Tag Archives: Stencils + Patterns



Our 2019 Build a Wardrobe subscription launches today with modern, brand new styles to add to your closet. In planning for 2019, The School of Making design team set the tone with our color of the year: Verdant. They have also developed three new stencils: Abstract, Canopy #1, and Canopy #2. And they combined these elements in Design Bundle #6, which is the perfect starting point as you plan out your hand-sewn wardrobe projects for 2019.


And we introduce our 2019 line-up, starting with The Fractal Dress. This is a modern style that will complement any woman’s body. The shape is relaxed yet tailored for a flattering fit, and the panels allow the opportunity to play with color and engage the pattern in creative ways. Available in top, dress, and an asymmetrical crossover top, this style will add a modern edge to your wardrobe.


Quarter two introduces The Jumpsuit. Our team developed this pattern with a utilitarian design in mind. The jumpsuit has a fitted bust, snap-up placket, drawstring waistline, and a flowing wide leg. The shirt dress variation is a mid-length fashion, and the shirt is a functional, comfortable snap-up style with a collar. At the same time, we will introduce three bonus pocket patterns—Cargo, Darted Stripe, and Oversize Patch—that can be used on all of our Build a Wardrobe styles.


For quarter three, The Asymmetrical Trench debuts with double-breasted front panels, snaps, optional storm shield, and back vent. This garment can also be made in a stripe version, or pockets may be added for further customization. The Asymmetrical Peacoat is an additional body variation we include with the pattern. With this pattern, our team looked to create a staple and classic piece for your wardrobe. The coats launch in July, which gives you plenty of time to make yours for the upcoming fall and winter season.


Our final pattern is The Pencil Skirt—another classic style with a feminine touch. The skirt has plenty of shaping built into the pattern and is offered as a basic pull-on version and with slits in the front or back—or as a crossover version with a waistband and snaps.

When you purchase (or gift) a 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

(Please note that the first quarter pattern and materials ship out at the beginning of January.)

By subscribing, you will have a year’s worth of content in-store that can be created from start-to-finish using techniques presented in The School of Making Book Series. As always, each quarter will bring a new DIY garment pattern that you can customize to fit your own personal style. This program offers participants full freedom to take each garment and make it their own.

Subscribers will also have access to order custom DIY kits for each of the four new garment patterns at a discounted rate. These new styles are exclusively available as DIY kits to subscribers during the 2019 Build a Wardrobe program. As we’ve done the past three years, subscribers can order custom kits beginning with The Fractal Dress during the first quarter of 2019, with the new patterns being added every quarter.

Below you will find an overview of the materials that are included with each quarter.

Quarter One: The Fractal Dress pattern

  • Fractal Dress Pattern in both printed and digital formats. This pattern provides three style variations for the garment body (top, crossover top, and dress), two sleeve variations for this garment (short and 3/4), two neckline options (Crew and Funnel), optional side-seam pocket, and all necessary instructions.
  • 5 yards of our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey in two colors (2.25 yards each color) for completing a double-layer Fractal Dress or any variation of your choice
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • An exclusive digital link to a Custom DIY form that gives you the option to purchase DIY Kits for The Fractal Dress—cut and stenciled to your specifications

Quarter Two: The Jumpsuit pattern

  • The Jumpsuit Pattern in both printed and digital formats. This pattern provides 3 style variations for the garment body (shirt, shirt dress, and jumpsuit) and all necessary instructions.
  • 7 yards + 1/2 yard for pocket variations of our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey in two colors (3.75 yards each color) for completing a double-layer Jumpsuit or any variation of your choice
  • 2 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • 13 #7 silver snaps
  • Bonus pocket patterns for the entire year: Cargo, Darted Stripe, and Oversized Patch

Quarter Three: The Asymmetrical Trench pattern

  • The Asymmetrical Trench Pattern in both printed and digital formats. This pattern provides 2 style variations for the garment body (peacoat and trench), and all necessary instructions.
  • 7 yards + 1/2 yard for pocket variations of our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey in two colors (3.75 yards each color) for completing a double-layer Asymmetrical Trench or any variation of your choice
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • 6 #7 silver snaps

Quarter Four: The Pencil Skirt pattern

  • The Pencil Skirt in both printed and digital formats. This pattern provides 5 variations for the garment body (pencil skirt, skirt with front slit, skirt with back slit, asymmetrical skirt and crossover skirt), and all necessary instructions.
  • 3 yards + 1/2 yard for pocket variations of our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey in two colors (1.75 yards each color) for completing a double-layer Pencil Skirt or any variation of your choice
  • 1 spool of thread in the color of your choice
  • 1 yard fold-over elastic in the color of your choice
  • 6 #7 silver snaps

As in past years, anyone can join at any point throughout the year. By participating and purchasing materials through 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 as a digital download on our Studio Books + Patterns page.

Throughout the year, we will show 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:


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

We chose patterns for the year to build on our three previous subscriptions. If you make a basic of each variation of every pattern offered through this year’s subscription, you can end the year with 23 hand-sewn garments. Pattern possibilities, by the numbers:

The Fractal Dress – 12 garment variations (top, crossover top, dress X 2 necklines X 2 sleeve lengths)

The Jumpsuit – 3 garment variations (shirt, shirt dress, and jumpsuit) with three pocket variations for each style

The Asymmetrical Trench – 3 garments (peacoat, trench, and stripe trench) with three pocket variations for each style

The Pencil Skirt – 5 garments (basic, front slit, back slit, asymmetrical, crossover) with three pocket variations for each style)



Expanding on design programing, we developed three new stencils for The School of Making that build on the design series’ connection to nature and geography. Inspired by strong graphics and the natural world are Abstract and Canopy.


With bold shapes and leaf motifs throughout, Abstract (35.5” x 31) is available as both a Mylar stencil and a downloadable PDF that can be used to create your own stencil. Abstract’s graphic design lends itself well to a variety of appliqué, embroidery, couching, and an array of beading techniques.

THE-SCHOOL-OF-MAKING-ABSTRACT-CANOPY-STENCILS-3Comprised of two separate stencils, the elements of the nature-inspired Canopy (35.5” x 28”) can be used alone or layered. The stencils have registration marks to help with their alignment if you choose to utilize both in your design. Choose to paint both stencils in different colors, a combination of layered paint and embroidery, or for a textural 3-D effect, use embroidery techniques on both on stencils. Like Abstract, Canopy is available in Mylar and PDF formats.



