Tag Archives: DIY + Sewing

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NEW: VERDANT

/ˈvərdnt/
Adjective

(of countryside) green with grass or other rich vegetation.

of the bright green color of lush grass.
“a deep, verdant green”

The design team for The School of Making has taken a fresh approach with its newest color: Verdant. Verdant is a fresh green that is reminiscent of nature in woodlands, creeks, streams and is an intricate color in wildlife from a multitude of geographies. The entire design series was inspired by the ideas of growth, renewal, and peace. And this color is the basis of our 2019 programming for The School of Making.

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Along with the new fabric color, we also announce a limited-edition Printed Cotton Jersey in Verdant highlighting the Magdalena stencil.

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Our new Design Bundle also launches today (more on that later on the Journal), showcasing Verdant and two brand new stencils: Abstract and Canopy.

Our team is committed to bringing new and inspiring ideas and projects to The School of Making. They’ve spent much of this year developing new and unique and specific programming. We simply ask that you respect our Creative Integrity guidelines, respect one another’s work and ours, and please tag your projects with The School of Making instead of Alabama Chanin when posting on social media so that we can correctly identify your work.

Find 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey in Verdant here.

Get Printed Jersey in Magdalena.

Utilize your design skills with our new Design Bundle.

And stencil at home with the Abstract and Canopy stencils.

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ALABAMA CHANIN - FANCY TIGER CRAFTS - THE FEN PATTERN - 1

FANCY TIGER CRAFTS: THE FEN PATTERN

The School of Making offers a wide range of sewing patterns—both in The School of Making Book Series and as standalone patterns—to fit many different body types and lifestyles. In the past, we’ve also adapted sewing patterns from other designers using our techniques and materials with beautiful results. Some of our favorites from the past are from Merchant & Mills, DKNY, and Vogue Patterns.

Our latest installment in this series is the Fen Dress from Fancy Tiger Crafts. Fancy Tiger Crafts has been one of our wholesale partners for years, and we recently had the opportunity to teach a One-Day Workshop at their headquarters in Denver. Fancy Tiger is a staple in the making community and has a range of sewing and knitting patterns available and an online store full of beautiful fabrics and yarns.

The Fen Dress is a fun take on a relaxed T-shirt dress with its drop shoulder, gathered skirt, and pockets. This pattern was originally designed for woven fabrics but, with a few alterations, it works just as well with our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey. (You may want to size down if you use a stretch fabric.) We made View B with the scoop neckline and short sleeves using Camel medium-weight jersey and Sage Button Craft Thread. To make your own hand-sewn jersey Fen Dress you’ll need:

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SUPPLIES

Fen Dress Pattern (Printed version or Digital PDF version)
2 yards of 60”-wide 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
1 spool of Button Craft Thread
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, pins, needles, ruler, rotary cutter
The School of Making Book Series: These books contain the basic sewing and embroidery techniques we used to make our version of this dress.

We reduced the 5/8” seam allowances on every pattern piece to 1/4″ by removing 3/8” from every seam. Reduce neckline and hem by 5/8”. Hand-sew all bodice seams with a straight stitch, leaving 1/4” seam allowance, using a double strand of thread on medium-weight cotton jersey.

First, we constructed the bodice—sewing together at the shoulder seams and side seams—and then felled all seams toward the back.

We followed the instructions in the pattern to sew the pockets into the skirt then the side seams, which we also felled towards the back. Next, we gathered the skirt at the top edge between the notches indicated on the pattern. After gathering the skirt, we lapped the gathered edge of the skirt on top of the bottom edge of the bodice, 5/8” up from the bottom, and attached it using a zigzag chain stitch. You can use the stretch stitch of your choice.

For the neckline, we omitted the binding pattern piece included with the pattern and instead used our standard 1 1/4″ binding cut cross-grain. We applied the binding as instructed in The School of Making Book Series.

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FOLD-OVER ELASTIC UPDATE

We’ve written before about our supply chain and how the availability of fabric and notions directs what we do at The School of Making and Alabama Chanin. As a lean-method manufacturing company with zero-waste goals, we always look for ways to streamline and improve our processes. Previously, we carried 24 colors of fold-over elastic to coordinate with our fabric colors. However, when we pared down our 50 colors of medium-weight jersey to 25, some of those elastic colors became outdated.

We are now offering a streamlined selection of fold-over elastic in shades that coordinate with our eleven colors of Button Craft Thread. When ordering a DIY kit, the coordinating thread color will determine which elastic color you receive, whether you place a DIY Collection or Custom DIY Kit order. See the new colors and purchase fold-over elastic here.

NEW BEAD MIXES

Now available in the Maker Supplies + Stencils section of the website, a new take on our classic Armor Beads is available as the new Bead Mix product. Each new mix incorporates a variety of beads and sequins in an array of complementing and/or contrasting colors to add sparkle to your next project. Pair these mixes with embroidery stitches from The Geometry of Hand-Sewing and techniques from Natalie’s latest Bluprint class—Creative Embellishments.

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Colorways from left to right: Gold Bomb, Silver Fox, and Burlesque; Natalie’s Mix pictured at top

Natalie’s Mix shown here in armor beading on page 102 of The Geometry of Hand-Sewing.

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NEW SCISSORS FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

Beauty and practicality are at the heart of countless Alabama Chanin garments, accessories, and goods. The School of Making adds that same philosophy to your sewing kit with the introduction of new Gingher scissors and sewing tools to the Maker Supplies + Stencils section of our website.

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Delicate details adorn the Gold-handled Embroidery Scissors, making these scissors, (which are ideal for cutting in and around small details on your projects) heirloom tools that you will use for years to come.

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Combining beauty and functionality, Gold-handled Dressmaker Shears are ideal for cutting out patterns, trimming seams, and cutting through multiple layers of fabric. They offer a gold-plated handle and knife-edge blades.

For larger cuts, Spring-action Dressmaker Shears are now available. With a bright nickel finish and golden-toned safety latch, the shears open automatically after each cut, reducing hand fatigue.

Visit our Maker Supplies + Stencils page to shop these and all our notions and tools. Let us know your go-to sewing tools in the comments below.

And as always, follow The School of Making on Facebook and Instagram for all of the latest updates and new arrivals.

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BLUPRINT: TECHNIQUES FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

Our last Bluprint virtual learning class—The Swing Skirt: Techniques & Construction—has been very popular among our community of makers, and because of it, we’ve welcomed many new followers. We were often asked on the class discussion board for more instruction, and our newest class—Creative Embellishments—released this past Tuesday. The course covers four key stitches and signature techniques from The School of Making and Alabama Chanin so you can embellish any project with beads, sequins, appliqué, and more of the techniques found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

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The course is broken into six lessons. The first covers design basics and the materials needed for a project and the process of choosing fabrics, threads, and beads. The second lesson teaches the four key stitches used throughout the techniques in this course. Using the grid template included with the class, you’ll be able to keep stitches even and consistent. Natalie also covers the physics of sewing that will make your projects last for years to come.

The next three lessons cover our most-used techniques including quilting, reverse appliqué, and appliqué techniques as well as beading techniques to add texture and dimension to garments. In the final lesson, you’ll follow along as Natalie walks you through the skills built throughout the course to pair techniques together to create a truly unique project. You’ll see inspiration projects and garments that combine the techniques taught in both Creative Embellishments and The Swing Skirt: Techniques & Construction.

Shares your projects on Instagram using #theschoolofmaking and follow us @theschoolofmaking.

P.S.: If you purchase your class from the links on our website, we will earn a small commission from the product purchased through that link. This commission supports our business and helps us stock our 100% organic fabrics, pay our employees a living wage, and allows our teams to continue to design and create the products that you love. What might seem like a small gesture can go a long way for our business, so thank you.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + FERN STENCILS

INTRODUCING THE TARTAN STENCIL

Featured on the Quarter 4 Design Bundle, the newly released Tartan stencil is available today through The School of Making(along with the re-released Fern).

Originally released in 2012, our natured-inspired Fern stencil has been featured over the years on garments, home goods, and Swatches of the Month. This customer favorite is again available in physical and digital formats.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + FERN STENCILS

Our take on traditional plaid, the geometric Tartan lends itself well to beading treatments and experiments with color in embroidery. Like the Fern stencil, Tartan is available on 10 mil, laser cut Mylar or as a digital download.

Share all your projects on Instagram with us using the hashtag #theschoolofmaking.

P.S. – Check back on the Journal in a few weeks for stitching instructions for Tartan embroidery (as shown on the Cropped Car Jacket above).

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING (IT'S HERE)

THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING (IT’S HERE)

The books have landed, and we’ve started shipping out copies of The Geometry of Hand-Sewing. The School of Making team is so excited to share this new resource—it has truly been a labor of love. The idea for this book blossomed from Natalie’s love of geometry and math. As our team started analyzing embroidery stitches, we realized that most stitches are based on a geometric grid system. This different take on embroidery makes even the most challenging stitches easy to achieve.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING (IT'S HERE)

The Geometry of Hand-Sewing is an invaluable resource that provides detailed written instructions for over 100 embroidery stitches paired with illustrations and photographs for each stitch. The book features a spiral binding giving it a workbook feel—perfect for working through dozens of different types of embroidery stitches. Included in the back are two perforated stitch cards that you can tear out and use to practice stitches on or for marking guidelines for your stitches onto your desired surface. The first chapters of the book index the tools and notions we love to help perfect our stitches. Chapter 3 works through the basic, foundation stitches that are built upon throughout the book—starting with the simplest and working to the more complex.

Each stitch (over 100) in the book is diagrammed showing both the right-handed and left-handed points of view. We even included photos of the backsides of stitches, so that your technique will be practically perfect. Once you master the basic stitches, chapters 4-6 show you how to embellish stitches, manipulate the grids shown in the book, and how to combine stitches and embellishments into patterned stitches. Design details are listed in the back of the book, and there’s an index of all the stitches shown so you can quickly find exactly what you’re looking for.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING (IT'S HERE)

Pre-orders have shipped, so keep an eye on the mail for your book. Look for products and programming to go along with The Geometry of Hand-Sewing in the coming weeks. Visit our Makers Supplies + Stencils section to find all the tools you’ll need to get started.

Happy stitching from Natalie and all of us @ The School of Making.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE QUARTER FOUR

DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 4

The final quarter of our 2017 Design Bundle series is now available, filled with a bright color palette of Apple, Ruby, Burgundy, Carmine, and Plum—perfect for the holidays. The Design Bundle includes basic sample blocks as well as stenciled, in your choice of metallic or tonal paint, with our re-released Fern stencil and the newly available Tartan design. Find treatment inspiration on our Artisan Embroidery page and use the sample blocks to practice your favorites.

Also included in the Design Bundle are beads, sequins, thread, and embroidery floss in completing hues of red and brown. Utilize these to test designs and layout found in our Studio Book Series.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE QUARTER FOUR

Your Design Bundle will include:

  • Design Bundle Color Card
  • 10 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic cotton jersey (two of each) in Apple, Ruby, Burgundy, Carmine, and Plum as your bottom layer
  • 5 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic cotton jersey (one of each) in Apple, Ruby, Burgundy, Carmine, and Plum, stenciled in Fern to use as your top layer
  • 5 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic cotton jersey (one of each) in Apple, Ruby, Burgundy, Carmine, and Plum, stenciled in Tartan to use as your top layer
  • 5 spools of Button Craft Thread in Dogwood, Red, Burgundy, Brown, Black
  • 5 spools of Embroidery Floss in Apple, Ruby, Burgundy, Brunette, Earth
  • 5 vials of Beads: Red Bugle, Red Seed, Red Sequin, Brown Chop, Brown Bugle

Keep it for yourself and add to your growing Swatch Library, or pair the Design Bundle with an Essential Sewing Kit or one of our Studio Books as a gift for the maker in your life, as the holidays are right around the corner…

As always, share your projects with us using the hashtag #theschoolofmaking.

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LIMITED-EDITION EMBROIDERY FLOSS (+FABRIC)

With a continually evolving supply chain and our mission to be as resourceful as possible, we have a few updates to announce. The School of Making is introducing new colors of Embroidery Floss. Our colors are now available in a rotating selection—some all-time favorite colors will stay, some other colors will come-and-go with the seasons.

Due to popular demand, we’ve also added Limited-Edition Fabrics back to Maker Supplies. Colors will roll on and off, per availability. Because of this, and natural variations between dye lots, we recommend purchasing all the floss and fabric you will need for your projects at the same time.

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Be sure to follow The School of Making on Facebook and Instagram for the latest announcements and updates.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SWING SKIRT TECHNIQUES & CONSTRUCTION

BLUPRINT: THE SWING SKIRT TECHNIQUES & CONSTRUCTION

The School of Making was founded back in 2014 as an overseeing body that encompasses the DIY Kit collection as well as workshop programming, format, and content. It was also developed to direct and innovate learning initiatives and educational programs that will continue to teach Slow Fashion and sustainability and promote the Living Arts to our growing maker community. Today, we’re proud to announce our latest learning tool in partnership with Bluprint—a video course titled “The Swing Skirt Techniques & Construction with Natalie Chanin & The School of Making”.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SWING SKIRT TECHNIQUES & CONSTRUCTION

The Swing Skirt is one of our all-time most popular DIY styles. It’s universally flattering on all body types, and its simple, four-panel design and easy construction make it the perfect beginner garment. In “The Swing Skirt Techniques & Construction”, Natalie gives in-depth instructions for all aspects of creating a Swing Skirt including planning, cutting, stenciling, stitching, and completing your garment.

If you like to complete every step of the process yourself, you’ll receive a downloadable Swing Skirt Pattern PDF with four lengths—21”, 24”, 26”, and 28”. There is an expanded version of the pattern available online with two additional lengths—33” and 40”—in both PDF and printed versions.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SWING SKIRT TECHNIQUES & CONSTRUCTION

Or if you’d like to start sewing right away, there are a number of Swing Skirt DIY Kits cut and ready-to-sew in our most popular stencil designs—Magdalena, Anna’s Garden, and Bloomers—or create your own kit to your exact specifications through Custom DIY. We also suggest using “The Swing Skirt Techniques & Construction” as instruction for Host a Party. Gather at least six friends, choose the Swing Skirt as your garment, make your design choices, and gather to work through the course together.

View the trailer for “The Swing Skirt Techniques & Construction with Natalie Chanin & The School of Making” below:

And sign up for the course here.

P.S.: If you purchase your class from the links on our website, we will earn a small commission from the product purchased through that link. This commission supports our business and helps us stock our 100% organic fabrics, pay our employees a living wage, and allows our teams to continue to design and create the products that you love. What might seem like a small gesture can go a long way for our business, so thank you.

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TEXTILE PAINT + CUSTOM COLORS

Textile paint is an everyday staple at The School of Making and ­Alabama Chanin. We use it to transfer stencil designs to a multitude of items including the Alabama Chanin Collection, DIY Kits and Custom Kits—we even stencil our gift bags and boxes. Because of our commitment to lean manufacturing, everything is stenciled to order by the expert hand of our stenciling department.

In the past, we have offered base colors along with recipes for mixing the custom colors that we use that coordinate with our Collection colors and DIY Kit offerings. Now, The School of Making is offering custom pre-mixed textile paint colors in White Gold, Slate, Moonlight, Ecru, Fog, and Pearl Silver (with more to come in the future).

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You can find our custom mixed Textile Paint here, along with all the other tools you’ll need to create and stencil your own garments—including Mylar stencils and digital artwork to make your own.

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). 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.

A bead mix is now 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 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 – 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 – 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, 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)

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: ONE-OF-A-KIND INDIGO

INSPIRATION: ONE-OF-A-KIND INDIGO

Since our Indigo Dye Kit launched, we’ve loved seeing dye projects pop up on social media. The kit comes with enough materials to dye 6 yards of our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey, but you can also use it to give rarely worn garments a new life or to overdye a DIY project. Dyeing yards of fabric can be physically strenuous, and overdyeing an existing garment can be easier if you’re working alone.

The V-Neck Tank shown above is an example of what you can achieve when experimenting with indigo dye and paint. The Tank was first painted by hand using our New Leaves Stencil in two different colors of latex paint and then overdyed to a dark shade of indigo.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: ONE-OF-A-KIND INDIGO

Shown here is an overdyed, one-of-a-kind piece created for the Alabama on Alabama exhibit at Heath Ceramics from the summer of 2015. We overdyed a now-archived Natalie’s Jacket from our machine-sewn line to a shade of medium indigo. After the jacket was dyed, appliqué in various shades of indigo made with Medium and X-Large New Leaves Stencil artwork were added to the front and back panels.

We encourage you to sort through your closet and upcycle any rarely worn items to bring them back into your regular wardrobe rotation. Use these garments as inspiration to get creative with your existing wardrobe, and share your dye projects with us using #theschoolofmaking on Instagram.

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.

Purchase The Geometry of Hand-Sewing here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

ALABAMA CHANIN – STENCIL HIGHLIGHT: SMALL POLKA DOT + AURORA

INTRODUCING THE AURORA STENCIL

Once offered exclusively in the Alabama Chanin Collection, Aurora is now stenciled, along with Small Polka Dots, on the fabric of our latest Design Bundle. Aurora has an art deco feel and gives movement to any project. It works up beautifully in different techniques including negative reverse appliqué (shown above), whipstitch appliqué (shown below), and quilting.

ALABAMA CHANIN – STENCIL HIGHLIGHT: SMALL POLKA DOT + AURORA

Aurora can also now be purchased as a Mylar stencil or downloadable artwork here. The Aurora stencil is now an option for Custom DIY Kits as well.

Use the projects featured in this post for design inspiration and share your projects with us using the hashtag #theschoolofmaking.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 2

DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 2

Continue your year of making and designing with our second, limited-edition Design Bundle. Like the first quarter, Design Bundle #2 contains fabric, thread, embroidery floss, and beads that are intended to be used as tools to practice appliqué, embroidery, or beading treatments from our Alabama Studio Book Series.

Offering a new range of pre-selected fabric and paint colors, this Design Bundle includes Natural, Ochre, Peacock, Black, and Faded Polka Dot fabric selections. Our classic Small Polka Dot stencil is paired with Aurora—a new stencil design with an Art Deco motif. New, complementary paint colors are also introduced with each fabric color.

The notion colors are updated to include Ochre, Ecru, Peacock, Black, and Ashe Embroidery Floss and Gold Armor Beads.

Use the treatments, color combinations, and beading designs as inspiration for your next sewing project and add all the completed swatches to your growing fabric library.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 2

What you will get:

  • Design Bundle Color Card
  • 10 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic medium-weight cotton jersey (two of each) in Natural, Faded Polka Dot, Ochre, Peacock, and Black, as your bottom layer
  • 5 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic medium-weight cotton jersey (one of each) in Natural, Faded Polka Dot, Ochre, Peacock, and Black stenciled in Aurora to use as your top layer
  • 5 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic medium-weight cotton jersey (one of each) in Natural, Faded Polka Dot, Ochre, Peacock, and Black stenciled in Small Polka Dot to use as your top layer
  • Choose between tonal or metallic paint (metallic paint pictured above)
  • 5 spools of Button Craft Thread in Cream, Slate, Dogwood, Navy, and Black
  • 5 spools of Embroidery Floss in Ecru, Ashe, Ochre, Peacock, and Black
  • 5 vials of Beads: Clear Bugle, Dark Grey Bugle, Gold Armor, Brown Seed, and Black Chop
ALABAMA CHANIN - NEW AND IMPROVED PACKAGING 1

NEW (+ IMPROVED) PACKAGING FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

At The School of Making and Alabama Chanin, sustainability is a top priority. We strive to be a zero-waste company and leave the smallest environmental footprint possible. Recently, our team has been working behind the scenes to elevate our DIY offerings and take larger strides toward a more environmentally friendly future.

Today, we introduce new and improved packaging for The School of Making products that greatly cut down on the use of and need for plastic in our studio—and in your home. We’ve talked before about the scraps that come from our Building 14 facility and production studio, and we’re continually looking for new and innovative ways to use them. New thread packaging and bags for DIY kits, the Indigo Dye Kit, and our updated Essential Sewing Kit have been created by using leftover scraps from garments and home goods.

Plastic has been replaced elsewhere by more sustainable options such as glass and recycled paper. Beads, sequins, and our newly added Armor Beads are now available in glass Weck jars for easy storage and display in your home studio. Needles now come in three varieties—Sewing, Beading, and Embroidery—and ship to you in a reusable glass vial. Also, incorporated into our new packaging program are recycled pillow boxes made regionally in Nashville. These pillow boxes have multiple uses—providing protection to small glass vials and packaging a few different products—cutting down on our need to keep excess materials on hand.

Our team has put a lot of thought and care into choosing more sustainable options and providing our customers with an elevated selection of notions and tools. See all the updated packaging here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE CAR COAT

2017 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE CAR COAT

Build a Wardrobe 2017 continues in the second quarter with our Car Coat Pattern. Offering a fit that is flattering to all body types, the Car Coat is a great transitional piece that can be worn throughout the year—going from basic to statement-making with the addition of stencils, embroidery, and beading.

The digital version of the Car Coat Pattern has three length options as well as pocket and sleeve variations, and it is available to download on our Studio Books + Patterns page for $18. The downloadable PDF contains the pattern graded in sizes XS through XXL as well as instructions for pattern cutting and garment construction. The file also includes two printing options—a full-scale version that can be printed on large-format printers in copy shops and a tiled version that can be printed at home.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE CAR COAT

The pattern is included in our 2017 Build a Wardrobe program, which can be purchased at any point during the year.

Check back in July and October for our third and fourth quarter releases.

Purchase the digital pattern here.

Sign up for Build a Wardrobe here.

Share all your projects with us using the hashtags #theschoolofmaking and #buildawardrobe2017.

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.

NEW: INDIGO DYE KIT

We have a long history of loving and working with indigo at The School of Making and Alabama Chanin. We’ve used it in previous collections, worked with and learned from Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville, and even had a special indigo-focused exhibition at Heath Ceramics showcasing upcycled antique quilts and one-of-a-kind indigo garments.

For the past few years, we’ve sourced our indigo materials from Botanical Colors in Seattle, Washington. Owner Kathy Hattori was an invaluable resource throughout the time we operated our dye house (more on Kathy tomorrow). Since closing down our dye house last year, we have been working with Stony Creek Colors in Tennessee to produce our Hand-Dyed Organic Indigo Fabric— used in our Rinne’s Dress Collection.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW: INDIGO DYE KIT

For the makers that prefer to have their hands on every step of the process, we are now offering an Indigo Dye Kit for use at home. Inside you’ll find the same organic indigo that we’ve used sourced from Botanical Colors along with iron powder, calcium hydroxide (lime), soda ash, and instructions for creating your own mineral vat. The kit comes packed in an organic cotton canvas bag and includes enough materials to dye approximately 6 yards of our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey. You will need to provide your own plastic tub or trash can for creating the vat as well as gloves and a mask for handling the raw materials.

