Tag Archives: Embroidery

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MAKE AND MEND WITH JESSICA MARQUEZ

Jessica Marquez is a professional photographer and the creator of Miniature Rhino, a full-time embroidery and teaching business based out of Brooklyn, New York. She is a self-taught embroideress who travels for inspiration and views instruction as one of her callings. She grew up surrounded by woman makers, who taught her to love all-things craft; one of the results of this love was her first book, Stitched Gifts: 25 Simple and Sweet Embroidery Projects for Every Occasionwhich she wrote and also photographed.

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We came to know Jessica through one of our sewing workshop a few years ago, where she gifted Natalie with some of her embroidery kits. She often lists The School of Making in her classes as a resource for tools and techniques. Our relationship has continued and we were one of the first to receive a copy of her newest book, Make and Mend: Sashiko-Inspired Embroidery Projects to Customize and Repair Textiles and Decorate Your Home.

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Make and Mend shares Jessica’s passion for hand embroidery and exposes the reader to the Japanese technique of sashiko—a stitching technique that uses simple stitches and patterns to mend and embellish fabric. Sashiko is a traditional technique to mend and repair, but is an easy way to add detail to any garment; it is a wonderful way to repair worn-out clothing or embellish your favorite pair of jeans. The book is easy for even the less-experienced stitcher and offers careful step-by-step instructions. It provides 15 projects and requires no equipment but needle and thread. The book is full of patterns and color and also delves into ways to be more environmentally friendly through crafting. We love that she is encouraging mending, rather than discarding less-than-perfect garments.

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We are offering Make and Mend and three of Jessica’s embroidery kits online and in our store as part of Handmade Holiday—our holiday gift guide for The School of Making. Choose between the Orion Constellation and Floral Monogram Embroidery Kits as easy-to-make gifts. Through Jessica’s work, be inspired to mend and embellish your own garments in new ways.

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COLLECTION: PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS

Through Bldg. 14—the design and manufacturing operation of Alabama Chanin which focuses on machine sewn garments and goods—we have been able to create a line of accessibly priced, 100% organic cotton t-shirts. The Clean Tees were released in early summer and take inspirations from streetwear, athleisure, and a casual lifestyle to create unisex styles. The fit: classic and comfortable.

Through our various Collections, we celebrate the different qualities and offerings that hand-embroidered or machine-sewn details create, as well as the process it takes to arrive at a finished garment.

Explore looks below that incorporate our Ringer Tee with the Alabama Chanin Collection, creating everyday comfort and modern style by pairing the two forms of sewn artistry.

P.S.: These looks are shown with USA-made denim from our friends at Imogene + Willie.

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Union Special Flat Seamer in Bldg. 14

Top image: from left to right – Elle Skirt with The Dolman Tee and The Terry Blazer, The Terry Blazer with The Dolman Tee, The Dolman Tee with The Tailored Pant, and the Ringer Tee with the Mid-length Inside Out Skirt.

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COLLECTION: ARTISAN MADE

“The mirror reflects all objects without being sullied.” – Confucius

Such is the intent of the elaborate embroideries in our most recent Collection. By mirroring each delicate design, they become more substantial, all while ensuring the garment’s femininity.

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Right: the Victoria Blazer, Left: the Cade Dolman Coat

Our design team has long had a love affair with vintage embroideries—the soft and lacy feel of embroidered tea towels and the fine filigree of flowers in an English garden. This technique allows them to expand upon that inspiration in a way that suits Alabama Chanin’s style.

The floral inspiration began with the work of botanist Anna Atkins (more on her later) who used cyanotype photogenic drawings of her specimens. The technique produced delicate blue images—ghostly outlines of detailed botanical samples. Our design and production teams, moved by the intricacies and gracefulness of each image, used those blue and white representations as a jumping-off point for our original embroideries—to be mirrored in placement on our garments.

We have combined these vintage-style images with Swans Island organic merino wool yarns, A Verb for Keeping Warm’s natural dyed fine wools, and chenille piping to complete each embroidery. The effect is delicate, yet strong and significant. The mirroring design strengthens the effect. It is a play of significant and gentle features entwined.