Pair Abstract, Canopy, or any of our other stencil designs with our School of Making book series for appliqué, embroidery, sewing, and beading instructions.

Follow The School of Making on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest updates and launches.



As we continue to build out our paper pattern library, today The School of Making releases the Maggie Dress, Full Wrap Skirt, Alabama Sweater, Walking Cape, Unisex T-Shirt, T-Shirt Topand Baby Bundle patterns in paper versions. Previously only offered in digital forms, these patterns will add new dimension and styling options to your hand-crafted wardrobe. They round out our current collection with paper options for every single pattern we offer.

Like all of our paper patterns, these each include nested sizes XS – XXL (except for the Walking Cape and Baby Bundle, which are offered in one size).


Maggie Dress
Offering a unique design and flattering shape, the Maggie Dress and can be customized to the length of your choice, from top, to tunic, to floor-length dress.


Full Wrap Skirt
The versatile Full Wrap Skirt comes with three different skirt variations: the Full Wrap Skirt, Pull-On Skirt, and Apron Skirt, with four length options for each variation.


Alabama Sweater
The Alabama Sweater is a wardrobe staple that boasts a relaxed fit, wide v-neckline, and two sleeve options.


Walking Cape
The seasonless Walking Cape can be a basic topper worn throughout the cooler and transitional months or intricately embellished for a special occasion.


Unisex T-Shirt
This men’s and women’s style offers a classic, everyday tee option with a relaxed fit and straight cut.


T-Shirt Top
The T-Shirt Top provides a more feminine version of the classic t-shirt in a fitted version with a cinched waist.


Baby Bundle
Our Baby Bundle includes a blanket, bunny, bib, and bucket hat for baby. These projects work up quickly and make beautiful gifts. Choose to make and give one or all.

For in-depth sewing, embellishment, and appliqué instructions pair any of the patterns with our Studio Book Series.

With 15 patterns (and counting), The School of Making’s pattern collection continues to grow. (Look for more additions to our pattern collection in 2019 with four new Build a Wardrobe styles.)

Shop Studio Books + Patterns here.

P.S.: If you are a store owner and are interested in carrying our paper patterns please contact Bonnie, Wholesale Coordinator for The School of Making, at workshops (at) alabamachanin.com.



Always striving to help you expand your own hand-made, sustainable wardrobe, The School of Making has released its much-anticipated coat pattern, the Ezra Coat, as the fourth (and final) installment of the 2018 Build a Wardrobe.

The Ezra Coat dates back to 2012 when we first created the pattern inspired by the photographs of Jim and Nancy Massengill.  This classic coat pattern is tapered at the waist with a fuller skirt that beautifully highlights embroidery techniques from The School of Making. It’s deep pockets and versatile lengths, from Jacket to Long Coat version, make this an important wardrobe staple.


Spend the Fall making this new (and sure to be favorite) cold-weather style that is flattering to a variety of body types and lends itself well as both a basic, everyday coat or an elaborately appliquéd and embellished special-occasion piece.

The Ezra Coat offers long sleeves, flattering princess seams, a full flare from the hip, and flap pockets. The nested pattern comes with sizes XS – XXL, four length variations, and two sleeve options.


Completely customizable to your needs and climate, the Ezra Coat can be a transitional piece made from a single layer of our medium-weight jersey or cold-water-ready with two layers of medium-weight jersey (use our Printed Cotton Jersey for a fun and unexpected inside layer on a basic coat).

Pair this pattern with The School of Making Book Series for appliqué, stenciling, and beading inspiration and instruction.

The Ezra Coat is offered in both physical and digital formats here.

Share your progress on the Ezra Coat and all of your projects with the entire School of Making community using the hashtags #buildawardrobe2018 and #theschoolofmaking on Instagram.



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 the Fen Dress from Fancy Tiger Crafts, Anna Maria Horner, both The Dress Shirt and The Factory Dress from Merchant & Mills, along with a multitude of designer patterns from Vogue Patterns. Our latest installment in this series is the Nell Shirt from Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, California.

A Verb for Keeping Warm has been one of our wholesale partners for years—well since we first started wholesaling.  We’ve taught multiple workshops in and around San Francisco and have had the opportunity on multiple occasions to host events and hang out with Kristine, Adrienne, and the whole crew at A Verb for Keeping Warm.

Kristine is a cult figure in the world of making. Her book The Modern Natural Dyer is a gorgeous tome with the subtitle: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen, and Cotton at Home. Indeed. In Chapter 5, there is a project featuring an Alabama Chanin top and our ever popular Crop Cardigan. We collaborated with Kristine on one of our beloved Maggie Tops using a cut flower printing technique on our 100% Organic Cotton Jersey fabric. Kristine created the fabric for us and the garment can be found on page 79 of The Modern Natural Dyer. You can see that we have a beautiful history, an ongoing partnership, and deep friendship.


The Nell Shirt is a modern twist on a classic button-down shirt. The top 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 when using a knit fabric.) We made the top with a combination of our Forest and Peacock medium-weight jersey using Forest and Navy colored Button Craft Thread and a beautiful hand-dyed indigo embroidery floss from A Verb for Keeping Warm.



Nell Shirt Pattern (Printed version or Digital PDF version)
2 yards of 60”-wide 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey for garment body and sleeves
1 yard of 60”-wide 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey for contrasting inset Front Panel
1 spool of Button Craft Thread or 2 spools if making a contrasting colored garment
1 spool of Embroidery Floss or skein of hand-dyed floss
Basic sewing supplies: scissorspinsneedles, 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 shirt.

Follow all instructions using the following modifications for the knit fabric:

We reduced the 1/2” seam allowances on every pattern piece to 1/4″ by removing 1/4” from every seam. Do not adjust hemline or any pattern lines marked “Cut on Fold.”

Eliminate all interfacing for knit fabrics.

Hand-sew all seams with a straight stitch, leaving 1/4” seam allowance, using a double strand of thread on medium-weight cotton jersey.

When instructions read “press,” we felled these construction seams to the inside.

Where instructions read “Finish by Hand,” we used a Blind Stitch.

We left our shirt hem as a raw cut edge.