We can’t wait to see what you’re able to create with the kit. Indigo produces such range of shades with lovely variations in the fabrics. Be sure to share your indigo projects with us using #theschoolofmaking on social media.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE FACTORY DRESS SLEEVE

BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE FACTORY DRESS SLEEVE

By popular demand, we have created a sleeve for the Factory Dress for those of you who have either subscribed to Build a Wardrobe or purchased the Factory Dress pattern online. The sleeve was drafted to fit the existing armhole on the pattern, so no adjustments will need to be made before attaching your sleeve.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE FACTORY DRESS SLEEVE

This pattern variation is available as a free download to use with your previously purchased Factory Dress pattern. Instructions for attaching the sleeve and where to fit this step into your construction are included with the pattern piece.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE FACTORY DRESS SLEEVE

As always, we ask that you share your projects with us on Instagram using #theschoolofmaking and #buildawardrobe2017.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY: DAISY

NEW LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY: DAISY

We’ve seen such beautiful pieces made with our Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey collaboration with Spoonflower that we’ve decided to add another design. Now available is our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in Sand printed with our newest Daisy Stencil design in teal.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY: DAISY

Experiment with our newest design of Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey using patterns available on our Resources page or in our Alabama Studio Book Series.

Look for more project inspiration on our Journal in weeks to come.

In the meantime, check out past projects we’ve made using our printed fabric like our popular Swing Skirt and Factory Tunic, and find Daisy project inspiration here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – APPLIQUE DAISY ALABAMA SWEATER TUNIC

APPLIQUE DAISY ALABAMA SWEATER TUNIC

The Alabama Sweater has been a long-standing pattern at Alabama Chanin, and the silhouette remains one of our customer favorites (a reason we included the pattern in our 2016 Build a Wardrobe). The Alabama Sweater shown above was created using the Daisy stencil for one of our archived collections using a classic whipstitch appliqué technique.

At Alabama Chanin we use appliqué to add color, texture, and dimension to our work. Here are the appliqué instructions found on page 101 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:

  1. Stencil Pattern on Base Fabric
    Stencil a pattern on the right side of your base fabric where you want to stitch the appliqué pieces, remove the stencil, and let the fabric and stencil dry thoroughly.
  2. Cut Out Appliqué Pieces
    To make your appliqué pieces, flip the dried stencil used in Step 1 to the wrong side, and transfer the stencil pattern to the wrong (backside) of the appliqué fabric. After letting the stenciled fabric dry, begin by cutting out one stenciled shape, 1/16” around the outside of the stenciled edge. Once you cut out the shape, flip it over, right side up, and pin it to the corresponding shape in the stenciled pattern on the base fabric. Repeat for your entire stenciled design by cutting one piece at a time and pinning it into place.
  3. Stitch Appliqué Pieces to Project
    Position each cut appliqué shape, right side up, on top of the corresponding shape in the stenciled design on the base fabric. It’s important to match up each shape as you cut it—unless you’re fond of jigsaw puzzles! Align the edges of the appliqué and stenciled shape, pin the appliqué securely in place, and attach the appliqué’s raw cut edges using the parallel whipstitch. The straight stitch is the easiest to use, while the parallel whipstitch, which secures the fabric extremely well, is the stitch we use most often at Alabama Chanin.

For instructions on the Satin Stitch used to embroider the dots in the center of each Daisy, see page 84 in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

You can order this Alabama Sweater Tunic as a DIY kit using our Custom DIY Form, or create it yourself using the Alabama Sweater Pattern from our Resources page and our new Daisy Stencil.

ALABAMA CHANIN – APPLIQUE DAISY ALABAMA SWEATER TUNIC

DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Natural
Fabric color for inner layer – Natural
Fabric color for appliqué layer – Black
Button craft thread color – Cream #256
Variegated embroidery floss color – Black variegated
Textile paint color – White
Stencil – Daisy
Technique – Appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

If you’re having trouble deciding what colors and techniques you want to use for your Alabama Sweater, start with the Design Bundle which includes pre-selected fabric and notions to help you test out our techniques and develop textiles before committing to a bigger project.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: FULL WRAP SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: FULL WRAP SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

Over the past few weeks, we’ve shared instructions for our recently-added Custom DIY silhouettes from the 2016 Build a Wardrobe program. These new projects are not included in our Alabama Studio books, but the instructions for the four patterns from last year are now available online. So far, we’ve shared instructions for the Maggie DressAlabama Sweater, and Walking Cape. This week, we finish the series with instructions for the Full Wrap Skirt and variations. You may also download a printable PDF with instructions through the links after each pattern variation. Find all of our digital patterns and stencil artwork on our Studio Books + Patterns page.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: FULL WRAP SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

FULL WRAP SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

1. Baste Waistline
To ensure that the waistline on your cut-fabric pieces does not stretch while you construct the skirt, use a single strand of all-purpose thread to baste the waistline edges of each cut piece, as noted on the pattern.

2. Construct Skirt
After basting the waistline edge of all body pattern pieces, pin two of the body panels together on one seam with right sides together and edges aligned. When pinning knit seams for construction, it is important to follow a method we call “pinning the middle”. Start by pinning the beginning of your seam, and follow by pinning the end of your seam. Then place one pin in the middle, between the two initial pins. Continue by pinning in the middle of each set of pins, until your seam is securely pinned and ready to sew.

Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Using a straight stitch, sew the pinned pieces together, starting at the skirt’s waistline and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges down to the bottom edge. Be sure to begin and end each seam by wrap-stitching (see page 12 of this document) its edges to secure them. Leave your seams floating, or fell your seams by stitching down the center of the seam allowances, using a straight stitch and wrap-stitching the beginning and end of each seam.

Once the first seam is complete, open the first two panels with right sides facing up. Pin the next panel of the skirt—right side down—on top of one of the first panels to create your next seam. Follow the instructions above to construct and fell (optional) the seam. Continue to do this until all nine panels are sewn together. Do not join the two outside panels.

3. Add Facing to Front Panels
Pin your cut facing piece to the Full Wrap Skirt front panel, with right sides together and the edges aligned. Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Using a straight stitch, sew the pinned pieces together, starting at the top edge of the center front and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges down to the bottom edge. Be sure to begin and end the seam by wrap-stitching its edges to secure them.

Once you have constructed this seam, gently steam the seam open with an iron, and then fold the facing back to create a clean-finished seam that encases the seam allowances, and pin it into place. Using a straight stitch, topstitch through all of the layers 1/4” from the front edge to secure the facing in place.

Repeat this process with the second facing on the final panel.

4. Add Waistband
To add the waistband, start by placing the two cut waistbands with right sides together and the edges aligned, and begin stitching at the short end, and then sew across top of band and the other short end, wrap-stitching at both ends of the seam. Turn the waistband right side out, and press it.

With right sides together and the edges aligned, pin one edge of the waistband to the skirt’s waist, and join the two with a 1/4” seam. Turn the other edge of the waistband under 1/4” on the skirt waist’s wrong side, and topstitch through all layers 1/8” from the folded edge.

Topstitch the ends and top of waistband 1/8” from the folded edge, starting at the short end, sewing across the top of the band, and ending at the other short end.

5. Add Ties
Working along the grain of the fabric, cut four ties for the waist of the skirt that are 36” long by 1 1/4” wide. Place one unfolded, raw-edged tie at the end of the waistband on the right side of skirt’s right front edge, with right sides together and matching the end of the tie to the end of the waistband. Stitch 1/4” from the fold, wrap-stitching at the beginning and end of stitching line. Fold the tie back over the sewn edge, and stitch the edge again 1/4” from the fold, wrap-stitching again at the beginning and end of the seam to produce a clean-finished edge that encases the seam allowances. Repeat this process on the left side of the skirt’s front edge.

Place the other tie at the side seam, and stitch it in place the same way you attached the first tie.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: FULL WRAP SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

Find the pattern for the Full Wrap Skirt here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: FULL WRAP SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

PULL-ON SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

1. Baste Waistline
To ensure that the waistline on your cut-fabric pieces does not stretch while you construct the skirt, use a single strand of all-purpose thread to baste the waistline edges of each cut piece, as noted on the pattern.

2. Construct Skirt
After basting the waistline edge of all body pattern pieces, pin two of the body panels together on one seam with right sides together and edges aligned. When pinning knit seams for construction, it is important to follow a method we call “pinning the middle”. Start by pinning the beginning of your seam, and follow by pinning the end of your seam. Then place one pin in the middle, between the two initial pins. Continue by pinning in the middle of each set of pins, until your seam is securely pinned and ready to sew.

Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Using a straight stitch, sew the pinned pieces together starting at the skirt’s waistline and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges down to the bottom edge. Be sure to begin and end each seam by wrap-stitching (see page 12 of this document) its edges to secure them. Leave your seams floating, or fell your seams by stitching down the center of the seam allowances, using a straight stitch and wrap-stitching the beginning and end of each seam.

Once the first seam is complete, open the first two panels with right sides facing up. Pin the next panel of the skirt—right side down—on top of one of the first panels to create your next seam. Follow the instructions above to construct and fell (optional) the seam. Continue to do this until all six panels are sewn together. Join the outer two panels.

3. Add Waistband
Using 1”-wide fold-over elastic and starting at the skirt’s center-back waistline, encase the waistline’s raw edge with the folded elastic, and pin it in place. Overlap the elastic’s raw edges at the center back by about 1/2”, and trim any excess elastic. Using the stretch stitch of your choice, sew through all the layers down the middle of the elastic.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: FULL WRAP SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

APRON SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

1. Baste Waistline
To ensure that the waistline on your cut-fabric pieces does not stretch while you construct the skirt, use a single strand of all-purpose thread to baste the waistline edges of each cut piece.

2. Add Embroidery
Add embellishment, as desired. Use one of our Alabama Studio Series books for inspiration. If you’re adding beading, avoid beading in 1/4” seam allowance.

3. Construct Skirt
After basting the waistline edge of all body pattern pieces, pin two of the body panels together on one seam with right sides together and edges aligned. When pinning knit seams for construction, it is important to follow a method we call “pinning the middle”. Start by pinning the beginning of your seam, and follow by pinning the end of your seam. Then place one pin in the middle, between the two initial pins. Continue by pinning in the middle of each set of pins, until your seam is securely pinned and ready to sew.

Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Using a straight stitch, sew the pinned pieces together starting at the skirt’s waistline and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges down to the bottom edge. Be sure to begin and end each seam by wrap-stitching its edges to secure them. Leave your seams floating, or fell your seams by stitching down the center of the seam allowances, using a straight stitch and wrap-stitching the beginning and end of each seam.

Once the first seam is complete, open the first two panels with right sides facing up. Pin the next panel of the skirt—right side down—on top of one of the first panels to create your next seam. Follow the instructions above to construct and fell (optional) the seam. Continue to do this until all five panels are sewn together. Do not join the two outside panels.

4. Add Facing to Front Panels
Pin your facing piece to the Apron Skirt front panel, with right sides together and the edges aligned. Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Using a straight stitch, sew the pinned pieces together, starting at the top edge of the center front and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges down to the bottom edge. Be sure to begin and end the seam by wrap-stitching its edges to secure them.

Once you have constructed this seam, gently steam the seam open with an iron, and then fold the facing back to create a clean-finished seam that encases the seam allowances, and pin it into place. Using a straight stitch, topstitch through all of the layers 1/4” from the front edge to secure the facing in place.

Repeat this process with the second facing.

5. Add Waistband
To add the waistband, start by placing the two cut waistbands with right sides together and the edges aligned, and begin stitching at the short end, and then sew across top of band and the other short end, wrap-stitching at both ends of the seam. Turn the waistband right side out, and press it.

With right sides together and the edges aligned, pin one edge of the waistband to the skirt’s waist, and join the two with a 1/4” seam. Turn the other edge of the waistband under 1/4” on the skirt waist’s wrong side, and topstitch through all layers 1/8” from the folded edge.

Topstitch the ends and top of waistband 1/8” from the folded edge, starting at the short end, sewing across the top of the band, and ending at the other short end.

6. Add Ties
Use the two ties for the waist of the skirt that are 36” long by 1 1/4” wide. Place one unfolded, raw-edged tie at the end of the waistband on the right side of skirt’s right front edge, with right sides together and matching the end of the tie to the end of the waistband. Stitch 1/4” from the fold, wrap-stitching at the beginning and end of stitching line. Fold the tie back over the sewn edge, and stitch the edge again 1/4” from the fold, wrap-stitching again at the beginning and end of the seam to produce a clean-finished edge that encases the seam allowances. Repeat this process on the left side of the skirt’s front edge.

Explore all of our patterns on the Studio Books + Patterns page.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

We have recently added our 2016 Build a Wardrobe silhouettes to Custom DIY. These new projects are not included in our Alabama Studio books, so we are providing instructions for each project on our Journal over the next few weeks. So far, we’ve shared instructions for the Maggie Dress and Alabama Sweater, and this week, we share instructions for the Walking Cape. You may also download a printable PDF with instructions through the link at the bottom of this post. Find all of our digital patterns and stencil artwork on our Maker Supplies + Stencils page.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

1. Add Embroidery
Add embellishment, as desired. Use one of our Alabama Studio Series books for inspiration. If you’re adding beading, avoid beading in 1/4” seam allowance.

2. Construct Collar
To create the Walking Cape collar, pin the two collar pieces right sides together around the three outside edges, leaving the portion of the collar that attaches to the body of the cape open. Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Using a straight stitch, sew the pinned edges together, starting at one corner of the collar and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges around the three outside edges of the collar. Be sure to begin and end the seam by wrap-stitching its edges to secure them.

Turn the collar right side out and press. You may choose to topstitch the collar 1/8” from the edge of the three finished sides using a straight stitch and wrap-stitching the beginning and end of the seam.

3. Prepare for Construction
After completing the collar, lay out your top layer with the right side facing up. Center the raw edge of your collar with the center of the inside edge of the cape. Pin the collar in place. Lay your bottom layer on top of the top layer and collar with the right side facing up, sandwiching the collar between the two layers. Pin all layers of the cape together along the center front and inside edge of the cape.

When pinning knit seams for construction, it is important to follow a method we call “pinning the middle”. Start by pinning the beginning of your seam, and follow by pinning the end of your seam. Then place one pin in the middle, between the two initial pins. Continue by pinning in the middle of each set of pins, until your seam is securely pinned and ready to sew.

4. Sew Front Seam
Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Using a straight stitch, sew the pinned pieces together, starting at one corner of the center front and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges across to the opposite corner. Be sure to begin and end the seam by wrap-stitching its edges to secure them.

Turn the cape right side out. Topstitch the seam 1/8” from the finished edge of the seam using a straight stitch and wrap-stitching the beginning and end of the seam.

5. Construct Walking Cape Pocket
Your kit should include two 1 1/4” x 8 1/2”-wide strips of fabric cut across the grain to use for binding the pockets. Use your iron to press each binding strip in half lengthwise, with the wrong sides together, being careful not to stretch the fabric while pressing it.

To construct a double-layer pocket, lay two cut pocket pieces on top of each other with right sides facing up. Start at one of the top corners and encase the pocket’s top edge inside your folded binding, basting the binding in place as you work. Trim away any excess binding.

Use the stitch of your choice (see our Alabama Studio Book Series) to sew through all layers and down the middle of the binding. Remove or break basting stitches by pulling gently on one end of the thread. It is fine to leave any basting stitches that may be embedded in the binding. Repeat this process for the second pocket.

6. Place and Attach Pockets
Lay your cape out flat with the outside layer facing up. Add pockets by pinning your pocket to the outside layer and placing it 4” from the center front, approximately 5” from the bottom raw edge, and approximately 6” from the outside raw edge.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

Pin pocket in place, and stitch 1/4” from the edge of the pocket, leaving the edges raw. Wrap-stitch the beginning and end of the seam. Repeat this process for the second pocket.

Alternately, you may choose to attach the pockets to the inside of the cape using the same placement instructions listed above.

7. Attach Snap
With the cape laid in front of you face up, place the male half of the snap on the right side of the outer layer of the cape, positioning it 1/4” from the finished center front edge and approximately 7” beneath the collar, or approximately 10” above the bottom raw edge. Attach the snap using a doubled strand of Button Craft thread, stitching around the snap twice.

Open the left side of the cape. Place the female half of the snap on the bottom layer of the left side of the cape, positioning it 1/4” from the finished center front edge and approximately 7” beneath the collar, or approximately 10” above the bottom raw edge. Attach the snap using a doubled strand of Button Craft thread, stitching around the snap twice.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

Download a printable PDF of the Walking Cape instructions here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: ALABAMA SWEATER INSTRUCTIONS

BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: ALABAMA SWEATER INSTRUCTIONS

Last week, we added our  2016 Build a Wardrobe silhouettes to Custom DIY. These new projects are not included in our Alabama Studio books, so we are providing instructions for each project on our Journal over the next few weeks. Last week, we shared instructions for the Maggie Dress and variations with you, and this week, we share instructions for the Alabama Sweater Tunic and variations. You may also download a printable PDF with instructions through the link at the bottom of this post. Find all of our digital patterns and stencil artwork on our Maker Supplies + Stencils page.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: ALABAMA SWEATER INSTRUCTIONS

ALABAMA SWEATER TUNIC/TOP/CROP TOP INSTRUCTIONS

1. Baste Neckline and Armholes
To ensure that the neckline and armholes don’t stretch while you’re constructing your garment, use a single strand of all-purpose thread to baste around the neckline and curved edges—from the shoulder to the side edge—of each piece.

2. Add Embroidery
Add embellishment, as desired. Use one of our Alabama Studio Series books for inspiration. If you’re adding beading, avoid beading in 1/4” seam allowance.

3. Prepare for Construction
After completing embellishment, choose Inside or Outside Floating or Felled Seams (see our Alabama Studio Book Series) for your garment. You will pin with fabric’s wrong sides together for seams visible on the outside of the garment or with fabric’s right sides together for seams that are finished on the inside of the garment.

When pinning knit seams for construction, it is important to follow a method we call “pinning the middle”. With right sides together for inside seams and wrong sides together for outside seams, start by pinning the top of your seam, and follow by pinning the bottom of your seam. After pinning both top and bottom, place one pin in the middle, between the two initial pins. Continue by pinning in the middle of each set of pins, until your seam is securely pinned and ready to sew. Repeat the process for the tunic’s two back panels, pinning them together at center back (right sides together for seams inside the garment, wrong sides together for seams that are on the outside of the garment).

4. Sew Center Front and Center Back Seams
Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Using a straight stitch, sew the pinned pieces together, starting at the top edge of the center front and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges down to the bottom edge. Be sure to begin and end the seam by wrap-stitching its edges to secure them. Fell each seam (if desired) by folding over the seam allowances to one side and topstitching them 1/8” from the cut edges, down the center of the seam allowances, using a straight stitch and wrap-stitching the seam. Repeat this process to sew the center back seam

5. Sew Shoulder Seams
Next, pin the shoulder seams, with the raw edges aligned, and sew the seams, starting at the top edge of the Alabama Sweater’s armhole and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges across to the neckline. Begin and end each seam by wrap-stitching its edges to secure them. Fell your seams, if desired, towards the back of your garment down the middle of your seam allowance.

6. Add Sleeves (optional)
Add sleeves by pinning your cut sleeves to the Sweater armholes with the right sides together for inside seams (or wrong sides together for outside seams) and matching the sleeve’s edges with the edges of the front and back of the Sweater. Pin pieces together securely, working in excess fabric with pins. Use a straight stitch to attach sleeves and then fell the seams toward the sleeves, if desired.

7. Sew Sweater Body at Side Seams
Turn your Sweater wrong side out for inside seams or right side out for outside seams. Pin together front, back, and sleeves (if added) at the side seams. Wrap-stitch your seams. Start stitching at the bottom edge of the Sweater’s hem and sew side and sleeve seams in one continuous pass. After stitching side/sleeve seam, fold seam allowances toward the back, and fell the seam, if desired.

8. Create Mitered Binding and Bind Neckline
Use a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and plastic ruler to cut 1 1/4”-wide strips of leftover fabric across the grain to use for binding the neckline. You will need one strip, approximately 55”, for binding the neckline. Use your iron to press each binding strip in half lengthwise, with the wrong sides together, being careful not to stretch the fabric while pressing it. To bind the neckline, you will first make a miter at the mid-point of the binding before applying the binding to the neckline.

To create the miter, open the pressed binding flat, and then fold it in half crosswise, with right sides together and the short edges aligned. Starting at one edge of the binding, stitch to the fold line and then back to the other edge, sewing a 90-degree V-shape whose point is 1/2” from the binding’s folded edge, and knotting off at the other edge. Clip the excess fabric from V-shape, leaving a 1/4” seam allowance.

Turn the binding right side out; re-fold it with wrong sides together; and place the mitered V at the neckline’s center-front V, folding the strip along the fold line and over the neckline’s raw edge. Start basting the binding in place with all-purpose thread, encasing the neckline’s raw edge inside the binding (note that the binding’s raw edges will show). You will remove this basting thread at the end of the binding process. Add a new binding strip, as needed, as you work around the neckline’s edge to the center back, overlapping the short raw edges of the existing and new binding strips by about 1/2”.

When you reach the center-back point, overlap the binding’s short raw edges by about 1/2” to finish the binding, and trim away any excess binding. To permanently sew the binding in place, use the stretch stitch of your choice to sew through all layers down the middle of the binding.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: ALABAMA SWEATER INSTRUCTIONS

12. Bind Armholes (for sleeveless top)
You will need one strip, approximately 55”, for binding the armholes of a sleeveless top. Follow cutting instructions above to cut and press binding pieces.

To bind and finish each armhole, repeat the cutting, pressing, and binding process above, skipping the instructions for making and applying a mitered V-shaped binding at the center-front V-Neck. After permanently sewing the neckline and armhole bindings in place with a stretch stitch, remove or simply break the basting stitches by pulling gently to snap the thread. If some of the basting stitches remain embedded in the binding, leave them in place since the thread is broken and the remaining stitches will not restrict the fabric’s stretch.

Find downloadable and printable stencils here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 1

DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 1

Swatch of the Month and Build a Wardrobe showed us that introducing DIY programming in installments allows you to make in a steady rhythm, and it gives us to time to thoughtfully plan our content for the year. Our 2014 and 2015 Swatch of the Month programs went over incredibly well with our maker community, and we thank you for your enthusiasm, creativity, and support.

This year, to expand our swatch programming, we will offer four limited-edition Design Bundles, introducing a new one each quarter and only available for that quarter. These Design Bundles are pre-selected fabric and notions intended to help you design and to grow your home design studio.

Around the studio, we call our swatches sample blocks. Each swatch starts the same way, as a basic 10” x 16” rectangle of our organic cotton jersey. Then, each one is embellished with stencils, embroidery, beading, and/or appliqué. Natalie creates a sample block to use as a visual for her textile designs. These samples blocks are the basis for all our designs, which live in swatch books in our Fabric Library at The Factory.

If you would like help planning your next project (before starting on an entire garment), we encourage you to experiment with our Design Bundles first and use them to become more comfortable designing. The completed sample blocks will allow you to start your own swatch book, and can also be used for a variety of small projects, like journal covers or pillows, or to simply frame and hang as a piece of art in your home or workspace.

