Tag Archives: Studio Books



In celebration of the 10-year anniversary edition release of Alabama Stitch Book, we celebrate our journey and growth over the years by re-releasing special-edition kits of our Swing Skirts, which were featured in Alabama Stitch Book and remain our most popular garment pattern of all time. It is likely that, because of the number of Swing Skirts created in homes, at workshops, and in our first Crafsty class, there are more of these skirts walking around in the world than any other Alabama Chanin or The School of Making garment.


The Bloomers Swing Skirt showcases one of the earliest classic Alabama Chanin stencils. This garment was previously available only in tonal color options, but now has updated colorways to choose from.


The Faded Bloomers Swing Skirt highlights the Bloomers stencil. With this option (previously available only in tonal color options), your backing fabric will always be Faded, but you now have the option to select your outer layer of choice.


Our Appliqué Rose Swing Skirt is another classic version of the Swing Skirt. Like the Bloomers stencil, the Rose is one of our oldest and most popular stencils and one that celebrates the history of Alabama Chanin and The School of Making.

As always, once you have placed your order we will match your thread and elastic colors to match your colorways of choice.

Take advantage of this limited-time re-release and add a Swing Skirt (or another) to your collection.


P.S.: Make your next swing skirt from the newest design of our Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey which is now available in Sand with the Anna’s Garden stencil.

P.P.S.: Find the design choices below from a sampling of Swing Skirt designs that have been created over the years. Skirts with an asterisk* are available through Custom DIY. Please note some of the fabrics are no longer available.

Share your Swing Skirt project with us on Instagram using #tsomswingskirt. We’d love to see how yours turned out.


From top left to right:

1 – Magdalena Swing Skirt
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Limited-edition Printed Jersey in Sunset (discontinued)
Fabric color for inner layer – Natural
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Stencil – Magdalena
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Light Blush

2 – Anna’s Garden Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Grape
Fabric color for inner layer – Burgundy
Button Craft thread – Burgundy
Textile paint color – Pearl Brownie
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Outside reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Pewter (discontinued)

3 – Anna’s Garden Swing Skirt* (28″)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Navy
Fabric color for inner layer – Navy
Button Craft thread – Navy
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Textile paint color – Slate
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Navy

4 – New Leaves Swing Skirt
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color – Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey in New Leaves Natural (discontinued)
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Stencil – Small New Leaves
Technique – None
Knots – Inside
Seams – Outside felled Rosebud Stitch
Elastic – Natural (Cream)

5 – Bloomers Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Black
Fabric color for inner layer – Faded Angie’s Fall
Button Craft thread – Black
Textile paint color – Slate
Stencil – Bloomers
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Black

6 – Bloomers Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Apple
Fabric color for inner layer – Earth
Button Craft thread – Brown
Textile paint color – Brownie
Stencil – Bloomers
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Red

7 – Anna’s Garden Swing Skirt* (21”)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Pewter
Fabric color for inner layer – Pewter
Button Craft thread – Slate
Textile paint color – Pearl Brownie
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Slate

8 – Appliqué Rose Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Blue Slate
Fabric color for inner layer – Blue Slate
Appliqué Fabric color– Black
Button Craft thread – Black and Slate
Stencil – Rose Placement
Technique – Appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Black

9  – Magdalena Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Parchment
Fabric color for inner layer – Natural
Button Craft thread – Cream
Textile paint color – Wood
Stencil – Magdalena
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Sand

10 – Facets Swing Skirt* (28”)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Baby Blue
Fabric color for inner layer – Baby Blue
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Textile paint color – Pearl Grey
Stencil – Facets
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Baby Blue

11 – Magdalena Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Baby Blue
Fabric color for inner layer – Dove
Button Craft thread – Slate
Textile paint color – Fog
Stencil – Magdalena
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Dark Grey (discontinued)

12 – Magdalena Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Light Indigo (discontinued)
Fabric color for inner layer – Natural
Button Craft thread – Slate
Textile paint color – Nickel
Stencil – Magdalena
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Dark Grey (discontinued)

13 – Anna’s Garden Swing Skirt*
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
Textile paint color – Pearl Brownie
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Black

14 – Bloomers Swing Skirt*
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
Textile paint color – Slate
Stencil – Bloomers
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Black

15 – New Leaves Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Pewter
Fabric color for inner layer – Black
Button Craft thread – Slate (Black thread on Elastic)
Embroidery Floss – Charcoal
Textile paint color – Black Gold
Stencil – Small New Leaves
Technique – Backstitch reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Black