FRONT—Cut 1 on fold in Forest
BACK—Cut 1 on fold in Forest
FRONT PANEL—Cut 4 in Peacock
SLEEVES—Cut 2 in Forest
CUFFS—Cut 4 in Peacock
BACK LINING—Cut 1 on fold in Forest

Button Craft Thread—Forest and Navy
AVFKW Naturally Dyed Embroidery Floss
Seams—Inside Felled




The Marie Stencil, inspired by the lush backdrops and intricate costumes of artist Eugene Von Bruenchenhein and his wife and muse Eveline ‘Marie” Kalke, is now available through The School of Making.

The Marie Stencil utilizes graphic floral motifs and lends itself well to bold color combinations.


The Marie Stencil is available in physical and digital formats on our Maker Supplies + Stencils page.

Shown in negative reverse appliqué on the Frances Top, you can pair this stencil with the 2018 Build a Wardrobe (when you sign up you will receive 20% off stenciling supplies) or with a variety of garments and home goods from our Studio Book Series.

Share how you plan to use the Marie Stencil in the comments below and be sure to follow us and the entire The School of Making community on Facebook and Instagram.

Design Choices

Garment – Frances Top with collar with cap sleeves
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Black
Fabric color for inner layer – Black
Button Craft thread – Black #2
Textile paint color – Slate
Stencil – Marie
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled



We love a good T-shirt, and our summer has revolved around this classic garment with the launch of the Clean Tee collection from Bldg. 14, a special one-of-a-kind Graffiti Tee collection from Alabama Chanin, and the Frances Dress and Top pattern—our take on an effortless, relaxed T-shirt dress—launched earlier this month in The School of Making.


The T-Shirt Top pattern was introduced in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design in 2012 and shown with design variations (godets, Princess seams, and front and back stripes) in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. It has a slightly fitted waist and longer length than a standard T-shirt.

After requests for a men’s T-shirt option, we released the Unisex T-Shirt (for men and women) as a digital, standalone pattern in 2015 with the same constructions as the T-Shirt Top.


For the first time, the T-Shirt Top is available as a standalone digital pattern, now combined with the Unisex T-Shirt, creating simply: The T-Shirt pattern. And after receiving feedback about the construction, we made two small adaptations from the original T-Shirt Top pattern. In this updated pattern, you’ll notice the sleeve is symmetrical and the back shoulder seam is adjusted to better fit the front shoulder seam.

You’ll get both of these patterns in the digital PDF download—with the full pattern sheets and tiled options in both US Letter and A4 (for our international customers) formats and priced at $24. Visit our Journal here for instructions for home printing.

Make both and have the option of a fitted silhouette or a more classic fit with The T-Shirt Pattern. Each pattern is included with sleeve options (sleeveless, cap, short, and long for the T-shirt Top and sleeveless, short, and long for the Unisex) and a full size range available from XS to XXL.

Find the pattern in Studio Books + Patterns to create the perfect T-shirt (or 2, or 10) for the summer.



Most of us have seen boxes of old patterns in our grandparents’ attics or at yard sales, but have you ever considered putting them to use? For those who are interested in doing just that, Vintage Patterns Wikia has posted over 84,000 out-of-print patterns from before 1990 in a searchable archive. Not all viewable patterns are available for purchase, but the crowd-sourced database is growing each day. Visitors can search by all sorts of categories – decade, garment type, designer, or vendor. You can also view projects that have been completed by other visitors.

If you find yourself in possession of a vintage pattern that you want to use, it is important to take several things into consideration. Many older patterns are extremely fragile and their paper envelopes may be delicate. Take care to remove and spread them out and NEVER cut from the original pattern; you risk damaging the delicate paper and ruining your entire project. Carefully trace each piece onto pattern paper and store the vintage patterns in their original envelopes or other sturdier folders.


Older patterns also use different terminology and read differently from modern-day commercial patterns. This article is a great resource on how to decode and clarify instructions and terms used on vintage patterns. Keep in mind that sizing can be very different on modern patterns than on older ones. Do not cut your normal, modern-day size without first carefully examining the measurements on the original. Vintage patterns are known to sew up smaller than modern patterns. (If necessary, you can refer to Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns for assistance with modifications.)

The Vintage Sewing Pattern Wikia is still a growing database with a large collection of patterns and original envelopes to view and some resources available to purchase those patterns. Their goal is to create a massive one-stop-shop for patterns 25-years old or older. Members can help to grow the resource by posting their own pattern photos, reviews and tips for making garments, and linking to sellers who can provide original patterns. To find out if a pattern is available for purchase, click on the pattern link in the wiki and scroll down for information on the vendor who sells the item you are interested in. Not all patterns are yet available. You can also browse the member community and see finished garments made from available patterns. There is a forum of makers who discuss sources, techniques, and memories of garments past. Visit their starter’s guide to learn how to contribute to the database.


There are dozens of vendors for vintage patterns and original patternmakers will often sell reproductions if you are not up for the unique challenge of navigating vintage garment instructions. The wiki provides links to a number of reputable sellers for those interested in working with originals. For those who just want to window shop, click here for hours of reminiscing and daydreaming of wearing that perfect Katherine Hepburn pant or Ginger Rogers dress. As it continues to grow, this wiki is a resource you can return to again and again for inspiration.



The School of Making offers a wide range of beloved sewing patterns, available in our Studio Book Series and as standalone patterns. 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. We have a long history of friendship and collaboration with Fancy Tiger Crafts, from wholesale partnerships to our Swatch of the Month subscription. Fancy Tiger is a staple in the making community offering range of sewing and knitting patterns plus beautiful fabrics and yarns, all available through their online store.

The Fen Dress is a fun take on a relaxed T-shirt dress with its drop shoulder, gathered skirt, and pockets. Originally designed for woven fabrics, the Fen Pattern lends well to our Medium-Weight Cotton Jersey with a few adaptations, outlined below. We made View B with the scoop neckline and short sleeves using Camel 100% Organic Medium-Weight Cotton Jersey and Sage Button Craft Thread. (Consider sizing down if you’re using a different fabric with more stretch.) To make your own hand-sewn jersey Fen Dress you’ll need:

The Fen Dress Paper Pattern by Fancy Tiger and The Fen Dress in Camel Adapted for The School of Making Medium-Weight Cotton Jersey


Fen Dress Pattern from Fancy Tiger Crafts (Paper version or Digital PDF version)
2 yards of 60”-wide Medium-Weight Cotton Jersey
1 spool of Button Craft Thread
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, pins, needles, ruler, rotary cutter
The School of Making Studio 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.