For the first quarter, we are pairing the much-loved Anna’s Garden stencil with a new stencil design: Daisy. We invite you to use our pre-selected colors, get creative, and develop your own textile designs. Alabama Studio Sewing + Design features many embroidery techniques that you can use for inspiration.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 1

What you get:

  • Design Bundle Color Card
  • 10 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic cotton jersey (two of each) in White, Sand, Light Indigo, Dark Indigo, and Navy, as your bottom layer
  • 5 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic cotton jersey (one of each) in White, Sand, Light Indigo, Dark Indigo, and Navy, stenciled in Anna’s Garden, to use as your top layer
  • 5 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic cotton jersey (one of each) in White, Sand, Light Indigo, Dark Indigo, and Navy, stenciled in Daisy, to use as your top layer
  • Choose between tonal or metallic paint
  • 5 spools of Button Craft Thread in White, Cream, Dogwood, Slate, and Navy
  • 5 spools of Embroidery Floss in White, Natural, Silt, Storm Blue, and Navy
  • 5 vials of Beads: White Armor, Satin Grey Bugle, Silver Chop, Dark Grey Sequin, and Dark Grey Chop

P.S.: While we take inspiration from our subscription programming, Design Bundles are sold separately each quarter.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY UPDATE

CUSTOM DIY UPDATE

Now that our 2017 Build a Wardrobe program is in full-swing, we have added our 2016 styles to Custom DIY. You may now customize your own kits for the Maggie Dress/Tunic/Top, Alabama Sweater Tunic/Top/Crop Top, Walking Cape, and Full Wrap/Pull-On/Apron Skirt. In addition to the new silhouettes, you are now also able to choose between tonal or metallic paint to further customize your kit to your own personal taste.

View our Custom DIY Guide to see all fabric colors with their tonal and metallic paint options.

P.S. – Here are construction instructions for our Maggie Dress, Alabama Sweater, Walking Cape, Full Wrap Skirt.

BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: MAGGIE DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

Our 2016 Build a Wardrobe silhouettes are now available to order through Custom DIY and select kits on our website. Since these projects are new and not included in any of our books, we’ll share the instructions for each project on our Journal over the next few weeks. This week, we’re sharing instructions for the Maggie Dress and variations with you. You may also download a printable PDF with instructions through the link at the bottom of this post.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: MAGGIE DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

MAGGIE TOP/TUNIC/DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

1. Baste Neckline and Armholes
To ensure that the neckline and armholes don’t stretch while you’re constructing your garment, use a single strand of all-purpose thread to baste around the neckline and curved edges—from the shoulder to the side edge—of each piece.

2. Add Embroidery
Add embellishment, as desired. Use one of our Alabama Studio Series books for inspiration. If you’re adding beading, avoid beading in 1/4” seam allowance.

3. Prepare for Construction
After completing embellishment, choose Inside or Outside Floating or Felled Seams (see our Alabama Studio Book Series) for your garment. You will pin with fabric’s wrong sides together for seams visible on the outside of the garment or with fabric’s right sides together for seams that are finished on the inside of the garment.

When pinning knit seams for construction, it is important to follow a method we call “pinning the middle”. With right sides together for inside seams and wrong sides together for outside seams, start by pinning the top of your seam, and follow by pinning the bottom of your seam. After pinning both top and bottom, place one pin in the middle, between the two initial pins. Continue by pinning in the middle of each set of pins, until your seam is securely pinned and ready to sew. Repeat the process for the garment’s two back panels, pinning them together at center back (right sides together for seams inside the garment, wrong sides together for seams that are on the outside of the garment).

4. Sew Center Front and Center Back Seams
Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Using a straight stitch, sew the pinned pieces together, starting at the top edge of the center front and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges down to the bottom edge. Be sure to begin and end the seam by wrap-stitching its edges to secure them. Fell each seam (if desired) by folding over the seam allowances to one side and topstitching them 1/8” from the cut edges, down the center of the seam allowances, using a straight stitch and wrap-stitching the seam. Repeat this process to sew the center back seam.

5. Sew Shoulder Seams
Next, pin the shoulder seams, with the raw edges aligned, and sew the seams, starting at the top edge of the armhole and stitching 1/4” from the fabric’s cut edges across to the neckline. Begin and end each seam by wrap-stitching its edges to secure them. Fell your seams, if desired, towards the back of your garment down the middle of your seam allowance.

6. Bind Neckline, Armholes, and Perimeter of Dress/Tunic/Top
Your kit should include approximately 540″ of binding for a Maggie Dress, 432” of binding for a Maggie Tunic, or 324″ for a Maggie Top.

Use an iron to press each cut binding strip in half lengthwise, with wrong sides together, being careful not to stretch the fabric as you press it. Start at garment’s center-back neckline and encase the neckline’s raw edge inside your folded binding, basting the binding in place with all-purpose thread as you work. At the center-back point, overlap your binding’s raw edges by 1/2” to finish, trimming away any excess binding.

Use the stretchable stitch of your choice to sew through all layers and down the middle of binding.

To bind the armholes and perimeter of the garment, encase the garment’s raw edge inside your folded binding, basting the binding in place with all-purpose thread as you work. Overlap your binding’s raw edges by 1/2” when adding another piece or finishing the binding, trimming away any excess binding at the end.

Use the stretchable stitch of your choice to sew through all layers and down the middle of the binding around the perimeter of the garment. Remove or break neckline and armhole basting stitches by pulling gently on one end of thread. It’s fine to leave any basting stitches that may be embedded in the binding.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: MAGGIE DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

7. Make Tab
Your kit should include one 2 1/2” X 3” strip of fabric with the long side on-grain to use for the tab closure.

With the wrong side of the fabric facing up, fold the top short side down 1”, with wrong sides together, and the bottom short side up 1”, with wrong side to right side, to cover it. You should now have a tri-fold tab measuring 2 1/2” wide X 1” tall. Use an iron to press the tab.

8. Attach Tab and Snaps
With the wrong side of the front panel of the garment facing up, align one short, raw edge of the tab with the finished edge of the binding on the top left corner of the front panel. Attach the tab with a straight stitch, wrap-stitching each side of the tab. Fold tab towards the front of the garment and fell the seam.

Straight stitch the loose end of the tab to secure before attaching the snap. Attach the female half of the snap to the back side of the tab, using a doubled strand of Button Craft thread.

Turn the top right corner of the front panel over with the right side facing up. Attach the male half of the snap to the front side of the corner, directly on top of the binding, using a doubled Button Craft thread.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: MAGGIE DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

9. Add Ties
Your kit should include approximately 60” of 1 1/2”-wide strips of fabric cut on the grain to use as ties.

Attach two 30” flat ties, right sides together, to the side corners of the right side of the garment back with a straight stitch, wrap-stitching each side of the tie. Fold each tie towards the front of the garment and fell the seam. Once the ties are attached, pull on the end of each causing the edges to roll. The ties will stretch approximately 6” when pulled.

Download a printable PDF of the Maggie Dress instructions here.

Tag your projects with #theschoolofmaking to share with us and the community of makers and sewers.

ALABAMA CHANIN – UNWASHED FABRIC

UNWASHED FABRIC

All of our medium-weight cotton jersey yardage is now sold unwashed. This includes all medium-weight fabric sold by the yard and included in Build a Wardrobe. Our DIY kits and finished garments are cut from pre-shrunk yardage, so this change does not affect our sizing in any way.

Since our medium-weight jersey fabric shrinks approximately 3% in length and 1% in width once washed, we ship generous cuts of fabric to allow for shrinkage. We recommend that you pre-wash your fabric in the same way you intend to launder your finished garment—preferably in cold or warm water—to ensure that your finished garment will not shrink after it’s been through the wash.

If you have questions about our unwashed fabric or need help choosing the right amount of yardage for your project, please give us a call at + 1.256.760.1090 or email us at orders (at) alabamachanin.com.

ALABAMA CHANIN – UNWASHED FABRIC

ALABAMA CHANIN – 2017 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE FACTORY DRESS PATTERNALABAMA CHANIN – 2017 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE FACTORY DRESS PATTERN

BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: FACTORY DRESS PATTERN

With one successful year of Build a Wardrobe behind us, we are excited to offer the 2017 subscription with four brand new garment patterns. The first quarter introduces the Factory Dress pattern—a long-time staff and customer favorite—with its flattering fit, princess seams, and high neckline.

In addition to being included in our 2017 Build a Wardrobe program, we are also offering the pattern as a digital download or in print from $18 $24. The pattern is available in sizes XS to XXL and includes instructions for pattern preparation, cutting, and garment construction. The file includes both a full-scale, copy shop version and a tiled version for printing at home. Check back each quarter as we introduce new patterns from Build a Wardrobe.

ALABAMA CHANIN – 2017 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE FACTORY DRESS PATTERN

Your 2017 Build a Wardrobe subscription includes a printed pattern for each garment—the Factory Dress, Car Coat, Wrap Dress, and Drawstring Pants/Skirt—as well as a PDF for each pattern, fabric (in your selected colors), thread, and notions necessary to complete your desired project each quarter. You will also receive exclusive access to a link where you can purchase discounted custom DIY kits in the Build a Wardrobe patterns as they’re made available.

If you have any questions, give us a call at +1.256.760.1090 or email us at orders (at) alabamachanin.com.

Purchase the pattern here or sign up for Build a Wardrobe here.

Share your projects with us using #buildawardrobe2017 and #theschoolofmaking.

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 – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

In 2016, The School of Making successfully expanded our Swatch of the Month Club and other hand-sewing programs into a larger experiment—Build a Wardrobe. This project offered our maker community the opportunity to take things they have learned from our Studio Book Series, workshops, and our Journal and create pieces they could fold seamlessly into and help sustainably grow their personal wardrobes. Because of the positive feedback we received, The School of Making is pleased to offer a 2017 subscription to the Build a Wardrobe series, featuring a new set of four patterns.

Participants will subscribe for an entire year’s worth of content that can be created from start-to-finish using techniques and guidelines from our Alabama Studio Book Series. Each quarter, we will introduce a new DIY garment pattern that you can take and make completely your own. Subscribers receive a select printed pattern, instructions, and enough fabric to make basic versions of each garment in their chosen colors. (Thread, notions, and digital pattern versions are also included.) This quarterly series offers participants flexibility to customize each garment, with as much or as little embellishment as fits their taste and personal wardrobe.

As with the 2016 program, those who subscribe will also have access to order custom DIY kits for each of the four new garment patterns at a discounted rate. These new DIY kits are exclusive to subscribers during the 2017 Build a Wardrobe program. As with our 2016 programming, subscribers can custom order kits beginning with The Factory Dress—in five lengths—during the first quarter of 2017, with the new patterns being added every quarter.

When you purchase your membership to Build a Wardrobe, you receive:

  • Digital inspiration and information packet of garment and treatment ideas for your wardrobe
  • Digital link to a form where you will choose your fabric and thread colors for the year
  • Discount coupon for 25% off stenciling supplies for those who want to stencil their garments (one-time use)
  • Subscription to an exclusive quarterly Build a Wardrobe newsletter

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

In January (the first quarter), we will introduce the Factory Dress pattern with five length options. Subscribers will receive:

  • The Factory Dress Pattern in both printed and digital format. This pattern provides 5 length variations for the garment body (top, tunic, 40″ dress, 47.25″ mid-length dress, and 55.5″ long dress) and all necessary instructions.
  • 7 yards of our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in two colors (3.5 yards each color)—enough to complete a double-layer 55.5” Long Factory Dress or any variation of your choice
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • Exclusive digital link to a Custom DIY form that gives you the option to purchase DIY Kits for the Factory Dress—cut and stenciled to your specifications

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

In April (the second quarter), we will launch the Car Coat pattern, with three lengths, two sleeve lengths, and pocket variations. Subscribers will receive:

  • The Car Coat Pattern in both printed and digital format. This pattern provides 3 length variations for the garment body (cropped jacket, jacket, and coat), 2 sleeve length variations, pocket variations, and all necessary instructions.
  • 6 yards of our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in two colors (3 yards each color)—enough to complete a double-layer 40” Car Coat or any variation of your choice
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • 8 17mm snaps
  • Exclusive digital link to a Custom DIY form that gives you the option to purchase DIY Kits for the Factory Dress and Car Coat—cut and stenciled to your specifications

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

In July (the third quarter), we will feature the Wrap Dress, with five length options and five sleeve options. Subscribers will receive:

  • The Wrap Dress in both printed and digital format. This pattern provides 5 length variations for the garment body (top, tunic, 40″ dress, 47.25″ mid-length dress, and 55.5″ long dress), 5 sleeve length variations, and all necessary instructions.
  • 7 yards of our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in two colors (3.5 yards each color)—enough to complete a double-layer 55.5” Long Wrap Dress with long sleeves or any variation of your choice
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • Exclusive digital link to a Custom DIY form that gives you the option to purchase DIY Kits for the Factory Dress, Car Coat, and Wrap Dress—cut and stenciled to your specifications

In October (the fourth quarter), we will feature the Drawstring Pant/Skirt, with three length options and pocket variations. Subscribers will receive:

  • The Drawstring Pant/Skirt Pattern in both printed and digital format. This pattern provides 3 length variations for the garment body (short, cropped, and long), pocket variations, and all necessary instructions.
  • 5 yards of our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in two colors (2.5 yards each color)—enough to complete a double-layer Long Pant or any variation of your choice
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • Exclusive digital link to a Custom DIY form that gives you the option to purchase DIY Kits for the Factory Dress, Car Coat, Wrap Dress, and Drawstring Pant/Skirt—cut and stenciled to your specifications

As with our previous subscription programs, anyone can join at any point in the year. By participating and purchasing materials via Build a Wardrobe, you will automatically receive approximately 25% off the total retail value of the materials—plus the printed pattern and notions needed to complete your garments and free domestic ground shipping. International orders may incur extra shipping fees.

Each quarter, we will release the Build a Wardrobe garment pattern with instructions for sale in print or as a digital download on our Studio Books + Patterns page.

Throughout the year, we will be offering several of our own takes on each garment, using a variety of techniques, colorways, stencils, and embroideries. Use those as inspiration or tailor the garments to your own unique style. Follow along on the Journal and on social media using the hashtags:

#theschoolofmaking
#buildawardrobe2017

Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns remains the ideal guide for altering patterns and perfecting individual fit. The rest of our Studio Book Series provides excellent resources for embellishing these four basic garments to create one-of-a-kind wardrobe essentials.

As with most of our patterns, each of these new styles are created with multiple length or style variations—allowing each person to choose the version that fits their personal figure best.

We chose patterns for the year to pick up where our 2016 subscription left off. If you make a basic of each variation of every pattern offered through Build a Wardrobe, you can end the year with 47 hand-sewn garments—adding to your handmade wardrobe. Pattern possibilities, by the numbers:

  • Factory Dress – 5 garments (top, tunic, and 3 dress lengths)
  • Car Coat – 3 garments (3 length variations X 2 sleeve options)
  • Wrap Dress – 30 garments (5 length variations X 6 sleeve options)
  • Drawstring Pant/Skirt – 6 garments (2 pattern variations X 3 length variations)

We’re always amazed by what our maker community creates, and we can’t wait for another year of wardrobe-building creativity. For those that still wish to participate in our current program, please note—the 2016 Build a Wardrobe program is only available through the end of the year.

P.S.: Starting in January 2017, all of our 100% Organic Cotton Jersey yardage will be sold and shipped unwashed. Please note that our jersey does shrink slightly, and always wash before use.

View our current Build a Wardrobe program here.

THE MAGDALENA CLASSIC JACKET DIY KIT

The Magdalena Classic Jacket DIY Kit is the newest addition to our (recently updated) DIY Collection. Featured in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, our Classic Jacket hits at the hip and has a relaxed fit—making it a great everyday jacket. This kit comes with everything you’ll need (including variegated embroidery floss that we’ll match for you). We’ve chosen our Magdalena stencil in a backstitch quilted technique.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE MAGDALENA CLASSIC JACKET DIY KIT

DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Navy
Fabric color for inner layer – Navy
Button Craft thread – Navy
Embroidery floss – Black variegated
Textile paint color – Slate
Stencil – Magdalena
Technique – Backstitch quilted
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

You can also choose to customize this kit through our Custom DIY—we offer shorter and longer jacket kits ranging from cardigan to coat.

Follow us on Instagram @theschoolofmaking and be sure to tag your projects #theschoolofmaking

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE MAGDALENA CLASSIC JACKET DIY KIT

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOST A PARTY: YEAR ONE

HOST A PARTY: YEAR ONE

Last October, we launched our Host A Party program to expand the sense of fellowship we create here at The Factory through our workshops, dinners, and events by inviting friends and colleagues to host their own workshop and event (surrounded by friends, family, and good food).

When you decide to host a sewing party for The School of Making, you organize a group of 6 or more friends, gathering the group’s project selection and payment, and provide a location and refreshments to your liking. You and your group choose one project—with difficulty levels ranging from beginner to advanced. While everyone makes the same project, each group member can choose their own size, fabric color, and stencil design. As organizer and host, your kit is free. All your guests will receive a 20% discount off the cost of their kits. We encourage you to get creative as you provide hospitality, instruction, and refreshments for your guests.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOST A PARTY: YEAR ONE

Host A Party has been bringing friends and family together under our mission of sewing education for just over a year, and we are excited to announce updates to the program. We have reveled in the stories, listened to feedback, and are now expanding the DIY Kit offerings to include the Tank Dress, Fitted Top, Bucket Hat, and Journal Cover—catering to all skill levels. We also have a selection of our favorite stencils available to customize each kit, and we’ve added a new set of colorways in addition to updating our 25 tonal colorway options.

Host your own sewing party by contacting us at workshops (at) alabamachanin.com

Read our tips for hosting your own party on our Journal.

Shop DIY Sewing Kits from The School of Making.

And follow us at @theschoolofmaking and tag your sewing party with #theschoolofmaking and #hostaparty2017

NEW DIY COLLECTION FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

Today, we launch updates to our DIY Collection with new kits, colorways, patterns, and designs. We’re introducing new silhouettes while offering some of our customer favorites with new stencils and treatments. New projects include the Anna’s Garden Maggie Tunic and Polka Dot Walking Cape.

Our expanded selection includes a range of projects for the home, like the Magdalena Table Runner and Magdalena Tea Towels. Favorite styles, like our T-Shirt Top, are now available in the Magdalena stencil. A selection of all-time favorite kits—like the Anna’s Garden Long Skirt and Facets Classic Coat—remain but have been given a fresh look with new colorway options.

If you don’t find exactly what you want, you always have the option to create your own Custom DIY Kit. Our custom kit process allows you to mix and match garment styles, color choices, stencil design, and embroidery techniques to design your perfect garment. For more information on how to design your kit, visit our Custom DIY form. We also have a growing range of patterns and stencils available alongside our Maker Supplies—such as 100% organic cotton jersey, sewing notions, and stenciling supplies—if you enjoy every step of the making experience and prefer creating your garments start-to-finish at home.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW DIY COLLECTION FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

As always, our DIY Kits come ready-to-sew with pre-cut and stenciled fabric and all the thread and notions you need to complete your project. Each kit is meant to be completed with help from our Studio Book Series, where you can find construction and embroidery instructions. Or you can learn Alabama Chanin techniques first-hand, as well as gain special instruction and insights, at one of our workshops hosted at The Factory. Learn more about our selection of workshops here.

Explore our current DIY Sewing Kit Collection here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW DIY COLLECTION FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

P.S.: Follow us @theschoolofmaking and share your projects on Instagram using #theschoolofmaking.

If you have any questions about our new DIY Collection, custom DIY kits, or workshops, contact us at +1.256.760.1090 or workshops (at) alabamachanin.com

DIY FULL WRAP SKIRT (+ VARIATIONS)

This year’s Build a Wardrobe program has allowed us to expand the options in each of our closets. So far, we have introduced three new garment patterns—the DIY Maggie Dress, DIY Alabama Sweater, and DIY Walking Cape—and offered several of our own variations on each piece. Build a Wardrobe provides hundreds of options for how to make these garments, based upon the number of fabric colorways, stencil designs, and embellishments, in addition to garment length, sleeve, and pocket options. In this final quarter, we introduce the DIY Full Wrap Skirt, which will round out wardrobe options.

Our Full Wrap Skirt pattern, designed to be used in tandem with our Alabama Studio Book Series, is a versatile pattern, with three different skirt variations possible: the Full Wrap Skirt, Pull-On Skirt, and Apron Skirt. This single pattern includes four lengths, making customization easy. The Full Wrap Skirt creates volume similar to that of a circle skirt and is made using nine panels. The Pull-On Skirt is an essential, everyday skirt made with six panels and an elastic waistband. And finally, the Apron Skirt is made using five panels and can be used to add variety to your wardrobe with just one piece—you may choose to wear two of these pieces together in a combination of ways or layer one Apron on top of your favorite dress or skirt.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY FULL WRAP SKIRT (+ VARIATIONS)

As with all of our previous Build a Wardrobe garments, the pattern (with instructions for selecting fabric, cutting, and constructing) can be purchased for $18 on online. The pattern is meant to be used alongside our Studio Book Series and can be printed on wide-format or desktop printers. Build a Wardrobe subscribers will receive both printed and digital versions of the pattern, plus fabric yardage in their color(s) of choice and all thread needed to complete the garment.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY FULL WRAP SKIRT (+ VARIATIONS)

Look for our interpretations of the DIY Full Wrap Skirt on the Journal soon. And—as always—follow along with the project and share your work using the hashtags #buildawardrobe2016 and #theschoolofmaking

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY FULL WRAP SKIRT (+ VARIATIONS)

Find our current Build a Wardrobe collection here.

SPOONFLOWER: NEW LEAVES SWING SKIRT

Last week, we launched our Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey through The School of Making to an overwhelmingly positive response. The fabric is our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey in Natural, printed by Spoonflower in our favorite shade of grey using natural inks and dyes. Read more about the collaboration here.

This printed fabric offers a world of possibilities for sewing printed basics, or using the fabric as an outer-layer to save time on stenciling.

We created a single-layer 24” Swing Skirt from Alabama Stitch Book using the Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey in New Leaves, with open-felled seams and a decorative Rosebud stitch on top—as shown on page 71 of Alabama Studio Style.

P.S.: We’re in the process of finishing our newest book on embroidery stitches, The Geometry of Sewing—due out in Spring 2017.

alabama-chanin-spoonflower-new-leaves-swing-skirt-2

Whatever you decide to make using our printed jersey, remember to pre-wash the fabric before cutting out any garments.

SUPPLIES

1 yard pre-washed Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey
1 yard fold-over elastic ribbon
Button Craft thread
Basic sewing supplies: needles, pinsembroidery scissors
Alabama Stitch Book for Swing Skirt pattern and instructions

alabama-chanin-spoonflower-new-leaves-swing-skirt-3

DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric for skirt – Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey in New Leaves
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Fold-over elastic ribbon – Natural
Knots – Inside
Seams – Open felled
Felling Stitch – Rosebud (Chained Feather Stitch)
Binding stitch – Zig zag

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.

MAKING AND GIVING

Over the years, through connections with our DIY community and The School of Making programming, we have seen how passionate and virtually inexhaustible our fellow makers can be. We have also witnessed them making connections through craft that extend outward into their lives, creating lifelong friendships and bonds.

Author Christine Chitnis and her mother attended one of our workshops at Blackberry Farm, and Christine shared the experience on her blog, which has its own strong community of fellow crafters, cooks, travel aficionados, and mothers. Christine went home and completed her DIY garment but, due to personal stressors and time constraints, her mother was unable to finish her own garment. As a gift to her mother, Christine wanted to complete the piece—a 6-panel Camisole Dress—as a Christmas gift. With a rapidly approaching deadline and two young children, she recognized that she would need help to complete such a large project.