16 – Anna’s Garden Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Natural
Fabric color for inner layer – Sand
Button Craft thread – Cream
Textile paint color – Pearl Silver
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Natural (Cream)

17 – Embroidered Eyelet Swing Skirt
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Navy
Fabric color for inner layer –Navy
Button Craft thread – Slate/Navy
Technique – Eyelets and Embroidery
Embroidery Floss – Dark Grey and Light Grey
Bugle Beads ­– Satin Grey Bugle
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Navy

18 – Paisley Swing Skirt
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Indigo (discontinued)
Fabric color for inner layer – Indigo (discontinued)
Button Craft thread – Slate
Textile paint color – Pearl Grey
Stencil – Paisley
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Baby Blue

19 – Variegated Stripe Swing Skirt
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Blue Slate
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – Slate
Textile paint color – Pearl Grey
Stencil – Variegated Stripe
Techniques – Beaded embroidery
Beads – Natalie’s Mix and Satin Grey Bugle
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Dark Grey (discontinued)

20 – Anna’s Garden Swing Skirt*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Ochre
Fabric color for inner layer – Ochre
Button Craft thread – Slate
Textile paint color – Pearl Brownie
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Elastic – Moss

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



Ten trips around the sun. A lot happens in ten years: birthdays, anniversaries, growth, loss, happiness, struggle, and joy. I daresay that each of us has experienced all of these things in the last decade. But, for Alabama Chanin, we are crossing an entirely new milestone: the tenth anniversary of the publishing of Alabama Stitch Book, our first book—the one that taught us so much and helped define who we are as a company.

ALABAMA-CHANIN-10TH-ANNIVERSARY-ALABAMA-STITCH-BOOK-2Ten years ago, we thought the idea of writing a book would be an exciting and relatively quick journey. After all, Natalie had already written a handbook, of sorts, for our artisan stitchers to use, explaining our standards and how to make each garment. What more was there to do but flesh those instructions out and tell some stories about how the company came to be? Perhaps if Natalie had known more about exactly what goes into writing a book, she might have said no to the proposition. But she didn’t, and we expanded to create the other members of our family of businesses.

The laborious process of writing a book means sending drafts back and forth to an editor, nursing sore feelings, pouring your heart out, and letting other people parse it for content, clarity, comma splices, and a dozen other things you never imagined at the beginning of the journey. When the document is finally finished, it feels something akin to birthing a baby, and then sending that baby out into the world to be judged and graded and loved, or tossed aside. Thinking back to writing those first pages brings feelings of vulnerability and pride.


Alabama Stitch Book was a key to the birth and development of The School of Making. When the book was first released, we were so excited that people were responding and actually taking our words and ideas and putting them into practice. But many people didn’t have access to the materials we recommended, or simply wanted to use the same tools that we used. What began as a small store meant to provide resources for our book readers grew into so much more. It led to more connection with you, our strong community of makers, and it gave us the courage and security to expand. More books and more workshops, more designs, and greater aspirations. It can honestly be said that the birth and growth of The School of Making gave us the courage and security to expand our collections, create The Factory Café and Store, and conceive of our machine-made line and Bldg. 14. All of this growth can be traced back to our humble Alabama Stitch Book.

Now that ten years have passed, our publisher has released a special edition of Alabama Stitch Book with a new cover and updated introduction. We want to honor each of you that have been with us since the very beginning and welcome those who are newer to our making community. For that reason, we are also re-releasing some of our original kits featuring garments from Alabama Stitch Book (the Rose Shawl, bunny rabbit, and swing skirt kits to name a few). For us, this anniversary is more than a walk down memory lane. It is a celebration of how we have grown and changed and how we have worked together alongside one another and each of you. Happy anniversary indeed!



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

Page 49: Double Chain Stitch – Front


Page 49: Double Chain Stitch – Back


Page 57: Zigzag Chain Stitch – Back


Page 77: Coral Stitch – Back


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




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


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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

Purchase The Geometry of Hand-Sewing here.



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

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

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


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

Explore our current DIY Sewing Kit Collection here.


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

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


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.)



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

View all DIY Sewing Kits here.


