. We also give each fabric swatch a number and a name that can be referenced in the creation of new garments.

We cover our 3 ring-binders with white organic cotton jersey using the instructions for our Book Cover given on page 115 of Alabama Stitch Book.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW TO MAKE A HEADER (+ NEW BINDERS)

PS – If you’d rather not make your own headers, we now have The School of Making Headers available in packs of five. They arrive to you blank for filling in any details or notes about your sample blocks. In addition to pre-made Headers, we now have The School of Making Binders available for storing and organizing your sample blocks, project notes, patterns, and more. These 4” binders come printed with the Alabama Chanin mark on the cover and spine with plenty of space available for labeling or embellishing the cover.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

At The School of Making and Alabama Chanin, we’ve become known for our own style of embroidery and other stitched embellishment that involves applying thread, embroidery floss, beads, and other notions to organic cotton jersey. We know that some of these techniques can seem intimidating for even experienced sewers, and we have developed our newest book with just this in mind.

We are excited to finally announce that The Geometry of Hand-Sewing will be available in the coming months. The book shares what we’ve learned through experience and taught to hundreds of artisans and workshop guests over the years. It is our comprehensive guide for hand embellishment and breaks down even the more complicated techniques into smaller, easy to follow steps.

Our team took a look at the stitches we use daily—and some that we don’t use as often—and broke them down into basic geometry to see how everything could fit into a grid. We examine over 100 embroidery stitches in 7 different grid structures that come pre-punched on the included Stitching Cards as a way to help you understand and practice basic stitches.

Starting today, you can now pre-order your own signed copy of The Geometry of Hand-Sewing. We expect the book to be in our hands at The Factory early November, and we will start signing and shipping pre-ordered copies (plus a special gift) as soon as they arrive. Be on the lookout for more information on the book soon, and for new workshop programming focused solely on embroidery and embellishment detailed in the new book.

Pre-order The Geometry of Hand-Sewing here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

ALABAMA CHANIN – BELOVED COMMUNITY + REVISITING ATHENS

BELOVED COMMUNITY: REVISITING ATHENS

As we move into 2017, we want to do so cloaked in a strong sense of community. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is approaching and my mind is drawn again and again to his idea of a Beloved Community, and how each of us, in our own way, can bring people together for a common cause or a common interest. Collectively we comprise a global community, and each of us has smaller geographic and cultural communities to which we belong; we have communities of choice and communities of circumstance. In the coming year, I hope to see us all celebrate the things that make us unique, but in thoughtful ways; I want to embrace community in an inclusive way, whenever we can.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BELOVED COMMUNITY + REVISITING ATHENS

In the past, Alabama Chanin and The School of Making have celebrated the power of making together, of creating in public spaces as a way of creating a community. We have seen, time and again, that the act of making can open hearts and minds and join together people who might have otherwise never connected with one another. This idea overwhelmed us last year when I visited the University of Georgia in Athens for a weekend to attend the Willson Center’s Global Georgia Initiative—a series that attempts to examine global issues in local context, with a focus on community.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BELOVED COMMUNTIY + REVISITING ATHENS

The weekend’s events were to begin with a small, two-hour sewing workshop held in the atrium of the Lamar Dodd School of Art. We prepared a limited number of materials for participants and expected to have an intimate discussion with a small group of art students. We were unprepared for the 125+ people (both students and community members) who showed up to talk, listen, and be a part of the community discussion. What this told us then—and what it reminds us now—is that when you put out a call to the community, they often listen more than you realize. We were looking for an audience interested in looking at global issues as they affected a specific community, and that community was primed to respond; they showed up in droves, in earnest, and ready to talk and listen and sew.

There will be calls for discussion and change in the days to come. We have learned not to underestimate the power of a people who want to learn and are invested in outcomes. Those people will show up to tackle difficult discussions and help problem solve larger issues. Community organizers do not necessarily have special skills, other than a heartfelt connection to their community and a belief in drawing people together. There will be many opportunities for you to organize, unite with, and grow your communities in the future. We hope that you will embrace the opportunities as they arise, even surprising ones, as they may offer unexpected chances to bring about change.

Special thanks to Rinne Allen, Dave Marr, Eileen Wallace, Jennifer Crenshaw and Winnie Smith for putting together our memorable weekend in Georgia last January—one that reminded us what a united community could be.

Images courtesy of Rinne Allen

ALABAMA CHANIN – ARTISAN DESIGNED + MADE: SMITHEY CAST IRON + WOHL WOODWORKING

ARTISAN DESIGNED + MADE: SMITHEY CAST IRON + WOHL WOODWORKING

As part of our Artisan Home series, we are highlighting the makers of two of our newest featured products—Smithey Ironware Co. and Edward Wohl Woodworking and Design. Both makers design products with classic style, made in America.

Charleston, South Carolina-based Smithey Ironware was born from the single-minded curiosity of founder Isaac Morton. Morton had a talent for buying and restoring vintage ironware pieces and was particularly gifted in refurbishing old cookware, which he often gave to friends and family members. After years of working on cookware, Morton became something of an expert in cast iron; he saw that there was a noticeable difference in craftsmanship between old pieces and new. One particular piece, a vintage Griswold cast iron skillet, stuck out because of its smooth, glassy surface—which was nothing like the rough, grainy texture of modern cast iron. That skillet inspired years of research and, eventually, Morton’s livelihood.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ARTISAN DESIGNED + MADE: SMITHEY CAST IRON + WOHL WOODWORKING

As he began to study old ironware pieces and learn the hundred-year-old techniques used to make them, he was able to explain why those old skillets were different and why things changed. In the years before production was automated, iron cookware was polished for hours, by hand. Once the process became automated, it was not practical to spend man hours hand-finishing the cookware.

After spending over a year researching design and learning about the iron industry, Smithey Ironware launched operations in 2015. Morton partnered with a foundry in Indiana that was able to produce on a small scale. From Indiana, the pans are shipped to South Carolina in their porous, grainy state. Morton mills the heavy grit off the metal, then grinds and polishes them by hand and machine before tumbling each one in a tub of rocks to achieve their signature smooth finish. As a final step, each pan is seasoned with a layer of oil to create a natural non-stick finish.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ARTISAN DESIGNED + MADE: SMITHEY CAST IRON + WOHL WOODWORKING

Edward Wohl is an award-winning woodworker who, alongside his business partner and wife Ann, founded his workshop in southeast Wisconsin where he both designs and builds custom furniture and home goods. He began designing wood furniture in 1970, after graduating from Washington University in 1967 with a degree in architecture. His products have a sculptural feel and are designed to be utilitarian and beautiful to the touch and the eye.

According to Wohl, “I was searching for a career where work and play were indistinguishable. I make things of wood that I’d like to have myself—functional pieces that are quiet, peaceful, and a pleasure to touch and look at. My approach emphasizes select materials, structural integrity, and utility. I like to let the wood do the work—to coax nature to imitate art.”

His handmade birds-eye maple cutting boards are created by joining sections from a single piece of wood, so the tone and wood grain are seamless. Birds-eye maple is rare in nature, with perhaps one in five hundred hard maple trees exhibiting the pattern, making both the wood and Wohl’s designs immediately recognizable.

The cutting boards are hand shaped, finished, and beveled to be perfectly balanced and practical. Wohl works largely with maple because it is durable and long lasting and because it has an even wood grain pattern; hard maple resists deep knife cuts and tends to absorb little moisture from food. Once sanded, his cutting boards are dipped in mineral oil, linseed oil, and wax—a technique he also used for his custom furniture.

You can purchase the 10” Smithey Cast Iron Skillet, 14” Round Wohl Cutting Board, and 15” x 11.5” Wohl Cutting Board in the Cook + Dine section of our website and in-store at The Factory.

THE SPIDER IS AN ODE TO MY MOTHER.

“The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.”

— Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010)

Bourgeois was a French-American artist proficient in an incredible number of artistic disciplines, but perhaps best known for her large-scale sculptures and installations. Her artwork was often autobiographical, referencing childhood memories—particularly those of her beloved mother and unfaithful father.

Among her most recognizable works is Maman, a massive 30-foot sculpture of a steel spider. The towering structure, whose title translates as mom or mommy in French, pays homage to Bourgeois’ mother Josephine, who passed away when Louise was 21 years old. “I came from a family of repairers,” Louise said. “The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it.”

The creature is supported on eight slender legs and has a sac containing 10 marble eggs on its underbelly. It is the largest in a series of spider-themed pieces that became central to Bourgeois’ work in the 1990s. It has been said that her spiders are contradictory representations of motherhood—representing both predator and protector; the silk builds elaborate webs and cocoons, but also binds the spider’s prey. Maman, massive in size, but balanced on thin, spindly legs, is both strength and fragility in one.

Thanks to Milton Sandy for sending along the link and quote.

Photo courtesy of Peter Bellamy

#womenartists

SHELTER COLLECTION @ ALABAMA CHANIN

We recently introduced our readers to The Commons, a Charleston-based shop selling responsibly produced, American-made goods for the home. Founders Erin Reitz and Kerry Speake curate a careful selection of high-quality, hand-crafted products.

In 2015, Erin and Kerry launched a partnership with STARworks, a non-profit from Star, North Carolina, that focuses on supporting the local economy through art and craft. Their collaboration produces a tableware line that includes hand-blown glassware and wheel-thrown ceramic pieces. The process by which these pieces are made is pretty incredible and is featured in videos on The Commons website.

During the summer of 2016, Erin joined our design team here at Alabama Chanin (in addition to her duties at The Commons). Her philosophies and beliefs in supporting American-made craft fit perfectly with our company’s ethos. Our alignment on design and collaborative practices has made for a great working relationship.

This relationship has inspired a special collaboration between The Commons and Alabama Chanin, featuring hand-blown glassware that is color blocked with white glass at the base. When the pieces are made, it is unknown how the colors will react together until the process is complete. Each piece is unique and one-of-a-kind.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SHELTER COLLECTION @ ALABAMA CHANIN

The Shelter Collection at Alabama Chanin prides itself on American-made craftsmanship. The pieces include a glass pitcher, large 16-ounce glass, and small 8-ounce glass.

Video courtesy of The Commons.

LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY

Anyone who is familiar with our company knows that Alabama Chanin is built on the beliefs of collaboration and the open exchange of information. Our connections and relationships with fellow designers, makers, customers, and suppliers run deep, and we appreciate every opportunity to learn from, be inspired by, and to teach and work with others. Examples of design and manufacturing collaborations from Alabama Chanin include Patagonia, 6397, Heath Ceramics, Little River Sock Mill, and DPM candles.

And after months of development (and years of requests for pre-printed yardage), we’re happy to announce our newest collaboration: The School of Making @ Spoonflower. The fabric base is our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey in Natural, printed with grey ink, in two designs: Anna’s Garden and New Leaves.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEYALABAMA CHANIN – LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY

These designs are digitally printed using eco-friendly, water-based inks and dyes. Unlike our normal jersey yardage, this fabric is sold unwashed.

We are testing this first foray into pre-printed fabrics—so based on the response, look for expanded selections in the future. Be sure to wash your fabric before beginning any new project and, as always, share what you create with us using #theschoolofmaking on social media.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY

Purchase Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey here.

Learn more about Spoonflower here and follow along @theschoolofmaking on Instagram here.

MORE: ARTISAN DESIGNED AND MADE

We’re always on the lookout for companies and businesses that align with our values and principles—and we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to purchase domestically produced goods made with ethical, sustainable practices. Our collaborations with Patagonia and Heath Ceramics are perfect examples. This year, in support of other small businesses, we’re celebrating Independence Day by showcasing some of our favorite artisan-made goods, as part of a specially curated section: Celebrate America. Included in this section are Hable Construction and The Commons, two companies near and dear to our hearts.

Hable Construction is a design company based in Athens, Georgia—one of our favorite towns that is home to many creatives, including friend and photographer, Rinne Allen. Sisters Susan Hable Smith and Katherine Hable Sweeney created the textile company in 1999 in honor of their great-grandfather. Together, they create beautiful designs and textiles that are constructed by skilled artisans, using traditional screen-printing techniques for their fabrics. Hable Construction’s products bring vivid and colorful organization into your home and make for better everyday living.

ALABAMA CHANIN – MORE: ARTISAN DESIGNED AND MADE

Another southeastern company, The Commons is a design studio and retailer of quality, American-made home goods for the home, located in Charleston, South Carolina. It was established by one of our newest team members, Erin Connelly, and her business partner Kerry Speake. Since the founding of the business in 2012, the two have also created their own line of tableware, The Shelter Collection, in collaboration with STARworks, a non-profit organization with the mission of economic growth through art and craft. Together they have created a line of hand-blown glassware and wheel thrown ceramics that reflects the intersection of design and honest manufacturing. A selection from their Shelter Collection is available through our website now. Look for their glassware in The Factory in the coming months.

Visit the Cook + Dine section in our online store for more American-made goodness.

THE COMMONS

The newest member of our design team, Erin Connelly, has plenty of experience running a business of her own. On a road trip, she and close friend Kerry Speake had a conversation about the beautiful and quality-made home goods that their peers were creating. They decided to dedicate themselves to creating a place where one could find and purchase these American-made goods for the home—and what emerged was The Commons.

Located in Charleston, South Carolina, The Commons has since become a place where customers can purchase responsibly-produced home goods made by vendors here in the USA. They can also find tableware from The Shelter Collection, designed by Erin and Kerry themselves.

The Shelter Collection, featuring hand-blown glassware and wheel thrown ceramic pieces, is a collaboration between The Commons and STARworks, a non-profit focused on supporting the local economy through art and craft. Located in Star, North Carolina, STARworks has economically supported its small community, which was devastated when the local hosiery factory closed its doors in 2001. Their Center for Creative Enterprises is housed in the factory’s former location and is home to a clay manufacturing operation, glass blowing facilities and furnaces, and 4 acres of space for makers.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE COMMONS

The Shelter Collection draws inspiration from mud hut dwellings and their simple and functional design. Shop select pieces from The Shelter Collection in our online store—and look for more about Erin and what inspires her in the coming weeks.

SPOONFLOWER

For the uninitiated, Spoonflower is a North Carolina-based web company that allows individuals to design, print, and even sell their own fabrics, wallpaper, and giftwrap. Founded in 2008 by Gart Davis and Stephen Fraser, the Spoonflower user community now numbers over a million people who use their digital textile printers to print custom runs of fabric. This is not typical large-run, conventional textile manufacturing. Their large-format inkjet printers can create small batches at a relatively inexpensive cost. They print fabric with very little waste of materials or environmental impact. The company uses eco-friendly, water-based inks on natural and synthetic textiles, with no additional chemicals added to the production process.

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Recently, Fraser has created a book that is intended to help readers and makers get the most out of the Spoonflower technology—The Spoonflower Handbook: A DIY Guide to Designing Fabric, Wallpaper, and Gift Wrap. Designing digital art is intimidating and seems complicated to the average person. But, while the book assumes that the reader is familiar with using a computer, the instructions make the design process understandable for those who aren’t that tech-savvy. The book contains about 30 projects and its chapters are structured so skills build upon one another. Even if you opt not to use the Spoonflower printing service, you can still use the information in the book to create your own patterns and designs.

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The book itself is structured in two parts. The first part is designed to get the reader comfortable with digital design. It describes how the Spoonflower print-on-demand process works, and also gives important information on different types of printing surfaces and how to create digital files. Part one does an excellent job of delving into relatively complicated topics like color and repeating design patterns. In part two, they build on the basics of part one with a number of projects and invite the reader to experiment with simple ideas and more complex techniques. There are plenty of examples of projects and custom designs created by Spoonflower’s maker community.

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We have been experimenting with the Spoonflower site for a while now and are excited about the possibilities it affords us in our design processes. We look forward to a few The School of Making + Spoonflower special projects available this fall. Stay tuned…

ARTISAN MADE: HAWKS AND DOVES

Last December, Natalie was invited by Chef Ashley Christensen to speak at Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum, presenting a lecture celebrating women in art and design. Ashley, who has been a constant source of inspiration for us, is deeply involved in the organization and in her community in Raleigh. As a thank you gift, Natalie received a personalized knife clutch, which was made by Raleigh-based company, Hawks and Doves.