ALABAMA CHANIN – MAKING AND GIVING

Three women from her maker community came forward and, together, they stitched and constructed the project on time. On Christmas morning, Christine’s mother received a beautifully finished dress, with notes from each of the women who helped make it. We have witnessed time and again that making for others can be as much a gift to the maker as it is to the recipient. Christine wrote, “There is something so powerful about wearing a garment that other hands made for you with love and intention.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – MAKING AND GIVING

The experience inspired Christine to organize more “community stitching” experiences and create pieces for others who might be facing difficult days. She put out a call on her blog and Instagram account, looking for makers who would be interested in joining her efforts. She was able to organize 20 women from across the country (plus one in Australia) to hand craft garments for four recipients who, in one way or another, were dealing with a personal struggle. And, like her mother, none of the four women had any knowledge of the project until they received their gifts. Christine said, “We are hoping that these garments make them feel wrapped in love.”

Christine and her community sewed thousands of stitches into those garments, with love and intention. They are examples of how making can enrich the lives of everyone a garment touches. We hope that Christine’s story inspires others to take up the task of creating for those who need to feel loved and cared for. Thank you to everyone in our maker community who continues to reach out and build bridges across lives—strengthening connections and changing the world with your own two hands.

Top two photos by Forrest Elliott. Grid of photos from Christine’s Instagram.

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.

ALABAMA-CHANIN---SPOONFLOWER-4

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…

INSPIRATION: ALABAMA SWEATER

Like many Alabama Chanin garments, the Alabama Sweater was created because it fit a specific need in my own wardrobe. Years ago, I bought a cashmere sweater that became a well-worn, beloved staple. I wore it and washed it a thousand times; accordingly, it shrank and stretched—and became perfectly mine.

Rather than search the world over for another “just right” sweater, I decided to create a new one using the original sweater—after a year (or two) of love—as a model. The first Alabama Sweater designs we created were made with a double layer of our lightweight organic cotton jersey, worked in backstitch reverse appliqué—so they were almost as soft and expensive as actual cashmere.

We have made dozens of versions since then, ranging in style from basic to heavily embellished. It remains one of our most popular styles, year after year, and is now the second pattern in our Build a Wardrobe program.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: ALABAMA SWEATER

The Alabama Sweater has a wide v-neckline, loose fit through the bust, and a relaxed silhouette. It is a similar style to our A-Line Top/Tunic with a wider, flowing fit overall.

Share your projects and follow along on our Journal and on social media using the hashtags #buildawardrobe2016 and #theschoolofmaking.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: ALABAMA SWEATER

OUR DESIGN CHOICES
Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – White
Textile paint color – Pearl Silver
Stencil – Stars
Technique – Beaded Stars
Beads – Chop beads, bugle beads, and seed beads
Bead color – White
Sequins – White
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: ALABAMA SWEATER

OUR DESIGN CHOICES
Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Navy
Fabric color for inner layer – Navy
Button Craft thread – Black #2
Textile paint color – Pearl Charcoal
Stencil – Stars
Technique – Beaded Stars
Bead type – Chop beads, bugle beads, and seed beads
Bead color – Black
Sequins – Black
Knots – Inside

THE HISTORY OF TAILORING

Anyone who has ever attempted to make a garment quickly understands that the most important element of the final product is how well a garment fits. Tailoring is the art of designing, fitting, fabricating, and finishing garments. The word “tailor”, which first appears in the Oxford Dictionary in 1297, comes from a French word—tailler—meaning “to cut”. The Latin word for tailor was sartor, meaning someone who patches or mends garments; the English word “sartorial”, for something related to tailored garments, is derived from this word.

The art of tailoring dates to the early Middle Ages. Some of the earliest tailors were linen armorers by trade, meaning they created custom, padded linen garments that were worn under chain mail to protect the wearer from the chafing associated with heavy armor. From this occupation, the earliest tailors guilds were born in Europe. Tailoring began to diversify in Western Europe, between the 12th and 14th centuries. Before this time, garments were generally made from a single piece of cloth and were created for the sole purpose of covering or concealing the body; individual style was of no particular interest to a garment’s maker or wearer.

During the Renaissance, the traditional loose robes worn by both sexes began to be shortened, gathered, tightened, and sewn together in shapes that somewhat resembled the actual human frame. Prior to this, clothing was not purchased; everything was made in the home, which meant that those who had more skill with needle and thread were well ahead of the game by the time that personal style began to emerge. Once people began to desire clothing in certain styles, for different body types, or in unique patterns, the demand for skilled tailors developed. The mere fact that tailors existed at all reveals that attitudes about clothing were changing. Clothes were now more than necessities; they were a way for people to express themselves, project their status, and show off what they considered to be their best features. In other words, the emergence of tailors is proof that fashion was developing as a concept.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF TAILORING

By the 1100s, a tailor was considered a legitimate occupation. King Henry I gave royal privileges to Taylors of Oxford in 1100. The London Guild of Taylors and Linen Armorers were granted royal arms in 1299. In France, the Tailleurs de Robes received a royal charter in 1293 and in 1588 all French tailors (from linen armorers, to robe makers, to hose makers) were united under the single banner of Maitres Tailleurs d’Habits.

From its earliest days, the trade of tailoring was taught by apprenticeship, where a master tailor instructed an aspiring tailor via practical experience. Apprentices were trained in molding woolen cloth to the shape of an individual’s body. Once this process was mastered, the apprentice tailors could show their style and skill by adding aesthetic elements—creating styles and silhouettes that emphasized the wearer’s best qualities.

Most shops were owned and run by a master tailor, who was the face of the business and who cut out most garments. The way each master tailor cut out those garments created his signature style. As tailor shops grew, more fabric cutters were hired and trained in the style of the master tailor; these cutters fell below the master tailor in the staffing hierarchy. Beneath the cutters were journeyman tailors who were responsible for some of the less exacting parts of garment making—like adding padding, sewing linings, and pockets and (eventually, after a bit of training) adding sleeves and collars to garments. At the bottom of the hierarchy were the apprentices, who were responsible for keeping the shop clean and running errands; once those tasks were complete, they could take time from their day to learn the basics of sewing. Before the adoption of the sewing machine in tailor shops, some garments might require more than one tailor to a garment, at the same time. Many would sit side-by-side or facing one another with legs crossed. In French, the cross-legged way of sitting is still called “assis en tailleur”, or “sitting in tailor’s pose”.

Because of this apprentice-style of teaching, no written manuals for tailoring existed for hundreds of years after the occupation appeared. The first English-language manual is The Taylor’s Complete Guide, which was published in 1796. After that, several influential guidebooks followed, including Compaing and Devere’s Tailor’s Guide in 1855 and E.B. Giles’ influential History of the Art of Cutting in 1889. This manual was reprinted for decades and is a kind of time capsule into the evolution of 19th century techniques.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF TAILORING

Today, the word “tailor” generally refers to someone who creates custom men’s clothing. Bespoke tailors are among the most respected people in the garment industry. Bespoke, meaning custom, are garments made-to-measure for one specific client. The word “bespoke” indicates that the garment is “spoken for” and not for sale to the public. England emerged as a hub for bespoke tailors and, since the turn of the 18th century, Bond Street, Saville Row, and St. James Street in London’s West End have been known as places to find elite, traditional tailors. Though even traditional tailors continually update their looks to fit modern styles, the oldest labels famously keep their signature elements, developed by the original master tailor. (For example, Huntsman—founded in 1849—still favors a one-button suit; Bernard Weatherill—founded in 1910—has a house style with a fuller chest, a tribute to its history as riding clothes outfitter to King George V.)

And although tailoring is now more closely associated with menswear than with women’s wear, top women’s designers were once trained in tailoring techniques, as well. Iconic fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who was known for his impeccable garment construction, began his career as a tailor’s apprentice on Saville Row. Modern garment construction, for both men and women, often cuts corners when it comes to more precise tailoring details, both for practical and financial reasons. That is the beauty of creating your own “bespoke” garment, tailored to your own body. We encourage you to become a modern-day tailor’s apprentice, using all materials available to you—including online tutorials on Bluprint, YouTube, Creativebug, or the books in our Studio Book Series—particularly Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. Share your tailored details on social media using #TheSchoolOfMaking.

THE MODERN NATURAL DYER: MORE EXPERIMENTS IN COLOR

We’ve had a fun (and colorful) month exploring natural dyes with Kristine Vejar through a series of projects from her book, The Modern Natural Dyer. Here’s a quick recap from our Journal, before we close out the month (which Kristine has tagged as #alabamachaninapril on Instagram) with a final project.

– You can learn more about The Modern Natural Dyer here and get your copy here.

– Find inspiration from Kristine’s “printed flowers” project. Kristine used our organic cotton jersey with her pressed flowers technique from The Modern Natural Dyer. We made a Maggie Tunic, one of our Build a Wardrobe patterns.

– The Iron Age Tank and Gilded Cardigan project uses our machine-sewn garments and is included in Chapter 5 of The Modern Natural Dyer, where Kristine demonstrates how to dye with extracts. (Extracts are highly-concentrated powders derived from whole dyestuffs.) Kristine takes this project a step further on her blog, where she experiments with a range of colors and techniques.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE MODERN NATURAL DYER: MORE EXPERIMENTS IN COLOR

For our last project, Kristine naturally dyed our machine-sewn Crop Cardigan with Quebracho Red, following the directions for The Gilded Cardigan. This extract is derived from the Quebracho tree, which is a member of the sumac family and grows in Central and South America. We love the coral hues, reminiscent of desert sunsets, that this color produces.

We used a ¼ yard of jersey, which was also dyed with Quebracho Red, to create our Random Ruffle technique on the front of the cardigan. This technique was developed in 2001 for our second collection of T-shirts. The ruffle can easily be used to embellish existing pieces of clothing like we did here with the naturally-dyed Crop Cardigan—adding a touch of hand-sewn detail. You can find instructions on page 107 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

Because the ¼ yard of jersey weighs approximately 75g, you will need to bump up the dye to accommodate for this piece. Make iron-infused water, according to the directions on page 68 of The Modern Natural Dyer. Dip the piece of fabric slowly into the pot over the course of 10 minutes to achieve the gradient—a lovely shade of earthy purple.

The Shade Card on page 98 shows the variations that can be achieved with the colors. Look for the wheat bran bath and lower increment of dye for the instructions listed above.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE MODERN NATURAL DYER: MORE EXPERIMENTS IN COLOR

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Garment – Long Sleeve Crop Cardigan
Dyeing Technique – Garment dyeing with extracts (Quebracho Red) from The Modern Natural Dyer
Embroidery Technique – Random Ruffle from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design
Button Craft thread – Dogwood

Kristine has created a series of Work-Along Kits—materials that pair with the projects in The Modern Natural Dyer. The Phase 1 Kit includes our machine sewn V-Neck Tank, Crop Cardigan, and ¼ yard of organic cotton jersey (in addition to many more fabrics, yarns, and dyes).

We love the combination of our organic cotton jersey and natural dyes. They produce honest, tactile colors. And we always enjoy working with Kristine and look forward to more collaboration with the team from A Verb For Keeping Warm in the future. Thank you for all that you do for sustainable textiles and the maker movement.

Find more on Instagram: @theschoolofmaking and @avfkw
#theschoolofmaking
#themodernnaturaldyerworkalong
#alabamachaninapril

INSPIRATION: AN IRON BATH + CROP CARDIGAN

We continue our month-long exploration into natural dyeing with Kristine Vejar, author of The Modern Natural Dyer. Last week we created a Maggie Tunic project from fabric that was printed with flowers, and this week we highlight another project in The Modern Natural Dyer: the Iron Age Tank and Gilded Cardigan.

Kristine chose to over dye the Crop Cardigan and V-neck Tank, two of our machine-sewn garments made with organic cotton jersey. We offer a variety of machine-sewn tops in Natural and encourage you to choose what style suits you best when trying this project. You can find instructions on page 121 of The Modern Natural Dyer and will need to prepare a wheat bran bath, yellow dye for cellulose-based fibers (that’s cotton), and an iron bath. Novice home-dyers—don’t worry—Kristine explains each of these steps and the chemistry behind them in detail throughout her book.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: AN IRON BATH + CROP CARDIGAN

Kristine also wrote a blog post about the project, showing a beautiful (and colorful) range of natural dyes applied to organic cotton jersey. She experiments with the range and takes the process a few steps further: dipping in an iron bath (iron gives these colors a green hue), then pinching and twisting to create pattern and texture. She provides a list of tips and tricks at the end. Hands down, our favorite is, “Invite imperfection”.

Look for more next Thursday and follow along on Instagram: @theschoolofmaking and @avfkw
#theschoolofmaking
#themodernnaturaldyerworkalong
#alabamachaninapril

First photo by Sara Remington, second photo by Kristine Vejar.

DIY ALABAMA SWEATER

The fourth month of 2016 launches the second quarter of our Build a Wardrobe program and, with it, the Alabama Sweater garment pattern. Available for individual purchase for $18 – $24, depending on format. The PDF download includes the nested pattern in sizes ranging from XS to XXL and comes with tips on fabric selection, cutting, and garment construction. Like all of our PDF patterns, it is designed for printing on wide-format or desktop printers, in both full-scale and tiled versions. (You can find instructions for printing our garment patterns here.)

The Build a Wardrobe project is a set of four brand new DIY patterns, launched quarterly, which you can use to create a new, hand-sewn wardrobe. The project is intended to help you refresh, remake, or completely rebuild your wardrobe—using as few or as many of our techniques as best fit your personal style. As with our Swatch of the Month program, participants subscribe to a year’s worth of content they will create using our Alabama Studio Book Series. Subscribers receive quarterly packages with the new pattern, instructions, and fabric and notions in the colors of their choosing. You can sign up at any time.

ALABAMA CHANIN - DIY ALABAMA SWEATER - 2Additionally, subscribers have the exclusive opportunity to order custom DIY kits of each Build a Wardrobe pattern at a discounted rate. For example: this month, all subscribers will receive a printed and PDF Alabama Sweater pattern, fabric yardage in their color(s) of choice, and enough thread to complete the project. They also have the option to custom order DIY Alabama Sweater kits for an additional, discounted cost. This offer is exclusive to Build a Wardrobe participants.

The first quarter of Build a Wardrobe focused on the DIY Maggie Dress and its many variations. This second garment pattern, the Alabama Sweater, provides another essential component of most wardrobes: the versatile, flattering shirt. We will share our one-of-a-kind interpretations of the sweater in the coming months.

Share and follow along on social media using the hashtags #buildawardrobe2016 and #theschoolofmaking.

INSTAGRAM: @THESCHOOLOFMAKING

Our maker community has grown substantially in the past few years thanks to an increased interest in slow fashion and a do-it-yourself attitude. We’ve seen engagement, respect, collaboration, and beautifully-made contributions from many of you in The School of Making, which includes both a design and manufacturing service that facilitates production for other, smaller designers and also materials and patterns for home sewers who want to create sustainably.

We are excited to announce a new Instagram account dedicated to the educational arm of our company: @theschoolofmaking.

Follow along to keep up with our latest DIY projects, workshops, and an inside look at what’s going on in our studio and Building 14 production facility. And be sure to use #theschoolofmaking when you share your own projects so that we can continue encouraging one another to keep learning and creating.

Thank you to the makers who allowed us to share their photos. Photos courtesy of @annethrallnash, @bethbillups, @christine.chitnis, @designthirtyone@eaclaes, @iambestitched, @lisa.gerber, @melaniebuffett, @nellknits, @smmczyk, @sock_walker, @vicki.knitorious, @wanderingmuse.

 #theschoolofmaking

CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

With a number of things brides could worry about on their wedding day, feeling comfortable and beautiful shouldn’t be one of them. Our organic cotton jersey allows that comfort and ease on your wedding day, while still looking elegant.

We have a wide range of dresses, skirts, tops, and accessories available through Custom DIY and our Studio Book Series that would allow any bride to create their own bridal attire, fully customized to their specifications. Each DIY kit comes cut and ready-to-sew with all of the fabric and notions needed. Or if you prefer do it yourself start-to-finish, we have an extensive selection of fabrics, notions, patterns, and books available through The School of Making.

Below, we’ve chosen some of our favorite looks from past bridal collections that could be recreated using our Custom DIY form or one of our patterns—see the design choices below each look for details on how to recreate the pieces. Or, use the images as inspiration to create your own look, the possibilities are endless with Custom DIY and the patterns and instructions available in our Studio Book Series.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

Garment – Fitted Dress
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – White #1
Embroidery floss – White
Textile paint color – Putty
Stencil – Angie’s Fall
Beads – Bugle beads
Bead color – White
Technique – Special Angie’s Fall – beading and relief appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

Garment – Long Skirt
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – White #1
Textile paint color – Putty
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Fold-over elastic – White
Binding stitch – Zig Zag stitch

Garment – Bolero with Long Fluted Sleeve
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – White #1
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

Garment – Long Tank Dress
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – White #1
Textile paint color – Putty
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

Garment – Sleeveless Bolero
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – White #1
Embroidery floss – White
Textile paint color – Putty
Stencil – Spiral
Technique – Alabama Fur
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

Garment – Sleeveless Bolero
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Sand
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Fabric color for appliqué layer – White
Button Craft thread – White #1 + Dogwood #155
Embroidery floss – White
Textile paint color – Pearl Silver
Stencil – Angie’s Fall
Beads – Bugle beads
Bead color – White
Technique – Eyelet + Angie
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Herringbone stitch

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

Garment – Maggie Top
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Button Craft thread – White #1
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

Garment – Long Skirt
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – White #1
Textile paint color – Pearl Silver
Stencil – Facets
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Fold-over elastic – White
Binding stitch – Zig Zag stitch

MAGGIE PATTERN: DESIGN CHOICES

We’ve received questions from many of you about our design choices for the Maggie Dress images pictured above. We share them for inspiration—and to make your fabric, stencil, and thread choices a little easier. From top left to right:

1. Garment – Maggie Dress (no center front or center back seam)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Doeskin
Fabric color for inner layer – Doeskin
Button Craft thread – Dogwood #155
Textile paint color – White
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

2. Garment – Maggie Dress (no center front or center back seam)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Forest
Fabric color for inner layer – Black
Button Craft thread – Black #2
Textile paint color – Pearl Brownie
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

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

4. Garment – Maggie Top (no center front or center back seam)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Black
Fabric color for inner layer – Black
Appliqué Fabric color– Forest
Button Craft thread – Black #2
Textile paint color – Pearl Brownie
Stencil – Chicken Scratch (Our Check stencil is a similar alternative.)
Technique – Appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

5. Garment – Maggie Dress (no center front or center back seam)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Forest
Fabric color for inner layer – Forest
Button Craft thread – Black #2 (Green is not available.)
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

6. Garment – Maggie Dress (no center front or center back seam)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – White #1
Textile paint color – Putty
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

7. Garment – Maggie Top (no center front or center back seam)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color – Midnight (single layer)
Binding color – White
Button Craft thread – White #1 for Rib and Slate #26 for Seams
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

8. Garment – Maggie Top (no center front or center back seam)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Light Blush
Fabric color for inner layer – Light Blush
Appliqué Fabric color– White
Button Craft thread – White #1 for Rib and Dogwood #155 for seams
Textile paint color – White
Stencil – Abbie’s Flower
Technique – Appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

Happy sewing from all of us @ Alabama Chanin.

#buildawardrobe2106
#theschoolofmaking

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

QUILT LOCAL: DAYTON NO. 2

Alabama Chanin as a business was founded on the idea of a quilting stitch. And although it took me months to realize that I was actually quilting as I pieced together those first cut up t-shirts, the knowledge of those quilting stitches came from my most elemental childhood experiences. Growing up in the south, at the time of my upbringing, quilts were simply a part of everyday life. While quilting has become an integral part of my life, I’ve never become a quilter.

Even so, I have a deep love for the modern day quilts of my friends and colleagues. We’ve written about, and shared, many different kinds of quilts in our own canon: There are the Textile Story quilts that are beloved Alabama Chanin pieces, and there are the other traditional-style quilts (Flag Quilt, Indigo Star) we’ve made modern by substituting cotton jersey for the plain-weave quilting cotton.

All this to say that I don’t tend to collect quilting books, I’ve never joined a quilt along, and although I LONG for a Long Arm Quilting machine, stitching two-layers of cotton jersey together by hand is as far as I’ve gotten. This may all change because of Heather Jones’ new book Quilt Local. One-part inspiration, one-part quilting instruction, the beautiful quilts make me rethink my quilting stance. Denyse Schmidt writes in the foreword:

“I know how deceptively difficult is is to produce work that is restrained. When I began making quilts, the medium had an ingrained habit of ‘more is more.’ It can be easy to impress with virtuoso sewing skills, use of abundant, and vibrant color, and complicated visual tricks. Plenty of prints and patchwork can distract our attention, but it is much more skillful—and brave—to find the purest expression of form, to let the poetry of composition and color have the say, to not overcomplicate or muddle the message with needless flourishes. The results, as seen in Heather’s quilts, are breathtaking in their stark beauty, and they can engage our interest for a lifetime.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – QUILT LOCAL: DAYTON NO. 2

My design sense is thoroughly inspired by Heather’s plan. I can imagine a hundred color combinations and a quilt for every room, every friend, every day. I’m in love with Dayton No. 2 as shown above in a single layer of our medium-weight organic cotton jersey. And although one could go ahead and add a backing layer and quilting (by hand or machine), I’m going to use mine as a throw for spring nights on my new outdoor couch.

There is so much to love about this book. From the short lesson on color theory to the modern designs, there is a lifetime of inspiration.

Thank you, Heather. You’ve converted me.
xoNatalie

SUPPLIES

Quilt Local by Heather Jones
3.5 yards 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey for background
3/4 yard 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey for band
1/4 yard 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey for cross
Button Craft thread
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, pinsneedles, ruler, rotary cutter
Alabama Stitch BookAlabama Studio StyleAlabama Studio Sewing + Design, or Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns: All four of these books contain the basic sewing techniques we used to make our version of this quilt.

INSTRUCTIONS

We followed Heather’s instructions for the Quilt Top on pages 82-83 of Quilt Local and substituted the woven cotton of the project for our cotton jersey. We constructed with our seams outside (on the face of the project) and floating (not felling) and left our edges raw. When using cotton jersey, remember to wrap stitch the beginning and end of each seam.

VARIATIONS

  1. For an embellished version of the throw, cut double layers of medium-weight cotton jersey and stencil the outer-layer. Before construction, add any embroidery, appliqué, and/or beading to the individual cut pieces following instructions from our Alabama Studio Book Series. After completing your desired embellishments, construct as described above. A blanket stitch around outer layer is optional.
  2. For a heavier-weight throw, cut double layers of medium-weight cotton jersey and pin together before construction. Finish this double-layer throw with a blanket stitch all the way around the outside edge.
  3. Back your finished throw with a single layer of medium-weight cotton jersey and quilt the two layers together using the quilting stitch pattern of your choice.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Background fabric color – Parchment
Band fabric color – Natural
Cross fabric color – Indigo
Treatment – Basic
Button Craft Thread – Dogwood #155 and Cream #256
Knots – Inside
Seam placement – Outside floating

And a few of my other favorite designs:

ALABAMA CHANIN – QUILT LOCAL: DAYTON NO. 2

ALABAMA CHANIN – QUILT LOCAL: DAYTON NO. 2

Heather has several great classes on Creativebug.com—from color explorations to quilting blocks, there’s lots to be inspired. Find all of her classes here.