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The embroideries are completed by our artisans whose talent we showcase through our designs. For readers who are new to our Journal, or unfamiliar with our business model, our method of production provides a variety of projects to local seamstresses (our artisans) who work as Independent Contractors who run their own businesses and are in charge of their own lives.

The patterns for the styles are cut and stenciled in our studio and prepared for embroideries and – in most cases – the construction of the garments. These embroideries are then executed by these independent contractors– living within about an hour and a half of our studio. Since our inception, it has been an important mission of ours to bring as much economic development as possible into our community and to our independent contractors. This open work/open source philosophy is a goal that we strive to achieve every day. By purchasing a hand-sewn garment, you are not only supporting our business but supporting the independent contractors who make this work possible.

Explore all of the embroideries and designs in the Collection here. If you have questions about the styles you see in our Collection, our Personal Stylist is here to offer guidance on fit, design details, and styling as well as offer insight into your preferences and lifestyle needs and support you in your decision-making process.

You can contact our Personal Stylist Monday – Friday from 8:30am – 4:30pm CST. Call our Customer Service team and ask for Betsy at 256-760-1090 or by email shop@alabamachanin.com.

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THE ART OF EMBROIDERY

This week we share insight and inspiration from The Art of Embroidery: Inspirational Stitches, Textures and Surfaces in a Journal series from our contributing writer, Elaine Lipson.

As I was reading Françoise Tellier-Loumagne’s The Art of Embroidery: Inspirational Stitches, Textures and Surfaces, her deep visual dive into embroidery as an art and design form, I began to imagine the first embroiderer. Sometime in the 5th century B.C., maybe somewhere in China, our original stitcher broke through the functional-stitching wall and went decorative. Accidentally or deliberately, a stitch was formed that was not purely functional. Maybe grasses or stones or flowers came into the sewer’s view and became the first stitched motifs — or maybe he or she put a bird on it — and infinite possibilities were born.

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Whatever inspired that original stitcher, everything that embroiderers do today is essentially the same, except that the techniques have been refined over 2500 years, made into patterns and diagrams with smooth manufactured needles and flosses, styled with regional variations, expanded into different forms, even industrialized and made by machine — and we love mastering the medium with all of this helpful structure. But this book definitely isn’t for tracing patterns and coloring inside the lines; like that first embroiderer, you’ll be challenged to figure out processes on your own.

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Instead, this book is for experimenting, improvising, and pushing your limits as a stitcher and an artist. “To embroider is to draw, paint and write,” Tellier-Loumagne says. To embroider is to “look, analyze, choose, explore and translate… to express yourself… to create, innovate… to develop and elaborate.” And finally, it is to “express yourself and communicate.” Through hundreds of color plates of stitched and embellished cloth, often paired with an inspiration photograph of anything from leaves to fences to an orange covered in a rainbow of mold, Tellier-Loumagne creates a dizzying array of textures, dimensional effects, repeat and irregular patterns, layered stitches, blended colors, and shapes. This main section of the book is organized into twelve sections, from lines and stripes to friezes and frames to allover designs, and almost any page can be a starting point for experimenting.

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The Art of Embroidery will happily put you to work with threads and floss but also with plastic paillettes, synthetic threads, and machine stitching — anything goes. It has a minimalist stitch guide (for a more detailed exploration, look to The Geometry of Hand-Sewing) and a brief survey of specialties such as whitework, blackwork, and goldwork; but here too, other resources do a better job of breaking down formal embroidery techniques, if that’s what you’re after. But when you feel the need to experiment, like that original stitcher in 5th century China, let this book set you loose to freely express and interpret what you see with stitches, and be inspired by everything around you.

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Here are links to some of Elaine’s favorite nature-inspired embroidery artists to explore:

Françoise Tellier-Loumagne

Bettina Matzkuhn

Meredith Woolnough

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THE NEW EMBROIDERY

Our Bluprint virtual learning courses dive into hand embellishment and construction in The School of Making techniques. In The Swing Skirt: Techniques & Construction, Natalie walks you through each step of creating a hand-sewn garment. Creative Embellishments gives an in-depth look at our most popular hand embellishing techniques including quilting, reverse appliqué, whipstitch appliqué, and more. Natalie’s newest course—The New Embroidery: Simple Geometry, Beautiful Stitches—rounds out the series by sharing embroidery tips and tricks perfected over the years.