Hawks and Doves was created by Jessica Ullom in 2012, as her obsession with Americana textiles grew into the business. Jessica uses repurposed materials, combined with both new and dead stock American-made textiles in all of her products. She strives to source her materials as locally as possible. Hawks and Doves products include everything from bags and accessories to kitchenwares and utilitarian home goods and have been “used, abused, tested and approved” by chefs and cooks to be incredibly durable.

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Jessica’s husband, Andrew, is pastry chef for Ashley Christensen Restaurants, and the couple collaborated on designing a knife roll—a necessity for every professional cook (and home cooks, alike) to transport their tools. We now stock The Greyhound Knife Clutch—designed in collaboration with Ashley. Functional and quality made, we felt these bags should have a place at Alabama Chanin.

You can find The Greyhound Knife Clutch in our Cook + Dine section online and at The Factory in Florence (along with more bags). These bags are made from water-resistant waxed canvas with oiled leather closures. They are the ideal and safe place to store knives and kitchen utensils—especially for someone on the go. We’re proud to include them on our growing list of artisan-made goods.

HOW WE MAKE THINGS: HEATH CERAMICS

For as long as we’ve known about their existence, we have been in love with Heath Ceramics. Their philosophies, their processes, their intentions—all align closely with our own. Our collaboration with Heath is our longest collaboration, dating back to 2011. When we partnered for our first collection together, they worked diligently to interpret the work we do at Alabama Chanin using their own medium. The artists at Heath Ceramics hand etched designs that mimicked and were inspired by our techniques. As we continuously explore and reveal how we make things at Alabama Chanin, we hope you will also be inspired by how Heath Ceramics creates their products.

Heath Ceramics – Who They Are

A historic pottery turned designer, maker, and seller of goods that embody creativity, craftsmanship, elevate the every day, and enhance the way people eat, live, and connect.

Founded in 1948 by husband and wife team, Edith and Brian Heath, the company was purchased in 2003 by another couple, Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey. Their plan for growth included: boosting productivity, streamlining offerings, creating new products, and collaborating with other artists and companies with complementary visions.

Heath wants to become a model for U.S. manufacturing—inspiring designers and manufacturers to think creatively about their business models, placing financial profit as the means, rather than the end.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW WE MAKE THINGS: HEATH CERAMICS

What They Believe

The Heath Ceramics team shares much of the philosophy of its founder, Edith Heath. They are driven by design and function, are committed to handcrafted work, and determined to question the status quo.

Their goal is to work with these values in mind, by making responsible and holistic decisions for the long-term benefit of their customers, employees, and the environment. For those reasons, they prioritize these principles:

  • Local manufacturing – Like Alabama Chanin, Heath believes that the craft of manufacturing has been largely lost as a value in modern culture, and they work hard to retain it. Their dinnerware is made using a blend of mechanized processes and hand craftsmanship, to obtain the highest quality product. Customers build relationships with the things they buy when they also build relationships with the people, processes, and values behind those products. Local manufacturing also has social and cultural rewards in bringing pride to community.
  • The real cost of products – A product’s price reflects the actual cost of its production. Heath products comply with strict environmental standards, both government regulated and self-imposed. Their staff is compensated fairly, receive full health care benefits, and have retirement benefits. This means their processes can sometimes be expensive, but fair and safe standards and practices are important to the Heath philosophy. When you outsource processes, you lose control over the conditions your products are made under. A cheaper price usually reflects that difference in standards.
  • Product safety – Heath dinnerware products meet and exceed U.S. and California safety standards. Likewise, their children’s products exceed food and product safety standards.
  • Environmental responsibility – Heath is a design-led manufacturer of products meant to be extremely durable and to function for a lifetime. Many of their products have been in continuous production for over 60 years; the designers work to design new products to complement existing collections, in order to increase their longevity and decrease the need to replace them. By manufacturing in an urban environment, they must abide by environmental standards set for communities where people live – making them even more certain they are not doing harm to the environment and community.
  • Recycling – Heath uses a gray-water system, which recycles water used in production for use in their glaze and cleanup operations. They also recycle scrap unfired clay, meaning there is recycled content in every Heath product. They also ship all products using materials made from 100% post-industrial waste and that is reusable and recyclable. And, they are setting up their San Francisco factory to be a zero waste facility.
  • Energy Efficiency – Their ceramic clay requires only one firing (at a lower than normal temperature), as opposed to the typical two firings. Heath rebuilt their kilns to increase capacity, allowing them to fire more tiles per kiln and reducing gas consumption.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW WE MAKE THINGS: HEATH CERAMICS

How They Work

Robin and Catherine say they ask “why” a lot. That is because they are designing and adapting their business as thoughtfully as they design their products. Here, they explain how they work:

  • We offer goods that last. We believe in quality over quantity, only making and selling beautiful, well-made goods that stand the test of time.
  • We design and make and Being responsible for it all means that we’re better at each aspect of what we do.
  • We build environments around our mission. From showrooms to factories to offices, Heath’s spaces bring together people and communities to learn from each other, forge lasting bonds, and create lots of good energy.
  • We believe in growing responsibly. By working smart and growing prudently, we’re building a strong business that allows us to make good things and do good work.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW WE MAKE THINGS: HEATH CERAMICS

Their Vision for the Future

Heath continues to look for ways to reduce its environmental impact. Their goal is to become a closed-gap company, always looking for new ways to reuse and recycle their waste. Their goals of sustaining local manufacturing, creating high-quality, well-designed products, maintaining a fair and responsible workplace for our employees, and reducing our environmental impact helps us set their financial goals and business model, not the other way around.

In the spirit of both transparency and community, Heath invites you to learn more about the people who work for them and welcomes you into their clay studio. Because Heath wants to make their work tangible for the community and consumer, you can visit their Sausalito dinnerware or San Francisco tile factory to see just how they do things. You can schedule a physical tour or click through for a virtual tour.

You can shop our Alabama Chanin + Heath Ceramics products in The Factory store or online.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW WE MAKE THINGS: HEATH CERAMICS

Photos by Rinne Allen

HOW WE MAKE THINGS: CAST FABRIC CUFF

While we are known for our elaborate hand-sewn, hand-embellished garments, collaboration has long been an integral part of our philosophy. My cousin’s family owns MTM Recognition in Princeton, Illinois, where they make an array of hand-made jewelry pieces produced by skilled craftsmen. When the opportunity to create jewelry together came up, the idea of capturing the texture of cotton jersey fabric and the detail of hand embroidery into a bracelet felt like a natural addition to the Alabama Chanin line. The Cast Fabric Cuff was designed with our hand-sewn, heirloom garments in mind.

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Continue reading

STAMP STENCIL PAINT

We have used stencils to transfer designs onto fabric since the earliest days of Alabama Chanin. There is a section of The School of Making devoted to the art of stenciling, and you can read about making and using our stencils on our Journal here: #stenciling. And while we’ve developed stencils of all sorts and used them extensively, we’ve only rarely used painting, and almost never used stamping—until now. Stamp Stencil Paint by Anna Joyce offers easy-to-follow instructions for adding paint and pattern onto fabric, wood, walls, and more.

She writes about stamping:

“As a printmaker, I have a soft spot in my heart for stamps. I use my own hand-carved stamps, and I love watching the pattern grow with each impression. Stamping is very immediate—you can carve a simple one in a few minutes and then use it for years, building a library of patterns as you go. Hand stamping is also a meditation on embracing the unexpected. No matter how consistent you are, each impression is unique and that uniqueness breathes life into your patterns.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – STAMP STENCIL PAINT

Aside from my favorite stamping projects, you’ll find tips for transferring stencils and for the successful use of paints and brushes. I’m excited to combine some of the stamping ideas on a Maggie Dress from our 2016 Build a Wardrobe.

Get a copy of Stamp Stencil Paint, make your own garment using Anna’s techniques, and share with our community using #theschoolofmaking.

ALABAMA CHANIN – STAMP STENCIL PAINT
ALABAMA CHANIN – STAMP STENCIL PAINT

ON DESIGNING STENCILS

Last fall, our friend (and editor) Melanie reached out with the desire to design her own stencil—and use that stencil for one of our of our Custom DIY Kits. She documented her process here, and we’ve named her design “Circus”—as a nod to her high-flying talents. (She also likes the subtitle, “If Not Now, When.”) Seen above, the finished artwork is approximately 24.3” x 30.1” and is the result of several months of work and many conversations between our studio and hers.

When I spoke with her on the phone last week, she mentioned that “creating a stencil from scratch was much harder than I expected. You’ve made it seem so easy.” I have to admit that this made me giggle a bit because I once felt the same way. When you are learning just about any skill for the first time, there is a moment when it just feels hard. To date, we have over 550 stencil designs in our archives, and there are some days where it still feels challenging.

As Melanie was starting, we tried to give her a few tips, which we’ve shared below:

Think about the size and the shape of the individual motifs you are designing and how these shapes interact with one another.

You can create a design where the primary motifs of the stencil have a similar scale (or size)—as we have done with our New Leaves and Anna’s Garden stencils.

Or you can manipulate the scale of all the individual motifs—like our Magdalena stencil—where small and large shapes are combined in a single stencil design.

Think about the embroidery techniques you want to use and how they will be applied to each of the motifs and also to the individual shapes of the motif. For example, if you know that you like to work in reverse appliqué, you will want shapes that are larger than 1/2″ so that you can trim your outer layer of fabric after sewing.

SIDENOTE: Many of our stencils have both larger and smaller motif shapes combined. We often use embellishments such as appliqué and/or a satin stitch to embellish these smaller shapes that are too small for reverse appliqué. See Bloomers and June’s Spring stencils.

If you are working in Adobe Illustrator or any other graphic design program, stop and print out your stencil to better view the scale of your design and the placement of individual motifs.

Think about both the positive (the individual motifs of the stencil) and the negative spaces (the area between the individual motifs). You can invert the color of a black and white design to white and black to better understand the relationship between positive and negative space.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGNING STENCILS

Allow a minimum of 1/8” space between individual stencil motifs that your cut stencil remains sturdy over time. If your shapes are too close together, your stencil can become fragile and break.

We often to make our stencils that we intend to use all over a garment or project a minimum of 18” x 24” total size that we can more easily airbrush larger fabric areas. However, we use different size stencils for different purposes. If you are only adding stenciling to the neckline of a garment, you may choose to create a smaller stencil.

Here are some sizes of a few of our favorite stencil designs:

Anna’s Garden: 22” x 28” finished stencil size | 19” x 24” cut stencil area
Fern Stencil: 28” x 22” finished stencil size | 24” x 17” cut stencil area
June’s Spring: 23 1/2″ x 24” finished stencil size | 19” x 21 1/2″ cut stencil area
Large Polka Dot: 31” x 46” finished stencil size |  22” x 38” cut stencil area
Magdalena: 42” x 27” finished stencil size | 35 1/2” x 20” cut stencil area
New Leaves:  31 1/2″ x 47” finished stencil size | 25 1/2″ x 40 1/2″ cut stencil area

Research pattern and stencil designs for inspiration, make photocopies, cut things apart, trace, try to understand what is appealing, and then start putting the pieces back together again. You may find that you migrate from the original motif as your voice and hand take over the work.

I like to work with photocopies of motifs that I scale up and down, cut up and paste, and then trace over again and, sometimes, again. This multilevel process makes me feel like I have more control over the final stencil design. Others like to work directly in graphic design computer programs, like Adobe Illustrator.

Once your motif has been finalized, the process of making a stencil is a simple process. When cutting, be sure to leave a minimum of a 2” border around the outside of your cut stencil for stability.

Look for #stenciling on our Journal to read posts about stencils and stencil transfer, find more on stenciling in our Alabama Studio Series, and share any tips you’ve learned in the comments below.

Subscribe to Build a Wardrobe and receive a discount code for 25% off your next purchase of stenciling supplies. Use the tags #buildawardrobe2016 and #theschoolofmaking to join the global conversation.

WREATH TOGETHER

This has been a year of great achievement, great loss, great beauty, great sadness, and great friendships; but through it all I have been repeatedly reminded of the gift of family. At this time of year, I think we all look forward to looking homeward and to family—whatever home and family may mean for us.

Still, it is incomprehensible to me that Christmas will be here in two days—and that New Year’s Day will roll around in little over a week.

I have two rolls of (once) live evergreen garland laying on my front porch, unopened (and certainly no longer “ever” green). It’s never happened to me before that I didn’t get the garland hung.

There’s also an XXL pumpkin in my front yard. It’s sitting in the same spot it sat on Halloween night—never cut, never lit. I ask Maggie about once a week, “May I please move that pumpkin now?”

At the moment, a pile of presents is sitting on the table awaiting wrapping. Every time I think of complaining about wrapping them, I remind myself that I’m lucky I have the ability to give and honored to have people to give them to. (Plus, I’ve also figured out that I can pay nine-year old Maggie—the pumpkin lover—one dollar per package. After our transcontinental trip with trains and origami, she is an excellent wrapper.)

Tonight I will put off wrapping just a day longer. I’m going to sit down, Maggie by my side, and wind some wreaths. The wreaths won’t make or break our holiday decorations this year (after all, we are garland-less). The wreaths aren’t really for presents (but we may well gift one or two). Really, making the wreaths is a way of claiming just a little more time together.

We are going to put on a holiday record—and wrap and twist and knot and pull and laugh and just sit. Olivia taught us to make mini hula-hoops—which are the base for these wreaths. Use the instructions below to join us.

(Plus—you could always use these same instructions to make everyone in your family their own personal hula-hoop—imagine a day of hooping together.)

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SUPPLIES

¾ inch 100 psi irrigation tubing
PVC pipe cutter
¾ inch coupling
Organic cotton jersey scraps and/or Cotton Jersey Pulls

Cut the tubing to desired diameter with PCV cutter—our wreaths are approximately 62” in circumference, creating a 21” diameter wreath.

Using boiling hot water or a hairdryer, heat up the cut end of the tubing and insert the coupling to connect the tubing together. Let cool.

Make your Cotton Jersey Pulls from t-shirts or scraps. Once the individual pulls are complete, tie them end-to-end with a square knot to create one very long rope. You may want to roll this long rope of Cotton Jersey Pulls together into a Yarn Ball to facilitate the wrapping process, as this project takes yards and yards and yards of ropes. The wreath shown here is approximately 21” in diameter and requires approximately 72 yards of ropes.

Simply tie one end of your Cotton Jersey Pull to the base with an overhand knot, or a slip knot, or any other knot of your design that will secure the first end to the base. Proceed to wrap your wreath base with cotton ropes and continue to wrap until the entire surface is covered. For the wreaths shown, we used multitudes of strategically placed slip knots (as in our knotted necklace—watch a video on how we make these knots at Creativebug), finger crochet ropes of cotton jersey, and simple macramé knots.

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For a hanger, use a doubled strand of a long Cotton Jersey Pull to wrap around one side of the wreath; secure in place with a slip knot close to the outside edge of the wreath and another slip knot at the top of your rope, and hang (or gift).

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You may also wrap your wreath base with cotton jersey scraps before adding your Cotton Jersey Pulls. In this case, you will use the pulls to completely lash the fabric around your wreath. Try to keep fabric stretched and smooth as you work around the circle. You will find it easier if you lash approximately 3 inches apart and then work around the entire circle again and again.

You will find other wreath ideas here, here, here, and here.

Happy Days from all of us @ Alabama Chanin

CRAFT AND IMPACT

In March of 2015, The School of Making launched a partnership with Nest—a non-profit that joins together with artisans across the world to bring about positive social impact through sustainable development. Nest works specifically with artisans because they are often community-based businesses or organizations; they collaborate with those artisans to provide tools, training, infrastructure, and other resources that champion artisans themselves as the makers of change. When artisans are empowered in this way, entire communities are better able to tackle global issues like poverty, preservation of craft and local tradition, and advancement of women (who are often both artisan and primary household caregiver).