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.


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).


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.



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.


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.



The Sylvan stencil is one of Alabama Chanin’s most intricate and involved yet—mimicking the details of its namesake (the woods). The design groups leaves, flowers, petals, and stems showcasing various embroidery stitches and techniques.

The Lark Tee and Liza Dress are machine-sewn garments that feature Sylvan hand embroidery, which adds depth and texture to the simple silhouettes. Sylvan styles are available in four colorways: Silver, Baby Blue, Concrete, and Black—each with unique thread and paint colors.

Find these styles and 100% hand-sewn garments that also feature Sylvan in the Alabama Chanin Collection.


Left: Lark Tee; Right: Lark Tee and The Mid-Length Skirt


Top: The Cocoon Cardigan and Liza Dress; Bottom: Liza Dress

View our current Collection here.



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.


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.



Design Bundle #2 launched this morning and included the return of one of our favorite specialty fabrics—Faded Polka Dot. This fabric is created by our stenciling team in-house using 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in Natural and the Small Polka Dot stencil.

Faded fabric made its first appearance at Alabama Chanin in our Fall/Winter 2008 Revolution Collection. At the time, Natalie was looking for ways to color fabric that didn’t require dyeing, and our first version of the fabric—Faded Leaves—was born. The fabric is made using a process called Wet-Paint Stenciling—one of the techniques included in Alabama Studio Style. Follow the instructions below to create your own faded fabric at home



Stencil – we used the Small Polka Dot stencil
100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey in Natural
Black textile paint
Container large enough for soaking fabric
Water (enough to cover your fabric within the container)
Table salt (4 – 6 tablespoons per yard of fabric)
Airbrush or spray bottle for paint
Spray bottle for water
Drop cloth

1. Soak Fabric
Combine the water and salt in a container large enough to cover your fabric. Add the fabric and soak for at least 20 minutes; this will open the fabric’s fibers to receive the textile paint. Drain and wring the excess water from the fabric.

2. Transfer Stencil Design
After preparing your work surface and stencil and correctly positioning your fabric right-side-up on the covered work surface, position your stencil on the wet fabric and use either an airbrush or spray bottle to spray black textile paint over the stencil. Move the stencil to the next area to be painted while the fabric and paint are still wet, and repeat the process as often as needed to stencil the entire desired area.

3. Spray Fabric with Water
While the fabric and paint are still wet, use a clean spray bottle filled with water to spray the entire length of your painted fabric, which will cause the fabric paint to disperse and bleed. Let the wet fabric sit for one hour.

4. Dry and Wash Fabric
Hang the wet fabric to dry for 24 hours outside or indoors over a drop cloth to protect the surface beneath (dripping excess water and paint can cause staining). Wash the fabric in the washing machine with detergent for one wash cycle to remove the excess paint. Dry the fabric in the machine, or hang it to air-dry.

After this wet-painted fabric has dried thoroughly, you can use it as-is for a project or embroider or otherwise embellish it. While we like to use Natural for our projects, you can choose to experiment with any color base fabric. Keep in mind that a lighter-color base will show your faded paint effect more clearly.

Please note that the instructions listed above cause the design to bleed more than what’s shown on the Faded Polka Dot fabric above, giving the fabric more of a watercolor effect. If you desire for the stencil to be more recognizable, do not soak your fabric before applying the stencil. Lay out dry fabric on your work surface and then follow steps 2 – 4 as listed above.



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.


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.



Our Design Bundle was announced last week and includes hand-stenciled swatches in two designs: our popular Anna’s Garden stencil and a new stencil for our DIY community: the Daisy stencil.

Once only offered for our Collection garments, the Daisy stencil is a now available through The School of Making as a Mylar stencil and as a digital download to print at a copy shop or at home. The Daisy stencil has also been added as a stencil option for our Custom DIY kits.


Look back on the Journal to find project inspiration featuring our Anna’s Garden stencil. And check back in the coming weeks for projects and inspiration using the new Daisy stencil.



PS – Our Daisy pattern is shown here worked in Negative Reverse Appliqué (top) and Whipstitch Appliqué with Satin Stitch Embroidery (above).


Stenciling has a deep history that reaches across millennia, but also within Alabama Chanin. It is the basis for our lean-method manufacturing and also within part of The School of Making. We’ve got a library of 600+ stencil designs and the Stars stencil is #340. Stars was originally inspired by the costumes in found in vintage circus photos and also the Indian circus photos by Mary Ellen Mark. (Look for more on Mary Ellen in the coming months.)


The stencil made an appearance in our Fall/Winter 2009 collection in hues of Forest Green and Black, and also in our Songbirds Collection, where it was featured in blues, naturally-dyed indigo, naturals, and reds.


The design was first made available for DIY in our 2012 book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design with embroidery instructions for Satin Stars (shown above) included on page 129. Satin Stars Alabama Sweater—in all-white—was created as part of our Build a Wardrobe program.

Get the downloadable stencil artwork and work with your choice of bugle beads, chop beads, and sequins to prepare for Independence Day celebrations. Pair the worked stencil with a garment from our Studio Book Series or a pattern from our growing collection.


We previously shared The History of Tailoring and continue our series on fit with a comprehensive history of pattern making.

In order to survive, human beings had to master the arts of creating and sustaining food, clothing, and shelter. As time went on, we became better at those tasks and began to create standards for what worked best and instructions on how to replicate the best results. That is a pattern’s main function: to act as a template for recreating a design that has been created and (hopefully) perfected.

For hundreds of years, fit was not considered particularly important when it came to clothing. Clothing was largely utilitarian and the most important feature of any garment was that it covered your body. As the concept of fashion advanced, fit began to emerge as a way to create desired body shapes or to make clothing more comfortable or functional. But, initially, fit was considered a luxury – something only the wealthy had the disposable income to worry with. More affluent families could hire tailors or dressmakers to custom sew garments, but the average citizen made their own, or reworked hand-me-down clothes.

The first known clothing patterns appeared in Spain – Juaan de Alcega’s Libro de Geometric Practica y Traca in 1589, and La Rocha Burguen’s Geometrica y Traca in 1618. During these years, Spanish fashions dominated European dress – and these books gave specifics on making garments for men, women, clergy, and knights – but were perfunctory how-to books written for tailors. Later books, like L’Art du Tailleur by de Garsault and Diderot’s L’Encyclopédie Diderot et D’Alembert: arts de l’habillement, written in the 1700s, provided instruction on measurement, cutting, garment fit, and construction, but they, too, were written with the professional tailor in mind.