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In this course, you’ll learn more about the grid system used throughout The Geometry of Hand-Sewing that provides you with a fool-proof method for achieving even, consistent stitches on any project. Natalie demonstrates how to use the grid system to embroider a wide range of stitches from the most basic to the more complex.

The course is broken into six lessons. The first covers the physics of sewing, how to use the grid system, and the tools and supplies you’ll need to get started. Lessons two, three, and four cover the different types of grids and stitches that can be made using each. Lesson five shows how to add beads and sequins to any stitch as well as lacing your stitches with a contrasting thread to add texture and color. In the final lesson, Natalie shares projects to practice your stitches including a stitch-sampler scarf and a reference binder of stitch samples you can refer back to as needed.

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We’re also introducing a few new products today to supplement the class and equip you to practice your embroidery stitches at home. Our new Stitching Cards are like the ones included in The Geometry of Hand-Sewing, but they come three-hole-punched and ready to store in your project binder or Stitch Journal. Our new Marking Tools set makes the perfect companion to the Stitching Cards and includes The School of Making erasable pen along with our favorite chalk pencil so you have tools to mark both light and dark fabrics. By popular demand, we’ve added another color of Button Craft Thread to the mix—Sage—that looks beautiful as a subtle accent color.

See all available virtual learning courses available through Bluprint here. Share your projects on Instagram using #theschoolofmaking and #thegeometryofhandsewing, and join our global maker community in The School of Making Stitchalong group on Facebook.

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.

NEW BEAD MIXES

Now available in the Maker Supplies 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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#WOMENARTISTS: LORINA BULWER

In Norwich Castle Museum in England, you can find several textiles made by a woman named Lorina Bulwer—embroideries that might be seen as messages of protest or anger. Of the three wool and cotton-scrap pieces, two are square images of arguing men, and the others are scrolls made of scraps, heavily embroidered with stream-of-consciousness-like text. Lorina sewed these messages from inside the Great Yarmouth Workhouse—an asylum.

Lorina Bulwer was born in the mid 1800s to parents who owned a chain of grocery stores. She appears to have been middle class, educated, and never married, living with her parents until their deaths. In the early 1900s, she was committed to the Great Yarmouth Workhouse by her brother, who decided that Lorina was “incapable of running her own affairs.” At that time, the workhouse was home to about 500 inmates, 60 of them (like Lorina) determined to be mentally ill and classified as “lunatics.” It was there that she created the embroidered scrolls and textiles expressing rage and frustration at her circumstances.

Her stitched messages were long tirades, all in upper case and without punctuation. Some of the things she writes appear to be fantasy, like her hopes of being related to the Royal Family. Other parts of the text refer to fellow inmates, their predicaments, and their deaths. She also suggests that she may have been sexually assaulted by a physician. Some of these events are verifiable or at least likely, as dates and names can be backed up by ledgers or legal records. Over 70 people are identified in the three tapestries, all apparently real, with her sister Anna Maria a frequent focus of Lorina’s ire. (You can view the text of the scrolls here.)

It is unknown as to why Lorina was confined at Great Yarmouth. It is possible that she was indeed mentally ill and there was no one to care for her after her parents’ deaths; it is also possible that her siblings saw her as challenging or did not have the money or desire to take her into their homes. Asylums were also places that the destitute could go for health care if they had no financial support. Lorina had no problem expressing her disgust and sense of abandonment and held a specific belief that she had been cheated out of money.

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No one has a clear understanding as to how or why these tapestries survived. Museum staff have theorized that a nurse may have kept them, but no one knows for sure. Two embroidered panels were found in an attic by incoming tenants, and they are now also housed at Great Yarmouth. Lorina Bulwer remained in the asylum until her death of influenza at age 79. Her body was not collected by family and she was interred at the Great Yarmouth Workhouse grounds. Details of her life and the asylum conditions are emerging over time and historians will undoubtedly continue to be fascinated by her story—told through needle and thread.