Nest’s 2015 impact was felt strongly by artisans across the globe. Nest grew from serving just more than 1,500 artisans in 2014 to serving 5,646 artisans in 2015. Nest’s work is reaching more than 100,000 people, including not only artisans but also their families and members of their extended communities. For every artisan employed, 20 or more people are impacted through the ripple effect. You can read Nest’s full 2015 Impact Report here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CRAFT AND IMPACTALABAMA CHANIN – CRAFT AND IMPACT

Our collaborative partnership with Nest finds voice through our educational arm, The School of Making, with a long-term goal of reversing some of the manufacturing outsourcing that has affected our local economy over the last two decades. Together, we are expanding Alabama Chanin’s Building 14 machine-manufacturing division with a plan to create educational programs and up-to-date training on modern textile manufacturing methods. This initiative provides further foundation for Florence, Alabama, and the greater Shoals community to continue growing in the global textile industry.

Alabama Chanin and our Building 14 Design + Manufacturing division are incredibly grateful for the donations we have received this year. When we consider the scope of our long-term goals, it gives us comfort and hope, knowing that Nest—and all of you—are standing alongside us as we grow. We know that during the holiday season, many of you “give” as a gift to others. We also hope that you will consider giving to Nest and to our Building 14 initiative to help us grow and create viable options for our region’s economic future.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CRAFT AND IMPACT

To read more about the incredible initiatives Nest is guiding and to donate, please visit the Nest website.

Photos courtesy of Rinne Allen

MAKING CANDLES

Just over a year ago we launched our line of Alabama Chanin candles. Since then, they have become one of our most popular gift items. We worked diligently to find the right collaborator for this project and are lucky to have found DPM Fragrance, a regionally-owned business in Starkville, Mississippi.

The company, once named Aspen Bay Candles, was purchased by its current owner Tom Reed in 2001. Since then, Reed has added Capri Blue and Found Goods Market collections to the Aspen Bay brand and renamed the company DPM Fragrance. Each product line has a different aesthetic with distinctive scents, packaging, and branding.

DPM shares many of the same goals, like local production, as Alabama Chanin—and their success at impacting the local economy is impressive. When it began, DPM employed about 15 people; today, it employs over 150—with a plan to expand and hire over 100 more in the works. The company was listed for the past three years as one of Inc. Magazine’s 5,000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America. (In order to qualify for the list, you have to sustain 100% growth rate over a three-year time period, meaning that DPM has met that criteria for at least 5 years in a row.)

ALABAMA CHANIN – MAKING CANDLES

Like Alabama Chanin, DPM also works to source as many of their materials as possible in the United States. They use American-made wax and fragrance oils and utilize American-made glass whenever they can. The company produces with an eye towards increased sustainability, using all-natural soy wax blends, natural wicks, and recycled materials for their glass and packaging whenever possible.

We have witnessed the effect that employee investment has in our own successes and DPM sees the same kind of impact. They collaborate on the best processes for production with their employees, who are thoughtful and detail oriented in their work. Each of the candles is wicked by hand, poured by hand, labeled by hand, and carefully packed by hand. Some of their production employees have worked at the company for over a decade (and some for almost 2 decades).

ALABAMA CHANIN – MAKING CANDLES

As part of their company bio, DPM notes: Though it is not always easy, our team stands behind the established principles of the handmade product, where craftsmen with years of candle making experience bring our visions to life. Every candle we produce is created to make a lasting impression – each having been thoughtfully designed, delicately poured, and proudly packaged in our home of Starkville, Mississippi.

Last year, the company produced over 1.8 million candles that were sold in stores like Urban Outfitters, Crate and Barrel, Nordstrom, West Elm, and Anthropologie—where their Volcano scent has become known as the boutique’s signature fragrance. We burn our Alabama Chanin Grapefruit + Watercress scented candles both at home and at The Factory year round, since the scent is light and fresh—and appropriate for any season. You can purchase our candles, housed in vintage-inspired glassware here. It makes a wonderful gift as, once you burn your candle, you can repurpose the glassware as a drinking vessel or for dozens of other purposes. It’s like two gifts in one.

Bottom two photos courtesy of DPM Fragrances

GOOD THINGS: RINNE ALLEN

In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, we asked artist, photographer, and good friend Rinne Allen to share some of her favorite things to give (and receive). We’re all fans of her thoughtfully curated selections. Read on to learn more about each item and why Rinne chose it as one of her favorites.

  1. Metalworker Laurel Hill used to live in Athens, and I would buy her jewelry at our local artisan markets. My favorite piece is this barrette. While she does not sell this exact piece on her website, there are plenty of other great pieces to choose from.
  1. I have this potholder from Alabama Chanin in a few different colors (you can never have too many potholders!), but, my fave is this one in indigo.
  1. I have been collecting handmade wooden spoons for years, but my favorites are made by one of the nicest people you will ever meet, my friend Bob of Blue Hill Spoonworks. I spend time in Maine every summer, and I love visiting Bob at the farmer’s market to see what he has created over the long winter before. You may also find great wooden spoons at Herriott Grace and also at Chattanooga-based Sweet Gum Co.
  1. I photographed Teresa and Rustin of Bullsbay Saltworks last fall and I have been using their smoked sea salt ever since. It is so good!
  1. Long ago while traveling in India I picked up 2 or 3 blockprinted cotton scarves and wore them so often that they eventually fell to pieces. So, I was happy when I got this one recently from Blockshop Textiles to replace those old favorites.
  1. Over the last two years I have read (and re-read) this book as the years went by (it is organized by month). I am a little biased, as I went to college in Sewanee, Tennessee where the writer’s woodland observations take place, but I love being reminded of all of the intricate ways things are interconnected, in the woods and beyond.
  1. I have this very old Stetson hat that I wear all the time…it is serving me well at the moment, but if I ever need to get a new one, I would certainly eye the ones at Clyde for a replacement…
  1. One of my favorite things is this travel watercolor set from Winsor & Newton. I take it with me when I travel and let my young sons use it too, hence how messy it as at the moment…but, also this summer, when I was in San Francisco (for the Alabama on Alabama show) I visited Case for Making, a small art supply store in Outer Sunset near the beach. I was really inspired by their selections…
  1. This hammered brass bowl was made by MeSpeak design, based near Athens in North High Shoals, Georgia. This husband and wife team make beautiful, functional pieces out of wood & metal. They kindly made this bowl for me after I showed them something old that I had. It just glows…
  1. Beauty Everyday book…I made this book with two friends and it is a special book. There is a photograph for every day of the year, and the book moves through all seasons, from the first day of January on through to the end of the year.

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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TRAVEL: HOWARD FINSTER’S GARDEN

I took the pieces you threw away, and put them together night and day, washed by rain, dried by sun, a million pieces all in one.

-Howard Finster, “Poem for the Garden”

Howard Finster, a Southern Baptist minister and self-proclaimed “man of visions” moved to Pennville, Georgia in 1961, having purchased four acres of land that was mostly swamp. After draining the land with a series of homemade canals and channels, he began building the Plant Farm Museum, a biblical roadside attraction that would house “all the wonders of God’s creation.” Finster’s modern-day Garden of Eden was covered in biblical verses, paintings, and sculptures of the artist’s own design and punctuated by a series of structures including the Bible House, Mirror House, Hubcap Tower, Bicycle Tower, and a Folk Art Chapel which was five stories tall and built without plans or the aid of an architect.

In 1965, Howard Finster retired from preaching and increasingly dedicated himself to the Plant Farm Museum and his burgeoning career as a visual artist.

Ten years later, Finster’s elaborate environment was featured in Esquire magazine and renamed Paradise Garden. The garden has changed greatly over the years, and many of its original works have been acquired by collectors and museums. Few images of the garden in its original state exist.

Fortunately, one anonymous visitor to the garden in the mid-1970s held onto his or her pictures, and we are able to experience the garden at the height of its beauty – intact and un-plundered.

–Phillip March Jones

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LAUNCHING ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

Last Thursday we started shipping our newest book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns.  Stacks of books around the office moved quickly into boxes and off into the hands of readers.  Thank you for all your sweet notes of praise and excitement.  We find it equally exciting to move on to this next chapter.

Look for our post tomorrow on “How To Print a Pattern,” fresh DIY Kits—inspired by the new book—launch on Thursday, Friday our updated Resources page arrives with a new downloadable garment pattern and improved stencil design PDFs, and look for our (first-round) blog tour over the coming weeks, featuring Heather Ross, Anna Maria HornerKristine Vejar, Amy Herzog, Joelle Hoverson, and Amy Butler (in no particular order).

Once you’ve had the chance to open your box and digest the contents, let us know what you think. Looking forward to hearing from each and every one of you…

xoNatalie

LAUNCHING ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

 

CREATIVE TRUTHS

I originally wrote the post below for the Etsy Seller Handbook. It ran on September 14 of 2011—just before my lecture at Hello Etsy. I ran across these “truths” recently while writing this post on The Business of Fashion’s “How To Set Up A Fashion Business”  and still find them true today.

xoNatalie

From the Etsy Blog:

I’ve often described my creative journey as “falling off a cliff,” yet thinking about it recently, I’ve realized — to my great surprise — that my journey has actually been quite linear. I went from design school, to working in the fashion industry, to styling, and then back to fashion with Alabama Chanin. It is unlikely that I would have appreciated how direct my path has been if I hadn’t been asked to reflect upon my journey. Thanks to a few flight delays, day-long drives, and long afternoons spent gardening, I’ve been able to spend some quality time reflecting upon the events of my past. Sometimes it takes a little time to gain perspective.

I am incredibly proud of my company, my amazing team, and everything we’ve accomplished in the past decade. When things are running smoothly in our studio (as has happened once or twice in the ten years since we opened our doors), I feel an unrivaled sense of calm and satisfaction. However, it is the creative chaos, the phones that ring (but cannot be found), the revolving cast of friends and clients, and the unwavering support of my family that are much more invigorating and make me understand that my path has been the right one — for me.

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DIY INSPIRATION: RAY EAMES

As we wrote in last week’s post on our DIY Exploding Zero T-Shirt, inspiration comes at us from every direction. Recently, our design team has been (almost endlessly) inspired by Eames: Beautiful Details. The use of color and form shown by Ray and Charles Eames is bright and modern, even by today’s standards. The image shown above at left inspired the swatch above right, and can be recreated using the basic instructions below in any combination of colors and techniques you choose. This is a perfect project for our Fat Eighths or scraps from your own stash.

SUPPLIES

7” x 9” cotton jersey fabric for top layer
7” x 9” cotton jersey fabric for backing layer
100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey scraps in various colors
Button Craft thread
Embroidery floss
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, pins, needles, ruler, rotary cutter
Fabric Markers

Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: All three of these books contain the basic sewing and embroidery techniques we used to appliqué the squares and add decorative stitches and beads.

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THÉRÈSE DE DILLMONT (AND GAUGUIN)

While writing this post about March and our Swatch of the Month, I mentioned the Encyclopedia of Needlework by Thérèse de Dillmont which I am currently reading in preparation for a new book we are writing (yes, another book) on the tools of handwork. I became curious about the life of Thérèse de Dillmont who so meticulously documented the types and processes of handwork in the 1880s. I did a Google search and fell into a rabbit hole of handwork and feminist backlash. I’m still working my way out of this hole but I wanted to show you how a sewing needle or a spool of thread can take you from honored hobby to exercising naked in the fresh air to the feminist act of running a business.

From Wikipedia:

Thérèse de Dillmont (10 October 1846 – 22 May 1890) was an Austrian needleworker and writer. Dillmont’s Encyclopedia of Needlework (1886) has been translated into 17 languages.[1] She owned a string of shops in European capitals and she was “one of the most important pioneers in the international and multicultural enterprise of hobby needlework in the late nineteenth century”.[2]

That last sentence struck me, …”one of the most important pioneers in the international and multicultural enterprise of hobby needlework in the late nineteenth century”.

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SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT

On May 21,2009, Matthew B. Crawford published an article in The New York Times Magazine titled, “The Case for Working With Your Hands.” Later that month, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work arrived on my desk at work.

Three paragraphs down in the New York Times piece, Crawford describes our situation:

“High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.”

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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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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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TRAVEL: THE ROSENBAUM HOUSE

“Organic buildings are the strength and lightness of the spiders’ spinning, buildings qualified by light, bred by native character to environment, married to the ground.” — Frank Lloyd Wright

When visiting the Shoals area, or anywhere in Alabama for that matter, you should take time to visit the Rosenbaum House in Florence, Alabama. Nestled among otherwise ordinary Southern homes, this gem of craftsmanship and architecture is a perfect example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian style of design and is the only home he built in Alabama. Constructed nearly 60 years ago, the house was inhabited by the Rosenbaums (the home’s sole occupants) until 1999, when the family donated the property to the city of Florence. The home has been completely restored to look exactly as it did when the Rosenbaums lived there. Walking through it, you can feel the life and love that seeps from it still.

In 1938, Stanley Rosenbaum, a young Harvard College graduate who lived in Florence and worked in his family’s movie theater business, married New York fashion model Mildred Bookholtz and brought her home to Alabama. As a wedding gift, Stanley’s parents gave the newlyweds two acres of land and a small sum of money with which to build a home. The couple optimistically turned to world famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, known for his innovative design approach and affordability. The Rosenbaums asked Wright to build them a home with three bedrooms, two baths, a large kitchen, a study, a living room large enough to accommodate Mildred’s piano, and all for the sum of $7,500. To their surprise, Wright agreed.

TRAVEL: THE ROSENBAUM HOUSE

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THE SCHOOL OF MAKING: WORKSHOPS 2015

Docendo discimus — “by teaching, we learn”
–Seneca the Younger

As we slide into 2015, we invite you to join us for one (or more) of our Workshops offered through The School of Making. As a company, Alabama Chanin believes strongly in the ideas of sharing, collaborating, exploring, educating, learning by doing, and—in the process—creating a community; our hope is that our work will produce a happy work environment, happy people, happy products, and a happier Mother Nature.

As Alabama Chanin and The School of Making continue to grow, so do our Workshops. Over the coming months we have a variety of Workshops scheduled and more to be added. We will have events lasting a week, a weekend, one-day, one-hour, and two-hours; some events will be held at The Factory, with other events in Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, New York, California, and beyond.

Here is an overview of the events we have planned. Come one, come all; come to one, come to all.

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CHILDCRAFT: THE HOW AND WHY LIBRARY

On a recent outing scavenging local thrift and antique stores, I stumbled upon a set of children’s encyclopedias, titled Childcraft: The How and Why Library. Although an incomplete collection, the books were in good shape and decently priced so I happily acquired the lot. (I am a known collectorhoarder, lover, gatherer—of books.)

While modern encyclopedias have existed for around three centuries, the first set aimed at children (aptly titled the Children’s Encyclopaedia) appeared in the early 1900s. The Childcraft books were first published in the 1930s, with updated versions produced throughout subsequent decades. The editions I found were copyrighted 1976, and I was particularly intrigued by the volume titled Make and Do, which is full of simple, kid-friendly crafts, including sewing projects aimed to make learning (and doing) fun.

CHILDCRAFT: THE HOW AND WHY LIBRARY

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UNCONVENTIONAL & UNEXPECTED

I’ve never met Roderick Kiracofe, but, I’ve known about his quilt collection for a long time. I believe that I heard his name shortly after I returned to Alabama over a decade ago. In those early days, I was working with quilters to create the garments that would make up my first collections. My neighbors supported my interest in quilts and quilting, happy that I was embracing a skill so highly valued in the community. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for me to open my door in the morning and find a bag of quilts left by an anonymous soul. They were often “garbage quilts”, as they are called around here—quilts that had seen better days. Many were shedding handpicked cotton through feed-sack fabric, worn so thin that the strings left couldn’t contain the internal batting. They were quilts that had been used to cover animals or as seat padding for an old car. But someone knew that I would see their value and appreciate their history.