BUILD A WARDROBE: SINGLE- OR DOUBLE-LAYERED

When joining our Build a Wardrobe program, participants make design choices for each of the four garments they create. When planning a design for any garment, the first decision you make is whether the garment will be made with a single- or double-layer of our organic cotton jersey. Some embroidery or embellishment choices will make this decision for you; for instance, most all-over reverse appliqué designs require two layers of fabric, by definition. But, if you opt to make basic versions or lightly-embellished garments, you can create two garments from the same yardage that would be needed to make one double-layered garment. The single- or double-layer decision should be made before cutting your fabric, to allow for the most economical use of your yardage with the least waste.

Single-layer garments are lighter in weight, and we often make these for warmer seasons. Double-layer garments add warmth without adding bulk and offer more support, especially at the bust. Personal preference on fit will come into play when you make this decision; some prefer lighter or more flowing garments, while others like the feeling of being held closely by their clothes. (Some women use double-layer pieces as comfortable versions of body slimmers or shapers, and many of our tighter tops can be worn without the support of an undergarment.) Either way, the more you wear your garment, the more it will take on the shape of your body.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE: SINGLE- OR DOUBLE-LAYERED

As we mentioned, some techniques lend themselves more to double layering, whereas others allow flexibility in design. For instance, appliqué and beading can be worked on either single- or double-layer garments. But if you choose to embellish your design with heavy beading, we recommend a double-layer garment to provide support. (A heavy beading technique would be more likely to put strain and pull down on a single layer of fabric, causing it to sag or lay improperly on your body.)

If you need inspiration or want to explore multiple design options, look back on some of our pieces from Swatch of the Month; we also demonstrate most of our techniques in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. If you are looking for ways to potentially customize your Build a Wardrobe piece, refer to Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns for ideas and instructions.

Whether you are participating in Build a Wardrobe or forging you own way with your wardrobe, you can follow along on our Journal or on social media with the hashtags: #theschoolofmaking  #buildawardrobe2018

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, and we’ve named her design “Circus”. (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.

INSPIRATION: MAGGIE TUNIC

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

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

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

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

Join our 2016 Build a Wardrobe program here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: MAGGIE TUNIC

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

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

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

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

DIY MAGGIE DRESS

Today, we launch our Maggie Dress garment pattern—available in PDF format through our website. Part of our Build a Wardrobe programming and available for individual purchase at $18, the PDF download includes the nested pattern and comes in sizes XS to XXL along with instructions for fabric selection, cutting, and garment construction. Our PDF patterns (more styles coming each quarter in 2016) are designed for printing on wide-format printers or desktop printers, as both full-scale and tiled versions are included in the download.

The Build a Wardrobe project is comprised of four new DIY Garments that will be used as the basis for creating a hand-sewn wardrobe over the course of the coming year. Launching with our beloved Maggie Dress pattern, makers can work together to create wardrobe staples or follow along globally on social media with the hashtags #buildawardrobe2016 and #theschoolofmaking.

As we move through 2016, we will combine techniques, colorways, and stencils from our two previous Swatch of the Month bundles with our Build a Wardrobe garments. Look for embellished variations of the Maggie Dress in the coming months.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY MAGGIE DRESS

The format of Build a Wardrobe is similar to that of Swatch of the Month. Participants will subscribe for a year’s worth of content that will be executed with guidelines presented in our Alabama Studio Book Series and specifically Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. Each quarter, subscribers will receive an exclusive new printed pattern, instructions, and enough fabric to make basic garments in the colors of your choice (thread, notions, and digital pattern versions also included).

In addition, each quarter, subscribers will also have exclusive access to order custom DIY kits for that pattern at a discounted rate. For example, when we launch the Maggie Dress pattern, subscribers receive the printed Maggie Dress pattern, the Maggie Dress PDF pattern, a bundle of fabric yardage in the color(s) of their choice, a 15mm snap, and thread to complete the garment in an unembellished version. Subscribers also have the option to order custom DIY Maggie Dress kits for an additional cost—an exclusive offer that is available through 2016. These custom DIY kits are only available to Build a Wardrobe subscribers.

ALABAMA CALABAMA CHANIN – DIY MAGGIE DRESS

Each of our Studio Books provides a variety of stencil artwork—which means you have permission to reproduce them for home use and on your projects. We now offer these stencil designs—along with many of our all-time favorites—for purchase as downloadable PDFs in our newly formatted stencil design format which includes: a tiled version to print on letter- or A4-sized paper that you can piece together more easily at home, a full-scale PDF file that you can email or take to the local copy shop to print full-scale on a wide format printer, instructions for creating a stencil, and stencil transfer instructions. Find more information on how to print a garment or textile pattern here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY MAGGIE DRESS

P.S.: We ask that you respect our policies and use our patterns for personal projects, as they are designed for individual use and not intended for commercial ventures or reproducing and distributing.

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

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

New Years’ Eve is a big (if quiet) night for me. It’s been a long time since I was that girl that danced until sunrise. These days I’m much more into getting up at sunrise, writing, scheming, drinking coffee, and, on some days, simply cleaning house. That being said, I’ve very often had big changes happen in my life around the turn of the year—is it that way for everyone? One year I moved to Europe. Another, I moved back to the U.S. In 1981, I went into labor (although Zach stubbornly wasn’t born until days later). Like I said, big nights and life-changing events.

I took advantage of this past New Year’s Eve simply for that quiet time to reflect and plan. 2015 was a BIG year and, while 2016 is moving towards being another BIG year, I’m also planning to, well, plan less. Not that I want to DO less but that I want to do more of what I love to do in between the other things that I want to do.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

I work less but work more efficiently.
I make time to write and exercise and take pictures.
I cook more dinners at home from the great cookbooks that I love so much.
I spend more time walking dogs and jumping on our (new) trampoline.

That’s it.
xoNatalie

It’s a good thing that we’ve got such a great team at Alabama Chanin because this is what we have going on in the coming year:

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

January
The new year kicks off with our Build a Wardrobe program and the launch of the Maggie Dress pattern. Remember to share all your projects across social media using #theschoolofmaking and #buildawardrobe2016. (You can purchase Build a Wardrobe at any time throughout the year.)

The Factory has updated hours for 2016. We’re open Monday – Friday from 10am – 5pm and Saturdays from 10am – 3pm. Find what’s on the daily menu here and directions here.

In addition to new hours, we’re also moving our Sip + Sew to select Saturdays (January 30th, April 30th, July 30th, and October 29th) throughout the year. On January 30th, bring your sewing projects, have a glass of wine (or two), and work with friends.

The Alabama Chanin pop-up shop at Citizen Supply in Ponce City Market runs through January 31st. If you’re in the Atlanta area, pay us a visit and shop our exclusive collection, garments, accessories, and home goods.

On January 29th, Natalie travels to Athens, Georgia, home of the University of Georgia (and the studios of Rinne Allen, Rebecca Wood, and Susan Hable), for a lecture on “Design, Making, and Meaning”. The lecture will be held at 5pm and is open to the public.

February
Look for the launch of Collection #30 (if all goes as planned) with fresh styles and additions to our Home collection.

We are partnering with the University of North Alabama to launch a film screening at The Factory. Our first screening will be February 25th and will focus on Southern Foodways Alliance films made by documentary filmmaker Joe York.

March
In early March, we will have new A. Chanin styles to add to the list of our favorite staples. Also look for a new Bridal collection as wedding season approaches.

Our first 2016 Friends of the Café Dinner is Thursday, March 24th with acclaimed chefs Frank Stitt and Rodney Scott. The evening includes cocktails, four courses, and wine pairings. Frank and Rodney will prepare a one-of-a-kind collaborative menu, curated especially for the event.

The following day, March 25th, we host a Two-Hour Workshop at The Factory. Work with Natalie and our team to learn the basics of sewing and start on your own project.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

April
April is the month for our next Sip + Sew Saturday on April 30th. We will also introduce new DIY kits, plus our second garment for Build a Wardrobe: the Alabama Sweater Top.

The month closes with participation in Southern Makers in Montgomery, Alabama. Details to come.

May
Our first Studio Weekend Workshop takes place at The Factory from May 13 – 15. You’ll spend the weekend working with Natalie and our team on the project of your choice.

The Factory Café team is organizing our first-ever Spring Harvest Dinner on Saturday, May 21st. This dinner benefits our partnership with the non-profit organization Nest. Chef Zach Chanin is already planning the four-course meal with organic and locally-raised ingredients and wine pairings.

June
June will bring new products and projects for our A. Chanin machine-sewn line and our DIY collection.

Our annual Classic Studio Week Workshop at The Factory, scheduled for June 6 – June 10, is already filling up. Spend the week immersed in the Alabama Chanin philosophies and learn the garment creation process from our team.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

July
We’ve planned to launch additions to Cook + Dine, plus a few surprises throughout the month. Take a break and enjoy your summer vacation. Natalie and Maggie embark on their own European vacation for a few weeks.

The Walking Cape, the next in our Build a Wardrobe projects, releases at the beginning of July—in time to get it finished for cooler weather.

August
Natalie wraps up her travels in France, where she is teaching a week-long workshop at Chateau Dumas from August 6 – August 13. (We had an overwhelming response, and this workshop is already sold out.) Look for more on-the-road workshops coming soon.

Another Collection (#31) will be on the horizon soon.

Chef Adam Evans will helm our annual Shindig Kick-off Dinner at The Factory. The date for this event has not yet been announced, but we will let you know as soon as details are finalized (normally the second or third weekend in August).

September
As everyone returns to their regularly scheduled, post-summer programming, we will be gearing up for the holidays with more A. Chanin styles and a new DIY collection.

Natalie’s design fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts wraps up in September. Throughout the year on the Journal, she will be sharing insight and inspiration from talented creatives across many industries.

Be sure to join our mailing list to receive daily Journal updates.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

October
On Saturday, the 8th of October, we will host our final Friends of the Café Dinner with chef Sean Brock.

October also begins the final quarter for Build a Wardrobe, with our Full Wrap Skirt as the project.

From now until the end of the year, we will be working on holiday projects, parties, promotions, and events, and already have great things in store.

November
A Fall Harvest Dinner (as follow-up to our Spring Harvest Dinner) is slated for November of 2016. Stay tuned for more information coming this spring.

The Factory will host a Studio Weekend Workshop (our final workshop of 2016) from November 11 – 13.

December
All-things Holiday…and before we know it, it’s 2017.

THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Looking back on 2015, it’s clear that this was the year of collaboration for Alabama Chanin. We expanded upon work that we have been creating with others for many years, added major new initiatives with new partners, and built upon our partnerships across all parts of our business. Partnership has always meant growth for Alabama Chanin—physical, fiscal, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional. As always, we want to thank each of you who made 2015 one of profound development—with more to come.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We introduced our Collection #29 that features brand new garment styles and stencils. Our design team drew inspiration from vintage books, patterns, and textiles to create unique silhouettes and colorways. The collection saw an extension of our hand painting technique—which we experimented with as part of our indigo dyeing processes. It also allowed us to introduce new techniques—like our triple-layered technique, new styles—like the versatile Half Skirt, and a new organic textile—French Terry.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEWALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We also updated and expanded on our line of Wardrobe Essentials, which includes a selection of both hand- and machine-sewn items that can be mixed and matched in a number of colors and classic silhouettes to fit your personal style and lifestyle. Use these as the basis for building your own sustainable wardrobe that will last you for many years.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEWALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

In July, Natalie and Maggie took a cross-country train trip on the California Zephyr to San Francisco as they traveled to the Alabama on Alabama exhibit hosted by Heath Ceramics at their Boiler Room venue. The month-long exhibit featured work from Alabama Chanin, Butch Anthony, John Henry Toney, and Rinne Allen. It also featured one of many pop-up shops that traveled across this country this year, including stops in Austin, New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Natalie was honored with an artist fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts that is allowing her to explore the source of creativity—and how each person’s approach may impact the final outcome. She has spoken to a wide range of artists on their creative processes, including Rinne Allen, Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics, Rosanne Cash, and Chef Anne Quatrano—with more to come in this series.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEWALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

The Factory Café has been working hard to grow its offerings with a diverse menu and a new beer and wine license. The café continues to bring the community inside Alabama Chanin to share meals or to make things at our Sip + Sew (with a new scheduling to come in 2016) and First + Third Tuesday sewing and socializing gatherings. We continued our popular Friends of the Café Dinner Series, which brought in Lisa Donovan and Angie Mosier to collaborate on a brunch to benefit Jones Valley Teaching Farm, Rob McDaniel of Springhouse Restaurant as part of a Piggy Bank fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance, and Anne Quatrano as part of the Oxford American/Southern Makers dinner. This series brings nourishment to us in so many ways—sharing meals with old friends and new, and raising money for worthy causes. Look for more events in the coming year with incredible talents like Rodney Scott, Frank Stitt, Sean Brock, and more.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEWALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Regionally, we have partnered with Little River Sock Mill to make our custom line of Alabama Chanin socks and DPM Fragrance in Mississippi for our Alabama Chanin Grapefruit + Watercress candles. On a larger scale, we were also able to expand our longest collaboration—with Heath Ceramics—with our Indigo and Bird’s Nest patterns. They allowed us to take our experimentations in our indigo dye house and translate those into our expanding collection. The line includes new designs in many variations of the color indigo and introduced our newest Bird’s Nest etched pattern.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We had a unique opportunity to work with legend (and heroine) Stella Ishii and her company 6397, turning overstock from their production processes into one-of-a-kind throws, unlike anything we have ever made before. Also, Alabama Chanin was honored to continue working with Patagonia on the Truth To Materials project, reclaiming discarded Patagonia jackets into warm patchwork scarves. The Patagonia Worn Wear Repair Truck made a stop at Alabama Chanin back in September to repair well-worn and well-loved garments for free.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Perhaps our most ambitious and wide-spanning collaboration has been with Nest, a non-profit that works with artisans across the world to build sustainable businesses with a positive social impact. Our partnership with Nest, formed under Alabama Chanin’s educational arm, The School of Making, hopes to reverse the trend of outsourced manufacturing that has impacted our region for decades. With Nest’s partnership, we are expanding our Building 14 machine-manufacturing division and implementing training and education at The Factory. As we move forward, we want to create new opportunities for those in our community to learn new techniques and update their skill sets—so that we may once again be a strong force in America’s textile industry.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

This year, we launched Alabama Studio Sewing + Patterns, which allows us to offer more new patterns than ever to home sewers. It provides instructions and suggestions on how to customize Alabama Chanin garments to fit your personal style or fit needs. We developed new and improved ways of delivering patterns to our DIY customers and have begun offering patterns never before sold to the public, like our Unisex T-Shirt and Natalie’s Apron.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

All of this brings us back to our growing and evolving partnership through The School of Making with makers in the global community. As we have grown the educational arm of our business, we have seized as many opportunities as possible to broaden the circle of participants in the making process. This year, that includes the introduction of Host a Party. Anyone who wants to gather 6 or more friends can organize their own Alabama Chanin-style sewing party. Guests get a 20% discount off of their DIY kit and the host receives a kit for free, in exchange for providing sewing instructions and hospitality.

As we move into the New Year, join us for our upcoming Build a Wardrobe series, which will build upon the format we established with Swatch of the Month—but will help you customize one (or more) garments in each quarter of 2016. We also have a full slate of workshops planned, including one at Chateau Dumas in France, as well as new products for Cook + Dine and A. Chanin. New collaborations are in the works, and the possibility of working on a new book is on the calendar in the coming months.

Keep up with us throughout the year by following the Journal and signing up for our mailing list and monthly Newsletter—and here’s to a prosperous New Year for all.

Thank you for following along with us,

Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

P.S. – The grids shown above are a gallery of all of the promotional postcards our team made for The Factory and various events and programs over the course of the year. We’re proud of the beautiful year we’ve had and are excited about what the new year holds.

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

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.)

ALABAMA CHANIN – WREATH TOGETHER

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.

ALABAMA CHANIN – WREATH TOGETHER

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).

ALABAMA CHANIN – WREATH TOGETHER

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

BUILD A WARDROBE (JOIN THE CLUB)

Over the past two years, The School of Making has evolved into a community of creators who experiment together with a diverse range of sewing, stitching, and embroidery techniques, design concepts, dyeing methods, and a widening array of practical skills. Through our Swatch of the Month and our Host a Party programs, we’ve watched our community of makers grow in leaps-and-bounds. This year we expand our hand-sewing programming with Build a Wardrobe—moving from the fabric embellishment and embroidery techniques we developed through Swatch of the Month into garment fit and construction. Designed for use with our Alabama Studio Book Series, we’ll be featuring variations of new garment patterns throughout the year on our Journal. As we move through 2016, we will combine techniques, colorways, and stencils from our two previous Swatch of the Month bundles with our Build a Wardrobe garments.

Build a Wardrobe is comprised of four new DIY Garments that will be used as the basis for creating a hand-sewn wardrobe. Launching with our beloved Maggie Dress pattern in January, makers can work together to create wardrobe staples or follow along globally on social media with the hashtags #buildawardrobe2016 and #theschoolofmaking.

The format of Build a Wardrobe is similar to that of Swatch of the Month. Participants will subscribe for a year’s worth of content that will be executed with guidelines presented in our Alabama Studio Book Series and specifically Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. Each quarter, subscribers will receive an exclusive new printed pattern, instructions, and enough fabric to make basic garments in the colors of your choice (thread, notions, and digital pattern versions also included).

In addition, each quarter, subscribers will also have exclusive access to order custom DIY kits for that pattern at a discounted rate. For example, when we launch the Maggie Dress pattern, you will receive your bundle of fabric yardage, thread, and pattern that you will use to customize your garment. You will also have the option to order custom DIY Maggie Dress kits for an additional cost—an offer you can take advantage of at any time in the year. These custom DIY kits are only available to Build a Wardrobe subscribers.

When you order Build a Wardrobe you will receive:

  • Digital inspiration and information packet of garment and treatment ideas for your wardrobe
  • Digital link to a form where you will choose your fabric and thread colors for the year
  • Discount coupon for 25% off stenciling supplies (for those who want to stencil their garments)
  • Subscription to an exclusive monthly Build a Wardrobe newsletter

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016 (JOIN THE CLUB)

In January—the first quarter—you will receive:

  • Maggie Dress Pattern in both printed and digital format. This pattern provides 3 length variations (top, tunic, and dress) and all necessary instructions
  • 6 yards of 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in two colors (3 yards each color)—enough to complete one double-layer 45” dress or two single-layer 45” dresses or any variation of your choice
  • 2 spools of thread in the color of your choice
  • 1 15mm snap
  • Exclusive digital link to a Custom DIY form that gives you the option to purchase DIY Kits for the Maggie Dress—cut and stenciled to your specifications

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016 (JOIN THE CLUB)

In April—the second quarter—you will receive:

  • Alabama Sweater Top Pattern in both printed and digital format. This pattern provides 3 length variations for the garment body (crop top, top, and tunic) with 4 variations for sleeve lengths and all necessary instructions.
  • 2 yards of our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in one color—enough to complete a single-layer 31” tunic with long sleeves (or any variation of your choice)
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • Exclusive digital link to a Custom DIY form that gives you the option to purchase DIY Kits for the Maggie Dress and the Alabama Sweater Top—cut and stenciled to your specifications

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016 (JOIN THE CLUB)

In July—the third quarter—you will receive:

  • Walking Cape Pattern in both printed and digital format. This pattern provides 3 pocket variations (Walking Cape pocket, patch, and 5-side).
  • 4 yards of our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in two colors (2 yards of each color) for completing a double-layer walking cape
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • 1 32mm snap
  • Exclusive digital link to a Custom DIY form that gives you the option to purchase DIY Kits for the Maggie Dress, the Alabama Sweater Top, and the Walking Cape—cut and stenciled to your specifications

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016 (JOIN THE CLUB)

In October—the fourth quarter—you will receive:

  • Full Wrap Skirt Pattern in both printed and digital format. This pattern provides 3 variations (Full Wrap Skirt, Half-Skirt, and Pull-on Skirt) in three different lengths: 21”, 24” and 26”, with all necessary instructions.
  • 4 yards of 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in two colors (2 yards each color)—enough to complete one double-layer 26” Full Wrap Skirt or two single-layer 26” Full Wrap Skirts or any variation of your choice
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • Exclusive digital link to a Custom DIY form giving you the option to purchase DIY Kits for all of the 2016 Build a Wardrobe patterns—cut and stenciled to your specifications

Just as with our Swatch of the Month subscription, anyone can join at any point in the year. By purchasing the materials through Build a Wardrobe, you will automatically receive approximately a 25% discount off the total retail value of the materials, plus the printed pattern, special inspiration packet, and notions to complete your garments. Free domestic ground shipping. International orders may incur extra shipping fees.

Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns can be used as a guide for altering patterns and perfecting individual fit. The rest of our Studio Book Series provides excellent resources for embellishing these four basic garments to create one-of-a-kind wardrobe essentials.

As with most of our patterns, each of these new styles are created with multiple length variations—allowing each person to choose the length that fits their personal figure best.

All patterns in our Build a Wardrobe program will also be available for individual purchase in digital format from our website for $18 per pattern, each quarter as the new patterns are released. The Maggie Dress Pattern will be available beginning in January. Note that all garment patterns are intended for use in combination with our Alabama Studio Book Series.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016 (JOIN THE CLUB)

If you make a basic of each variation of every pattern offered through Build a Wardrobe, you can end the year with 30 hand-sewn garments—a sturdy foundation to your own handmade wardrobe. Pattern possibilities, by the numbers:

  • Maggie Dress – 3 garments (top, tunic, and dress)
  • Alabama Sweater – 15 garments (3 length variations X 5 sleeve options)
  • Walking Cape – 3 garments (one with each pocket variation)
  • Full Wrap Skirt – 9 garments (3 pattern variations X 3 length variations)

Whether you need wardrobe-building basics or a new statement piece, Build a Wardrobe offers endless possibilities for customization—allowing you to develop your own personal (and sustainable) style.

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

View our current Build a Wardrobe collection here.

DECEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DECEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

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

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

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

LAUNCHING THE DIY BABY BUNDLE

We have updated our School of Making section with an all-new pattern called the “Baby Bundle”—a multi-item downloadable package that includes patterns for a Baby Blanket, Baby Bucket Hat, Baby Bib, and Stuffed Bunny Rabbit. This set of items would be a wonderful holiday gift for new or expecting parents, and the patterns are useful to keep on hand for future baby shower gifts. Plus, each of these items works up more quickly than our more elaborate kits or garments. Choose to make one item—or all of them. Our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey fabric is sturdy enough to last through many wash cycles and soft enough for a baby’s smooth skin.

When you purchase your pattern bundle, you will receive instructions on completing each item—but we have previously featured the Baby Bib and Stuffed Bunny on the Journal.

As with all of our downloads, these new patterns are designed for printing either at home or on a wide-format printer at your local print shop. (Find information on how to print downloaded stencils and patterns here.)

LAUNCHING THE DIY BABY BUNDLE - ALABAMA CHANIN

NOVEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SCHOOL OF MAKING LAUNCHES HOST A PARTY

If there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that there is joy and power in making in a group setting. We’ve witnessed this in a multitude of workshops, Makeshift events, and also in our informal First and Third Mondays and Thursday night Sip + Sew events here at The Factory. Many of us have outside sewing circles or knitting groups we belong to, and it’s the opportunity for growing conversations that make those experiences most meaningful.

One of our educational goals at Alabama Chanin has always been to increase opportunities for these conversations to flourish.