#womenartists

Images from Made in Slant

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STITCH JOURNAL

With over 100 stitches included in The Geometry of Hand-Sewing, practicing and completing all of them seems like a daunting task. The Stitch Journal makes it easy to work through the book once stitch at a time to build and perfect your skills—start with the most basic, easy stitches and work through the book towards the more complex. This skill-building tool gives you the opportunity to practice challenging stitches before applying them to a larger project or garment.

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You’ll receive two of The School of Making Binders along with pages that will allow you to organize your stitch samples as you complete them with room for notes under each stitch. There are also pages included that hold larger samples and swatches for use with patterned stitches or experimenting with working off the grid.

Use the Stitching Cards provided in the back of The Geometry of Hand-Sewing along with The School of Making erasable pen that’s included with the Stitch Journal so you can mark your fabric and easily follow the diagrams in the book ensuring straight, even stitches. The Stitch Journal includes all of the supplies needed to complete every stitch in the colors used throughout the book.

What’s included:

We can’t wait to see what you make. Share your progress with us on Facebook or Instagram using #theschoolofmaking and #thegeometryofhandsewing.

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TARTAN + TARTAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ERRATA: THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

We’ve written in the past about the challenges that come from writing a book. This book alone went through numerous drafts and made its way around our studio to be proofed and edited many times before being sent back to our editors at Abrams. Despite the rounds of proofing and editing, incorrect versions of the following stitches somehow slipped through the cracks and made it into the book. Updated, correct photos of the Double Chain Stitch, Zigzag Chain Stitch back, and Coral Stitch back are shown below for reference. We’re sorry for the mix-up, and we hope that you love the book as much as we do. Happy sewing!

Page 49: Double Chain Stitch – Front

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Page 49: Double Chain Stitch – Back

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Page 57: Zigzag Chain Stitch – Back

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Page 77: Coral Stitch – Back

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P.S. – You can also download the errata sheet here to print and keep with your book.

 

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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.

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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.

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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 section to find all the tools you’ll need to get started.

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

Blue fabric detail with couching and black beads

COUCHING INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

Cut couching ropes in black

SUPPLIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

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

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

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

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

Pre-order The Geometry of Hand-Sewing here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

ALABAMA CHANIN – RAQUEL RODRIGO

ARTIST SERIES: RAQUEL RODRIGO

We are continually intrigued by artists who conceive new ways to create old-fashioned arts. Cross stitch, which is one of the oldest forms of embroidery, was originally used to embroider textiles in ancient Egypt and China. Today, it is often used as a way to decorate clothing and fabric with flowers or patterns. Recently, Spanish artist Raquel Rodrigo has employed the technique to make walls of flowers.

ALABAMA CHANIN – RAQUEL RODRIGO

Rodrigo’s education and background are in set design and interior design, but since 2014, she has been producing large-scale cross-stitched street art in Valencia and Madrid. Through a series of X’s, Rodrigo creates hibiscus flowers, roses, cherry blossoms, and other flowers, all best viewed from a distance.

The designs are made with thick string cross-stitched onto wire mesh. Rodrigo creates depth in her designs by combining different shades of string. She assembles her work in her studio, then rolls them up for transport. Her designs range in size and are situated in a number of places including buildings, window grates, bike racks, and chain-link fences—each piece highlighting the unique architectural qualities of its location.

ALABAMA CHANIN – RAQUEL RODRIGO

Rodrigo uses enlarged cross-stitching as a form of guerrilla marketing for Arquicostura, a street-art marketing agency. Through Arquicostura—a word that combines the Spanish words for architecture and sewing—Rodrigo has created art for Alhambra, a luxury Italian brand, and Endora Productions.

Rodrigo’s work is a beautiful marriage of an age-old pastime with modern sensibility. The beauty in her flower creations and her innovative spirit inspire us to keep finding ways to make what is old new again.

ALABAMA CHANIN – RAQUEL RODRIGO

Images from ArquicosturaThis is Colossaland Raquel’s Instagram account.

#womenartists

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 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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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.

CHECK-WRAP-SKIRT-10

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STARTER SEWING KIT

After launching our Swatch of the Month Club in January, we received several requests for a more accessible way to sample a variety of our techniques before investing in a club membership. Our commitment to listening to your feedback and, in turn, giving better service, led us to create the Starter Sewing Kit.