UNCONVENTIONAL & UNEXPECTED

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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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DIY RECIPES FOR TEXTILE PAINT

Every day of the week, we use textile paint to transfer stencil designs to our 100% organic cotton jersey. While the colors that can be produced by mixing paints are limitless, we primarily work with the following base colors: opaque black, transparent sand, opaque blue, pearl silver, opaque red, opaque white, opaque yellow, opaque sky blue, pearl red, and forest green. By mixing these colors, we create all of the hues and shades that help define our patterns, stencils, and collections. Our artisans use our painted stencils as a guide for embellishing our designs with appliqué, reverse appliqué, and beading techniques. We have also discovered that a basic garment featuring a subtle stencil adds texture and delicate details to our designs. Many of our Studio Style DIY customers and workshop participants have asked for these unique combinations of textile paint; below, we share recipes for some of our most popular colors. You can find everything you need to create your own stencil and spray kit in our online store.

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ALABAMA RED
500 mL opaque red
15 mL opaque black

CREAM
105 mL opaque white
70 mL transparent sand
1.25 mL opaque yellow

PEARL BROWNIE
300 mL pearl silver
100 mL brownie (see recipe below)

BROWNIE
115 mL opaque red
115 mL fluorescent blue
15 mL transparent forest green (Shake)
250 mL opaque yellow (Shake)
42.5 mL opaque black

CHARCOAL
15 mL opaque white
19.5 mL opaque black

LEMONADE
100 mL opaque white
10 mL opaque yellow

MOSS
5mL opaque white
100 mL transparent forest green
25 mL opaque yellow
30 mL transparent sand
5 mL opaque red (Mix)
1.25 mL opaque black

NAVY
75 mL fluorescent blue
20 drops opaque black

MIST
45 mL opaque white
5 mL sky blue

Q+A WITH ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

Last week, we introduced you to Ashley Christensen: chef, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and badass. She is August’s featured chef in our café (and collaborator for our upcoming Piggy Bank Dinner). Ashley recently spoke to us about good food, sustainability, community, and what she has planned next.

AC: Congratulations on your recent James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast. How did you celebrate? (We hope you took time to celebrate…) 

We had a total of 22 folks sitting with us at the ceremony, so we kind of brought the party with us, which was really fun. After the awards, we decided to make the party about simply having a good time with our crew. We called in a pile of to-go Shake Shack burgers, ordered a bunch of champagne and crowded about 40 friends into our little room at the Ace Hotel. We followed this celebration by attending Jamie Bissonnette’s victory party at Toro, and then the Nomad’s epic party at the Highline Ballroom. It was more perfect than I could ever find the words to describe.

AC: You currently operate five restaurants in the Raleigh, North Carolina area – with more on the way. Do you have a different role at each establishment? How do you balance your roles at each? And how have those roles changed as you continue to grow?

In addition to being the proprietor, I’m the Executive Chef for the company, but I consider my most important role at this point to be “lead catalyst”. I have lots of ideas for new projects, and for refining existing projects. My job is to make sure that we ask of ourselves to improve each day, and to see the opportunity in studying the details that guide us to do so. We have an amazing crew of folks who make it happen every day, on every level. It is also my job to provide the tools and support that make them feel competent, empowered, and appreciated.

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ALABAMA FASHION

We often speak about our home, our state, and our community that provides an incredible amount of inspiration for our work. We are not alone: friend and occasional collaborator, Billy Reid, also headquarters in the same community. It has been mentioned (and is remarkable) that Alabama has the third largest membership in the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), numbering at two; we rank just behind New York and California. And just as there is a rich history of textile production in our community, there is a somewhat unknown or unrecognized group of designers that have emerged from our home state.

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TEXTILES OF SCOTLAND: HARRIS TWEED

I have done a bit of traveling and it has been my lifelong habit to observe local fashion trends – what crosses regional boundaries or doesn’t, what I predict will be a passing fad, and what has become a mainstay. In the last couple of years, it has become evident that tweed is reappearing in a big way all across the globe. Years ago, it was considered by many to be an old man’s fabric, representative of a stuffy, moneyed culture. It is refreshing to see that contemporary designers and connoisseurs have adopted tweed and added modern styling touches. Tweed is timeless. And today, certain varieties of tweed are still hand woven by individual artisans in their own homes; a skill that is reminiscent of our own artisans.

HARRIS-TWEED-08-EDIT

Tweed was first crafted in Scotland and Ireland in the 1700s; a coarse cloth woven from virgin wool, it is naturally wind and water resistant and well suited for the local farmers working in damp, cold climates. In fact, surplus cloth was often traded among farmers and workmen – becoming a form of currency in the Scottish Isles; it was not uncommon for islanders to pay rent in tweed blankets or bolts of cloth. There are a remarkable number of types and classifications of tweed. There are clan tartan tweeds, which are used to identify members of a specific family, and estate tweeds, which were used to denote people who lived and worked on an individual estate. Some tweeds are named for the type of sheep who produced their wool (like Cheviot or Shetland); others denote their region of origin (Donegal or Saxony). There are also brand names of tweed – such as Pendleton Woolen Mills and Harris Tweed (the latter being one of the most well-known).

HARRIS-TWEED-AUTH-(9)-EDIT

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MADE IN THE SOUTH AWARDS

Garden & Gun magazine, in partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design, has launched their fifth annual Made in the South Awards.

The awards are split into five categories: Food, Drink, Style + Design, Outdoors, and Home.

Entries for Southern-made products are being accepted through August 1, 2014.

Natalie will be judging the Style + Design category. Stay tuned for more information soon… (and good luck).

 

DIANE’S NATURAL DYE HOUSE

About four years ago (to my dismay), Diane Hall, our head seamstress and studio directress, turned in her five-year notice. However, as her retirement grows closer, it has become evident to all of us at the studio that we will continue to see her around The Factory after her “official” retirement.

Diane has developed a passion for natural dyeing—in addition to sewing, pattern making, etc. She first encountered natural dyeing with indigo during our workshop at Shakerag in 2012. Her experience there with the renowned dyer Michel Garcia left a lasting impression. Last summer, while our entire company was writing a 10-year vision, Diane wrote that she envisioned a natural dye house here at The Factory and volunteered herself as the head dye master after her retirement.

INDIGO-HANGING

After that simple act of writing our vision, the dye house miraculously began to take shape.

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HABLE CONSTRUCTION

We love these every-day, stylish canvas bags from the Brooklyn, New York and Athens, Georgia-based, sister-owned textile company Hable Construction. Perfect for carrying anything and everything – take your Hable tote bag to the office, gym, airport, or even to the grocery store.

 

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?

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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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SOUTHERN MAKERS 2014

Last weekend, some of our team traveled down to Montgomery, Alabama for the second annual Southern Makers event. Southern Makers is a one-day experience that celebrates innovation and creativity of all types of makers in Alabama. The day is filled with everything from panel discussions and live music, to cooking demonstrations and workshops. Some of the top talents working in design, architecture, fashion, and food throughout the state are celebrated each year.

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Maker booths are organized by region; North, Central, and South Alabama were all represented at this year’s event. Alabama Chanin set up shop next to our several of our neighbors and friends, including artist Audwin McGee, Scout By Two, Billy Reid, Zkano, and Butch Anthony.

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THE HISTORY OF WEAVING (AND RAG RUGS)

Our team experiments with all types of fabric manipulation here at Alabama Chanin. We have used ruffles to create texture in our textiles and jewelry; have featured crochet work in our collections and projects, and love how something so simple as a knot can add complexity and depth to a piece. In Alabama Stitch Book, we showed how fabric might be used to repair and repurpose farm chairs – an idea that we explored further in our MAKESHIFT 2013 Chair Workshop. Lately, the team has been experimenting with a large floor loom in The Factory. I have long wanted to incorporate rugs into our lifestyle collections, which would also be a wonderful way for us to utilize scraps and decrease waste. I remember my grandmother saving fabric to make rag rugs and there was always a rag rug in front of her sink.

In its most basic definition, weaving is a way to produce fabric using two sets of thread, yarn, or fabric, that are interlaced to form cloth. The longitudinal threads are called the “warp” and the lateral threads are the “weft.” Though hand and finger weaving is suitable for small projects, larger fabrics are usually woven on a loom.

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Weavers have been valued craftspeople almost since the beginning of humankind. Very rudimentary woven cloth has been found in prehistoric graves and settlements. Tens of thousands of years ago, man began to develop string by twisting together plant fibers. Weaving together this primitive string by hand was the next logical step. The first, crude weaving looms were likely developed in the Neolithic Era. Weaving looms were developed from this basic form in China, where silk from silkworm cocoons was utilized and the weaving of this silk was a well-defined craft.

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20 YEARS @ RURAL STUDIO + SCOTT PEACOCK

I have a deep respect and admiration for the work happening at Rural Studio, located in Hale County, Alabama. Founded in 1993 by the late Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee and D.K. Ruth, the studio is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.

After having the chance to visit the stunning Yancey Chapel in 2008, I noted on the Journal that “the work and life of Samuel Mockbee is a yardstick for us to hold up to our lives each and every day to take measure of the road that we walk on this planet.”

I will be heading to Hale County this weekend, for a special dinner and pig roast as part of their yearlong 20th anniversary celebration. My friend (and acclaimed chef) Scott Peacock is preparing the menu and family-style meal. The evening will be a celebration of Rural Studio and an acknowledgement of their ongoing community project at Rural Studio Farm—where students are working to construct a greenhouse, irrigation system, planter beds, and more. In fact, a few of the vegetables that will be served over the weekend were grown by students at the farm. The Hale County community is contributing to the dinner, providing fresh hen eggs for deviled eggs and the local pig that was raised to be roasted just for this occasion. Friends of Rural Studio are also making contributions—Alabama Chanin donated 170 organic cotton jersey napkins for the event, which students of the studio will manipulate and design for the dinner. It will be an evening filled with laughter, community, delicious food, and storytelling.

RS_HaleCounty_Newbern

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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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GARDEN & GUN DRINKS

These days it’s rare that I get the chance to sit down and read. Between second grade homework and taking out the compost (which seems an endless—and perpetually thankless—chore), my days don’t involve moments to sit, read, and ponder. In fact, “pondering” seems to have become a lost art in our busy, busy, busy (badge of honor) lives.

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So, it was with relish that between listening to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” played on our new piano (43+ times—right hand, left hand, right hand, left hand, and one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four…) and watching Spy Kids: All The Time In The World, I was able to thoroughly read the new Garden & Gun magazine—cover to cover. And what an issue it is: Patterson Hood, Do-It-Yourself Moon Pies (more on this story next Wednesday), and Classic Southern Drinks (my personal favorite).

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MARKET HIGHLIGHT: SCOUT BY TWO

Scout By Two is a collaboration of two artists, via Alabama and New York. Marisa Keris and Constance Sepulveda met while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, and their shared aspiration to design and make products they’d use themselves led them to launch Scout By Two earlier this year. “Our mission is to seek and extract the spirit of vintage goods. Inspired by American style and tradition, we integrate natural materials to create modern, functional works of art,” says Marisa, who resides and works in the Shoals.

If you have visited The Factory Store, you’ve seen Scout by Two’s handmade collection featured in our Holiday Market. For a limited time, Alabama Chanin is featuring the Peacemaker Wallet in our online Holiday Gift Guide. The wallet is crafted with waxed canvas, premium vegetable tanned U.S. cowhide, and solid brass hardware. Vegetable tanning is a traditional process that uses bark, roots, and other vegetable matter to convert skins into leather. The leather will gradually soften and develop a patina with exposure to natural elements.

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MARKET HIGHLIGHT: SHOTWELL CANDY CO.

The Memphis, Tennessee-based Shotwell Candy Co. produces delicious, hand-crafted caramels, soon to be some of your favorite things. I learned about the company from John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Alliance. The company was launched last year in the home kitchen of Jerrod Smith – a corporate lawyer and, now also, confectioner. Jerrod was inspired to create his business by his great-grandfather, L. Shotwell George, also known as “Grandpa Shot”. Grandpa Shot owned a general store in Kentucky, which was always stocked with candy bins full of chewy caramels and other sweets. Jerrod (who admittedly has a sweet tooth, especially for caramels) has recreated timeless flavors through experimentation with complimentary ingredients, such as beer and pretzels, espresso, whiskey, and salt.

We love the Original Salted Caramels, featuring buttery, soft caramel infused with house-made Tennessee whiskey, vanilla extract, and finished with flaky Celtic grey salt.

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

 

DIY STENCILED T-SHIRT

We use stencils in many of our designs. Most often employed as a pattern to follow when adding elaborate embroidery, beading, and appliqué, we also love the simplicity of a stenciled pattern on a basic silhouette.

This DIY Stencil T-shirt focuses on the simple beauty that emerges when you combine just the right pattern, stencil, and colors. The techniques used are easy for both the beginning and the advanced sewer to master. This design is our classic T-shirt Top. Here we used the sleeveless version, but you could use any sleeve length, depending on your personal style and taste.

DIY STENCILED T-SHIRT

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Q+A WITH HEATHER ROSS

I’ve known Heather Ross for almost five years now. We first met in New York, at a show celebrating our collection based on the work of famed Alabama photographer Charles Moore.  Heather arrived with my editor, Melanie, and I was bowled over by her beauty AND her spirit. When Alabama Studio Style launched back in 2010, the book went on a wonderful (digital) Blog Tour with a stop by Heather’s blog. The interview that ensued is one of my favorites to date.

Heather Ross is almost universally beloved in the sewing and craft communities. Her designs are whimsical and totally unlike any other options on the bookshelf. She excels when designing and illustrating for textiles and paper, with lines of fabric and stationery; she has also illustrated children’s books and has even worked on a line of surfboards for young girls. She has published a range of books, from the highly popular Weekend Sewing to a children’s book called Crafty Chloe.

HEATHER ROSS PRINTS

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CUSTOM DIY: ANNA’S GARDEN WITH COUCHING

Couching is one of the more sculptural techniques that we use to embellish garments at Alabama Chanin. The effect adds a unique texture and visual appeal.

Traditional couching is a very old technique where yarn (or another material) is laid across fabric and sewn into place, creating shapes and patterns. Our process of couching involves stitching cotton jersey ropes to a stenciled base fabric.

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SCOUT BY TWO + AMERICAN MADE

Shoals resident, friend, and artist Marisa Keris and her college friend Constance Sepulveda are making beautiful hand-stitched bags and accessories from canvas and Italian leather under the label Scout by Two. Inspired by vintage goods, American style and tradition, the artists combine wood-burned details with simple geometry and natural elements to create original designs with classic styling.

We are excited that Scout by Two is a nominee in the Martha Stewart American Made competition this year. We love the work Marisa and Constance are doing (and proud to see it coming together in our community). Vote for Scout by Two through September 22nd. You can vote every day, up to six times a day. Click here to vote for Scout by Two.

(And look for a future Alabama Chanin + Scout by Two collaboration).

Image courtesy of Scout by Two.

 

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.

 

DIY YOHJI YAMAMOTO

Yohji Yamamoto has been a hero of mine since I graduated from design school. I once saw him walking down the streets of Milan, Italy, not long after I started working in the New York garment district, and felt that I had made the big time. “Walking on the same street as Yohji Yamamoto?” I thought.  It was a momentary highlight in my career that I remember like it was yesterday.

He is known as an avant garde Japanese designer and famous for his intricate designs and impeccable tailoring. He often experiments with different draping methods and varied fabric textures. Yamamoto is also known to integrate wabi sabi, an ever-changing state of beauty, simplicity, and asymmetry, combined with an appreciation for natural elements, into his design aesthetic.

The fashion website Showstudio launched Design Download – “a series demystifying the fashion process by offering prestigious designer garment patterns for download” –  with a Yamamoto pattern for a jacket in classic Yamamoto style. He remained mysterious about the process, revealing very little, and challenging the maker to pay close attention to detail, shape, and technique. There is no “how-to,” like you would find with a traditional pattern. Design Download calls this piece a “mystery garment,” telling the reader that the “photographs of the piece hold the visual key to stitching together your own.”