So, with that in mind we introduce our new Host a Party programming through The School of Making.

Organize a group of 6 or more friends, colleagues, or acquaintances and provide a location and refreshments. You and your group will choose one garment style—with difficulty levels ranging from beginner to advanced. You will all be working on the same garment style, but each group member can choose their own size, fabric color, and stencil design.

As host, you will receive your kit for free, in exchange for providing sewing instructions and hospitality. Each of your guests will receive the selected kit at 20% off the original price.

Meet once a week, once a month, or as often as you and your group would like, provide good light, beverages, good conversation, and start sewing. You will be the leader and teacher to the Alabama Chanin sewing techniques. Our Studio Style book series can be your guide, and we’ll provide some handouts on basic techniques that will help you along the way.

Provide tools, needles, scissors, or show your sewing group which tools you love the most.

Some tips we’ve found for the best sewing parties:

Consider seating carefully. If you have a large table that can accommodate your entire party, this is the ideal setup. You can also set up smaller groups or tables around a single room—but you should ideally have a surface to spread out your sewing pieces and hold your sewing tools and notions. And, of course the best conversations are had around one big table.

Good lighting makes all the difference in the world.

If you plan to spend an entire afternoon or evening stitching together, keep snacks on hand—but not messy ones. Think grapes or cheese and crackers rather than chips and salsa…

Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes, take everything apart, and start again. No one is grading your efforts and one imperfection won’t ruin your garment.

Host a sewing party by contacting us here: workshops@alabamachanin.com

And learn more on how Host a Party works, including kit options, here.

 

OCTOBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

Continue reading

ANNA MARIA HORNER KNITS (PART 2)

Last September, as we were preparing for a workshop at Anna Maria Horner’s venture, Craft South, we got our first look at her new line of knit jersey fabrics—Anna Maria Knits. We have since experimented and played with several of these patterned knits using our techniques and are loving the results. Shown here is our Swing Skirt from Alabama Stitch Book appliquéd with our Large Polka Dot Stencil, using her Tangle Knit print in Rust.

It reminds me of a harvest moon.

SUPPLIES

2 yards cotton jersey fabric for skirt
1 yard cotton interlock for appliqué
1 yard fold-over elastic ribbon
Button Craft thread
Basic sewing supplies: needles, pins, embroidery scissors
Alabama Stitch Book for Swing Skirt pattern and instructions

Continue reading

WORN WEAR TRUCK IN THE HOUSE

Patagonia’s Worn Wear truck and team arrived in Alabama and to The Factory yesterday morning. They’ve set up in the parking lot and brought fabrics and machines to repair your existing gear. As a bonus, they’ve also brought a slew of jackets that they’re giving away so we can learn to make our own repairs.

WORN WEAR IN THE HOUSE (13)

I scored this black down jacket which is shown below before repairs and after.

WORN WEAR IN THE HOUSE (3)WORN WEAR IN THE HOUSE (1)

Of course, we added some Alabama Chanin touches. Lucky bonus: I found this tidily rolled dollar bill in the right pocket of my jacket.

WORN WEAR IN THE HOUSE (4)The Worn Wear team will be at The Factory today from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm (get there early to get your jacket). Zach and our team are cooking up tacos and more to celebrate.

Grab a jacket, a taco and a beer, and join come us…
xoNatalie

#THESCHOOLOFMAKING

We are constantly inspired and impressed by our DIY community and what you make and share. We loved sharing your projects as a part of #MeMadeMay and wanted to highlight more of our recent #theschoolofmaking favorites from Instagram.

With the weather (finally) cooling, now is the perfect time to settle in and sew something new. So, choose a pattern, alter it (if needed) with help from Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, cut, stencil, and sew along with our entire DIY community on Instagram. Or, if you’d rather get straight to sewing, choose from one of our DIY kits (or get really creative and design your own).

Photos courtesy of @vicki.knitorious, @tantesophie, @jessica_k_mf, @sojbird, @oldsaltstudios, @lotsaland, and @displaylady.

P.S. Follow us on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

P.P.S. Use our hashtag #theschoolofmaking to share your latest Studio Style DIY project.

SEPTEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

Here are a few things going on this month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – SEPTEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

AUGUST + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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JULY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MERCHANT & MILLS: THE FACTORY DRESS PATTERN

In January, we added to our ongoing Makeshift series, adapting available garment patterns using Alabama Chanin techniques with a Merchant & Mills pattern for the Shirt Dress. This month, we’ve created another Merchant & Mills garment in our own style—an Alabama Chanin version of the Factory Dress (love the name). This piece is shown here without embellishment to highlight the simple design, but you can choose to utilize any of the techniques from our previous posts or our Swatch of the Month Club to embellish your project

Keep in mind that Merchant & Mills is a UK-based design house and that UK sizes differ a bit from US numbered sizes. Their website has clear size charts that can help you select the right pattern size for your body. Also note that their patterns are priced in pounds, not US dollars, and you should take into account shipping costs when shopping. Alternatively, there are quite a few stockists in the US with ready links available here.

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KRISTINE VEJAR: ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

As we continue to get feedback from some of our favorite makers on Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, we realize how lucky we are to be part of such a positive DIY community. So many fellow writers, designers, knitters, and Journal followers have contacted us with generous responses and honest commentary. How heartening it is to find ourselves in the middle of a group of makers who choose to lift one another up.

That being said, we received a lovely review from Kristine Vejar, founder of A Verb for Keeping Warm. You may remember that we spoke with Kristine in the past, specifically about the Seam Allowance Project, a clever and beautiful approach to sustainability. (Read more on the project here.) In her review she points out something many readers have also noted: Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns is not necessarily written for beginning sewers. It was written for those who want to learn more about patterns and customization. Manipulating patterns is something that most of us graduate to rather than begin doing (though it’s not impossible).

When considering customizations for her garment, Kristine took into account both practical and stylish considerations. First, she likes to keep things simple, without toting lots of bags here and there. The solution was easy enough: add pockets (see Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, pages 28-29 for detailed instructions and photos). Secondly, the breezy San Francisco weather leaves her reaching for long sleeved garments. Another easy solution: add sleeves to her chosen A-Line Dress (see pages 121-123 for instructions).

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AMY BUTLER: ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

This week, we feature another in our series of posts from makers we admire highlighting Alabama Chanin garments—specially tailored for the wearer, using techniques outlined in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. Previous posts from Amy Herzog and Heather Ross reveal what we really already know: we are not defined by our garment fit issues and owning something that truly fits your own body can enhance your confidence.

Today we are delighted to post kind words from Amy Butler. Amy is a designer whose fabric prints are instantly identifiable; her sewing patterns (we love her unique bags) are exciting and feel fresh. Over the years, Amy has created a signature line of home goods that include lush looking rugs, covetable wallpaper, and lovely wall art and stationery. Make time to browse her website—I guarantee you will end up with a wish list a mile long.

In the past, Amy has had varying degrees of success finding the right garment length, so we tailored our Classic Coat pattern to fall at exactly the right place for her height. View Chapter 2: Fit + Customization, pages 112-115 in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns for more suggestions on how to best alter your garment’s length to your own measurements.

ALABAMA CHANIN – AMY BUTLER: ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

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ANNA MARIA HORNER: ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

Anna Maria Horner and I have been friends and collaborators now for about 6 years; but, she is the kind of friend you feel like you’ve known forever. I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside her on more than one occasion and we created two stencil designs, Little Folks and Little Flowers, together—based on her extensive collection of fabric designs. Her books have influenced my thoughts on making; they have resulted in some beautiful projects and garments. We’ve even dedicated a section of our studio library to her publications. She has accomplished all of this while beautifully mothering six children…whew—what a woman.

This October, I’ll find myself in Nashville at Craft South, Anna Maria’s newly opened brick and mortar store, for a Two-Hour Sewing Workshop. We’ll also be hosting a book signing and trunk show. Mark your calendars now. Congratulations to Anna Maria on her new and exciting chapter at Craft South. We’re proud for The School of Making to be a part of it, and we’re over-the-moon for her kind review of Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. Continue reading

#MEMADEMAY2015

If there’s something we have learned from our DIY community and The School of Making programming, it’s that our fellow makers can be passionate and prolific. In a world focused on “fast fashion” we are constantly inspired to see so many taking time and effort to create meaningful things.

Quite a few of you have participated in Me Made May over the course of the last month. For the uninitiated, Me Made May was dreamed up by Zoe Edwards, a blog writer who, for the past 5 years, issued a challenge for makers across the globe to wear clothing they have created, during the month of May. While not everyone can wear something handmade every day, many have taken up the challenge with gusto.

So for May’s Month of Instagram, we are posting some of your beautiful photos of Me Made May garments alongside Alabama Chanin’s photos. If you participated this year (and have not done so already), please post your photos to Instagram and Twitter using the #mmmay15 hashtag – and also #theschoolofmaking, if yours is an Alabama Chanin garment.

Photos courtesy of @catcounts, @differentmeasure, @ebbandsew, @goodyarmamona, @heyallday, @hisclementine, @kaygardiner, @krrbsale, @lauramaedesigns, @lavalark, @making.it, @mbmoore, @melaniefalick, @qoyah_yisrael, @reneeplains, @subloke, and @yarnonthehouse

P.S. Follow us on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

P.P.S. Use our new hashtag #theschoolofmaking to share your latest Studio Style DIY project.

DIY PANTS: VOGUE PATTERN V8499

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY PANTS: VOGUE PATTERN V8499

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JUNE + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

Here is what June has in store:

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

June 8-12: Classic Studio Week @ The Factory

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

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

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

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

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

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DIY COLLECTION: NEW T-SHIRTS

We wrote earlier this week about scale and patterns, and how we reduced and enlarged our New Leaves stencil artwork to create graphic variations of the design. One of our projects that looks at scale is a series of  DIY Unisex T-shirts. The shirts feature our New Leaves stencil in five different sizes and can be worked in a variety of techniques including quilting, reverse appliqué, backstitch reverse appliqué, and negative reverse appliqué. We used a chain stitch for the DIY Mori and DIY Novus T-shirts, the first time this technique example has been shown in our DIY Sewing Kits.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY COLLECTION: NEW T-SHIRTS

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DESIGN + SCALE

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN + SCALE

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HEATHER ROSS: ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

Today, we continue our series of blog posts from some of our favorite makers highlighting DIY garments, customized using the techniques and patterns of Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. We last heard from Amy Herzog, who described the fit issues she has faced over the years—particularly garment length. This week, we are blushingly grateful to post Heather Ross’ review.

I have long been an admirer of Heather, who has an exceptional eye for design and motif. She is also a talented writer who can combine the poignant and humorous in her books and her designs. We once asked her how she translated humor into her fabric designs and she said something that still sticks with me: “Funny is just a mix of happy and ridiculous. Ridiculous is easy.”

In her review, Heather talks about the difficulty of finding ready-to-wear clothing that fits her long torso. She writes, “…in many Ready To Wear dresses and blouses I find myself hunching over to make up for their lack of length, as though I can bring a waistline down by scrunching myself up.” And she shares memories of her grandmother’s handmade clothing and how wearing those custom dresses gave her confidence. “I felt flattered, rather than awkward, and much more myself. This is the thing about wearing clothing that really fits you: It makes you feel good.”

And I agree. Though I have my own body image struggles, my clothing makes me more comfortable in my own skin. (Most of the time) I know exactly who I am in these clothes. I wrote Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns with the hope that more women can have that feeling, by taking control of their wardrobes and dressing their bodies exactly as they are.

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MAY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

May 10: Mother’s Day (the second Sunday of May). We are hosting our first-ever Mother’s Day Brunch at the Factory Café.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NEW: FABRICS, NOTIONS, + MORE

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

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

#theschoolofmaking

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW: FABRIC, NOTIONS, + MORE

Photos by Abraham Rowe

MOM T-SHIRT

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

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

We sold a version of the shirt pictured above many years ago, and—in honor of Mother’s Day and The School of Making—have now revamped the design.

Mom Stencil - ALABAMA CHANIN Continue reading

DIY NATALIE’S APRON

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

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

NATALIE’S APRON IN SMALL POLKA DOTS

Natalie's Apron - Photographer Abraham Rowe - Alabama Chanin

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CUSTOMIZATION: AMY HERZOG

Today, we begin a series of blog posts highlighting customized DIY garments made from Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. We are lucky to work with a range of makers and writers across the spectrum of handwork. In the coming weeks, you’ll find stories and ideas from the likes of Heather RossAnna Maria HornerKristine VejarJoelle Hoverson, and Amy Butler (in no particular order)—and look for more exciting customizations in the coming months.

Without further ado: Amy Herzog

Some of the makers within our DIY circle may be familiar with Amy Herzog of Amy Herzog Designs. Amy’s website is a treasure trove of information about creating, modifying, and customizing sweaters. Everyone knows that I’m daft when it comes to knitting. Amy’s approach and incredible resources make me believe that perhaps even I could knit a sweater to match my own personal style.

We’re delighted to share Amy’s recent review of our newest book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. Hearing others say that our Studio Books make creating garments seem less scary and more accessible is not only heartwarming but it reinforces our belief that sharing resources truly can advance the “living arts.”

In her review, Amy mentions that garment length is the fit issue she struggles with the most. Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns introduces, among other things, ways to shorten and lengthen hemlines. On pages 112–115, we offer instructions on how to alter length at the perimeter and internally—plus a couple of other options. We also propose solutions to other fit challenges, including waistline, hip, bust, and neckline alterations.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOMIZATION: AMY HERZOG

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PATTERN CD (+ PRINTED PATTERNS)

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

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

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

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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 Studio Books + Patterns 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

COMING FRIDAY: NEW PATTERNS, NEW RESOURCES

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW PATTERNS, NEW RESOURCES

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APRIL + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

Here is what’s on the horizon for April:

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

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

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

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

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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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DIY EXPLODING ZERO (PLUS JACK CROSSING + HELMUT LANG)

Inspiration: where does it come from?  That’s one of the most asked questions of designers and artists.

The answer is complicated and breathtakingly simple: inspiration is right in front of us. It comes to us over the airwaves, through the endless streams of data we consume, and is found on deserted street corners.

The exploding zero graphic above (on the left-hand side) landed on my desktop sometime last year and made us think about exploding our own preconceptions and also about the number zero—the number of infinite possibilities.

This manipulation of type that inspired our entire team was created by Jack Crossing. Design on paper translated to fabric, thread, beads, and sequins.

DIY Exploding Zero T-shirt is shown here with our sarong (simply a 36” x 72” rectangle of lightweight cotton jersey fabric cut lengthwise with the grain) and Natalie’s vintage Helmut Lang shoes (in pink) circa Spring/Summer 2000.

Make your own exploding zero project following the instructions below, or purchase our t-shirt DIY Kit from The School of Making.

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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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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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DIY ANNA’S GARDEN LONG SKIRT KIT

This take on our Long Fitted Skirt—one of my longtime favorite go-to pieces—is available for a limited time in our DIY Sewing Kit Collection through The School of Making. I own many versions of this skirt in a range of colors and wear them throughout the year, from one season to the next. The Long Fitted Skirt is fitted at the waist and flares to the hem, which has a slight train in the back.

This version is worked in our Anna’s Garden design using negative reverse appliqué with our medium-weight 100% organic cotton jersey—choose your fabric and thread color. This and all of our DIY kits can be personalized to your specific design choices and worked in any technique from our books or Swatch of the Month to embellish. Create your own version using the custom DIY kit.

View all DIY Sewing Kits here.

DIY ANNA'S GARDEN LONG SKIRT KIT

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FEBRUARY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

Here’s what February has in store for me:

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

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

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

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MERCHANT & MILLS: THE DRESS SHIRT PATTERN

In our ongoing Makeshift conversation on design, craft, food, DIY, and fashion—and how they intersect—we continue to adapt open-source patterns from other designers and brands using Alabama Chanin techniques. This experiment demonstrates how open-sourced materials and collaborative works can be used in any number of ways and tailored to almost any personal style.

For this entry in the series, we have chosen to work with a pattern from Merchant & Mills, a popular UK-based company created by Carolyn Denham and Roderick Field, formed, in their words, “to elevate sewing to its proper place in the creative world, respecting the craftsmanship it entails.” That is certainly a philosophy in line with Alabama Chanin’s mission and Makeshift’s goals.

Merchant & Mills has an interesting selection of patterns to offer. UK sizes differ a bit from US numbered sizes, but the website has clear size charts that can help you select the right pattern size for your body. But keep in mind that their patterns are priced in pounds, not US dollars; you should also take into account shipping costs when shopping. Alternatively, there are quite a few stockists in the US with ready links available here.

In order to highlight the simple beauty of this Dress Shirt, we have opted to make a basic version. Of course, you can choose to utilize any of the techniques from our previous posts or our Swatch of the Month Club to embellish your project. We’ve found that the loose fit and shape of the pattern makes it an easy pull-on garment when paired with our stretchable cotton jersey, and this piece looks great with The Every Day Long Skirt or the Bloomers Swing Skirt and Stripe Tall Socks.

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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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INSPIRATION: BLACK AND GOLD

Black and Gold – in color symbolism they hint at the unknown, power, and formality alongside abundance, prosperity, and extravagance.

Black and Gold – Madonna on a Crescent Moon by an anonymous painter in Germany, commonly referred to as the Master of 1456.

Black and Gold – for some reason also makes me think of Madonna (the singer) in the 1980s (but also today).

Black and Gold – our newest blend of fabric and paint—a departure from the tone-on-tone colors seen in many of our previous collections.

When you order black pieces from our collection (and/or DIY Kits), the items come stenciled with shades of Gold textile paint—unless otherwise noted in the description.

P.S.: If you prefer a different color for your DIY Kit, please choose our Custom DIY option.

INSPIRATION: BLACK AND GOLD

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DIY MAGDALENA FITTED CARDIGAN

This Cardigan is a modified version of our Casual T-shirt Top from Alabama Studio Sewing + DesignWe’ve created the cardigan simply by cutting our t-shirt front panel down the front to create two pieces (or alternatively, you can choose not to cut the pattern on the fold). When cut this way, it creates a cardigan or cover-up from our Casual T-Shirt pattern. Produced in a double-layer, the organic cotton jersey adds warmth but not bulk.

The kit is shown here in Black and has been produced in our backstitched reverse appliqué treatment. But, this and all DIY kits can be customized for any of our embroidery techniques or embellishments. Choose your own fabric color to go with our Variegated Black embroidery floss, or you may also design your own T-Shirt Cardigan through our Custom DIY option. When purchasing this DIY kit to work as a cardigan, you may want to choose one or two sizes larger than you would normally wear, to allow for additional layering room.

SUPPLIES

DIY Magdalena Fitted Cardigan Kit
If you opt to cut your own Fitted Cardigan without a prepared kit, you will need 4 total yards of fabric—2 yards for the outer layer and 2 for the inner layer.

Basic sewing supplies: scissors, pinsneedles
Alabama Stitch BookAlabama Studio Style, or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: All three of these books contain the basic sewing and embroidery techniques we used to embellish and construct the garment.

Instructions and photographs for backstitched reverse appliqué can be found on pages 95-97 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. You should complete all embellishment using embroidery floss, prior to constructing the garment. Use Button Craft thread, rather than embroidery floss, for construction.

Follow the instructions for the T-Shirt Top/Bolero on page 50 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

DIY MAGDALENA FITTED CARDIGAN

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Black
Fabric color for inner layer – Black
Embroidery Floss – Black Variegated
Button Craft thread – Black #2, used for construction and binding stitch
Textile paint color – White Gold
Stencil – Magdalena
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan

DIY MAGDALENA A-LINE DRESS

With the release of Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, we offer a DIY Sewing Kit for our A-Line Dress. This dress is part of our DIY Sewing Kit Collection. Made from our medium-weight 100% organic cotton jersey, the dress is patterned with our Magdalena Stencil and shown here worked in negative reverse appliqué; however, you may choose a technique from any of our books or Swatch of the Month to embellish this kit.

The A-Line dress has been a popular style around our studio because it flatters almost every figure; in fact, we use this dress as part of our uniform for The Factory Store and Café. The kit—or the finished dress—also makes it an excellent gift, as it does not require strict measurements to fit. It is substantial enough to be worn in any weather and works as a versatile layering piece. My daily uniform consists of the A-Line Dress paired with a basic or embellished version of our Every Day Long Skirt.

DIY MAGDALENA A-LINE DRESS

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DIY NATALIE’S APRON

The Camisole Apron is an embellished version of an apron my grandmother wore nearly every day for most of her life. It is beautiful and incredibly practical—especially for those of us that need full-coverage protection in the kitchen. This kit—created from our Camisole Dress pattern from Alabama Studio Style—is fitted for a woman’s body and features a large, two-sided pocket across the front.

DIY POLKA DOT APRON

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: DECEMBER 2014

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

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

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

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

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VOGUE #V8860 (AN ALABAMA CHANIN DIY COAT)

One of our more popular series of do-it-yourself posts has been our ongoing adaptation of commercially available patterns in the Alabama Chanin style. Among the patterns we have reworked are: a dress from an Anna Sui Vogue pattern, two variations of a Vogue dress from Vena Cava, an open-sourced jacket pattern from Yohji Yamamoto, and other varied pieces.

This series first began as a part of our ongoing Makeshift conversations that explore the intersection of design, craft, food, DIY, and fashion. With this series, we look at makers of all sorts and embrace open-source knowledge, materials, and patterns to create new conversations and collaborations.

We know that it takes skill and patience to complete a garment from another designer’s pattern; however, personalizing those garments—bringing your own body shape, style, and design sensibilities to existing patterns—is sometimes the only option for creating garments that truly fit your life and lifestyle. (You will find much more on this idea of customizing a wardrobe in our upcoming book Alabama Studio Sewing Patternswhich is now available for pre-order.)

We are excited to resume this important experiment with a Vogue coat pattern. I’m in love with the results.

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2015 SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

SWATCH OF THE MONTH 2015

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: NOVEMBER 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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LAUNCHING: ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

As I’ve mentioned before, writing a book is no easy feat. It involves months (often years) of planning, drafting, edits, new designs, reviews, rewrites, photo shoots, patternmaking…basically, equal parts labor and love. So, I honestly surprised myself when I agreed to write another one. While still a work in progress, the end is in sight, and I’m proud to officially announce Alabama Chanin’s upcoming book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. This is the fourth (yes, fourth) book I’ve worked on with my editor (and friend), Melanie Falick, of STC Craft and Abrams.

Around the studio, we’ve been referring to this project as the ‘addendum’, as it acts as a supplement to our Studio Book Series—Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

LAUNCHING: ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

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THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

Alabama Chanin as a concept and a company began as a DIY enterprise. I made the first garments by hand, to fit my own body. Our entire business model was created because I couldn’t find manufacturing for the sort of garment I wanted to make—and so, we created our own manufacturing system, one stitch at a time.

Because those first garments were made from recycled t-shirts, many of our customers took the concept and re-imagined it for themselves, making their own patterns and clothing. Others felt that—with just a little help—they could create something similar, something that was their own. Almost accidentally, our garments were stirring in others the desire to make. Slowly, and as the internet became more robust, sewers formed groups on the internet to share their Alabama Chanin-style garments and swap ideas. This was the beginning of a more formal DIY presence in our company.