Our Starter Sewing Kit includes three 10” x 16” pieces of organic cotton jersey: one un-stenciled piece for your bottom layer in Black, and two additional 10” x 16” pieces in Slate and Twilight. The Slate fabric is painted on the wrong side—for use as appliqué. Use the stenciled Twilight piece for your top layer, suitable for reverse appliqué.

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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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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.

Bunny-Rabbit-Pattern-WEB

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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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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

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

 

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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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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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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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: JULY 2013

In honor of Independence Day, we chose stars from our Indigo American Flag quilt for July’s Desktop of the Month. The variations of our natural dyed Indigo fabric mirror the diversity that defines our nation and its origins.

This photo displays the intricate stitching and details of each appliquéd star, plus the natural color changes of our Indigo organic cotton jersey. The shades of Indigo vary from piece-to-piece, giving the quilt – and this photograph – depth. View the entire quilt here, or the more traditional version here.

 

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 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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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.

 

 

LITTLE FOLKS

Click on image to enlarge.

To create Little Folks: 1. Stencil fabric using Little Folks stencil and the stenciling technique of your choice. 2. Backstitch square shapes by stitching directly on stenciled edge. 3. Backstitch circle shapes inside of the flowers by stitching 1/8’ inside stenciled line and cut 1/8” outside of stenciled line. 4. Backstitch diamond shapes by stitching directly on stenciled edge and cut 1/8” inside diamond shape. 5. Backstitch flower shape then cut 1/8” inside the backstitch. 6. Whipstitch straight lines inside the flower shapes. 7. Add satin sequins using eyelet stitch. 8. Add French knots in between satin sequins.

 

YOU CAN’T FAKE FASHION (PART 2)

In 2005, I was inducted into The Council of Fashion Designers of America.  Long before that time (and during my days as a stylist in Europe), I didn’t really know what the CFDA was (or did). However, the organization was founded in 1962 by Eleanor Lambert as a not-for-profit trade organization to support American womenswear, menswear, jewelry, and accessory designers. Today, the CFDA consists of over 400 members across the nation (we have 2 from Alabama). Their mission statement has grown to reflect a desire to “advance artistic and professional standards within the fashion industry, establish and maintain a code of ethics and practices of mutual benefit in professional, public, trade relations, promote and improve understanding and appreciation of the fashion arts through leadership in quality and taste, and to support the overall growth of American fashion as a global industry.”

Some of the programs growing out of this agency include the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund for which Alabama Chanin was a finalist in 2009 and which Billy Reid (the other CFDA member in the state of Alabama) won in 2010. Other programs include CFDA Fashion Awards, Made in Midtown, and the great {Fashion Incubator} program, among many others.

YOU CAN'T FAKE FASHION

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ANNA MARIA HORNER – NEEDLEWORKS NOTEBOOK

As most of our readers know, we have a deep love and admiration for our friend – and collaboratorAnna Maria Horner. She is an artist, fluent in more than one creative medium. She not only creates bold and unique fabrics, some of which we have adapted into Alabama Chanin garments, but she also designs kitchen and paper goods, writes, works as the spokesperson for Janome, and keeps up with her beautiful family, all while pregnant with baby #7.

As I read through my new copy of Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook, I was moved by her descriptions of family and creativity and how being surrounded by the beautiful handmade things they made influenced her life path. While my parents weren’t as prolifically artistic as Anna Maria’s, the stories of her grandmothers and their sewing resonate with me strongly.

ANNA MARIA HORNER NEEDLEWORK NOTEBOOK

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TILLEKE SCHWARZ + A SKIRT

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

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

TILLEKE SCHWARZ + A SKIRT - FABRIC DETAIL

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TILLEKE SCHWARZ (+ INDIGO WEEK)

I first saw Tilleke Schwarz’s work in an exhibition called Pricked: Extreme Embroidery at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York. The needlework was displayed proudly as contemporary art by extraordinary female artists. Boundaries were pushed as textile art was made. Friend, Maira Kalman, also had work on view.

Tilleke’s work resonated with me with its elaborate technique and profound artistic statement. At the time, her first book Mark Making (2007) had quickly sold out, so when her self-published second book, New Potatoes, came out a few years later I readily ordered 10 copies.