In the 1800s, less technical books were produced for home sewers – particularly those in charitable ladies’ groups. The charmingly titled Instructions for Cutting Out Apparel for the Poor and The Lady’s Economical Assistant printed full-size patterns for practical items of clothing. The Workman’s Guide provided not just patterns, but also detailed drawings of the final garments, and pattern drafting instructions.


Around this same time, women’s magazines were gaining in popularity and many of them printed patterns, increasing the average woman’s access to stylish garments. But these early patterns and illustrations were printed on small magazine pages and were difficult to use. By the 1850s, Sarah Josepha Hale’s magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, printed full-sized paper patterns by Mme Demorest, but in one size, with no scale measurements for enlarging; the reader still had to size the patterns to her own figure. Eventually, foldout patterns, printed in full scale, were issued as periodical supplements in the British magazine, The World of Fashions – and other magazines soon followed suit.

During the Civil War era, tailor Ebenezer Butterick developed the mass-produced, tissue paper pattern, sized according to a proportional grading system. Butterick and his family cut and folded each pattern and began mass-producing ladies dress patterns from their New York headquarters. It is estimated that Butterick sold 6 million clothing patterns by 1871. A few years later, James McCall began developing his own line of women’s clothing patterns – which gave the American woman some options for her clothing. It was now possible to create (or have someone make) a well-fitted, stylish dress using these mass-produced paper patterns. After about 125 years, Butterick and McCall are still some of the biggest names in the pattern industry.

In 1927, Joseph Shapiro established the Simplicity Pattern Company, which created and reproduced patterns that were affordable for the average household. Most patterns on the market sold from between 25 cents to $1, depending on the type of garment – but Simplicity patterns were mass-produced and generally sold for about 15 cents. In 1931, Simplicity partnered with the Woolworth Company to produce DuBarry patterns, which sold at an even more affordable 10 cents. Around the same time, Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue patterns, introduced Hollywood Patterns – which sold for 15 cents each – and capitalized on women’s desires to look like Silver Screen stars.


Today, advanced software and imaging systems have been created to help innovate pattern and garment making. But, in truth, the most revolutionary technological development in patternmaking history is actually the tape measure – which appeared around 1800. Until that time tailors developed their own non-standardized systems of measurement, which made pattern reproduction difficult. Units of measurement varied depending on location: Britain favored the inch system, while France employed the metric system; some still measured fabric using units of “hands” or “elbows”. With a tape measure (followed by the compass, ruler, and tracing paper), sewers could produce and reproduce mathematical patterns that were designed with a three-dimensional body in mind.

The availability of paper patterns increased as the home sewing machine became more affordable, the number of fashion magazines rose, and the U.S. Postal Service expanded. Women in rural areas were able to dress in current fashions without having to shop at a major department store. A woman’s ability to make her own garments provided a degree of freedom and encouraged fashion trends to emerge. Interestingly enough, the modern-day resurgence of at-home sewing and garment making seems to be encouraging growth of individual style over trend. Though home sewing with paper patterns may never again be the norm, it is heartening to hear your descriptions of customizing patterns to create one-of-a-kind garments. We hope you will continue to make, experiment, and share your stories with us.

Find out more about altering patterns in our book Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns here.
Share your pattern making details on social media using #TheSchoolOfMaking.


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.


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.



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.”


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.



Last fall, our friend (and editor) Melanie Falick 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.


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
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 Book Series, and share any tips you’ve learned in the comments below.


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.)



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.


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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.



Photos by Abraham Rowe


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.

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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 - Photographer Abraham Rowe - Alabama Chanin

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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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Today, we launch our new Unisex T-shirt garment pattern—available in paper and PDF form through our newly re-organized Studio Books + Patterns page for The School of Making. Available for purchase at $18 – $24, it includes the nested pattern and comes in sizes XS to XXL along with instructions for fabric selection, cutting, and garment construction. All of our patterns are the results of hours creating drawings, drafting patterns, making samples, readjusting the patterns, sewing more samples, and finally, grading each pattern by hand into a range of sizes that are then translated to our digital, nested versions. These new PDF patterns (more styles coming very soon) are designed for printing on wide-format printers or desktop printers. 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.

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With the launch of Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns and our updated online Studio Books + Patterns page on Friday—including new garment patterns and stencils offered as downloadable PDFs—we are offering a growing range of designs that require printing, either from a home printer or from wide-format printers found at print shops across the globe.

Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design included paper pattern sheets that allowed home sewers to create Alabama Chanin designed garments. And while this is a straight-forward process, there are new printing options available that may streamline patternmaking for the home sewer.  Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns comes with a CD filled with ready-to-print PDF files for new garments and stencils, plus all of the garments from our previous three books. Additionally, beginning this Friday we will offer new garment patterns and stencil designs for purchase from our Studio Books + Patterns page—also in PDF form.

Electronic versions of all of these designs can be emailed from your computer or brought to a local copy/print shop and printed out on extra-large paper so that there is no joining or overlapping of the pattern pieces necessary. Wide-format printers are readily available that print up to 36” (90 cm) and sometimes as much as 44” (112 cm) wide and as long as the roll of paper fits the machine. Look for a copy/print shop in your community that works with architects, who also have large-scale printing needs. In our experience, prices for printouts can vary widely from shop to shop, and so it pays to take the time to research the best value available. If you cannot find a wide-format printer in your own community, there are a range of online services that will print digital files and ship to your door. Continue reading


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.


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Our On Design conversation in December focused on the practice of stenciling—including examples of designs throughout history and various techniques used over time. Stenciling is at the core of our Alabama Chanin collections; currently it is the sole means by which we transfer decorative patterns onto our fabrics. We have explored DIY stenciling in our Studio Book series, and are even offering a one-day workshop on the topic next year.

The use of stencils dates back over 37 thousand years, as evident in Neanderthal cave art found in Spain. These paintings are outlines of hand prints; it is theorized that Prehistoric man or woman would place their hand against the wall, and then blow finely crushed pigment around it. These stencils were accompanied by shapes from the natural world and daily life: animals, hunting scenes, and ritual all figure prominently.