DIY YOHJI YAMAMOTO - Photograph by Abraham Rowe

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LAMP SHADES + T-SHIRT ROPES

Past & Present is a collection of essays on decorative art history and DIY projects by Design Sponge columnist, Amy Azzarito. Grace Bonney, founder of the very popular Design Sponge website, first met Amy while working on a video project at the New York Public Library. The two became instant friends, as Grace was impressed with Amy’s knowledge and passion for design and the history behind it. Thus the column, Past & Present, was born. In this book, Amy highlights some of her favorite styles in the history of decorative arts and pairs her essays with advice from various designers on creating DIY projects that reflect the eras she writes about.

We chose to create one of the projects, using our 100% organic cotton jersey, to make a Shaker-style hanging lamp.

LAMP SHADES + T-SHIRT ROPES

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A RECIPE FOR PRINTING

Yesterday, we heard from Heather Wylie about her Bohemian Bop venture, her love of printmaking, and how she got into screen printing t-shirts. Today, Heather shares with us a recipe for screen printing at home, based on her own self-taught experience and by following You Tube videos and a few books on the subject, including Printing by Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils and Silk Screens by Lena Corwin, which we wrote about here a few years ago.

As Heather mentioned yesterday, printmaking requires many steps and each step demands careful attention in order to get the desired outcome. Anyone can print at home, but it is a lengthy process.

A RECIPE FOR PRINTING

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HEATHER WYLIE + BOHEMIAN BOP

Heather Wylie is the daughter of Alabama Chanin friend and mentor Terry Wylie, and a welcome creative force in our shared factory space on Lane Drive. Heather is recently graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York, where she earned an MFA in Design and Technology. She learned printmaking as an undergrad at the University of Alabama, and it is her love of printing and her ingrained knowledge of the t-shirt business (thanks to Dad) that led her to create Bohemian Bop, a line of hand-printed, silkscreen and lace embellished tee shirts. We visited Heather’s studio to learn a little more about Bohemian Bop, her love of print making, and the future for Heather Wylie.

HEATHER WYLIE + BOHEMIAN BOP - photo by Valerie Crawford

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MACRAME HANGERS + KITCHEN HERBS

This summer’s harvest has begun to reveal its bounty. Tomatoes and cucumbers are in full-swing and soon I will have all of the squash and zucchini I can stand (and plenty for the neighbors) not to mention, beautiful Italian basil, which I love with a tomato sandwich. I recently received this book, Vintage Craft Workshop, from friend and author Cathy Callahan. The macramé planter project immediately caught my eye and got me thinking about the possibility of year-round fresh basil and mint.

In my mind, I am planning several hanging pots that will live just inside a large window, where they will get lots of sun. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of hanging pots are the macramé plant holders in my home in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. They ran along the kitchen wall in varying heights, usually filled with ferns and the random “Spider Plant” (Chlorophytum comosum). Here, we attempted our own Alabama Chanin version, to test out the sizes we could make, the height, and how they would look made with our cotton jersey pulls. No surprise – they look exactly as I remember them.

MACRAME HANGERS

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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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CLOSING: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN AMERICAN FACTORY

In Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory, Cathy N. Davidson writes:

“When the last worker passed through the doors of White Furniture Company in May of 1993, hardly anyone beyond the city limits of Mebane, North Carolina, noticed. In national terms, it made little difference that 203 men and women were out of work or that a venerable, family-owned firm (the ‘South’s oldest maker of fine furniture’) had been sold to a conglomerate and now was being shut down. After all, what happened to White’s is hardly unique. In the 1990s, in every walk of life and on all social levels, Americans have had to learn a new vocabulary of economic anxiety – layoff, outsourcing, buyout, off-shoring, downsizing, closing. The statistics are mind-numbing: 70,000 people laid off from General Motors in 1991; 50,000 workers from Sears and 63,000 from IBM in 1993; 40,000 from AT&T in 1996. In these times, why should we care about the closing of one furniture factory in a small southern town?”

Davidson’s text accompanies Bill Bamberger’s photographs, which document the closing of this small American factory and capture the artisans, many of whom were masters of their craft. White’s Furniture Company operated by assembly line, though many of the details were executed by hand. The company was small, almost unknown, but to people in the know, White’s was regarded as one of the highest quality furniture crafters in America. Though Closing was published in 1999, nearly fifteen years ago, the trend of downsizing and outsourcing has continued, and our American factories have all but disappeared. Production, as we well know, has mostly been shipped overseas.

CLOSING: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN AMERICAN FACTORY

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A RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE PAINT

I’ve been thinking about painting my back porch and deck white since it was built last summer. After all, we spend about fifty percent of our time out there. I’ve long disliked the toxicity of commercial paints on the market. Most common indoor and outdoor household paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs contain a variety of chemicals, some of which give off noxious fumes and may have short term or long term adverse health effects. According to the EPA, levels of some VOCs are 2 to 5 times higher inside a home than outside; when you are painting or stripping paint in your home, particularly in older homes where lead paint may have been used in the past, indoor levels of VOCs may be 1000 times that of outdoor levels. I’ve used VOC-free paints for all of my indoor and outdoor painting since they came on the market some years back.

In thinking about my outdoor living area, I wanted to investigate additional ways to paint more safely, and came across two options that I could possibly make myself: whitewash and milk paint. Whitewashing, which many of us remember from Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was commonly used for years because it is inexpensive, can be homemade, and homeowners could use ingredients they had on-hand, improvising their own recipes. It is still used in rural areas to protect wooden surfaces like fences and barns, or by designers who want to give furniture a rustic look. The mixture’s base is always lime and water, which makes a chalky type of plaster. Then, ingredients might be added to thicken or strengthen the mixture, like flour, glue, sugar, soap, soil, or milk.

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SIGN PAINTERS (THE MOVIE)

Yesterday, I wrote about my appreciation of hand-painted signs, inspired by the book Sign Painters, authored by friend Faythe Levine with Sam Macon. Faythe and Sam have directed a documentary – also called Sign Painters, as a companion to the book.

In 2008, Faythe co-authored and directed a book and film, both named Handmade Nation: The Rise of Craft and DIY. We welcomed her to Alabama last April for our Visiting Artist Series, where she highlighted “craftivism” and brought her light-hearted stories to the Factory. This summer she has taken Sign Painters on the road for a series of screenings.

Faythe has an itinerant spirit. She states in the book’s preface, “Many of my earliest memories involve travel, much of which was by car. I’d stare out the window of the family station wagon and watch America transition from one place to the next.”

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FAYTHE LEVINE AND SIGN PAINTERS

Growing up in small-town Florence, Alabama, a trip into downtown meant a visit to colorful shops, recognized by equally colorful signs. Ye Ole General Store had a block letter, serif-type sign across the entranceway and inside, we could find canteens and hats and overalls for backyard battles and explorations. Next, we’d walk to Court Street and look for the black and orange storefront that meant Wilson’s Fabrics. The simple lettering, enhanced by the high contrast color choices, told my grandmother to come right in – the “Tall Man with the Low Prices” had just the cotton and muslin she needed. Finally, the best part of our trip was our visit to Trowbridge’s for hot dogs and milkshakes. The hand-painted awning, with its swirling cursive script, told us we were headed in the right direction. The front window advertises SANDWICHES, ICE CREAM, SUNDAES. We would slide into a booth and look at the hand-painted menu hanging behind the ice cream counter. That beautiful menu is still there today, challenging me to choose between the hot dog and the chicken salad sandwich. I think the town would riot if it were ever taken down.

This sentimental love I have for hand painted signs was rejuvenated when friend and fellow maker, Faythe Levine, and her co-writer Sam Macon published Sign Painters. This book chronicles the histories and modern-day stories of sign painters. In the 1980’s and 90’s, the art of painting signs became doomed to obscurity, or worse -extinction- with the invention and widespread use of vinyl lettering and digital design. In today’s world, full of Adobe software and inflatable dancing tube men, it is hard to remember that every grocery store sale sign, billboard, storefront, and banner was once carefully designed and painted by hand.

SIGN PAINTERS

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BLUPRINT CLASS (A RECAP)

This past February, Alabama Chanin partnered with the team at Bluprint, 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 Bluprint 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 ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

It is generally understood that taking a shower uses less water than taking a bath. Even so, I must admit to enjoying a good soak occasionally. Either way, my bathing routine can be one of my favorite parts of the day (at least on days when I have time for more than a cat bath). Sometimes, I’ll bring my iPod and speakers into the bathroom to supply a soundtrack for my rituals of teeth brushing, face washing, and a nice scrub. Other days, my mind is busy and I get right down to business solving the world’s problems (I wish) or thinking of the perfect thing that I should have said in a conversation, after the fact. But, most of the time, it provides me with a quiet moment to myself. I recently stayed at a hotel that had the most luxurious vanity table with mirrors that showed way too much, a comfortable chair, and all the things you need to “get ready.” I swore that I was going to create this at home and, as I write this, am plotting an update.

I live in a 1950’s era home with tile floors that seem to stay cold in winter and summer, so a good bath mat is essential to this feeling of luxury. I admit to letting past bath mats get threadbare and unattractive. Many-a-time I’ve just tossed down an old towel when I couldn’t find the bath mat (or it is covered in what was left of the dog’s bath). Neither is an ideal substitute for the real thing.

Last summer, I built an outdoor shower (which definitely works better for dog baths) and I have to say, a bath mat is equally important outdoors and indoors. Below are instructions on how to make your own Alabama Chanin bath mat from our cotton jersey fabric. It’s super soft, easy to wash, absorbent, and will protect you from cold tiles or rough wood—plus, what a great way to use scraps. I’m thinking of a larger one so that the dog might even have his own.

DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

And now that the weather has warmed and the sun is out, I can use my much loved outdoor shower. The new deck is a source of great happiness for me, and the shower is something of a dream come true.

SUPPLIES

Aluminum Crochet Hook. (We used Boye Size K/2-6.50MM)
Approximately 2 yards of 100% organic cotton jersey fabric
Olfa rotary cutter
Olfa cutting mat
18” transparent ruler

To begin, you will need approximately 2 yards of our cotton jersey fabric. Use your rotary cutter and cutting supplies to cut strips of fabric about 1/2” wide. Take the ends of these strips and pull the ends tightly. Once you have about 240 yards of pulls, tie them end to end to make one long piece. We used a square knot (right over left, then left over right) to join the ends of each pull together.

These pulls were made specifically for this project and are not as thick as our cotton jersey pulls, which are cut into approximately 1″ to 1 1/2″ strips. If you choose to experiment by using our cotton jersey pulls, keep in mind your bath mat will be thicker and require fewer pulls.

To start, chain 55 (or until you reach 22 inches), then turn and double-crochet in the 3rd stitch from the end.

For row 1, double-crochet in each stitch until the end. Turn

For row 2, chain 2 and then double-crochet in each stitch until the end; turn.

Repeat approximately 27 times, or until your piece is 16” tall.

We chose to leave the tails of the ties exposed, both for the look and the texture of the finished bath mat. Feel free to tuck them in if you prefer a cleaner look. Our bath mat measures 22” x 16”, but you can tailor your own to fit the size of your bathroom. You will simply need to adjust the length of your cotton jersey pulls to meet your needs.

DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

Use your bath mat inside, or out. Repeated washings and use will just make the mat softer…

 

 

COLOR

Most of us don’t really think about color, or what color is or how it’s made, and yet our entire day is filled with too many shades to count or record. In Victoria Finlay’s 2002 book, Color: A Natural History of the Palette, she writes, “the first challenge in writing about colors is that they don’t really exist. Or rather they do exist, but only because our minds create them as an interpretation of vibrations that are happening around us.”

This leaves quite a bit of objective opinion about color, much of it based on what we are physiologically able to absorb and interpret. The human eye perceives color in different ways, often depending on how light affects the color we are observing. We’ve all witnessed the changing shades of green in the trees or greys and reds on the buildings around us from dawn to dusk as the temperature and quality of light shifts throughout the day. Each person sees color in different ways, notices subtle differences, and has a biased personal interpretation of color. Isn’t one of the first things we learn to answer about ourselves as children, what’s your favorite color?

COLOR

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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.

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DIY GARDEN GEOMETRY SKIRT

Earlier this year, we featured artist, friend, and collaborator, Anna Maria Horner. As that week came to a close, we were inspired by Anna Maria’s elaborate needlepoint projects and decided we would experiment with more involved embroidery techniques ourselves. For our first project, the  Embroidered Flowers T-shirt, we mixed traditional embroidery stitch work with retro patterns using modern silhouettes. We adapted a vintage McCall’s pattern for the floral embroidery design and used the Alabama Chanin T-shirt pattern as the base. The result was relatively simple to complete.

For this project, our Garden Geometry Skirt, inspired by Anna Maria’s pattern of the same name (and available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook), we adapted our Swing Skirt, creating intricate embroidery designs on a larger scale. In her book, Anna Maria writes, “this is by far the most straightforward approach I have made toward the traditional way of creating a crewel design.” As she also mentions, the pattern lends itself to enlargement and experimentation. The result is a colorful expression of our experimentation. Make your own Garden Geometry Skirt using fabric and thread colors that suit your personal style. There are stitch and pattern diagrams available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook that can help direct your design.

GARDEN GEOMETRY SKIRT

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NEUTRA NUMBERS

The practice of numbering houses supposedly began in Paris in the 1500’s. Having a house number is something we don’t give a second thought to these days, but they have not always been used and they certainly have not always been popular.

Some countries have numbered zones, requirements for the number of digits, double sets of numbers, and different color street numbers for different purposes, like upstairs and downstairs. Every country, state, city, or county seems to have their own numbering system. Early numbering systems were developed for the controversial purposes of census taking, drafting men into the military, taxation, creating borders, and other government functions. They were not created for their current purpose: ease of navigation. No matter the country, modern day houses are often required to be numbered for purposes of delivering mail or in case emergency services are needed.

Early identification methods didn’t involve numbers at all. If you wanted to identify or contact the residents of a home, you used the house’s name. But house names were not always displayed, there was no central directory, and sometimes there was more than one house with the same name. This meant that locals could find other locals, but outsiders had a difficult time finding their way around. When the idea of numbering houses was introduced, the idea was not incredibly popular, as it was seen by many as a form of government control.

Today, in modern day America, there is no set standard for how streets get numbered, but there are some practices that are used often. For instance, odd numbered houses are almost always on one side of the street, and even numbered houses are on the opposite side. Some cities are designed as grids with a center point; each block that moves farther from the center increases by 100 (2nd, 3rd, 4th Avenue, etc.) and directional modifiers are determined based upon this point (2nd Avenue North, for example).

My father has been hounding me for years about numbering my house. I’ve never been sure why it was important, since I get my mail and people seem to find the place pretty easily. But, when I saw these numbered tiles, part of a collaboration between House Industries and Heath Ceramics, I coveted house numbers. House Industries creates beautiful fonts and designs, often from unusual or inspired origins. Their typography can take inspiration from a number of sources, blending musical, cultural, and graphic elements. Their design aesthetic works perfectly with the Heath brand. Both companies focus on craftsmanship and forming partnerships and each of them use a hands-on approach when creating products. I purchased the Neutra numbers, but there is also an Eames-inspired collection that is just as beautiful.

I guess my house will not remain incognito anymore. I like that the house numbers add warmth to the entrance and my father is happy to know my house is now properly attired.

 

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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SOUTHERN MAKERS

Two weekends ago, we participated in the inaugural Southern Makers event in Montgomery, Alabama. The one-day affair, curated and created over the last year by Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Matter, and E.A.T. South, celebrated Alabama-based makers and designers who focus on producing and transforming modern sustainable products derived from local traditions in architecture, food, fashion, and design. The afternoon included workshops, panel discussions, a maker bazaar, chef tasting booths, live bands, and a wealth of conversations that grew over coffee, delicious food, and locally brewed beer.