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SPIRAL COFFEE COZIES

You can add texture to anything (and everything) with our Spiral embroidery technique from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Personally, I would like to have a Spiral embroidered couch; however, my production manager just shakes his head.

Perhaps a quicker and easier place to start is with a set of the Spiral embroidered coffee cozies shown above.

Instructions for this coffee cozy below.

Spiral stencil available to download from our Resources page here.

Spiral embroidery instructions available in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

Time is your own.

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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: SPIRALS

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

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

 

DIY COUCHING CORD

Couching is another age-old technique that we employ over, and over again as a design practice at Alabama Chanin.

When embellishing, we often use cotton jersey pulls as appliqué to give weight and a sculptural quality to our crafted garments and home goods.

From page 110 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:

“At Alabama Chanin, we use the term couching to describe a form of appliqué in which cotton jersey ropes are appliquéd to a base fabric with a parallel whipstitch, following a design stenciled on the fabric.”

As one of our advanced techniques, couching requires a steady hand and thoughtful eye to hold the fabric into position as you sew. ANNA'S GARDEN + COUCHING CORD Continue reading

HOMEGROWN GOWN

We (HEART) this story in the newest NO’ALA Magazine (on pages 110-117) about our custom made Bridal gowns:

NO'ALA BRIDAL

It takes a village:

“Once the elements of the gown are chosen, Diane, the master seamstress, measures the bride and Carra-Ellen cuts the fabric and prepares the pattern. Steven, the production manager, applies the stencil to the fabric using an airbrush technique. And with Natalie’s stamp of approval, Olivia prepares the kits for the artisans.

The artisans, who are all from the North Alabama area, are independent contractors, who charge per square inch, depending upon the intricacy of the stitching. This cottage industry-style production model allows artisans to work from their own homes and set their own wages.”

NO'ALA BRIDAL

Plan ahead:

“Brides should allow three weeks for online orders and several months for a custom gown. ‘It’s a slow process,’ says Lyndsie, ‘but it’s well worth the wait.’”You can contact Lyndsie: office (at) alabamachanin.com. Look for our new bridal line to launch soon.

NO'ALA BRIDAL

P.S.: What did you wear to your wedding(s)?

“A handmade silk slip underneath a silk brocade, baby blue fur-collared evening coat from Anna Molinari, heels, and a diamond choker,” says Natalie. “Totally 1996.”

DIY PEACE (A SKIRT TOO)

No one can find inner peace except by working,
not in a self-centered way, but for the whole human family.
– Peace Pilgrim

There are many ways to make DIY Peace.

Mildred Norman set off on New Year’s Day and began to walk across the country in the name of peace. Changing her name to Peace Pilgrim, she said, “I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace.” Peace Pilgrim continued her journey until her death in July 1981.  That’s 28 years of walking for peace.

Others have worked for peace in their own ways. There have been singers for peace, like Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, or Bob Dylan. Many have spent their lives attempting to create peace on a global level: Nelson Mandela, fellow Southerner Jimmy Carter, Elie Wiesel. There are those like Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, who have devoted their lives to prayer and meditation for peace. So many across the world continue to protest and work for peace.

At Alabama Chanin, we only know how to do what we CAN do to promote peace… So, for today, while it may seem trivial, that’s as simple as our Peace Skirt.  It’s not earth shattering; it’s a skirt. However, perhaps the time sewing, and/or the time wearing will give us each a little time to reflect, or to work towards peace in small ways for our own lives.

Make your own or purchase our DIY Peace Skirt Kit (kit comes ready-to-sew and includes all fabric, floss, and thread needed to complete your project).

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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: DECEMBER 2012

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

Perfect for your next holiday gathering…

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

DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: NOVEMBER

For November, we’re featuring the Couching technique as our Desktop of the Month. Couching lends substantial weight and warmth to any garment. The final days of October brought quite a chill to Alabama, perfect weather for my favorite couched coat. I love pulling out my coats for the first time of the season; a sure-fire signal fall has arrived and the holidays are just around the corner.