ON DESIGN: THE HISTORY OF STENCILINGPhoto by Stephen Alvarez. Link through to see the color version and see more of his caving photos here.

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“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.


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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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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.


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.


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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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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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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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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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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. Techniques and instruction can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.


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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.

Make a few with friends, kids, neighbors, and community.


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Pumpkin carving has a deep-rooted history in American culture. As a child, my family always used the butcher knife/three-triangles-and-a-mouth method. Today, there are specialized carving tools available from a range of sources. Martha Stewart, a lover of all things Halloween, has brought pumpkin carving to a new level, offering creative designs and techniques. Meanwhile, Maggie’s dad, Butch, looks for the strangest pumpkins available and stacks them in towering sculptures before Halloween, and then plants rows and rows of the leftover seeds in his garden after the holiday.


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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.


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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.

Abbie’s Flower All-over Stencil

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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:


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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.


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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.


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We’ve loved every plate, bowl and serving dish from our collaboration with Heath Ceramics that has come through the studio. But it’s this newest addition, the Camellia pattern, that is easily my favorite, and the most elegant. Each piece is hand-etched by a Heath Ceramics artisan and comes in Opaque White. The design is offered on the Deep Serving Bowl, Dinner Plate, and a Serving Platter, and is a natural addition to the current Alabama Chanin @ Heath Ceramics collection.

The Alabama Chanin @ Heath Ceramics collection is available in Heath Ceramics stores, on the Heath Ceramics website, and our online store.


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.

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 Tunic and the Tank Tunic – available as patterns in Alabama Studio Style.


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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.


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.


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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 Maker Supplies + Stencils page here.

Spiral embroidery instructions available in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

Time is your own.



Fit is by far one of the hardest subjects to address within the realm of manufacturing. There are just so many different body types that it would be near impossible for one manufacturer to address EVERY type in one product—and often times in one line. The most basic body shapes range from round to pear, petite to lean, and every shape in between. When you start to do the math and include XXS – XXL, you come up with a number of patterns that reaches to the Nth power. When you begin to add categories such as Juniors and Misses, it becomes staggering.

Entire classes in design schools and universities around the world spend semesters working on streamlining and finding solutions for fit issues. Body scanners can now take perfect measurements of your body and supposedly create a jean that is perfect for your shape. I find that hard to believe, but based on the shape I have carried with me my entire life, I don’t really care for pants that much anyway.


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February’s Desktop of the Month is all about pink (and shades around it). To celebrate the spirit of love, we’ve talked about what the heart symbolizes and what we might want it to mean for 2013: joy, beauty, acceptance, and more. Here, the backstitched reverse appliqué hearts in gray and pink are simply a way to celebrate those sentiments.

P.S. Come back Thursday to see our Camisole Dress made in the Hearts pattern.



Follow instructions for the Woven Farm Chairs (or Friendship Chairs) on page 95 of Alabama Studio Style to make your own chair with our Hearts stencil.

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Red velvet cake is as much a Southern tradition as fried chickenpot likker, and cornbread. So when the idea for red velvet “Valentine’s Day” cake came up, it was a given that we would be eating the cake at our weekly office lunch.

In our community, this three layer cake is traditionally topped with a cream cheese icing – although I have seen it with buttercream, chocolate, as well as with a combination cream cheese and chocolate icing. I prefer the subtle tang in the cream cheese version, with or without the commonly used addition of chopped pecans or shredded coconut. We’ve added an Alabama Chanin touch of homemade pink sprinkles in our Facets stencil pattern cut to fit perfectly over our cake.

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It’s the time of the year when the shape of a heart makes its prolific comeback (although with a six-year-old girl at home, the heart shape is a pretty common part of daily life). Graphic symbols often carry with them deep histories (and controversies) over where the shape emerged.  This simple shape is no different. Apparently it is found in cave paintings dating as far back as 10,000 B.C.E.

Some believe that the shape was a simplification of the silhouette of the human heart; others believe that it was a sign used for a now-extinct plant called silphium, which was used as a form of birth-control—therefore becoming the sign of love.  Still others believe that the inverted heart symbolized the hanging scrotum —perhaps a stretch of the (over-active) imagination.

Wherever your beliefs land, it can’t be denied that the heart is possibly the most (over?) used symbol of our time. But then, why should that stop us?

Here is our version of the heart in stencil form:

Check back this week as we elaborate on all things love (and heart shaped), from Dr. Ruth to DIY Kits, and little girls’ valentines (to themselves).  “I love you. I love you. I love you,” she murmured as she gazed in the mirror.

Should we all find such self-love in these next two weeks… and for the rest of our lives.

P.S.: Heart rocks above were carefully selected from Natalie and Maggie’s collection.


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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With the publication of our Alabama Studio Book Series, we open sourced our beloved techniques that these living arts might be preserved for future generations. One of the things that we learned along the way is that people who are dedicated to one particular area of craft can also become converts to another area. The art of working with your hands seems to span all disciplines.

We have customers who are woodworkers, potters, scrapbookers, knitters, and crocheters. Particularly, knitters seem to find themselves at home making Alabama Chanin pieces. Perhaps loop-by-loop finds familiarity with our stitch-by-stitch method. Knitters Melanie Falick (my editor) and Mason-Dixon’s Kay Gardiner are now hand-sewing enthusiasts in the Alabama Chanin style.

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Continuing our conversation around design, craft and fashion, this week we present a Tracy Reese pattern from Vogue Designer Patterns for DIY Thursday.  In all my years as a designer, I have not had the chance to meet Tracy, although I have been familiar with her work since the launch of her collection in the mid-1990s. At that time, I was working as a stylist in Europe and spent much of my time in boutiques, reading fashion magazines, and working with clients.

In an effort to understand Tracy Reese’s philosophy, we reached out to her press office for information and received a note stating that they could “not provide any information at this time.” However, this is what I found on the CFDA website:

“Detroit native Tracy Reese is a graduate of Parsons School of Design. Reese apprenticed under designer Martin Sitbon and worked as design director for Women’s Portfolios at Perry Ellis before launching her eponymous collection in 1996. The collection blends the ultra-feminine and nostalgic with modern polish. plenty by Tracy Reese, was introduced in 1998, after a trip to India provided endless inspiration. A joyful color palette, art-inspired prints and playful details are seen on essentials with a bohemian spirit. With flagships in Manhattan and Tokyo, the Tracy Reese and plenty brands have expanded to include footwear, handbags and home goods.”