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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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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Sun Young Park, a freelance illustrator living in New York, is an integral part of the Alabama Chanin team. If you own Alabama Studio Sewing + Design or have ever browsed our Studio Style DIY Custom DIY Guide, then you’ve seen the beautiful sketches of our garments, illustrated by Sun. I met Sun several years ago by accident through a mutual friend, which resulted in an impromptu breakfast at The Breslin, April Bloomfield’s restaurant at the ACE Hotel in New York City. I was immediately taken by her enthusiasm and had been looking for a new illustrator for my books. Our chance meeting was good fortune.

Sun creates illustrations for a variety of projects, including April Bloomfield’s new book, A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, and Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing. We love Sun’s illustrations, doodles, and drawings and recently were able to chat with her about her beginnings in illustration, inspirations, artistic process, and desire to create.

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

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

Use our Maker Supplies + Stencils to make your own.

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The Bolero is a popular item for those of us in Alabama, as spring and fall temperatures (and in some years, mid-winter) can swing from 50 degrees to 80 degrees in the course of one day. It is an easy piece to toss into your bag on the way out the door and an effortless way to accessorize your look in any weather.

We shared the pattern for this garment in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, with four variations of how it might be constructed: sleeveless, with cap sleeves, short sleeves, and long, fluted sleeves. It can be completed quickly, regardless of your chosen style, and requires only 1 yard of fabric or so. Imagine our surprise, and disappointment, when some readers reported that their Boleros weren’t coming together as expected, that the pattern was a little bit off. Errata déjà vu.

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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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Southern children who grow up with a healthy respect for their elders, particularly their mothers, are said to have been “raised right.” Across the south, most children (and their fathers) must have been “raised right,” because there is almost always a big to-do made about Mother’s Day. Even though new Easter clothes have just been bought, a slew of children will go shopping again for new Mother’s Day outfits; it is expected to make a good impression at church on that big day. Mom gets to sleep in (just a little) and breakfasts will be prepared and served by the children. We present our mothers and grandmothers with beautiful corsages. Often in my community, the tradition is to give carnations. It’s common to give Mother a red or pink one and to set a vase of white carnations upon the kitchen table for grandmothers or great-grandmothers who have passed away. In my family,we  presented corsages to Mother and Grandmother on Mother’s Day morning.

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Update: The class is no longer available on Craftsy due to the discontinued pattern; however, Natalie does teach additional online courses that you can find on Craftsy and Creativebug. 

Heirlooms aren’t created overnight, and it’s the time that goes into embellishing and constructing an artisanal garment that gives life to its one-of-a-kind beauty. Join me, Natalie Chanin, for my new online Craftsy class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and enjoy the process of creating a timeless piece of clothing.

In our first lesson, we’ll look at an assortment of our beautiful hand-embroidered swatches and discuss a vast array of embellishment options for the included Vogue coat pattern. Then, together, we’ll practice a variety of hand sewing techniques to make your coat come together seamlessly. Working with cotton jersey, we’ll cut out, mark, and prepare the pattern pieces for embellishment, using techniques to minimize fabric distortion. Now we are ready to embellish. We’ll create a stencil using the included PDF stencil pattern, and paint designs onto your fabric. After that, I’ll walk you through a multitude of techniques for appliqué and reverse appliqué. We’ll also explore how to sew bugle, chop, seed beads, and sequins onto your garment, and combine beads with embroidery stitches. In our final lessons, we’ll talk through constructing the coat, plus learn finishing details such as adding topstitching, ribbing, and more. Enroll in Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and mix and match hand sewing and embellishment techniques, creating a stylish garment that will be treasured forever.

Though my mother once gave me a gorgeous Elna sewing machine, my initial forays into sewing were consistently shaky. Yet, the memories of my grandmothers sewing and creating had long ago taken root deep within my consciousness; these memories eventually bore fruit when I set out , at eighteen years old, for a life away from home to study fashion and design, live abroad, and gain valuable experience as a stylist and designer. When I eventually returned to the ranch-style house my grandfather built in rural Alabama, it was to start Alabama Chanin, my lifestyle clothing and design brand. Alabama Chanin maintains and celebrates the traditions and materials of my grandparents, creating garments by hand, using sustainable practices, and exclusively featuring hand and small lot-dyed organic cotton and recycled materials from local artisans. I look forward to sharing the unique Alabama Chanin process with you in my new Craftsy class.