We hope you have a cold-weather favorite you reach for year after year. Or, if it’s time to start working on a new favorite, you might consider making your own coat and embellishing with the Couching technique. The Alabama Chanin version of the technique is featured on page 110 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and shows several variations to work using beads or cotton yarn with a parallel whipstitch.

xoNatalie


DIY THURSDAY: SAMPLER BLOCK SHAWL

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

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

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

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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: THE BACK SIDE OF BACKSTITCH

For the August Desktop of the Month, we are featuring the backside of fabric using a backstitch. These stitches were made with our Button Craft thread on our 100% organic cotton jersey fabric.

We believe that this is a simple reminder that beauty can be found behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. The things that support and hold us all together are as essential as they are inspiring.

If you’re not familiar with the backstitch and would like to learn the technique, along with many others, reference our Studio Books Series which include how-to sections, complete with images and instructions.

Photo thanks to Rinne Allen

REVERSE APPLIQUE RUNNER SUPPLY LIST

From the Creativebug Website:

“Reverse applique is the signature look of Natalie’s designs at Alabama Chanin. Natalie demystifies the process in this workshop, showing you how to add depth and texture to a cotton table runner. The technique is worked on two layers of fabric, with the top layer stenciled and then stitched to the backing layer. Once stitched in place, parts of the top layer are cut away to expose the color below for a satisfying final reveal.”

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DIY THURSDAY: APPLIQUÉ CURTAINS

I have had a set of cotton twill curtains in my house for years. I don’t really remember where I bought them anymore; they have just been a part of my home for ages. This spring, I got a set of new set of (more energy efficient) French doors to replace the 1950s era sliding glass doors that open from my kitchen to the back patio.

Because the curtain rod now needed to be moved, I took the cotton twill curtains down for a wash – and I decided to decorate them.

Applique Curtain- DIY (8)

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DIY KRISTINA’S ROSE + BEADED KRISTINA’S ROSE

Kristina’s Rose is one of our newest fabric designs and stencil patterns, seen in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. The undulating circular pattern is reminiscent of the Circle Spiral Applique from page 156 of Alabama Studio Style, but translated using more elegant techniques.

Highlighted in Chapter 8 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.: Fabric + Fabric Maps, the Kristina’s Rose fabric (page 126) uses the folded stripe appliqué technique from page 108 of Chapter 7 in combination with the stripe with beaded chain stitch on page 105,  and the beaded rosebud stitch from page 79 of Chapter 5 – all worked in loose, undulating circles.

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SAMPLE BLOCK QUILT

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

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SAMPLE BLOCKS + LIBRARY

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

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

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MENDING

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

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

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

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THE HEART

I once had a close friend who was the most incredible painter, yet never sold a single piece of art. I (and everyone who saw her work) was certain she was destined for artistic greatness and critical acclaim, if only she could get people to see her work. She thought it unfair and ridiculous to allow a gallery to take a commission on her sales when she did all of the work. As her collection grew, her apartment shrank, and I decided to play hero – or at least middle man.   That was free of charge.

Unfortunately, my efforts met with failure after failure; despite interested buyers, the deal always fell through. Mostly she claimed the piece was in need of some minor finishing then failed to follow up, refused to return calls. How could someone struggling with bills be so unmotivated that they couldn’t even schedule a time to collect some cash? Finally I realized (and after a couple of cocktails she admitted) that she had no intention of selling those paintings- they simply meant to much to her.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an artist who hasn’t experienced this sort of attachment to their art. Investing so much of your time and energy into a piece shapes the way you view and how much you appreciate it. When I begin a project that I know is destined for someone-somewhere else, I take a moment to focus on that fact; I take a moment to hope it will bring happiness to the wearer. Then, I let it go.

It’s hard to see a piece of our clothing in-person and not touch it – strangers have been known to sacrifice their understanding of personal boundaries on more than one occasion. The beauty of hand-stitching is almost shocking in its simplicity, and even the most perfect looking stitches are not- that’s the point. It is impossible to conceal the artistry and expression in a garment that has been made by human hands. Diane, our head seamstress (who you will meet later),  can tell you which one of our stitchers is responsible for a garment with a quick glance… we wonder if she can tell their mood as well.