The Union Station Train Shed on the Alabama River offered the perfect venue for the 90+ artisans, artists, chefs, musicians, designers, and makers who convened for the day. The set, designed by Bell + Bragg and Southern Accents Architectural Antiques, had a distinctly Southern aesthetic, and was organized by region: Points North; Points Central; Points South. We shared a section of the train shed with friends Butch Anthony, Billy Reid, and artist Audwin McGee. Live bands, including Florence natives, The Pollies, occupied the stage that anchored the north end of the depot, set before the backdrop of windows, a wall of doors, and a constantly occupied swing that hung from the enormous roof.

SOUTHERN MAKERS

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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

 

TILLEKE SCHWARZ + A SKIRT

Monday, we wrote about artist Tilleke Schwarz’s New Potatoes as inspiration for the week. However, Tilleke’s textiles have been a source for inspiration for me for years. When New Potatoes landed on my desk about a year ago, we started the skirt you see above as homage to Tilleke and her work.

We have produced narrative work over the years in the form of our Story Quilts. With that series, we take vintage quilts, refurbish them, and embroider oral histories onto the fabrics. You will find a Textile Stories Quilt project in Alabama Studio Style that describes this series. However, this series is small in comparison to the beautiful narrative work of Tilleke Schwartz.

TILLEKE SCHWARZ + A SKIRT - FABRIC DETAIL

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A RECIPE FOR INDIGO

We have been working with indigo-dyed cotton jersey for years now. Between Father Andrew and Goods of Conscience in New York City and Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville, Tennessee, there has never been a need for us to start our own indigo vat. And in the quantities we dye, it’s better to leave it to the experts. However, there has always been this little part of me that covets an indigo bath and I dream of one in our studio for “play.”

Since we set about exploring indigo this week, it seemed a perfect time to also explore recipes for a vat (which Father Andrew says is “very much like making beer”). While investigating recipes, I remembered a text message I received last fall from friends A.J. Mason and Jeff Moerchen about an indigo vat they created in the woods of upstate New York. Here they share the story of their vat:

A RECIPE FOR INDIGO

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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 Bluprint 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 Bluprint 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 Bluprint classroom lets you pose questions so that your classmates and I can get back to you with answers. You can also use Bluprint’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:

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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THE GIFT WREATH

Homemade jams are wrapped in organic cotton jersey and tied with a cotton jersey pull; these jams are the basis of our wreath for today and are ready for delivery (as soon as my son Zach’s homemade bread arrives).

As I set off for the holidays (later this afternoon), I am thankful for your support this last (big, beautiful, exciting, glorious) year and grateful for each and every one of you and our entire Alabama Chanin family.

Peace on Earth,
xoNatalie

P.S.: Meet us back here on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 9 am (sharp) CST for our first-ever (online) Garage Sale, featuring items from our recent sample sale, trims, notions, fabrics, DIY Kits, and treasures galore.

 

DIY ROSEMARY WREATH

I have been somewhat of an herbalist since I was a small child.  Plant names and properties have always come as second nature.  While I struggle with the names and faces of people (sometimes people I have just met can go undistinguished an hour later), I have a recall for plants that sometimes baffles. It is almost like I have a memory older than myself when it comes to leaves and weeds.

Like Juliette of the Herbs (see the clip at the bottom of this post), I have planted many a garden—across the globe—and while each garden has its own story, every garden I planted has included rosemary.  After a brief “settling in period,” this elegant (and evergreen) shrub grows tall and wide in the Alabama climate. There is an Old Wives’ Tale about perennial plants: “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps.” It’s true. I have two rosemary shrubs in my home that I took as small diggings from the garden of my last house—our old production office at Lovelace Crossroads. Five years later, those bushes thrive and have spiced many a lunch, dinner, and, yes, cocktail. Come back this afternoon for our Rosemary Infused Vodka recipe .

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DIY JERSEY + WOOL WREATH

Our studio team made this wreath almost a decade ago. While it never found its way into production, I always loved the textural quality and combination of yarn and cotton jersey fabric. I purchased it at one of our many long-ago sample sales after finding it in the bottom of a box of other holiday goodies.  Now, every holiday season, the wreath takes a proud place on my front door. (This year I hung it together with a larger fresh pine wreath.)

You will notice in the detail below that the wreath is made from our cut cotton jersey fabric in combination with crocheted elements (or appliqués).  These decorative crochet elements were also part of a long-ago collection of garments combining fabric and yarn.

Since we’ve been discovering how well fabric and yarn work together, I thought we could share another way to incorporate the two beautifully. After a bit of head scratching, we were able to re-create patterns for the hand-crocheted elements (as closely as possible).

The wreath is approximately 13” in diameter and 40” in circumference and consists of several different parts: two approximately 50” braided cotton jersey ropes, two 6” DIY Rag Boas approximately 50” long, assorted crochet elements, assorted beads, a beautiful grosgrain ribbon, and a cotton jersey pull for hanging.

Keep in mind that this project can be made with ANYTHING you have available in your home.  Substitute cotton cord or twine for our cotton jersey pulls. Substitute any appliques or trinkets you have for our hand-crocheted decorations. Add beads and bows made from grosgrain ribbon; take away the beads or add three additional bows. You may also choose to use a base for your wreath as we did in the DIY Organic Wrapped Wreath and lash your Rag Boa and Braided Ropes to that base.

Do what makes you feel good.

Share.

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DIY ORGANIC WRAPPED WREATH

I have to note that we started writing holiday posts about wreath making before the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday morning.  It is incomprehensible for all of us to understand how that community will make it through the upcoming holiday season and beyond.  For me, senseless tragedy can rarely be fully processed.

How strange that one of the traditional emblems of our holiday season—the wreath—is also a universal symbol of mourning.  Both are traditions that seem to have grown out of ancient times and are simply variations of the never-ending ring that, on a deeper level, symbolizes the circle of life. You can find wreaths made as crowns of precious metals and gemstones, of bay leaves for athletes, of straw or stones, as daisy chains made by children, and as the rings of light that we associate with the halo.

We continue our holiday posts today, keeping the families of Newtown, Connecticut in our hearts. Over the coming days, you will find a series of wreaths that we dedicate to them.

While there is no explaining such a tragedy, sometimes the act of making (or doing) can help us overcome the despair we suffer for the senseless heartbreaking acts of this world.

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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.

THE QUILTS OF GEE’S BEND

In anticipation of our upcoming event at Grocery on Home, I’ve been going through The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, by William Arnett, Alvia Wardlaw, Jane Livingston, and John Beardsley again this week. It’s only serving to make me really excited. The book is rich with history and filled with gorgeous photographs of hand-stitched quilts and the stories of the women who made them. The mini-autobiographies of each quilt maker provide snapshots of life in Gee’s Bend. Each entry is written in the seamstress’s own words, like this opening paragraph in Helen McCloud’s story:

“I was born down in Clifton, out from Annemanie. My mother was Della Mae Bridges. We worked in the fields, raised cotton and stuff. Kind of rough. My daddy was a big farmer-cotton, corn, rice, peanuts, squashes, cucumbers, beans, oats. And, Lord, we had to get out there and pick them. Jesus, I hated that, but if you didn’t, you get tore up. Watermelons, too. Two hundred pounds of cotton wasn’t nothing for me to pick. My daddy was so mean to us.”

The Quilts of Gee's Bend. Photo by Robert Rausch
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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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“AS LONG AS I CAN SEE, I’LL BE TRYING TO THREAD THAT NEEDLE.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, to view “Creation Story: Gee’s Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial.” I spent forever moving from one quilt to the next – leaning as closely in as I could without being reprimanded. No matter how many times you see those beautiful pieces, they never fail to amaze and inspire. The quilts, while spectacular, were meant for everyday use and were made with whatever materials were available. The personal stories associated with each quilt drove that point home. Each was described by the maker in simple terms and plain language, as if what they produced was no big deal, as though anyone could do it. I was particularly taken by the quilts of Missouri Pettway, both intricate and simple in their constructions. One quilt, made from her husband’s work clothes, demonstrated the love that went into each and every one of these works of art. I felt a lump rise in my throat as I read the description, as told by the quilter’s daughter, Arlonzia:

“It was when Daddy died. I was about seventeen, eighteen. He stayed sick about eight months and passed on. Mama say, ‘I going to take his work clothes, shape them into a quilt to remember him, and cover up under it for love.’ She take his old pants legs and shirttails, take all the clothes he had, just enough to make that quilt, and I helped her tore them up. Bottom of the pants is narrow, top is wide, and she had me to cutting the top part out and shape them up in even strips.” Continue reading

DIY THURSDAY: ANDREA ZITTEL + SMOCKSHOP

In 2009 and 2010, an exhibition was held at Pratt Institute to help explain the relationship between fashion and sustainability.

For this exhibit (called Ethics + Aesthetics = Sustainable Fashion), curators Francesca Granata and Sarah Scaturro (now Conservator at The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) displayed garments from our Alabama ChaninSongbirds collection, and also from artists and designers like Susan Cianciolo, Andrea Zittel, Suno, and Bodkin.

Andrea Zittel’s Smockshop pattern was included in the “Rethink” portion of the exhibition and provided as a printed pattern at the back of the catalog. From page 36 of the catalog:

A simple double wrap-around garment, the smock as designed by the artist Andrea Zittel, is a versatile and utilitarian garment. For the Smockshop project, it is reworked by a number of artists who reinterpret the original pattern based on their individual skill sets and tastes. In line with Zittel’s motto, “Liberation through Limitations,” the smocks are intended to be worn exclusively for six months, but in an understanding of the idealistic nature of such a practice, the artist is at least hoping “to inspire a more frugal approach to design.” The examples in the exhibition are by the artist Tiprin Follett, who wore her smocks continuously and documented her performance in an interview with Zittel as well as through snapshots.

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SEAM ALLOWANCE PROJECT

This summer Kristine Vejar, founder of A Verb for Keeping Warm (one of the first stores to sell our fabrics and supplies in a retail setting), began a project that encourages each of us to make 25% of our wardrobe. Simply stated, this means 1 out of every 4 garments in your closet should be handmade- sewn, knitted, crocheted, or constructed in your desired method. I would also include any accessory- hats, necklaces, socks, shoes, and the like.

The project, called the Seam Allowance Project, helps connect those who have the desire to make with a community of sewers, knitters, and other craftspeople within the DIY movement.

A few reasons to pledge to make 25% of your wardrobe:

It’s an ethical choice. You KNOW how your clothes are being made.

It’s an economical choice. You are saving money by making your clothes yourself.

It’s a sustainable choice. You are consuming less because you are buying less.

It’s a creative choice and a beautiful form of self-expression.

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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 YARN BALL BASKETS

Crocheting was one of my first creative outlets, once I felt the distinct urge to make. When I had a crochet hook in hand, making hats, scarves, bags, whatever I might need, the process came to me like second nature.  Often, I couldn’t find patterns to fit what I needed so I ended up making them myself, using trial and error. When Natalie asked me to review the book, So Pretty! Crochet! Inspiration and Instructions for 24 Stylish Projects, I was hesitant; I felt like I had already seen every book and pattern on the market. For me, crochet books rarely used the right kind of yarn, they were at times overly wordy, the photos weren’t always helpful, the patterns were sometimes hard to read, etc. As you can tell, I’m a harsh critic when it comes to this type of book.

However, as I scanned through the pages of So Pretty! Crochet, I felt inspired. We adapted a pattern from this book to make the nesting bowls found on page 115. Instead of using the cotton yarn they suggest, we made our own yarn out of ½ inch strips of the organic cotton jersey fabric that we use to make our yarn balls. The bowls seemed a unique use for our scrap materials. The instructions in the book are easy to follow and exact, when using yarn. Our sizing is slightly different because we used cotton jersey rope rather than cotton yarn, but it doesn’t cause much of a problem. I used the size crochet hook they suggested, but you may want to experiment to see which size hook works best for you.


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THE HEART: ARTISAN NATURAL DYEWORKS

Sustainable. Natural. Organic. These are all words that are integral to the Alabama Chanin identity. Our core values compel us to take a holistic approach to our design methods, looking at every aspect, quality, material or person that may play a part in our production process. This way of thinking led us toward using natural dyes on our fabrics. One of the companies that carefully colors our fabrics is Artisan Natural Dyeworks based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Alabama Chanin was originally introduced to the women behind the company by a mutual acquaintance. At the time, the dye company was being run by sisters Alesandra and Sarah. The sisters, both transplants to Nashville, decided to start a business together, but wanted to make sure that it reflected their values, drew from their strengths and interests, and celebrated their deep love for the earth. Though neither sister had any experience with natural dyes (or apparel, or production), they ambitiously decided that establishing a natural dye house would perfectly integrate all of their requirements.

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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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NATURAL DYES

A combination of hand and manmade dyes are used for our fabric selection (over 45 colors and growing) at Alabama Chanin. Today we share some information on the natural dye processes, which we use for four of our fabrics: our current Coral and Indigo, Light Golden, and Goldenrod.

Our organic cotton jersey is dyed at two locations in the southeast region: Tumbling Colors in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville, Tennessee. In the Bronx, New York, we dye Indigo with Father Andrew at Goods of Conscience.

Artisan Natural Dyeworks naturally dyes our cotton jersey fabric from the following plants: common madder root to produce Coral, the indigo plant to produce Indigo, and osage orange wood and myrobalan fruit for our Light Golden and Goldenrod fabrics. (More on Artisan Natural Dyeworks this Friday.)

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DIY THURSDAY: SAMPLER BLOCK SHAWL

When working on a new collection, part of the design process involves creating fabric swatches in various colorways and patterns, and using an assortment of embellishment techniques. These “samples” help us quickly and sustainably choose the perfect finish for our garments.

I’ve written before about our Sample Block library and swatches as part of a sustainable design practice. Unfortunately, not all created swatches make their way into the final collection and library. Subtle changes might happen in the design process or a color dropped from the line altogether. However, these swatches are all beautiful in their own right. A stunning way to display them (rather than having them collect on my desk) is to incorporate these swatches into a Sampler Block Shawl, modeled after the Sample Block Quilt.

The 10” x 16” dimension is based on the size of the binders we use to store our fabric blocks. You can use any dimension of fabric block you’d prefer by cutting organic cotton jersey to your desired size.

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THE SEWING TABLE

Alabama Chanin is a celebration of deep Southern roots merged with contemporary style. As a company, we strive to connect to those roots by integrating age-old skills and techniques into our current work. Along the way, we have made new connections, created relationships with friends and pieces  that play a role in our story. There are those that have been with us from the beginning and others that have come and gone, but one thing remains constant, they stay with us through memories.

We have the ability to link objects and feelings to those memories; a lifetime of emotion can be evoked from a single touch or sighting. Maybe your grandmother’s wood-handled kitchen knife brings back memories of your education in chopping vegetables without losing a finger. Or perhaps your mother’s overflowing recipe book holds all of the secrets needed to prepare for your very first dinner party. The rocking chair you built with your grandfather holds a feeling of accomplishment within its structure.

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REPORT FROM PENLAND: TUESDAY 7/10/12

Even when I land in one of the most beautiful (peaceful) places on Earth, it takes me time to settle in, to relax, and to feel like I belong. Regardless, there is already a sort of “hum” in the studio, as my friend Cathy Bailey might say.  You can “hear” thoughts coming together, the whisper of thread through fabric, and hands moving, all mingled with an underlying buzz that permeates the Penland campus.

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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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MADE IN AMERICA

As we move towards Independence Day, we’d like to highlight some companies who are making great things in the United States. We encourage you to share with us any companies we should look to for ‘Made in America’ excellence and quality.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of purchasing domestically and shopping locally. We must support the businesses and companies who strive for excellence in craft and manufacturing, those who provide fair wages and proper working conditions for their employees, and companies who take pride in their products.

These are types of companies that, at one point in time, were abundant in my North Alabama manufacturing community.

I frequent A Continuous Lean, and am always moved by the beautiful images and stories. A recent post about Huge, a Japanese magazine whose June issue focuses on products and manufacturing here in America, is beautifully inspiring. Huge shares with readers some companies doing great things.