Martine Stibon remains one of my all-time favorite designers and I used those pieces often during my days as a stylist.  I do love the dress that emerged using our organic lightweight cotton jersey fabric with Tracy Reece’s pattern.

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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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1. A decorative design, as for fabrics, wallpaper, china, or rugs.
2. Decoration or ornament having a design.
3. A natural or chance marking, or design: patterns of flowers on a fabric.

Moving through the Penland studios, you see patterns emerge everywhere.

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As we continue to explore the design elements that make up Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, we look at the simple, but incredibly beautiful Spiral pattern. This pattern is reminiscent of both our Circle Applique and Kristina’s Rose treatments, but this particular design stands out largely due to its use for an entirely new application- Alabama Fur. It is often said that you have to see and touch our garments to fully appreciate them, and the countless knots and tails that follow this classic curve usually illicit the most response.

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Over the last weeks (and months), we have been introducing our new patterns, stencils, fabric designs, plus patterns from our newest book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Hands-down, our Paisley has been a favorite new design and I was excited to see that EcoSalon even did a feature on this iconic pattern last week. As we just finished a round of world-wide fashion weeks, we witnessed the classic paisley in some new interpretations.

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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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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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The word “star,” with its many meanings, occupies several places in my mind (and the universe):

First, a star is simply a shape- the most common being five-pointed. As I was taught in geometry class, it is constructed from points, proportions, and folds. Seen in patriotic prints of the 1960s and 70s, its contour was fitting with the bold, geometric patterns of the time. Fifty of these shapes are on the American flag, each representing a state and the collection of stars symbolizing our country as a whole.

While designing and constructing quilts, I’ve learned that a quilt’s geometry is systematic. Sewing together the triangular and diamond-shaped puzzle pieces to make each polygon requires great planning and thought. This geometry is apparent in our Indigo Star Quilt, and in the repeated shapes of the Flag Quilt.

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Nature and flowers are often a source of inspiration for my pattern designs, which is evident in their titles: Climbing Daisy, Anna’s Garden, and Kristina’s Rose, to name a few. I simply find Mother Nature’s curvaceous forms and shapes alluring.

I look for pattern inspirations everywhere I go, and most often find them when gazing out of my kitchen window. Ferns, such a strong presence in the South, have always found their place either hanging on the front porch, or perched on a pedestal in many a home. With our unusual weather in Alabama, I’ve watched this year’s ferns move along rather quickly; their early appearance takes my mind back to the time when I was fervently working on my new book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

This book introduces the Beaded Fern Fabric that has been a part of our Collection over the years. While the fern isn’t quite a flower (I believe it fits more into the ‘spore’ category), I still find it to be an elegant decorative element, one that has been a staple in fashion history.

Historically, the fern motif dates all the way back to the ancient Egyptians. Ferns became incredibly popular during the Victorian Era in Britain, when botanists began going out into the field to further their research. Fern Fever- they called it. During this time, artists frequently replicated the fern motif in pottery, glass, textiles, and sculpture. Back in August, Garden & Gun highlighted the trend, which is making yet another comeback in modern fashion.

When designing, I think about the ebb and flow of organic patterns, how they will translate onto the garments, and if the finished product will retain a natural beauty as our bodies move in those garments. Looking at our beaded fern embellishment, I can almost see the wispy leaves dancing.

Our Beaded Fern fabric below has a particularly organic, but elegant feel and is among our clients’ favorites. We choose to use a satin stitch and incorporate chop or seed beads. To experiment with this design yourself, download the Fern stencil from our Maker Supplies + Stencils page.


Cotton-Ribbon-(1)-WIn New York’s Garment District, there are two stores that take the prize for the most comprehensive selection of embroidery ribbons: Mokuba Co., Ltd and Tinsel Trading Company. At Alabama Chanin, we happen to purchase the cotton tape that we use for embroidery from Mokuba, who supplies us with gorgeous ribbons and other notions made in Japan. I have visited Mokuba many times in search of the perfect ribbons and always found a more than exquisite selection.

This week for DIY Thursday, we would like to share instructions on the ribbon embroidery used as an embellishment in our newest book. In Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, we introduce ribbon embroidery with 100% Cotton Tape as a beautiful way to add delicate dimension to your projects and garments. (Color card available here.) We have been using this technique since 2002, when I began using ribbon embroidery for our collections. This ribbon creates a sophisticated, old-world effect and gives the garment a unique sculptural quality. Below, we share the steps to create this detail, using the Climbing Daisy stencil.

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As Alabama Chanin has grown, part of the beauty of this growth has been my ability to watch our employees and families spread their wings, grow, and find their voices. A few months back, June started to use her voice to tell our stories through her own experiences. Today, Sara Martin makes that same leap and stretches her voice. As I wrote about Sara a few weeks back, she was like a child when she first showed up at my studio. What a treasure to see her make this leap from child to beautiful woman. A hearty Alabama Chanin welcome to Sara’s voice on this blog… xoNatalie

I’ve never been conventionally beautiful. I’ve always known this. I’m just a little bit shorter, a little rounder than the pretty girls; I’ve always laughed a little louder, been a bit more vulgar and less delicate than a southern woman is expected to be. Like most young girls, I struggled with trying to figure out what it meant – this difference. And I tried to negotiate my way through what was expected of me and what I expected of myself.

In the not-so-distant past, tattoos were considered unattractive; to many, they still are. Tattoos have long been the domain of sailors, bikers, outlaws and prisoners. So, how do we reconcile this type of art with femininity? Is it possible to love the skin that we live in and still change it?

Most women I know use some sort of enhancement to make them feel better about what they see as imperfections. Many dye their hair – or buy someone else’s hair to improve upon what they naturally have. We’ve been known to wear high heels to make us taller and Spanx to make us thinner. Some women look to plastic surgery, Botox, face creams and bronzers to enhance the figures and faces they were born with. For me, the process of learning to love myself meant getting underneath my own skin.

I got my first tattoo right out of high school. I found that I liked the way that it made me feel about myself. I got another, and then another. Most of them were easily hidden – something I kept for myself or revealed only to people that really knew me. As I slowly gathered these pieces I discovered that, even in moments of intense self-loathing, I had something about myself that I loved. I chose this about myself. I may not have loved what my thighs looked like, but this I was proud of. I did this.