These things were happening at the same time as I began writing our first Studio Book, Alabama Stitch Book. Writing that book helped me crystallize my thoughts on making, open sourcing, and education. It was, in essence, me putting voice to what was important about sharing ideas and creating a community of makers. Throughout the writing process—and as the company grew and evolved over the years—I returned again and again to the idea of keeping the living arts alive. It’s the belief that survival skills for food, clothing, and shelter, are important arts that we live with every single day. And these arts—often considered secondary arts—are equally (and perhaps more) important as the “primary” arts of painting and sculpture.

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DIY POLKA DOT THROW

Since the launch of Alabama Studio Style, our DIY Eyelet + Angie Throw (also known in my family as a “couch saver”) has been a favorite do-it-yourself kit among home sewers and our workshop participants alike. Today we introduce another design option for this project: the Polka Dot throw. This 36” x 48” throw, made from our medium-weight 100% organic cotton jersey, is patterned with our Medium Polka Dot Stencil and can be worked in a variety of techniques. The throw is shown here sewn in alternating double-rows of quilting, appliqué, and reverse appliqué, and then finished with a blanket stitch that runs around the entire outside edge. Find instructions for all of these techniques and more in our Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and/or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

Design your own throw with our Custom DIY option.

From Alabama Studio Style:

Couch savers were a permanent fixture in my grandmother’s home. All manner of crocheted, quilted, and plain fabrics were safety-pinned to upholstered couch backs as well as the arms and heads of chairs in order to protect the fabric from undue wear and tear. In homage to Gramperkins, who taught me just about everything I love about domesticity, I created this couch saver. To make one of your own, cut a 36” x 48” piece of cotton jersey and embellish as shown. I love to read, relax, and watch movies in bed rather than on my couch, so that is where I display and enjoy this beautiful work.

DIY POLKA DOT THROW

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THE ZERO STENCIL

“Zero” is both a number and a concept. It is both incredibly complex and perfectly simple. Zero is both a value and a digit—a number and a placeholder. It can be called: nil, oh, naught, nada, and zilch. Complex chemical and physical theories involve and surround the concept of zero. All of this to say that, though the word “zero” may describe something that is very small, the larger idea of zero is very, very big.

Our goal at Alabama Chanin is to become a zero waste company. This means we repurpose and recycle every possible material, letting nothing go to waste. There are times when it is challenging to approach design with the idea of waste in mind; designing patterns and establishing cutting techniques that maximize our materials are not necessarily glamorous or exciting tasks. But, we believe taking those extra steps makes our products—and our company—more beautiful.

ZERO STENCIL

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FABRIC STACK: AUTUMN

New season = new colors.

For a limited time, we are offering our new (bright) autumn colors bundled together in one yard cuts. This fabric stack includes one yard lengths, each, of Dusk, Gold, Persimmon, Autumn, Wine, and Teal.

Our medium-weight 100% organic cotton jersey is 56” wide, made in the USA from domestically grown organic cotton, and comes to you pre-shrunk and ready-to-use.

$156

Enjoy free shipping on orders over $300.

SWATCH OF THE MONTH: OCTOBER 2014

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

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

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

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POLKA DOT STENCIL – LARGE, MEDIUM, + SMALL

As a designer, I am constantly in search of inspiration for new patterns. Often, I find ideas in nature. Other times, I’m drawn to simple geometric shapes—such as circles or dots—and how they interact with one another. Polka dots, with their equal size and relative spacing, create a classic pattern on a garment. In fact, polka dots have quite an interesting history throughout fashion.

The spotted design gained popularity in the mid to late-19th century, as the polka dance came into fashion. Martha Stewart describes the origins of the term in her book, Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts:

“To capitalize on the popularity of the polka in the late nineteenth century, one enterprising American textile manufacturer coined the term “polka dot” to describe the dots on one of his fabrics. The name stuck, and today the term refers to round, evenly spaced dots of identical size.”

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HOW TO CATCH A FROG

Perhaps the most common advice given to any writer: write what you know. Fabric designer, crafter, illustrator, writer, friend, and heroine Heather Ross manages to do just that in her newest publication, How to Catch a Frog: And Other Stories of Family, Love, Dysfunction, Survival, and DIY. In the book, Heather shares wisdom, heartfelt stories, lessons from her eccentric childhood spent in rural Vermont, gorgeous humor, and her deep joy for life.

Published by Stuart Tabori Chang, one of the descriptions of the book reads:

“When, as a twenty-something, Heather complained to her mother about a long list of things she had missed out on and that had compromised her chance of ever leading a ’normal’ life (immunizations, a healthy respect for authority), her mother waved a hand and replied, ’Well, you should thank me, because you have a lot of good stories instead.’”

The stories that Heather weaves, particularly the tales of a childhood surrounded by nature, remind me in-parts of my own daughter, Maggie, who spent much of her summer this year in Seale, Alabama, with her dad, Butch…swimming in a cattle watering trough, exploring the woods, riding ponies, creating art, catching frogs, lizards, turtles, and snakes, and—much to my dismay—having a pretty close encounter with a crocodile.

HOW-TO-CATCH-A-FROG-(4)

Heather’s anecdotes of her youthful adventures elicit emotional responses without relying on conventions or tropes. I laughed, I cried, and I found true appreciation for her life lessons.

I was (luckily) invited to read an early copy of the book and contributed this review on the book’s back cover:

I’ve long counted myself among Heather’s admirers; I am now a full-fledged devotee, grateful to her for inviting us all into her world.

Purchase a copy of Heather’s book from our online store, and read more about her other noteworthy publication Heather Ross PRINTS here.

How to Catch a Frog: And Other Stories of Family, Love, Dysfunction, Survival, and DIY by Heather Ross is a Melanie Falick Book published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of Abrams (our own publisher).

xoNatalie

NEW DIY COLLECTION

Beginning today, we launch our new DIY Sewing Kit collection. These DIY collections are designed and sold in the same manner as our ready-to-wear collection—created through seasonal inspirations and focusing on garments and patterns that we love. Some pieces are designed in conjunction with our current Alabama Chanin collection; others are top customer picks and our own long-standing favorites.

Going forward, all of our DIY Sewing Kits will be introduced seasonally. Some old favorites will be transitioned out, while new designs will appear. Every new DIY Kit can be personalized to fit your desired embellishment or embroidery choices—so your kit of choice can be worked in any of our techniques. Of course, if we are not currently offering a DIY kit that you want, you may create your own custom DIY Kit design by mixing and matching any of our body styles, stencils, embroidery techniques, and color choices.

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ANNA MARIA HORNER KNITS

Our longtime friend and collaborator Anna Maria Horner has created a new line of knit jersey fabric – Anna Maria Knits. On my recent visit to Nashville for Anna Maria’s newest venture, Craft South, we hosted a joint workshop that focused on combining machine and hand techniques with both Alabama Chanin and Anna Maria Horner knits.  Before Craft South, we got a sneak peek and explored what might come of applying our techniques to the colorful designs.

Her 100% cotton interlock fabric is available in 5 prints with 3 different colorways each, for a total of 15 different pieces. When planning these new textiles, Anna Maria opted for a knit she felt would work well with a sewing machine, in addition to hand stitching. Those who love texture and pattern can experiment with combining our Alabama Chanin stencil designs and techniques with these patterned knits.

ANNA MARIA HORNER KNITS
Alabama Chanin Cotton Jersey in Peacock with Sealing Wax Knit as Reverse Applique backing using our new Large Polka Dot stencil

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: SEPTEMBER 2014

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

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

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

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THE SECRET GARDEN

One of the great joys of my job is the fact that we sometimes get to review books for other authors. Sometimes we order the books from a catalog of new titles and sometimes, the books just arrive like magic in the mail. This was the case last year, when we received a book called Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford. The coloring book—intended for children and adults—was published by Lawrence King and immediately found its way to my pile of books I love. On the inside cover is a quote that reads, “Tumble down the rabbit hole & find yourself in my inky wonderland…” And that is exactly how I felt after browsing just a few pages. Although we have played with permanent markers for years in writing on quilts and garments, looking at page after page of beautiful detailed illustrations, I was overwhelmed by inspiration.

THE-SECRET-GARDEN (2)

Through some experimentation, we found out that black and white photocopies will transfer onto white and/or natural colored fabric with a hot iron.  This made it possible for us to transfer the pattern one-to-one from this or any coloring book, stencil, or black and white design. There are arrays of fabric coloring tools available at local craft stores and more arrive on the market each year. We found that the pastel dye sticks and fabric markers (designed for children) work very well.

THE-SECRET-GARDEN (8)

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DIY SWATCH TOTE

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

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

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

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

DIY-SWATCH-TOTE (5)

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

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

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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.

RECIPE-FOR-PAINT-08

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

SWATCH OF THE MONTH: AUGUST 2014

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

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

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

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

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DIY INDIGO CAMISOLE TANK

Based on feedback that we have received from some of our DIY customers, we are now offering supplementary instructions in each of our DIY Kits. Each kit will be shipped with an insert that includes basic instructions, including how to “love your thread,” directions on completing basic stitches, simple construction tips, and how to add rib binding to your item. We hope that this will help make completing your DIY project easy and stress-free. As always, complete instructions for projects can be found in the Alabama Studio Book series.

We have recently been highlighting natural dyes and Alabama Chanin’s new dye house, run by our head seamstress, Diane. This project highlights the beautiful new shades of indigo that are emerging from our dye vats, shown here on one of our most popular silhouettes – the Camisole Tank. The tank can be adapted to fit almost any body type and its simple design is well suited for most stencils and embroidery techniques.

The tank is form fitting and features feminine back and necklines. It measures approximately 25” from the shoulder.

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DIY STARS TUNIC

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

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

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

SWATCH OF THE MONTH: JULY 2014

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

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

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

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FASHION BY HAND + ANNA MARIA HORNER

Friend, inspiration, and collaborator Anna Maria Horner has been featured on our Journal several times. She is a multi-talented woman fluent in more than one creative medium, from her imaginative books and fabric design to fine art. Natalie and Anna Maria’s friendship has only continued to grow as they connect over everything from food and family, to sewing and gardening.

Since we last featured Anna Maria on our Journal, she has added child number seven to her large and happy home. She, her husband Jeff, and their children (aged 1 to 22) live on two acres of land in Nashville, Tennessee. Anna Maria’s ability to balance her life as a mother and entrepreneur is truly remarkable.

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Having collaborated with Anna Maria on garment design (and creation the textile patterns Little Flowers and Little Folks), we are excited to work with her once again during an upcoming weekend workshop in Nashville: “Fashion by Hand” with Anna Maria Horner and Natalie Chanin.

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CUSTOM DIY: MAGDALENA GORE SKIRT

The Alabama Chanin Gore Skirt is one of our more popular DIY items because it is a simple design that is the perfect canvas for a wide variety of colors, stencils, and embroidery techniques. Shown here in reverse appliqué in our Magdalena design, the skirt sits low on the waist and flares to the hem—creating a beautiful, flowing silhouette.

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Using our Custom DIY options, you can choose every aspect of a reverse appliqué garment to fit your style and personality. For instance, you can go for a subtle, yet beautiful tone-on-tone approach, as we have shown here. Or, you may choose a high contrast option for your backing and top layers. The Gore Skirt featured here is just one example of how you might create your own garment.

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DIY SWATCH WRAP

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

SUPPLIES

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

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: JUNE 2014

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

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

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BIBLIOCRAFT

At Alabama Chanin, we believe DIY projects are integral to sharing creativity and promoting sustainable heirloom-worthy pieces. Bibliocraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects is a great guide to DIY crafts that utilize a range of library resources for inspiration. Written by rare book librarian Jessica Pigza, this book contains over 20 unique projects and crafts for your home, including the Cyanotype Throw, designed by the Alabama Chanin team.

Pigza walks readers through different types of libraries, collections, and other resources that can foster motivation and provide ideas for the curious and creative. The book shows you how to find the right library for you and also provides information on digital libraries and an array of library catalogs. To get you started on your project, there are lists of recommended library collections from general visual resources to performing arts and film. The book is an informative and inspiring guide for learning about new resources and turning to libraries for discovery. There is something different and special about holding an actual, physical book in your hand that continues to draw me toward libraries. As a designer I find escape within library walls, and as a business owner I find critical information that has helped me grow into who I am as an entrepreneur.

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DIY CLUTCH

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

SUPPLIES

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

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

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DIY MAGDALENA SHAWL

One of our Mother’s Day Gift Guide selections, the DIY Magdalena Shawl is versatile in design and function. The Magdalena stencil is a bold design that dresses up casual wear. A shawl is a simple way to adjust to the changes in weather that tend to occur on a whim this time of year and acts as a perfect canvas to display the Magdalena design.

I like to keep a variety of shawls on hand for chilly mornings and to use as a pillow or blanket on long airplane or car rides. Depending on how you wear your shawl, it is possible that both the front and the back may be visible, showing off the intricate stitches and handwork used to finish it.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: MAY 2014

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

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

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

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

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DIY CHECK SKIRT

Our classic Short Skirt is great for just about every occasion, including Mother’s Day. Whether you arrange an outing to church, a restaurant, or just a walk in the park, you can make Mom happy by making her something she’ll love.

Currently featured as part of our Mother’s Day Gift Guide, the DIY Check Skirt is the only DIY Kit pattern we currently feature using our Short Fitted Skirt pattern from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

This version of the skirt is made using the reverse appliqué technique and is embellished with beaded eyelet details. Instructions for the Short Skirt can be found on pages 60 – 61 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. When ordering, please specify your desired top layer and thread color.

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DIY CHECK TIED WRAP

Mother’s Day will be upon us soon, and we hope that you are all planning a way to make it a special day. Our freelance editor, Sara, says that her father always got worked up over finding her mother just the right gift. Inevitably, this stress would result in a frantic, last minute decision that wasn’t necessarily the right choice. She says that they still laugh about the year he bought her mother a calculator. (And he still insists that she said she wanted one…) Other years, her father did a much better job; Sara remembers once planting a dogwood tree just outside her mother’s kitchen window.

We appreciate that mothers come in all forms, shapes, and sizes, so this DIY Check Tied Wrap featuring our 2014 Stencil of the Year is a perfect fit for your mother, or grandmother, daughter, or friend. In the morning sunlight, it almost looks like dogwood flowers blooming.

We are offering this DIY Kit as part of our Mother’s Day Gift Guide. Make something for mom – or give her something she will enjoy making for herself.

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DIY BOOK COVERS

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

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

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: APRIL 2014

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

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

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DIY SWATCH PILLOWS

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

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

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

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

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: MARCH 2014

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

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DIY MEN’S CHECK T-SHIRT

Our newest men’s DIY Kit features the Check, our 2014 Stencil of the Year. The shirt is shown here worked in reverse appliqué, but there are various ways to work this stencil, including negative reverse appliqué and outside reverse appliqué, along with a variety of other techniques found in the Alabama Chanin Studio Book series.

The body of the shirt is our popular men’s classic T-shirt which has long been a unisex favorite. However, this top can be easily adapted to a women’s T-shirt – pattern and instructions for which are found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

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TWO-HOUR WORKSHOP + AFTERNOON TEA

Our first workshop of the year is this Friday at The Factory in Florence. It’s not too late to register and spend the afternoon with Natalie and the Alabama Chanin team. Registration closes at noon on Wednesday, February 26.

This workshop is suited to beginner and experienced sewers alike. Work with Natalie and our Alabama Chanin DIY Kits to create a project from our Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. DIY Kit options for this workshop include one of the following projects: scarf, T-shirt, set of four tea towels, set of four placemats, baby blanket, onesie, apron, or journal.

After the workshop, join us in The Factory Café for Afternoon Tea (a selection of gourmet sandwiches, savory pastries, Southern-inspired sweets, and an assortment of teas and coffees). The cost of the workshop includes materials, instruction, afternoon tea, stories, and laughter.

Friday, February 28, 2014
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm

The Factory
462 Lane Drive
Florence, AL 35630

DKNY VOGUE PATTERN + AN ALABAMA CHANIN DIY DRESS

Vogue designer patterns, which are available to all at reasonable prices, are excellent examples of resources contributing to and encouraging the DIY opportunities in modern fashion. The existence and availability of such resources help us to continue our ongoing conversation on Design, Craft, and Fashion and how they intersect.

As part of our ongoing series adapting open-source designer patterns using Alabama Chanin techniques, we selected a dress from DKNY—Donna Karan New York—the mainline label for the Donna Karan brand. I’ve written before about the connection I have with Donna Karan as a designer and we’ve previously featured another of her Vogue patterns as part of this DIY series.

This modern shift dress pattern is flattering on all body types, simple enough for beginners, and can be easily accessorized and embellished. We made both a Basic version, as well as an embellished version, featuring the Check pattern, our Stencil of the Year.

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ADVICE ON SEWING, FROM 1949

Prepare yourself mentally for sewing. Think about what you are going to do… Never approach sewing with a sigh or lackadaisically. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates.

Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing. When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Put on a clean dress. Keep a little bag full of French chalk near your sewing machine to dust your fingers at intervals. Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on. If you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home, and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing.

Sent from our friend and fellow sewist Rosanne Cash—who always looks absolutely gorgeous no matter what she does. And, after reading, our friend Sara recommends following all of the advice so generously given, but to “keep a little bag full of French fries” nearby, instead of the recommended French chalk.

 

DIY HEARTS JOURNAL

I’ve kept a journal, or some type of notebook, on and off since I was fifteen years old. My current journal is full of messages, reminders, sketches, and sweet notes and drawings I’ve collected from Maggie over the past few weeks—which, since Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, includes a lot of heart-shaped and heart-adorned things.

I first started making these covers for well-worn (and well-loved) books. Soon, most of my binders, notebooks, and journals had covers, as well. Each time I retire a journal to my shelves, I slip a new one into my hand-sewn cover.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: FEBRUARY 2014

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

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

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

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DIY MLK CORSET

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

In continuing our celebration this week of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his philosophy and teachings, we sought to create something sustainable that could share this hopeful message that stemmed from the American Civil Rights Movement.

I have always found this quote inspiring, and have applied its message in my own life time and time again: reminding myself each day that it is just about showing up and doing what you can do—today. It seems appropriate, in this new year of new beginnings, to create a reminder (and testament) to this continued commitment to moving forward. Step by step.

Make this corset by following the instructions from page 144 of Alabama Stitch Book. (The pattern is included on the pattern sheet at the back of the book.) We made our version with medium-weight organic cotton jersey fabric, but it could easily be made using recycled t-shirts, as well. This technique can also be used to embellish other patterns or existing garments with scooped necklines.

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FIRST TUESDAYS

In the tradition of old-time quilting and sewing circles, join us at The Factory the first and third Tuesday of each month to sew and socialize. Spend the morning working on your latest project in the company of fellow sewers, while sharing inspiration, encouragement, fellowship, and maybe even a bit of light-hearted gossip. (It is speculated that the phrase “chew the rag” originated from the gossiping that took place while ladies worked together in a sewing circle.)

Coffee, tea, and lunch (after 11:00am) will be available for purchase from The Factory Café. Please bring your own fabric and sewing notions or find them in The School of Making store.
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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: JANUARY 2014

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

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

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

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

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DIY TREE SKIRT + THE WHITE HOUSE

This holiday season, as part of our Handmade Holiday collection, we are offering a DIY tree skirt kit that features our Anna’s Garden design in a negative reverse appliqué, and coordinates beautifully with our Natural Appliqué Stockings.

This project was inspired by the custom tree skirt we created for the official White House Christmas tree in 2009. The tree skirt, which measured 14 feet in diameter and was embellished with our Magdalena stencil, was completed in three weeks by 22 Alabama Chanin artisans. I can’t believe it has been four years since we designed the blue and white skirt for the Obamas’ first winter in the White House. Now, the skirt is archived with other previous White House holiday decorations in the Smithsonian Institute.

The Anna’s Garden Tree Skirt measures 48” in diameter and can be customized to match your style and holiday décor.

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DIY BUNNY RABBIT

This stuffed bunny rabbit is Alabama Chanin’s version of the old-time childhood favorite, the sock monkey. My grandmother used to make sock monkeys for all the children in our family. Each one she made took its own personality and looked different from the others. Our DIY Bunny Rabbit doll is an easy project to complete, and is a perfect handmade gift for the little ones this holiday. And each time you make this project, your bunny will take on its own unique personality, much like the well-loved sock monkeys from my childhood.

Get creative with your bunny rabbit – you can customize the fabric colors and embroidery floss, change his face to reflect any mood, or even turn him into another woodland creature. (One of our studio team members recently made a little stuffed bear by altering our pattern a bit.)

All of the instructions for this bunny, along with the pattern, are available in Alabama Stitch Book.

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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: DECEMBER 2013

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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DIY PEACE SIGN LONG SLEEVE T-SHIRT

This time of year, often associated with peace, may not always feel so peaceful with the chaos and frenzy that sometimes accompanies the holidays. At Alabama Chanin, we strive to practice DIY Peace, doing what we can to promote peace: in our lives, at our business, in our community, and within ourselves (body and mind).

If you are a maker, you probably have moments of peace or reflection when you create. We hope our DIY Peace Sign T-Shirt serves a small reminder to practice peace in your daily life and to slow down and enjoy the holiday season.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH CLUB

I’ve written before about our Fabric Library, a collection of sample blocks and swatches that our company has created over the years. Each swatch starts out the same way, as a basic 10” x 16” rectangle of our organic cotton jersey. Then each one is embellished with embroidery, stencils, beading, and/or appliqué. These sample blocks, or swatches, are the basis for all of our designs and collections, and have become our most valuable asset, our intellectual property.

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DIY MEN’S STAG T-SHIRT

Perfect for the nature-lover in your life, our Stag T-Shirt is part of a new series of Men’s DIY projects and is currently featured in our Handmade Holiday collection.

Designed to be worn (and loved) by men and women alike, this adaptation of our basic t-shirt features a bold Stag stencil across the chest and is embellished with a reverse appliqué.

We designed our t-shirt with long sleeves for cooler weather, but you have the option to choose a short sleeve or sleeveless version as well. You also have the option to customize the backing layer fabric color to suit your (or your recipient’s) tastes.

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DIY ROUND FACETS PILLOW

Holidays often mean family visits, friends and neighbors stopping by unannounced, parties, and dinners. But, all of this merriment can come with a bit of chaos, rushing around, and readying for all of these events. Avoiding clutter may be impossible, but there are easy ways to help make your home look holiday ready at a moment’s notice. Our DIY Round Facets Pillow kit is part of our limited-time Handmade Holiday collection and is a small enough project to complete before the holiday season begins in earnest.

The 12” round pillow is based on a pattern from Alabama Studio Style and features our 2013 Holiday Facets stencil with reverse appliqué, eyelet embroidery, and beading.

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DIY PAISLEY T-SHIRT TOP

We are in the season of giving – giving thanks, giving gifts – but also of making. Perhaps you’re baking a pie, sewing a stocking, or creating a one-of-a-kind garment or handmade item full of personal touches and plenty of love. No matter what you choose to make, handmade items are certainly the best kind of gift to give and to receive.

Designed with the holidays in mind, this DIY Kit for our classic T-Shirt Top, featuring a negative reverse appliqué Paisley pattern, can be completed quickly, but has lots of detail. The pattern for this Capped Sleeve T-shirt Top is included in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and detailed instructions for construction can be found on pages 48-49.

Use our Studio Style DIY supplies to make your own.

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DIY EYELET EMBROIDERED GORE SKIRT

The Alabama Chanin Gore Skirt has continually been a popular DIY item because it works up beautifully in any color, using any design and embroidery technique. As part of our Handmade Holiday collection, we are offering a special-edition DIY Eyelet Embroidered Gore Skirt that is perfect for any holiday gathering.