Alabama Fur (in the picture above) is one of the most time-intensive treatments in the collection; it can take several weeks to complete an all-over application. Every time I run my hands across a sample of it I can’t help but think of how much time it spent with the artist who made it.  Was it put aside at the same time every day in the name of homework assistance? Did it suffer through the new season of True Blood, or help with any important decisions?

The Alabama Chanin collection (in the best case scenario) is made from cotton that is grown in Texas, spun in North Carolina, knit in South Carolina,  dyed in Tennessee and North Carolina, and sewn by our incredible Artists here in Alabama. I’d like to introduce you to the people that take part in the making of your Alabama Chanin pieces, those that cut your fabric, pack the boxes that are mailed to you, and those that hand-stitch our collection on their own terms and time.  Each garment is hand-numbered and signed by the artisan who assembled it. Who made your favorite piece? Check the tag, and if you’re inclined, say hello when he or she is featured. We love learning more about our friends, fans, and clients. We hope you enjoy getting to know us a little better during the upcoming months.


STITCH MAGIC + TEA TOWELS

The whimsical fabric creations of Stitch Magic are simply breath-taking. Alison takes inspiration from Colette Wolff’s sewing fetish book The Art of Manipulating Fabric, giving a contemporary spin to twenty beautiful projects, ranging from home decor to fashion accessories. Machine sewn projects include fabric necklaces with dainty button closures and hand embellished egg cozies that are two of our favorites.

We combined our hand-sewing techniques with simple pin tucks from page 58 and quilting from page 82 to make these tea towels using the pattern from page 91 of Alabama Stitch Book and our 100% organic cotton jersey in medium-weight (colors Sand and Doeskin).

My daughter loves to use these tea towels for napkins, as a bib to cover her school clothes when eating breakfast (we use a wooden clothespin to hold two corners behind her neck) and she takes one to school in her lunch box to use as her own personal placemat.  She started kindergarten last Thursday and I think I will be making a lot of these tea towels in the coming year! Continue reading

SEWN NEWS

Thank you to Sara for showing me the work of Lauren DiCioccio and a new way to look at the everyday.

Artist Statement:

My work investigates the physical/tangible beauty of commonplace mass-produced media-objects, most recently: the newspaper, magazines, office papers and writing pads, plastic bags, 35 mm slides. These media are becoming obsolete, replaced by the invisible efficiency of various technologies. In some cases, this transition is a good thing- faster transmission and distribution of information, streamlined systems, openness to user input, less waste. But a hole is left behind by the disappearance of these everyday objects. What will happen when we no longer touch information? When newsprint does not rub off onto our fingertips? When we no longer write longhand?

The tedious handiwork and obsessive care I employ to create my work aims to remind the viewer of these simple but intimate pieces of everyday life and to provoke a pang of nostalgia for the familiar physicality of these objects.

TRUCKERS QUILT

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

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

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

From the Wall Street Journal:

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VIDEO BLOG #1 – LOVE YOUR THREAD

The Doo-Nanny was amazing this year and I have arrived back home after what seems like months. It was lovely to sit at my dining room table this morning and think about all the stories and laughter…

I hope that you can all join us next year in Seale. It is a magical experience and there will be more about this next week. BUT… back to today.   I have been asked over the course of the last year (about a hundred and one times) to start a video blog and I have probably tried it just as many times. I never once posted the video for one reason or the other but mainly because I could not make it through one video watching myself and hearing my own voice. Ever felt that way?   Anyway, I have been broken by peer pressure (Melanie + Gilberto I am writing to the two of you) and here present Video Blog #1. Depending on the feedback (ahmmm… this means to comment below), I will start to share one on a regular basis.   So here you have the story of “Loving Your Thread.” You will find this story in both Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style.

Loving Your Thread is at the core of our work at Alabama Chanin and at the core of my work as an entrepreneur. After I become a Video Blog Aficionado, I will most likely want to do this one again.

Smile and let me know if you need subtitles for my Southern accent…

INTERNATIONAL QUILT STUDY CENTER

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

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

Visit their site to explore their magnificent collections.

ELEGANT STITCHES

Elegant Stitches is by far the best illustrated guide to simple, as well as extremely complicated stitching. Our Stitchers all have a copy that have been dog-eared and used over and over again.

Get your copy here: Elegant Stitches by Judith Baker Montano