Tag Archives: Desktop of the Month


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Follow along on social media and on our Journal with the hashtags:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Follow along on social media and on our Journal with the hashtags:


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

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

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

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

Here are a few things going on this month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Follow along on social media and on our Journal with the hashtags:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inspiration for the Kristina's Rose Design Featured in August 2022 Swatch of the Month


Clockwise: Studio Bundle #2 from The School of Making; Fabric Swatch in Natural/Bright White Kristina’s Rose with appliqué and beading; “Roses and Revolution” featuring the iconic Tina Modotti photograph “Roses, Mexico” (1924) from Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit; Kristina’s Rose stencil artwork; Fabric Swatch in Bright White/Natural Kristina’s Rose with appliqué and beading; Detail of August’s Swatch of the Month design in Navy/Black Kristina’s Rose with appliqué and beading

August’s Swatch of the Month features the Kristina’s Rose stencil worked in loose, undulating circles using Stripe Appliqué with Beaded Chain Stitch, the Folded Stripe Appliqué with Beaded Straight Stitch, and the Beaded Rosebud Stitch. 

Roses have been an iconic motif in both Alabama Chanin and The School of Making collections spanning the last twenty-one years. In reimagining Kristina’s Rose for August, our design team found inspiration in the photography of Tina Modotti and Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit. Studio Bundle #2 informs the seven colorways available in the new Kristina’s Rose Cropped Car Jacket DIY Kit.

Get a closer look at the inspiration for August’s Swatch of the Month design, and subscribe to stitch along using the instructions from August’s newsletter.  


Kristina's Rose Fabric Swatch in Navy/Navy Extra-Long Staple Cotton Jersey with Black and Navy Appliqué and Beading from The School of Making's August 2022 Swatch of the Month

Fabric Swatch in Kristina’s Rose Navy/Black

Outer Layer Fabric Color: Navy
Backing Layer Fabric Color: Navy
Appliqué Fabric: Navy and Black
Techniques: Stripe Appliqué with Beaded Chain Stitch, Folded Stripe Appliqué with Beaded Straight Stitch, and Beaded Rosebud Stitch
Paint Color: Black
Thread Color: Black
Beads: Black Chop
Knots: Inside

Kristina's Rose Fabric Swatch in Natural/Natural Extra-Long Staple Cotton Jersey with White and natural Appliqué and Beading from August 2022's Swatch of the Month Newsletter from The School of Making

Fabric Swatch in Kristina’s Rose Natural/Natural

Outer Layer Fabric Color: Natural
Backing Layer Fabric Color: Natural
Appliqué Fabric: Bright White
Techniques: Stripe Appliqué with Beaded Chain Stitch, Folded Stripe Appliqué with Beaded Straight Stitch, and Beaded Rosebud Stitch
Paint Color: Pearl Silver
Thread Color: White
Beads: White Chop
Knots: Inside

"Roses, Mexico" Photograph by Tina Modotti, 1924

“Roses, Mexico” by Tina Modotti, 1924. In Orwell’s Roses, Rebecca Solnit introduces the concept of “Roses and Revolution” with a brief history of this significant photograph: 

“In the year 1924, a woman photographed roses. Despite the few prints Tina Modotti made from her large-format negative, the image became one of the most celebrated in the history of photography.” 

Learn more and purchase a copy of Orwell’s Roses here, or listen to the audiobook here.


2 – 10” x 16” cotton jersey fabric swatches (using double layers of fabric for your base creates stability)
1/2” strips of fabric for appliquéd ruffles
Kristina’s Rose stencil
Textile paint
Spray bottle or airbrush gun, depending on stencil-transfer method
Button Craft thread
Chop beads

Basic sewing supplies: needles, embroidery scissors, rotary cutter, ruler, cutting mat, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design for instructions on appliqué, beading, and embroidery stitches

Subscribe to August’s Swatch of the Month to receive a pre-stenciled swatch and all the materials needed to complete this design.


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

Transfer the design to your fabric using your stenciling method of choice. An enlargeable version of this stencil with accompanying instructions and fabric map are shown on pages 126-127 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

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

Move to your next rose shape. Using one ½” fabric strip, appliqué using a beaded chain stitch. View page 105 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design for a detailed photograph.

Choose another rose shape and sew a beaded rosebud stitch (pages 25 and 79 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design) to cover the stenciled shape. Continue moving from shape-to-shape, alternating techniques until you have completed all of the rose shapes.

Follow along on Instagram @theschoolofmaking and share your projects using the following hashtags: #theschoolofmaking


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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December’s Desktop of the Month highlights an elaborate modification of a traditional embroidery technique, negative reverse appliqué.

Negative reverse appliqué looks much like traditional appliqué, but is worked slightly differently. Here, we stencil the top layer of fabric, then place it on top of the backing fabric. We then use a straight stitch to attach the top layer of fabric to the bottom layer, and cut away the top layer of fabric, leaving a 1/4” sliver of top-layer fabric beyond the stitching line.

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This month’s Desktop of the Month features our Spiral embroidery technique from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Due to its textural quality, I think the Spiral is one of the most beautiful techniques that we use here at Alabama Chanin. Those that wear garments embellished with this simple (but time consuming) embroidery treatment often remark that perfect strangers ask to touch their garments. While you can’t touch this image, it gives you a perfect illustration of what it might be like to touch and be touched.

Come back this Thursday for our DIY Spiral Embroidered Coffee Cozies (although I wish it was for my DIY Spirals Couch).


I think that our Beaded Fern treatment lends a holiday feel to December’s Desktop of the Month. Up close, Beaded Fern resembles a holiday tree, but the glass beads can also catch your eye across a crowded room.

Perfect for your next holiday gathering…

Learn more about the Fern Stencil here and flip to page 121 in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design to begin stitching one of your own.