The bottom edge of the skirt is embroidered using an eyelet stitch (instructions available on page 62 of Alabama Studio Style), with bugle beads added to some of the eyelets for a touch of sparkle. The end result is a snowflake-like effect that will fit right into any holiday setting. You can choose how much or how little to embellish your skirt, as the design’s scatter effect allows for plenty of improvisation. Instructions for construction are available in Alabama Studio Style.

The completed skirt measures approximately 24” from the waist and your finishing stitches can be chosen based upon your own design aesthetic.

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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: NOVEMBER 2013

November’s Desktop of the Month demonstrates that tone-on-tone designs—where both the front and back appliqué layers are the same or similar colors—allow the stencil to subtly take center stage.

The Magdalena stencil is shown in black-on-black backstitch reverse appliqué. Both the textile paint and the embroidery floss are black as well, but light hitting the surface of the two fabrics reveals the elegant stencil detail.

The photograph above shows one of many options you can select when creating your own Handmade Holiday DIY item or Custom DIY Kit. View the Handmade Holiday section of our website for special, limited-time DIY options.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Backing layer – Black
Top layer –Black
Stencil – Magdalena
Treatment – Backstitch reverse appliqué
Textile paint – Black
Embroidery floss – Black
Knots – Inside

DIY COAT + CARDIGAN

The Long Coat and Short Cardigan have long been staples of our collections and are popular projects at our Weekend Workshops. For a limited time, we are offering these pieces as DIY Kits as part of our Handmade Holiday collection. Fashioned from Alabama Chanin’s classic Bolero, this is our first offering of any DIY coat pattern outside of our online Bluprint class.

Both the Long Coat and the Short Cardigan are perfect layering garments for the chilly months leading up to the busy holiday season. The Long Coat is great for cooler evenings and is a perfect option for those who want to dress up a basic garment with a statement piece. The Short Cardigan is a favorite casual cover-up at Alabama Chanin, and is a good alternative to the Bolero for those who prefer a bit more coverage.

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DIY HOLIDAY STOCKING

The holidays offer a unique opportunity for each of us to spend a little bit of time and energy creating for those we love. If you are a maker, you may innately understand the value of a handmade gift. Creating presents an avenue for you to express your love and admiration in the most personal of ways. Receiving a handmade gift often feels like an honor; you are touched to know that someone cared enough to spend time creating something specifically for you.

We at Alabama Chanin believe that the act of making can move beyond craft, into another space that includes design and fashion – without losing the personal elements of creating something by hand. Our Handmade Holiday collection is one way to embody this philosophy – embracing craft, style, fashion, and tradition. You can choose to make elaborate garments or home décor, or you can opt for a sentimental favorite, like this handmade holiday stocking. Holidays are the centerpieces of so many of our memories. Hand customizing something as traditional as a holiday stocking can elevate something that might otherwise be overlooked to high art.
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THE PARTY DRESS BOOK

Mary Adams studied art, not fashion, in college, but eventually chose fabric, specifically, the dress as her medium of choice. Her first storefront in New York City was in the Lower East Side, on the corner of Ludlow and Stanton in the early 1980’s, when that area of the city was cheap and dirty and home to artists, writers, musicians, actors, and designers. In her book, The Party Dress Book, Adams shares a glimpse of New York at that time and how the city and its creative inhabitants influenced her work – the brightly colored, twirling dresses she and her friends would wear to nightclubs and parties. Adams worked in an influential time and place for fashion history and her work continues to resonate. Her stories of inspiration introduce how-to instruction on specific dressmaking and embellishment techniques for designing and constructing the best looking dress at any party, anywhere.

The Party Dress Book inspired us to adapt one of our favorite, featured projects into an Alabama Chanin piece, Mary Adams-style.

THE PARTY DRESS BOOK

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DIY ONESIE + BABY BLANKET

As part of our Handmade Holiday 2013 selection, we are offering limited edition Holiday DIY Kits. Look for brand new items, some favorites from the past, and special, holiday picks. Alabama Chanin believes that holiday gifts mean more when they are handmade.

This DIY Onesie + Baby Blanket Kit is a two-item option normally only offered for our One-Day Workshops. The smaller scale of each item means that experienced sewers will quickly have a completed gift, ready for wrapping; beginning sewers can learn, practice embroidery techniques on a smaller canvas, and expectant parents (and/or grandparents) can spend (at least a little) time making for baby.

DIY ONESIE + BABY BLANKET

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DIY MEN’S PIG T-SHIRT

Before Alabama Chanin existed in its current form, before the Journal, the Studio Books, the DIY Kits, even the website, we were a very small company. When I began working to create these garments, I was doing the majority of the making myself. That meant buying t-shirts from thrift stores around the community (or anywhere I could find them), washing them, dyeing them, cutting them up, painting them, and sewing them back together again—all of this from my home/makeshift production office. It was thrilling and exhilarating and exhausting and I learned so much about designing (and running a business) by trial and error. Eventually, staff was hired and our production office moved out of my home and into The Factory; however, those early efforts were a daily experiment.

The first men’s t-shirts were a bit different from those we make today. We had no real patterns for the men’s shirts and each shirt was designed, cut, and sewn based entirely on the style of the t-shirt itself. We were in the beginning stages of developing different seams, stretchable stitches, and elaborate embroideries, so the garments were experiments in non-traditional translations of classic sewing techniques and pared down versions of some of the Alabama Chanin garments you might see today.

The “Pig Shirt” in the photo above is one of my very early garments. It is made from a recycled tee, which was hand dyed (in the bathtub) and the pocket removed. The fabric for the reverse appliqué was taken from a different recycled (printed) t-shirt and everything was sewn together with a straight stitch. The aesthetic was meant to be a tribute to traditional stitch work and the colors and the style served to highlight the stitches themselves. This project is a tribute to our roots, a reflection upon where Alabama Chanin grew from and how those early years helped form the company we are today.

When you select a recycled t-shirt for this, or any, project pay close attention to the quality of the cotton. Look for shirts that are soft and smooth to the touch and don’t ball or “pill” easily.  Thicker shirts are less prone to tearing or wearing out quickly. Always make sure that you wash any recycled t-shirt before using it. This ensures a clean surface, but also reduces any chance of shrinking. If you are working with red t-shirts, wash them two or three times to prevent the color from bleeding and avoid mixing red with light colors.

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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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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: OCTOBER 2013

October’s Desktop of the Month highlights the detail of a herringbone embroidery stitch along the rib binding of our Basic Tank Dress, featured on page 69 of Alabama Studio Style. The herringbone stitch is an impressive stitch because of the variation created by the small slanted stitches and it has appeared often in our collections. As with all embroidery stitches, the herringbone stitch takes time and patience to perfect (especially when working within the 5/8” space of a rib binding, along the curved edge of a neckline or armhole).

A parallel whipstitch, seen in the photo on our open-felled seams, is another alternative to the herringbone when attaching the binding.  You will find other decorative stitches which can be used for bindings and open-felled seams on page 71 of Alabama Studio Style and look to Elegant Stitches by Judith Baker Montano for a wealth of alternatives for both simple and more elaborate embroidery stitches.

The photograph above highlights one of the many options available when creating a Custom DIY Kit. There are hundreds of options to choose from, including fabric, colors, thread, stencil, embroidery or treatment, and garment or item. View our Alabama Chanin Custom DIY Guide for ideas to create your own project. Click here to design your own Custom DIY Kit.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Garment – Tank Dress from Alabama Studio Style
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color – Faded Leaves
Thread – Slate #26
Knots – inside
Rib binding (or stretch) stitch – Herringbone
Seams – Open-felled on right side

 

DIY STENCILING

Our finished Alabama Chanin garments, made from 100% organic cotton jersey, are beautiful when worn as unembellished Basics; however, through the years, most of our designs have highlighted the incredible number of stencil patterns in our growing library. These stencils are the cornerstone of both our design process and our business model.

From page 10 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:

We use stencils as tools to transfer decorative patterns onto projects like dresses, skirts, and pillows. The stenciled patterns are then used by our artisans as guides for positioning embroidery and beading. Because the stencils so effectively guide the design, our artisans don’t need to work in our studio. Rather, they can work independently as individual business owners when and where they want, scheduling their work time as they like.

DIY STENCILING
Abbie’s Flower All-over Stencil

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RECIPE FOR A WELL-LOVED DRESS

We frequently talk about the heirloom aspect of our hand-made clothing, the timeless design and lasting quality that allows for an Alabama Chanin garment to be worn for years and, in some cases, passed along to a younger family member. While we know this to be true, we don’t often have the opportunity to witness a specific garment change and evolve over time. Perhaps a perfect example: my daughter, Maggie has been wearing the above dress for five years (and counting).

The dress was made for her, cut from an oliver + s pattern, when she was a curly headed, cherub-faced two year old. Made with our organic cotton jersey in Butter and Natural, the dress has been through about a million washes and worn on too many occasions to count. It’s been stained, ripped, appliquéd (to cover the rips), and dyed blue (to cover the stains). No longer a dress but a summer top, she will not give it up.

RECIPE FOR A WELL-LOVED DRESS

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THE BOLERO AND ERRATA

The Bolero is a popular item for those of us in Alabama, as spring and fall temperatures (and in some years, mid-winter) can swing from 50 degrees to 80 degrees in the course of one day. It is an easy piece to toss into your bag on the way out the door and an effortless way to accessorize your look in any weather.

We shared the pattern for this garment in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, with four variations of how it might be constructed: sleeveless, with cap sleeves, short sleeves, and long, fluted sleeves. It can be completed quickly, regardless of your chosen style, and requires only 1 yard of fabric or so. Imagine our surprise, and disappointment, when some readers reported that their Boleros weren’t coming together as expected, that the pattern was a little bit off. Errata déjà vu.

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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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DIY MEN’S EAGLE T-SHIRT

The Eagle T-Shirt is the second in a new series of Men’s DIY projects, designed in a style that is flattering to both men and women. The Eagle stencil has been in the Alabama Chanin library for several years now. We shared instructions on how to create the stencil and apply it to a basic recycled t-shirt in 2008. (Read more about that here). Since those early years, we’ve designed and created patterns for Alabama Chanin original t-shirts, which you can see on Natalie’s son, Zach, above.

The long sleeve t-shirt is made with our 100% organic cotton jersey and constructed with floating outside seams that add a nuanced detail, emphasizing the hand-stitched quality, though you can make your own design decisions.

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WHOLESOME WAVE GEORGIA + TWO SKIRTS

Last October, we held a One-Day Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia. DIY Kits for the workshop had been cut, packaged, and shipped days before the event, but they never arrived in Atlanta, lost in transit. This was a workshop crisis. However, this particular workshop turned out to be one of our best to date. In a beautiful expression of communal crafting, twelve people collaborated to create two Alabama Chanin Swing Skirts from the only kits I happened to carry with me. While we were initially disappointed over the lost box, we soon learned of the people in the Northeast who lost lives and homes as Hurricane Sandy beat down on the New Jersey and New York shores. We didn’t know how lucky we were.

WHOLESOME WAVE GEORGIA

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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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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: SEPTEMBER 2013

September’s Desktop of the Month illustrates the strength of contrasting color choices in a fabric design. Red and blue elements, when placed beside a light, neutral tone, bring a strong focus to the image or pattern – in this case, long-time favorite, Angie’s Fall. Additionally, placing some of the knots on the outside of the design adds a textural element that draws the eye to the embroidered stencil shapes.

The photograph above highlights one of the many options available when creating a Custom DIY Kit. There are hundreds of options to choose from, including fabric, colors, thread, stencil, embroidery or treatment, and garment or item. View our Alabama Chanin Custom DIY Guide for ideas to create your own project. Click here to design your own Custom DIY Kit.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Backing layer – Midnight
Top layer – Natural
Stencil – Angie’s Fall
Treatment – Backstitch reverse appliqué
Textile paint – Light Grey
Button Craft Thread – Red #128
Knots – both outside and inside; outside knots strategically placed for design emphasis

 

DIY APRON + TEA TOWELS

If any of you are like me, when preparing food, you end up with at least a modest amount of flour, eggs, or whatever you’ve cooked for dinner all over your clothes. (Close family members also know that I am notorious for dropping food, plates, and glasses.)  Anyone will acknowledge that this is not a good look when you have visitors over for coffee or dinner. I always keep several aprons on hand for myself or for visitors or little ones who want to help in the kitchen.

We also go through an incredible number of towels in our kitchen. Perhaps I’m messier than I’d like to admit (maybe I can blame that on Maggie). It seems that I always have plenty of dishes that need drying or hands that need wiping. These Tea Towels work perfectly as a napkin or a makeshift bib for messy foods, too. They can be sewn up so quickly that I keep the necessary supplies on hand in case I need a hostess gift.

DIY APRON + TEA TOWELS

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CUSTOM DIY: ANNA’S GARDEN CORSET

The Alabama Corset is one of our signature pieces and, over the years, has proven to be the perfect canvas for a wide variety of colorways and techniques. Shown here in Anna’s Garden reverse appliqué, the garment is created by joining two layers of fabric. The top layer is stenciled, then the maker stitches around each of the individual stenciled shapes with thread to create the pattern and join the two layers. After sewing, the inside top layer of each stitched shape is cut away to reveal the backing fabric underneath.

Using our Custom DIY options, you can choose every aspect of a reverse appliqué garment to fit your style and personality. For instance, you can go for a subtle, yet beautiful tone-on-tone approach, as we have shown here. Or, you may choose a high contrast option for your backing and top layers. The Corset shown above is just one example of how you might create your own garment. The technique can be applied to any garment or project and is equally beautiful with bold colors or other neutral tones. View the Custom DIY Guide for more information on your options.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Backing fabric color – Sand
Top layer color – Sand
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Embroidery Technique – reverse appliqué (instructions available in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design)
Button Craft thread – Cream #256
Textile paint – White
Rib embroidery – Cretan stitch

 

CUSTOM DIY: APPLIQUE ROSE STENCIL

Appliqué is one of the first embellishing techniques we learn when advancing our hand-sewing skills. Incorporating appliqué into a garment, even a small placement piece, adds color, depth, and richness to a project, elevating it from a classic to an elaborate one-of-a-kind.

With our Custom DIY options, you can mix and match fabric colors, stencils, and appliqué techniques for a variety of projects. Your custom design will then be cut and stenciled to your specifications and shipped to you, ready to sew. The above image of our Rose stencil appliqué with a simple whipstitch might be used all-over on the Camisole Dress for a special occasion garment, or sewn to a corner of our Market Bag for a subtle embellishment. The possible combinations are inspiring.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Base Fabric color – Dark Grey
Appliqué fabric color – Dove
Stencil – Rose
Embroidery technique – Appliqué with whipstitch—instructions available in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design
Button Craft thread – Slate #26

See our Custom DIY page to apply this colorway to one of 20 possible projects (or further customize to your liking).

Follow the Custom DIY Guide to build your own Custom DIY kit.

 

LOVING THE THREAD

This post grew out of a conversation about love that began around the sewing table at our Warehouse Row workshop in Chattanooga, Tennessee last month. While we have written about well-loved thread many times, it seems important to keep the conversation alive and growing.

Love…We all live for it, because of it, in search of it. Poets try to evoke it from paper and ink. Chefs strive to make you smell and taste it in their meals. And every Alabama Chanin workshop begins with the story of how love is sewn into each stitch of our clothing. Just one of our skirts may need hundreds of yards of thread and thousands of stitches to be completed. If you could watch the process of making that thread, you would see it comes from creating tension in two separate cotton strands and twisting them together. If that tension isn’t tamed before the sewing process, a seamstress will be facing knot after knot, each time the needle is pushed through the fabric. Just imagine what kind of frustration that could cause in the weeks it takes to make a single, hand-stitched garment.

LOVING THE THREAD - photo by Rinne Allen

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DIY MEN’S BEE SHIRT

The Alabama Chanin Studio Style DIY selections are expanding with the addition of Men’s DIY items. Many of you have been asking for more men’s options and this is the first in a series of new DIY Kits that we will feature in our online store.

The Bee is one of the earliest stencils I created upon moving back home to begin the work that has become Alabama Chanin. At that time, I was newly-returned to the south after years abroad. Happy to be home, the rural setting inspired a series of animal designs: The Pig, The Steer, The Rooster, and the Eagle.

The t-shirt body is our ever-popular men’s classic; however, the style has been loved by both men and women alike for over a decade. We are now offering this t-shirt style as a DIY Kit for the first time. As always, you have the ability to embellish the shirt as much or as little as desired – whatever suits your taste (or the taste of the man in your life).

DIY MEN'S BEE T-SHIRT - Photos by Robert Rausch

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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: AUGUST 2013

Long a favorite image for textile patterns, the fern is an adaptable plant, suited both to moisture-rich, woodland areas, and tall rock crevices. It is also an air-filtering plant that can eliminate certain dangerous chemicals from the environment. Natural elements have often inspired our stencil designs, including this Satin Stitched Fern, one of our oldest, perennial designs. Here, the satin stitches mimic the texture of real fern fronds and add a textured relief to the fabric.

This photograph illustrates one of the many options you can create yourself when you opt for a Custom DIY kit. View our Alabama Chanin Custom DIY Guide on our Custom DIY page and see the hundreds of options available when you select your garment, fabric, embroidery or treatment, colors, threads, and other choices.

SATIN STITCH FERN – OUR DESIGN CHOICES:

Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Backing Layer – Silt
Top Layer – Silt
Stencil – Fern
Treatment – Satin Stitch
Textile Paint – Pearl Grey
Button Craft thread – Slate #26

 

DIY DRAPE DRAPE 3

For those of you who sew often, you likely understand how something as simple as draping fabric can also be very complex. For those of you who don’t, or who are novice sewers, the technique of fabric draping can involve more than just hanging fabric in a lovely way. It is not likely that a Roman emperor casually tossed a bed sheet over his shoulder one day and called it a toga, just as it isn’t likely that a lovely red carpet gown accidentally folds so perfectly around the waist of a posing starlet.

Technically, draping is the ability of a fabric to fall under its own weight into wavy folds. There are different strategies based upon the weight and stiffness of the fabric, its flexibility and tendency to stretch, and the general effect of gravity upon the fabric. Some softer, more flexible fabrics will make drapes that ripple and are more form fitting; stiffer and thicker fabrics will have less flow. When designing patterns, adding draping to your design increases the pattern-making difficulty immensely.

DIY DRAPE DRAPE 3

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DIY POETRY TANK

We learn our first real poem around the age of 2 — the ABC Song. Soon, we graduate to nursery rhymes, then rhymes for jumping rope. By the time we reach junior high and high school  we’re reading Epic Poems, like The Odyssey, and reciting Shakespeare in Iambic Pentameter—well sometimes. Songs can be poems set to rhythm. If we’re lucky, perhaps someone has written a love poem or a song—or two—for us.

Poems are rhythmic—they have patterns, beats, stanzas, couplets, and verses. They have been instrumental at critical moments in our history. Witness:

DIY POETRY TANK STENCIL

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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…

 

 

MAKESHIFT 2013 TUMBLR IMAGE QUILT

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

MAKESHIFT TUMBLR IMAGE QUILT TOTE Continue reading

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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BUCKET HAT (AND WRITING A BOOK)

The process of writing a book is involved. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Each draft gets written and edited, reviewed, passed from hand to hand, rewritten, reedited, and re-reviewed until – after many (many) drafts – you finally arrive at a finished product. It’s a shiny new representation of years of hard work. And in a best case scenario—like a perfect dinner party— it looks effortless.

Each author wants her books to be perfect, especially considering the blood, sweat, and tears that go into every word. You haven’t just written the pages, you have rewritten, proofed (see photo below), had projects produced, reproduced, pages designed, and then redesigned again. It’s all part of the glorious process of eliminating errors, removing comma splices, making things pretty, laying a foundation, and inspiring a person to want to hold your book, to open it and, in the end, find it perfect.

BUCKET HAT AND WRITING A BOOK

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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 @ 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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DIY BLOOMERS GORE SKIRT (AND A CORSAGE)

Southern children who grow up with a healthy respect for their elders, particularly their mothers, are said to have been “raised right.” Across the south, most children (and their fathers) must have been “raised right,” because there is almost always a big to-do made about Mother’s Day. Even though new Easter clothes have just been bought, a slew of children will go shopping again for new Mother’s Day outfits; it is expected to make a good impression at church on that big day. Mom gets to sleep in (just a little) and breakfasts will be prepared and served by the children. We present our mothers and grandmothers with beautiful corsages. Often in my community, the tradition is to give carnations. It’s common to give Mother a red or pink one and to set a vase of white carnations upon the kitchen table for grandmothers or great-grandmothers who have passed away. In my family,we  presented corsages to Mother and Grandmother on Mother’s Day morning.

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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: MAY 2013

May’s Desktop of the Month is dedicated to Mom. Mother’s Day is just a couple weeks away, and our Gift Guide for the occasion features a number of sale items, including DIY kits, garments, accessories, and more. Find something lovely for your mother or grandmother, and don’t forget the flowers come Sunday morning.

 

 

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE (AND MAGGIE’S DRESS)

We often hear the mantra, “Live for today.” Most of us need to slow down, curb our expectations and anxieties, and embrace the present.  And for the most part, I try to approach life that way. But we can’t always live completely in the present. Sometimes we have to plan ahead, we have to think of our future generations and give them the tools they need to make this world a better place.

It’s not always easy to be a mom (single or otherwise) and live constantly in the present. Duties call. Spilled milk may not be something to cry over, but someone still has to clean it up. I was having one of those spilled milk days – dog chaos, bills to pay, groceries to put away – when Maggie came to me with this drawing and said, “I want you to make this dress for me.” It’s a miracle I even heard her.

As you can see, the dress was made, Maggie was ecstatic, and somehow, in the midst of chaos, I was able to inspire her to believe she can make anything. The best Mother’s Day gift of all is just to have that moment when you think, “I do make a difference.”

Happy Mother/Daughter Day (coming soon) to Maggie and me… and to you and yours.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

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KATA’S CRITTERS

I received this gorgeous package from friend and maker Kata Golda a few days ago. My daughter Maggie snatched the contents up and they have been in her school backpack every day since.

Kata makes a menagerie of amazing little creatures with hand-dyed wool felt and hand stitching. They are simple, colorful constructions that embody Kata’s warm spirit and whimsy – like Alabama Chanin, she has a zero waste philosophy, using every piece of fabric and working with recycled and non-toxic materials when possible, while upholding the same standards in day-to-day life.

Love.
xoNatalie

(Thank you again Kata.) Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt  book is a beautiful addition to the hand-stitcher’s library.

KATA'S CRITTERS

KATA'S CRITTERS

 

 

 

DIY TUNICS (MARIMEKKO STYLE)

This week, we’ve been exploring Finnish design company, Marimekko, well known for creating colorful, often bold patterns and fabrics. While their designs were first made popular in the 1960’s by Jacqueline Kennedy, the bright and vibrant garments remain classic choices, appropriate for any generation. Personally, I love to add a bold pattern or color to my regular wardrobe from time-to-time, and re-visiting the Marimekko story inspired this Tunic.

This pattern is a variation of our T-shirt Top, available in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design cut to tunic length. The tunic has a bit of a flare starting at the waist, which makes it comfortable and forgiving. We also have variations of tunics – the Camisole Tu