CRAFTSY-IN-THE-STUDIOMy class was filmed at the Alabama Chanin studio in Florence, Alabama, but you can join me for these lessons from anywhere in the world. Just like the skills you’ll learn, my class is yours to keep—you can watch it whenever and however many times you like. Plus, the Craftsy classroom lets you pose questions so that your classmates and I can get back to you with answers. You can also use Craftsy’s video notes to mark and return to important techniques easily, plus you can utilize the thirty-second repeat feature to loop a technique without taking your hands off your sewing. My class has a wealth of information that I know you will enjoy, but if for any reason you aren’t satisfied, you can receive your money back with no questions asked.

Sign up for Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and learn a collection of enduring sewing techniques for unique garments with invaluable appeal. All supply bundles are discounted on our website.

P.S.: Photo of Maggie, Stella, and Natalie by Joe Baran.

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


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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While cleaning up for our recent Garage Sale (stay tuned for another coming towards the end of February), I found a bag of our Cotton Jersey Pulls cut into 4” lengths. Most likely, these were prepared for button loops, but no one in the studio can remember exactly why they were prepared and cut.

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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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This project from Alabama Stitch Book, like our Handmade Red selection, and the Holiday Stocking, is another perfect holiday project.  Made from two recycled t-shirts, you can get started with materials you have right in your own closet. (Don’t we all have a few t-shirts we don’t need?)

The project was posted originally on the Cotton, Inc., website in 2008 around the time of the launch of Alabama Stitch Book.  Start practicing now because we have a great DIY Wreath coming up on Monday that is based on this technique. As we wrote in Alabama Stitch Book, the choice of color can add an element of character, which makes it a great way to experiment with color combinations and textures you might not have considered before.

(I also accused my dear friend Eva Whitechapel of whipping hers off from time-to-time for a bit of dusting.)

Happy Holiday Dusting…

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I use ropes made from our organic cotton jersey fabric for wrapping all of my holiday packages (and for many other things–as evidenced in the DIY instructions below). If you have ever ordered garments or fabrics from our online store, you will have found your contents tied up in one of these Cotton Jersey Pulls. Follow the instructions below to make your own from scraps or from old t-shirts. Look for more posts about how to use these pulls in the coming year. Anything you order from our online store between now and the end of the year will come shipped wrapped, tied with a Cotton Jersey Pull, and ready to gift.

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

Perfect for your next holiday gathering…

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


Just in time for fall weather and the upcoming holiday season, we’re featuring the Anna’s Garden Poncho Kit. One of our most popular garments, the poncho is a classic piece, fit for most any occasion.

Originally featured in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, the poncho is seen here in our 100% organic cotton jersey fabric in Black with Forest stitched in negative reverse appliqué. We constructed our garment using black Button Craft thread tied with knots on the outside. Continue reading


In the style of “old-school” Alabama Chanin – and perfect for holiday gifts – make our Sister Shirts using mirror-image or mix-and-match sections of your favorite t-shirts. Follow the instructions for our Printed T-shirt Corset on page 155 of Alabama Stitch Book to complete the project.

From the project introduction:

Follow the instructions as given but prepare pattern pieces for two printed T-shirt corsets. Instead of using one of the T-shirts for the whole corset, mix and match by swapping out, for example the center front panel from one of the t-shirts into the center panel of the other. Do the same with the back panels. Ultimately, you will create two shirts that are nearly alike except for the transposed panels.

In the corset tops above, we traded out the Center Back and Middle Front pattern pieces. Leave edges raw and seams floating.



Some months back, a bowl of tea towels became a permanent installation on my kitchen table. We use them as napkins for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and just about every moment in between.

I found one in the car yesterday that had served as an impromptu placemat for one of my daughter, Maggie’s fruit pops. I also used them as burp cloths and bibs when she was younger.

Purchase a set here or make some yourself using the simple instructions from Alabama Stitch Book. There are colors and styles to match any kitchen. If you are like me, you will find endless uses for them.


From Alabama Stitch Book:

“Tea towels were originally handmade lined cloths specifically designed for English ladies to use to dry their teapots and cups after washing them. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and textile manufacturing, machine-made versions of these towels became readily available, and consequently they became a more “disposable” item. However, women like my grandmothers still chose to make their own. I have inherited some of their tea towels, which they made from flour sacks they cut into rectangles, embroidered, and beautifully finished on the edges. My grandmothers used these towels in bread baskets, as tray linters, and as little gifts for friends and neighbors. One of my grandfathers used one of these towels as his napkin at just about every meal of his married life.”