Now, as an adult, I’ve finally come to terms with who I am on the inside. I like my loud laugh and my off-color jokes. I’m learning more and more to love who I am outside, too. But, I still struggle with some things, as most women do. These days, I view my insecurities as mountains or undiscovered continents – somewhere to conquer and plant a flag. My arms are my latest Mount Everest. I’m learning to love them, but on my own terms and one tract of skin at a time.

I’m still a work in progress. I’m painting my masterpiece, one bit of ink at a time.
– Sara

P.S.: Sara’s Reverse Applique Alabama tattoo (Note the Angie’s Fall Pattern)  by Adam “The Kid”, at Kustom Thrills in Nashville, Tennessee, + photo thanks to Gina R. Binkley.


From page 10 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:

“Stenciling is a cornerstone of both our design process and our business model. 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.

Over the years, we have worked with more than four hundred different stencil designs.”

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It took me years to come to love the paisley pattern. I first became aware of the distinctive design during my days working in India and throughout my years as a stylist: men’s ties, patterned shirts, dresses, and scarves just scratch the surface. Since that time, I have avoided using it at Alabama Chanin simply as I felt that it was just SO often seen across the realm of textile design. However, my strict stance has mellowed recently and the pattern is highlighted in Chapter 8 of our upcoming Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, entitled “Fabric + Fabric Maps.”

“The paisley – a tear-, pear-, or kidney-shaped curved figure – is a common motif in almost all cultures across the globe.”

Historically, paisley has been present in fabrics worldwide and there have been an array of books written on the pattern. I suppose a designer could spend their entire career just working with this simple shape.

The stencil is now available from our Online Store and shown above embellished in back-stitch reverse applique from Alabama Studio Style.


We have so very much to be thankful for this year – and decade.  It has been a time filled with friends, family, color, design, light, laughter, growth, and, of course, good food.

May your celebrations this year be filled with laughter, light, love, and Pumpkin Cheesecake!

xo from Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

To make pumpkin puree:

Cut in half one sugar pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Place the pumpkin half-side down on a roasting pan and fill with ¼ inch of water. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until soft. Scoop out the meat and puree until smooth.

I have also used organic canned pumpkin with good results.

For the crust:

1 c. graham cracker crumbs (I have also used crushed shortbread cookies)
1/4 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. brown sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. Assemble a 9-inch nonstick springform pan, with the raised side of the bottom part facing up.

In a medium bowl, mix cracker crumbs, pecans, sugar, and butter until moistened; press firmly into bottom of springform pan. Bake until golden around edges, 10 to 12 minutes.

For the Filling:

4 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, very soft
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice
1 T. bourbon
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt
4 large eggs, room temperature

Make the filling: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on low speed until smooth; mix in flour (do not overmix). Add pumpkin puree, spices, bourbon, vanilla, and salt; mix just until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next.

Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour filling into springform, and gently smooth top. Transfer to oven; reduce oven heat to 300 degrees. Bake 45 minutes. Turn off oven; let cheesecake stay in oven 2 hours more (without opening).

Remove from oven; cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.

Gently lay our Climbing Daisy Stencil over the top of the cooled cake and dust with cinnamon.



A variation on our classic DIY Swing Skirt, our new Facets Swing Skirt is 6″ longer, has all-over embroidery and reverse applique in the Facets stenciling. Choose your own fabric and thread colors and we will cut to your size specifications. Follow the instructions for reverse applique and construction from Alabama Stitch Book to make your very own.

100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey and a hand-sewn elastic waistband make this one of the most comfortable skirts in my closet. Shown here in Baby Blue, the longer length is perfect for cooler fall weather and my (growing) collection of boot.


Labor Day in my family means delicious home-cooked food.  And while I won’t be indulging to excess this year, I still look forward to family get-togethers and the cooking involved.  While browsing my cookbook collection in preparation for our family meal, it occurred to me that covered pies are really just applique with dough. Fascinated by that concept, I began to imagine all of the things you could do with stencils in the kitchen. With this recipe for Reverse Appliqué Bloomers Cherry Pie, I start exploring ways to combine Alabama Chanin stencils with good home cooking – imagine the possibilities.

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Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.Richard P. Feynman

My life tends to run in patterns.  Sometimes I dream of patterns. My favorite subject in design school was the study of pattern & repeat. One semester I spent a week just discussing the word repeat (and an entire semester trying to define the word). I have certainly spent the greater part of the last decade working with patterns. I look for patterns everywhere I go and in everyone I meet.

Explore our selection of patterns and Studio Books here.
Find essential supplies for working with patterns and stencils (along with our collection of mylar stencils) here.

#stenciling #theschoolofmaking


Many will recognize this geometric stencil from our archive of work as well as from our Spring/Summer 2009 Ceremony Collection.  People often associate this star pattern with Islamic Art (and the pattern is sometimes called the Islamic Star); however, patterns of this nature were already becoming visible in early Mesopotamian Art and Architecture.

This genre of geometric pattern is ancient and has been used over the millennia for multiple purposes: from tiling and textiles to religious meditation, ritual, pottery, art and architecture.

Here are good resources for intricate graphics patterns to further research:

376 Decorative Allover Patterns

Pictorial Archive of Geometric Designs

Floral And Decorative All over Patterns

Ornament 8,000 Years

And the Facets All-Over Stencil is now available from our online store.


Back in March, Liesl Gibson wrote a really lovely story about our Alabama Stitch Book on disdressed. I contacted Liesl to let her know that I loved the story of her running across the street “during lunch just to ogle the Alabama t-shirts.”

In writing back and forth with Liesl and browsing the blog, I discovered her new line of children’s patterns oliver + s.

While we do not make children’s clothing, I have loved taking the techniques we use to make special pieces for my daughter. Here, Maggie’s new dress – made by our master seamstress, Diane – using our fabrics, stenciled and hand sewn from a pattern by oliver + s.

It has taken me (literally) weeks to get Maggie to sit still long enough to actually get a picture of the dress that was not blurred in motion! While you cannot see the detail, it is really the best photo I have been able to get.

We have since made another version of the dress using our binding, with herringbone stitch, around the neckline and armholes like the corset from Alabama Stitch Book. I can’t wait to try out the whole collection of patterns.

And, don’t miss the beautiful (and functional) paper doll presentation.
Thanks, Liesl.