One featured company is Archival Clothing, whose manufacturing is based in Oregon. They make an array of stylish bags, varying in size and function. Their company values resonated strongly with our team at Alabama Chanin, as they believe, “Perhaps over time, our efforts will help to stimulate the domestic market and encourage US manufacturers to expand their offerings. We hope you will help us with that. We stand behind all of our products, the ones we make and the ones we offer in our store.”

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LIE STILL

I spent the last week sick in bed. It is not in my character to lie still or ask for help, but a severe ear infection developed into all sorts of other infections, followed by a viral infection a week later, and culminated in an allergic reaction to antibiotics after 14 days.

A friend reminded me last night, “Perhaps you just needed a week in bed?”

A week, perhaps, but two?

I am not a good patient and never have been. Honestly, I was miserable. However, I did find time to read magazines, watch an impressive list of movies that I have been trying to get to for over a year, and, in moments, just looked up at the ceiling.  I have to say that my daughter was a gem, brought me water, lay with me, and read books.

So today, for Sustainable Design Tuesday, all I can think of is that sometimes we just need to take a break, lie still, to keep going.  So, I offer you a little break and a couple of highlights from my two weeks (more or less) in captivity:

Selvedge Magazine never disappoints—and the May/June issue is no exception. I fell in love with a little story on page 9 about Tajika Haruo Ironworks, in Ono City, Japan that has been “producing handcrafted copper scissors and shears for over four generations since its founding in the Showa Period.”

Now, I love a good pair of scissors and try to keep one pair in each room.  We have the kitchen shears, children’s craft scissors, four different pairs of hair shears (since I am known for midnight hair chopping and need good tools),  paper scissors, embroidery scissors, and a few vintage pairs for no particular purpose—other that the fact that they are beautiful.

Selvedge sites Analogue Life as a source for the Tiajika scissors, and I briefly got lost there.

Look at the flower shears shown above and copper household scissors below:

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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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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: 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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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.

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 THURSDAY: FAYTHE LEVINE

Thanks to everyone who came out for our Visiting Artist Series with Faythe Levine. It proved to be a fantastic evening of crafting, conversation, and Old-Fashioneds.

In addition to the interactive crafting that ensued, Faythe held a seminar where she lectured on ‘Craftivism’, her work and travels (examples include urban camping in Detroit and a boathouse community on the Mississippi River), and how to build your business. The audience consisted of spinners, musicians, teachers, artists, gardeners, knitters, quilters, and makers of all kinds. The open conversation allowed everyone in the group to share their successes, ideas, struggles, and journeys both inside and outside of the creative “industry.”

DIY THURS FAYTHE LEVINE
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WEAVING WITHOUT A LOOM

In anticipation of our Visiting Artist Series with Faythe Levine, I’ve been reading through a weaving book that was re-discovered on our newly organized book shelves.

Weaving Without a Loom is the kind of book that summarizes a ‘living art’ that has periodically made appearances in stages of my life. (Sewing has had a constant presence.) Perhaps for others it’s knitting, pottery, or any combination of craft. I remember weaving with yarn and Popsicle sticks in elementary school- just as Maggie is doing now. I remember such joy when I completed my first crochet purse one summer vacation. We purchased a large floor loom last year with the intention of weaving rag rugs; however, the loom has yet to be warped and this has proven to be an intimidating task for me. (Anyone want to come and warp it for us?)

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SAMPLE BLOCK QUILT

As we posted last Tuesday, I highly recommend that you start a library to document your design work. As you create your samples, make them the same size so that your (master) pieces can be easily stored. And even if you don’t want to keep the samples for posterity, you can work towards making a Sampler Throw like the one shown above. As we develop our many fabrics, it often happens that a particular sample, as beautiful as it may be, just doesn’t fit neatly into one of our Fabric Swatch Books or collections. That was the case with the swatches that became the basis for this Sampler Throw. You may even find that you want to make the Sampler Throw not as a way of developing different fabric swatches, but just because it’s a beautiful and easy project. Either way, I urge you to explore our stencils, colors, techniques, and stitches to sustain rewarding design experiences.

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SAMPLE BLOCKS + LIBRARY

Fabric designs are the basis of all our collections at Alabama Chanin. Each design starts as a simple 10” x 16” rectangle of our organic cotton jersey that is embellished using a variety of techniques and manipulations that may include stenciling, embroidery, beading, and/or appliqué.

My decision to use a 10” x 16” rectangle was based on the mere fact that we can easily obtain 3-ring binders to store and display swatches this size. These binders also provide us a simple way to organize our designs by color, season, and/or pattern.

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A ROUND BUSINESS MODEL

While working on some press and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages this last month, I came across some texts that date back across the decade of Alabama Chanin. In reading and going over some of these texts, I thought it would be a good series to share on our Sustainable Design Tuesdays. Here is one of those texts about building a round company:

My goal with building designs – as I have built my company – is to make a sphere.  I strive to create a well-rounded, (w)holistic company that revolves around a central theme: sustainability of culture, environment, and community.

It has been over a decade since I started working on the company that Alabama Chanin has become today and I am often asked how I had the foresight to start a company based on the principles of sustainability and Slow Design. To this comment, I laughingly reply that I never intended to start a sustainable design company; I simply stumbled into it like the fool falling off the cliff. When I cut up those first t-shirts, I was doing something that I felt driven to do. I didn’t think of those garments as the basis of a business; they were simply pieces of clothing I wanted to wear and, perhaps more importantly, make. However, when I look back today, it all feels like a seamless and directed adventure into the realms of becoming a sustainable designer and manufacturer.

I am often invited to speak about this process and our resulting business model, as it has developed into an unusual one. However, truth be told, I have simply taken inspiration for our model from farmers and strive to build a zero waste company where the results of one production process become the fuel for another.

Our primary work is the business of designing and making clothing. And whether a dress calls for recycled t-shirts or locally grown, certified organic cotton, the designing and making of that product spurs our model. It was developed not by intention, but through process.

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I WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH FAYTHE LEVINE.

I’m almost certain she’s the coolest person I’ve never met.

Several pieces of evidence have led me to this conclusion; the first is this article from the NY Times and the second was probably the conference call that spurred our upcoming Visiting Artist event. Natalie and I were hunched over the speaker phone in my office exchanging ideas about “loom rooms,” home-made bitters, and interactive art exhibits with a very agreeable Levine.

She ended the call saying she had to open her art gallery/skate shop a few blocks away.

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DIY THURSDAY: ALABAMA CHANIN COVERED SNAPS

While we are a manufacturer of high-end women’s and men’s clothing, our office works less like a production facility and more like a studio. Because we custom-cut and paint each piece in our collections, it is important that we pay especially close attention to detail.

What seems like a small mistake – like choosing the wrong thread color – can result in an entire order being mismatched.

The garments that we make are often sent to different artisans for completion. So, if we inadvertently give one artisan the wrong thread color, we would end up with a single item that looks completely different from the rest of the order. This is the reason that, many years ago, I wrote this saying from Thoreau on a small blackboard in our cutting room:  “Life is in the details.”

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DESIGN PROCESS + MANUFACTURING

On the 18th of November last year, Natalie held a Facebook Chat about Design Process + Manufacturing as part of her EcoSalon Post titled: From Field to Fashion. Here is a synopsis of the conversation that unfolded.  Keep the conversation going in the comments section of this post and come back each week to read our post for Sustainable Design Tuesdays. Thank you to everyone who joined us that Friday afternoon.

Tammy Abramovitz: Well, I would like to take this opportunity to voice my adoration of you and your company! Love all things Alabama Chanin!!!!

AC: Thank you Tammy!

Doc Waller: Same here, The Layman Group and I are fans as well!

Amy DuFault: Natalie, what was the first piece of clothing/design you ever created?

AC: I started sewing with my grandmothers… so, I would have to say that the first piece was way back then. But, the first piece I sewed “Alabama Style” was a t-shirt—of course.

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EXPLORATIONS IN HAND SEWING

Penland School of Crafts is a magical institution nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its mission and philosophy are as inspiring as the surrounding landscape, and believe me- it’s an incredible setting. I first learned of Penland as a student at the NCSU College of Design. As a young mother with little time and no money, Penland seemed so out of reach. My son, Zach, wasn’t even two when I started university and I was barely twenty; there was never time for more than being mom, working, and school and the ends never seemed to meet.

At the suggestion of one of my professors I applied for a Studio Assistantship. Luckily for me, the stars aligned and I was admitted – the rest is history. My mother helped with Zach, Penland took care of tuition, and I learned to dream of design. I’m still living that dream and will be forever grateful for that single summer that changed everything.

My son is now 30 – and expecting a child of his own. (Yes! I am going to be a grandmother!) I visited Penland for a few days last summer in anticipation of teaching for two weeks this coming summer. Life comes full circle.

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BLANKET STATEMENT: QUILTING FOR A CAUSE

Thanks @ Stephanie LaCava for this lovely piece in the New York Times today:

“I may be their most passionate member,” says the snow-white-haired designer Natalie Chanin of the Southern Foodways Alliance (S.F.A.), a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the culinary heritage of the American South. For years, it’s been Chanin’s calling to preserve the textile traditions of Florence, Ala., with her clothing line, Alabama Chanin. So when the S.F.A. director John T. Edge approached her about doing a collaborative project, hand-sewn quilts seemed like an obvious departure. Auctioned off this weekend at the Taste of the South event at the bucolic Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, this particular blanket features the words of Roosevelt Scott, the founder of Scott’s Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, S.C.: “…Cut. Chop. Cook. It’s all right here. In the wood.” But it’s just one quilt of many. “Sign me up for a baker’s dozen,” Chanin said when she joined the cause.

For information on bespoke quilts, e-mail office (at) alabamachanin.com.

P.S: I wrote to John T. Edge last night that I am most certainly a very passionate member of the Southern Foodways Alliance; however, I question if I am their MOST passionate member.  That title might go to Rathead Riley (Rathead T. Edge) – just saying… xoNatalie

ZERO WASTE (+ A BOX OF SCRAPS)

Finding ways to use fabric scraps could easily be a full time job at Alabama Chanin. Hopefully, our company will one day be large enough to facilitate an entire scrap development team; however, right now we are moonlighters and dabblers in the art of manipulating scraps of our organic cotton jersey into a variety of projects, products, and playthings.

Our goal of becoming a zero waste company means that every scrap of fabric we cut is taken seriously.  We are constantly looking for new ways to mold, shape, and incorporate these fabric cuttings into our everyday work – lest they overtake us like the roadside kudzu that swallows entire towns in the South. Continue reading

REFUELED + TEXAS TRAVELS

One of our favorite places to visit – Refueled – has a beautiful new look. (And we are thrilled to be shown as a sponsor at the bottom of the page.)  While we were working on a project last month, I had a chance to catch up with Chris Brown – Refueled’s creator and creative director:

I know very little about you.  What do you do when you aren’t doing Refueled?

Refueled, Inc., encompasses a number of things: publishing, design and film. As creative director behind all three entities of the company, I keep quite busy on a daily basis. Refueled magazine is published bi-yearly, spring/summer and fall/winter. Developing features, working with contributors, collaborating with photographers, and hitting the road for ideas and inspiration never stops. Once an issue drops, I am knee-deep in the next.

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SOUTHEAST X SOUTHWEST

Packing my bags this morning in Berlin to head home – and later in the week on to our events in Marfa and Austin!

Hello Etsy was amazing, inspiring, reassuring and _____ – fill in the blank. I had every intention to live blog my time here but have found that I need time to process all of the great ideas that were presented.  Over the next weeks – and after our Texas excursion, I will be catching up with some of the great folks we met at Hello Etsy.

Here, a few of my favorite moments from Berlin!

Gluckskind = Darling of Fortune – perhaps tagged here at the entrance to the subway as a reminder to celebrate the small moments in life.

I feel very lucky and honored to have been included in the first Hello Etsy. Thank you to everyone (Matt, Emily, and all!) for such a beautifully organized conference.  I heard a rumor that this will become an annual event and I am already looking forward to the next round!

VIRTUAL BERLIN

If you can’t be with us in Berlin tomorrow for Hello Etsy, check this out:

“If you can’t make a DIY Summit in your area, be sure to tune in LIVE in our Online Labs. You can watch from anywhere in the world! Use this handy timezone conversion tool to find what the Eastern Standard Timezone converts to for your region. Be sure to RSVP for each event so you receive an email reminder to tune in. Use the #HelloEtsy tag on Twitter to join in the global conversation all weekend long!”

Use the arrows at the top of the photographs at the Online Lab to scroll through all of the great talks.

My talk:

Natalie Chanin – Connecting Your Business to Your Community

Saturday, September 17 from 8:00 AM to 8:30 AM EDT

See you there!
xoNatalie

 

MENDING

Mending is not something we – as a culture – spend a lot of time doing these days.  Fast fashion and mass consumerism has taught us to simply throw older or imperfect items away and replace them with newer versions. I am all for the “Sewing Schoolyard” – let’s teach ourselves and our kids to mend – a satisfying task.

My favorite, 10-year old tea towels have seen better days; but, I just can’t find the perfect replacement.  I use our Alabama Chanin Tea Towels for most kitchen tasks but these have just given me so much kitchen love that I can’t bear to part with them.

In perfect wabi-sabi style, Olivia – our Studio Assistant (and budding pattern maker) – mended my old tea towels using scraps of our organic cotton jersey and Button Craft thread.  Using applique in combination with seed, whip and eyelet stitches, she repaired the holes and covered the stains.  Perfect.

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GREEN: THE COLOR AND THE CAUSE

“Despite the prevalence of green in nature, no single plant produces a color-fast, deep green dye. Until the invention of synthetic dyes in the 19th century, people around the world typically combined indigo blue with various yellow dyes to create green textiles.”

From Green:  the Color and the Cause

(Be sure to browse the entire online catalog as it is very informative and beautifully written.)

Perhaps this fusing of colors – or ideas – is what it is going to take for us to eventually really come into fulfillment of the “Green Movement.” As I walked through the exhibition today, a green war is beginning in my own state.


Detail from the above exhibition signage by Gyongy Laky, Apple tree cuttings, grapevine, nails, wire; improvised.

Ayelet Lindenstrauss Larsen, Re-Use, 2009, Linen, cotton, fabric marker; embroidered, hand lettered.


Maggy Rozycki Hiltner
, Hothouse Flowers, 2005, Cotton and found textiles; embroidered.


Jane Dunnewold
, Sacred Planet: The Pride of Barbados/Mask/Pride of Barbados, 2009, Cotton; digitally printed, dyed, screen printed, stitched.


Teresa Paschke
, CEAH1, 2009,  Cotton; inkjet printed, hand embroidered.


James Koehler, Rhythms of Nature II, 2009, Wool; tapestry woven.

Green:  the Color and the Cause

 

SUBVERSIVE

Subversive Knitting, Berkeley + Subversive Donations, Florence

From Steven, our production manager:

“I spoke with Wade – our UPS driver – this morning and he lives right in the middle of all of the damage in Franklin County.  He said that almost everyone in their area lost everything.  Right now they need basics like blankets, water, food that doesn’t have to be cooked, and toiletries.”

If you would like to do a bit of subversive donating, bring (or send) any of the above items to our office and we will make sure that there is a daily delivery to those in need.

Alabama Chanin, 462 Lane Drive, Florence, AL 35630
M-F 9 am – 4 pm

Questions: 1.256.760.1090 or office(at)alabamachanin.com

 

EUCALYPTUS, LAVENDER, TRANQUILITY

In the autumn of last year, I was contacted by a New York University professor from the Liberal Studies department named Jessamyn Hatcher.  She had gotten my email address from our mutual friend Sally Singer and wanted to know if we would be willing to discuss a field trip that she was planning with her 30+ students from the Dean’s Circle, a University Scholars program.

Her email explained that the “theme for the 2010-2011 Dean’s Circle and Colloquium is ‘The Price of Fashion: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Global Garment Trade.’ The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire occurred on March 25, 1911, in what is now the Brown building.  146 people, most of who were between the ages of 16 and 21, died while manufacturing women’s blouses. Next year will mark its 100th anniversary, and we will use the anniversary as an occasion to explore issues surrounding the world garment trade, from mass production in sweatshops to the runways of the world’s fashion capitols to the ‘slow design’ movement.”

While I was fascinated by Jessamyn’s inquiry, in the first moment I wondered how a workshop could function with 30+ students in our studio.  My fears were unfounded.

Several weeks ago, the group arrived and the experience was one of wonder, exploration and pleasure.  Following a two day workshop in our studio, the students moved on to Rural Studio in Greensboro, Alabama, to continue their journey.

Jessamyn joked at one point how many of her colleagues had asked, “Why aren’t you going to Paris?”

The lovely thank you notes from the (18 – 20 year-old) students below explains it all.  I hope that the students don’t mind that I have shared their observations about our world.  I am appreciative to look at our work, our staff and our world through fresh eyes.

(And to have found a new friend in Jessamyn!)

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STENCILED FAT EIGHTHS – QUILT OF THE MONTH #4

A “Fat Eighth” is a term that was unknown to me several years back.  It describes a bundle of 1/8 yard cuts of fabric made popular by quilters who can take small cuts and work them into their patchworks.  Our Studio Style Store began offering Fat Eighths of our organic cotton jersey a few years back after receiving  emails requesting larger pieces of the 50 colors of  fabric we offer on our two color cards.

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FRIENDSHIP – QUILT OF THE MONTH #3

Maggie’s new school is hosting their annual Fall Festival tomorrow and each of the classes was asked to make a project to donate to a silent auction.  The Class Moms are asked to help organize this and (as I am one of the two responsible) I, of course, suggested that we make a quilt. To be honest, it just seemed the path of least resistance at the time.  However, this project has become so lovely that we decided to share it as our “Quilt of the Month #3.”

We simply cut blocks of organic cotton jersey from white, cream and tea and had the class (in conjunction with their 4th grade buddies) draw pictures of “Family & Friends.” The project was spread out over a few mornings – just thirty minutes each of the mornings before the day started. The kids had a great time (were asking for more) and the results were outstanding.

We used Crayola Fabric Markers for the drawings and then added little bits of embroidery, appliqué and reverse appliqué from Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style.

Everyone who has been in our studio is amazed.  I wish that I had been collecting Maggie’s drawings since she was born to make a quilt for her (well, myself).  And I asked Maggie to start holiday themed blocks last week with trees, presents, snow, etc.  Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Follow the instructions below to make your own Friendship Quilt and wish us luck tomorrow at the silent auction!

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MAMA + THE BABIES

What to say about Anna Maria Horner?

I love her. Not just because of her lovely fabrics. Not because of her books.
Not because of her calming aesthetic. I just really love her.
We have bonded (in short, stolen moments) over everything from food, family, work, studio, children (she has six to my two) and sewing, to illness in our families, gardening, and everyday life.
Before I was able to spend time with Anna Maria, I thought that she might just be – you know – a little too sweet. I mean just look at her. NOT SO, her spunk, cheerful sprit and dry humor overwhelmed me with respect – and side-splitting laughter.
I have been sitting with Handmade Beginnings – her newest book – like a good cup of coffee. What I find most beautiful about the book is how family radiates from every page. She is mother, designer, wife, writer and friend.
Congrats to Anna for a lovely story to add to your library:
I will be making Nesting Cubes for all the babies in my life…
and looking forward to our next visit.
From Handmade Beginnings:”Every family has a story. Each time we’ve welcomed a new baby, the story of our own family has a new beginning. Our children have brought more than their own chapter to our story, but they have, in fact, rewritten the rest of us. The whole family, together and individually, is remade into something it wasn’t before- something we wouldn’t have ever guessed or expected. I have always felt compelled during my pregnancies to make items for the new one. Similar to the quintessential image of an expectant mother working away with her knitting needles on a pair of baby booties, I set out to stack fabrics and ideas in high piles that I can work through as my belly grows. Perhaps its just the typical nesting that all mothers go through, or maybe its nervous energy. Whatever the explanation, answering the desire to create as I await a new baby seems to be my own way of nurturing.”
Congrats to Nicole DeCamp for being our sweepstakes winner! And thank you to everyone who commented and shared their stories… prosperous sewing to all.

MONDAY MORNING

It was planned today that I would post for Kaffe Fassett’s Blog Tour. I have been carrying Kaffe Fassett’s Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts around with me for the last few weeks. And I have been thinking about Kaffe, about the book, taking in the photos, thinking about how cleverly the geometries work together and about how Kaffe draws inspiration so flawlessly from nature and then shares it so easily.

Saturday at Textile Fabrics, I looked at bolts of his fabrics, spoke with the (amazingly knowledgeable) staff about the fabrics and pondered what I wanted to write about Kaffe and his full body of work while outside it rained and rained and rained.

Yesterday morning, it was still raining and I sat and wanted to write about Kaffe but could only think about all the folks in Nashville who were not as lucky in that moment.

While I thought yesterday morning that my car – sitting in the front parking lot of Textile Fabrics – was 5 foot underwater. Now, I know that my car is safe and dry – as was I. But there are so many people in Nashville who are not safe and have, in fact, lost so much…

So, I think that Kaffe – with his respect and love for nature – would appreciate that I postpone my real blog post about his book until later in the week and dedicate this day to the lovely folks of Nashville who need all of our good wishes for the next days as they begin to pick up the pieces that water has displaced.

I am home now but my thoughts are for my friends in Nashville. Traci will be hanging her flooded quilt-tops out on the line this morning. I think that perhaps it will look a bit like the photograph of Kaffe’s quilts above.

May the sun shine on Nashville today.

COMFORT + AFGHANS

My Gram Perkins loved to crochet (aside from making bread, canning, gardening, raising kids, and sewing). On those rare days growing up when I was sick and got to skip school, I would stay with my Gram Perkins. Curled up on her couch underneath one of her beautiful hand-made afghans, I would lay there with my fingers twirling her fine crochet stitches. As I would twirl and dream, she would bring a constant supply of freshly peeled oranges from Florida, cut-up peaches from Alabama or any other fruit she had on hand. To this day, those moments on her couch hold some of my fondest memories – being sick, underneath an afghan, eating oranges and in the nurture of my grandmother.

When I opened Norah Gaughan’s Comfort Knitting & Crochet: Afghans, I felt transported to my Gran Perkins’ world. Continue reading

TRUCKERS QUILT

Many of you may have already seen this but in the off-chance that you missed it, I wanted to share this great article.

What I really love are all the comments – especially the one about how media is trying to emasculate men with articles like this one.

In my Making & Meaning sessions with The Bureau of Friends, I found that sewing and making is genderless. Making together inspires spirited conversation, bonded friendships and, simply said, a good time.

From the Wall Street Journal:

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WHY IS IT WORTH SO MUCH?

We have been getting many emails and questions about a post that appeared this week on Ecouterre.com entitled “Does the Art of Craft and Handmade Matter in Fashion?”

My answers seemed to spur yet more questions… and a few angry emails.

After mulling over these questions, I have to think about Gina and Linton Hopkins from Restaurant Eugene along with Holeman & Finch in Atlanta…

(Stay with me here: You might remember that we were asking these same questions a few years ago about the food we eat and have seen – at least in my community – a marked difference in how we choose food and how we incorporate the cost of that food into our budget.)

Angie Mosier reminds me over-and-over-again (& again this weekend @ Blackberry Farm) about a saying from Gina and Linton:

“It is not why something costs so much; it is why something is worth so much.”

I believe – and have seen firsthand – that the fashion industry will also come around and consumers will begin to ask more-and-more questions.

Yes indeed: Why is it worth so much?

**Photo of Holeman & Finch lifted from the Gourmet (RIP) article by John T. Edge and taken by Gina Hopkins.

RUBBER STAMPS

We use rubber stamps for so many things… the very first label I designed was a rubber stamp. We use them for letterhead, envelopes, presentation covers, business cards. This is a great resource and so easy to design your own: www.rubberstampchamp.com

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

I am, obviously, a bit behind in my efforts at blogging.  Or maybe there has just been so much good recently.    Either way, this great Op-Ed was sent to me by my friend Matthew from Savannah. It reminds me of Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – which I have been heard to (loosely) quote from recently.   The bottom line – and great news – is that we can all do just about anything that we set our minds to do…as long as we are willing to practice being good at it.  I can hear my father saying over, and over again, “Practice makes perfect. Practice makes perfect.”  I guess that he was right.

Genius: The Modern View
By DAVID BROOKS, New York Times, May 1, 2009

Some people live in romantic ages. They tend to believe that genius is the product of a divine spark. They believe that there have been, throughout the ages, certain paragons of greatness — Dante, Mozart, Einstein — whose talents far exceeded normal comprehension, who had an other-worldly access to transcendent truth, and who are best approached with reverential awe.

We, of course, live in a scientific age, and modern research pierces hocus-pocus. In the view that is now dominant, even Mozart’s early abilities were not the product of some innate spiritual gift. His early compositions were nothing special. They were pastiches of other people’s work. Mozart was a good musician at an early age, but he would not stand out among today’s top child-performers.

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QUILTING

What can be said about quilting?  It is a process I love: the history, the stories, the fabrics, the people.  (I even made a documentary film called Stitch about old-time quilting circles.)  At Alabama Chanin, we even take vintage quilts, refurbish them and add the oral histories of textile workers, collected from my community.

I am in awe with The International Quilt Study Center, as the pieces there tell a history of women’s work that cannot be seen anywhere else on the planet.

The now-famous Gee’s Bend quilts and their simple magnificence rooted in a complex history have long been an example of beauty sprung from necessity. I cried the first time I viewed the Gee’s Bend exhibition at the Whitney.

It has been said that our collections are based on quilting.  This is only partially true. Alabama Chanin garments derive from a basic quilting process of the straight stitch, and we tie layers of fabric together with quilting stitches. But our garments are not quilts.

I have never really been a great fan of contemporary quilting (Although I LOVE it when the subversive finds its way into the contemporary).

That is until I learned about Julie Floersch.  Julie’s pieces are stunning, refreshing, contemporary and inspiring. And, friend and colleague, Denyse Schmidt adds such beauty to the realm of contemporary quilting.

Ultimately, the quilting process influenced the foundations of Alabama Chanin and will be with us as we continue to grow.

FUROSHIKI – THE “GREEN” WRAPPING

While visiting Boston recently, my hosts at the Museum of Fine Arts gave all of the attendees this flyer about Furoshiki.

The term describes “a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that was frequently used to transport clothes, gifts or other goods.”

“Although there are still Furoshiki users in Japan, their numbers declined in the post-war period, in large part due to the proliferation of the plastic shopping bag. In recent years, it has seen a renewed interest as environmental protection became a concern.”

THANKS to the Fashion Council for a lovely event.
xoNatalie


INTERNATIONAL QUILT STUDY CENTER

I have been traveling so much that it has been difficult to keep up with all of the inspiring people, places and things that have crossed my path these last months. I am looking forward to slowing down for the holidays to process.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, I had the opportunity to tour the incredible International Quilt Study Center where the most fantastic, pristine, beautiful quilts find a home and are perfectly archived for future generations.

Visit their site to explore their magnificent collections.

SOUTH AFRICA – DAY TWO

I find myself thinking and speaking more and more about business models and today I have seen two outstanding examples.

This morning, we had the opportunity to visit CIDA. This visit was an inspiring look at how one person can become a community and a community, in turn, a nation.
By empowering students, the foundation is providing a method for lifting individuals out of poverty while investing them with the tools to provide for their own communities. This short video says it all:

Our afternoon was filled with the overflowing love of the African Children’s Feeding Scheme. This organization feeds over 21,000 children each day over multiple locations while providing crucial education in health, farming and economic development for parents and caregivers (along with small farming plots.)

One lunch provides each child with 80% of his or her daily requirement for vitamins and protein. When we asked the sister her greatest need, her immediate response was to “feed more children.”
As a reminder, this curtain hanging in a kitchen window reads “No More Hunger.”

After a beautiful lunch, accompanied by Soweto song and dance, we had the opportunity to visit the Shwe Shwe Poppis cooperative.

Shwe-Shwe Poppis are hand-made in Soweto as a fund raising and economic empowerment arm of the Feeding Scheme. Each of the dolls is one child’s drawing come to life. What a beautiful circular chain: child to drawing, drawing to doll, doll to empowerment, empowerment to caregiver, caregiver to child – in complete and unbroken cycle.The paper insert that comes with one small doll reads:“Hello, my name is KHUTHAThis Shwe Shwe is based on my drawing. I live in Soweto, South Africa and buddy is my best game. Chicken is my best lunch. My favorite color is green and I also love lions.”
More tomorrow…

PRINTING BY HAND

Here is another new book from STC and this one very different from The Gentle Art of Domesticity. Lena Corwin has created the definitive book for the process of stamping, printing and stenciling by hand. This book is a great companion to our Alabama Studio Sewing Series as it goes in depth to simply explain the process of transferring patterns to fabric, paper, wood or any other material you might choose to work with.

A must have for your process library: Printing by Hand

THE GENTLE ART OF DOMESTICITY

When our editor Melanie described this new Abrams title, I could not fully imagine how a book about domesticity could be so interesting. And now, I am taken aback by the beauty, prose and “comforts” of Jane Brocket and The Gentle Art of Domesticity.

When opening the book, I was stuck by the very first line: “There is a world of difference between domesticity and domestication.”

Jane makes me long for more time at home studying the simple beauty of life and love.

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.

THE GIFT

Blair brought me this beautiful bowl to Atlanta as a present (as if her posts were not present enough). The bowl came wrapped in a pretty box and tied with an orange ribbon that was affixed with masking tape at the bottom (her son Jess’ art material of choice.) As I opened the box, Blair talked about the McCartys and how they sign their work with a piece of their home: Mississippi mud. Their signature slides down the front of my bowl.

I have proudly placed this bowl on my kitchen counter as a reminder of how something as simple as dirt can become a treasured vessel when you talk to it with your hands.

Visit McCarty’s Pottery

 

EVOLUTION/REVOLUTION

The Arts and Crafts in Contemporary Fashion and Textiles

William Morris said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” This is the essence of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Joanne Ingersoll and The Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design have put together an amazing show called Evolution/Revolution – The Arts and Crafts in Contemporary Fashion and Textiles which runs from February 11 – June 15, 2008.

We are honored to have two pieces included in the show. (A detail from one of our “Textile Stories” quilts is below.)

EVOLUTION/REVOLUTION

But, more important is that the Exhibition Notes are a wonderful document of the work that is going on today. While they are extremely beautiful, they are also beautifully poignant for the times in which we are living and working. Joanne has done an amazing job of addressing a difficult theme which could have easily lost its way and, consequently, given us a clear vision of where we are headed in the future.

Read a review of the show by Greg Cook here.

I am hoping that the show will have legs and travel…

 

PAINT-BY-NUMBERS

My dear friend Sara Martin made the most amazing presents for her yearly holiday party. Everyone at the party received their very own Paint by Number portrait, painted by Sara and her husband, Kory.

Sara shared this software with me which would be great for embroidery and needlepoint too: Paint By Numbers 2005

And here is a history of the Paint by Number phenomenon from the Smithsonian Institute: Paint by Number

Be sure to read “Every Man a Rembrandt.”

 

YARN + THREAD

My friend, and colleague, Stacie Stukin sent me this very beautiful quote from the International Quilt Study Center.

“Much of the social history of early America has been lost to us precisely because women were expected to use needles rather than pens. Yet if textiles are in one sense an emblem of  women’s oppression, they have also been an almost universal medium of female expression. If historians are to understand the lives of women in times past, they must not only cherish the Anne Bradstreets and Martha Ballards who mastered the mysterious ways of quill pens, they must also decipher work composed in yarn and thread.”

–Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

BY HAND

This is a great volume about the variety of hand works that are being created today by a wide range of artists and artisans. The images are fantastic and each page makes me want to get started on a new project.

Get your copy here: By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art

ART SCHOOL GIRL

Art School Girl specializes in one-of-a-kind hand made paper goods. Expertly crafted from recycled materials and often sewn or printed by hand, each piece is artisan quality. They have great items available online.

Visit their website.