From Alabama Stitch Book, page 94:

One day when I was feeling a bit down, my friend Jen Rausch called. She told me I was allowed 20 minutes of self-pity, but then I was to get up and get on with my work. A few hours later, Jen arrived at the office with a tray lined with a beautiful tea towel, which held a china bowl, a jar of warm soup, and some homemade whole-wheat crackers. I will always be grateful to Jen for that sweet gesture.

Today, I’m pairing Jen’s Whole-Wheat Crackers with Zach’s Farm Cheese for an afternoon snack at our photo shoot. These recipes are fitting for most any occasion and come with little prep-time.



¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
3 cups quick oats
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to about 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend or beat the liquid ingredients, and pour them over the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix, then roll out the dough on the bottom of two large baking sheets to the edges. Sprinkle with salt, and cut 2” squares. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

Yield: Makes about forty 2”-square crackers.

Design Sketch and Hand-Sewn Beaded Seam Corset Project from The School of Making


Our Beaded Seam Corset is easy to make for yourself by following the pattern with instructions from page 145 of Alabama Stitch Book, by using our Corset Pattern, or The Corset Kit.  As one of the most popular garments in our collections, the corset is designed to show off a woman’s best assets, enhancing natural curves.

A digital version of the Corset pattern, along with instructions and tips on altering the pattern for size and style, are also available in Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns from our Studio Book Series.

The instructions below for the beading seams can be used on any of our garment and project patterns, available in physical and digital format. Be inspired and make it yours. #memade

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Our current selection of DIY Kits offers many garment styles with a variety of color and notion choices; however, we understand that often times the perfect design is a matter of personal expression. For this reason, we now offer Custom DIY.

For our Studio Weekend Workshops or home use, choose from our selected Custom DIY Kits. You may select from 26 styles that are featured in the Alabama Studio Book Series. From there, you will choose one of our fabric designs. We picked our 20 favorite combinations of color ways and techniques to simplify the selection process.

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

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

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

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

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

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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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This text – some of our most important sewing tips at Alabama Chanin – is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design (which we plan to receive and start shipping around the 15th of this month). It is important to us at Alabama Chanin that we as a humanity (women and men – girls and boys) take back the essential survival skill of hand-sewing, and that we also understand the physics behind the clothing that shelters our bodies.  It’s as simple as picking up needle and thread.

Old Wives’ Tales and Physics

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of old wives’ tales around the sewing room, but I’ve come to learn that many of these tales find truth in everyday life. And as tale after tale has proven true, I’ve also come to understand that there’s reason, or “physics,” behind them.

Needle your thread; don’t thread your needle:

This makes perfect sense in that the thread is the weaker of the two elements and easily moves or bends. Moving the more stable element—the needle—over the thread to “needle the thread” makes this a simple task.

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I am so excited about the launch of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. The book includes some of our very best garment patterns to-date and I can’t wait to see how the stencils, patterns, and designs work their way into DIY projects.

The long skirt pattern that is included in the book has become my staple go-to skirt for everyday living and night life for almost a year now. I have variation in black with embroidery and several basic versions in pink, ochre, and a beautiful turquoise color that we tie-dyed in the washing machine by just letting the dye bath sit unattended for a few hours.

I have loved these pieces from spring to summer and through the fall and into winter, because I can wear my sturdy stockings underneath on the coldest days and with socks and my new Billy Reid boots every other day. Continue reading


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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2011 – A REVIEW

It seems unbelievable to me that 2011 is coming to a close.  The Alabama Chanin journal has covered so many topics over the 2011 year and we have been so grateful for the opportunity to share our thoughts, travels, milestones and inspirations with you. As the year’s end approaches, we thought we would recap some of the favorite topics of the year.

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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.


There has been such a buzz around the studio these last weeks as we prepare for the holidays. So much buzz, in fact, that I have not really had time to sit down with our new book,  Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Last night, I remedied that with a quiet house, a  cocktail, and my “comfy chair,” as my daughter Maggie calls it.
I wrote last August about the process of writing this book and the moment of awaiting proofs from the publisher, but it seems like I just batted my eyes and the book is lying in my lap.
I’ve had time to recover since writing that post. I am once again in the studio and have – once again – been pulled away from the book and into other projects.  Much like giving birth, it seems that the pain of delivery subsides as you move away from the actual moment of delivery and on to holding that growing life. Not to compare my book with a new life BUT, when Alabama Stitch Book first came out,  my editor, Melanie Falick, said “the best part of writing a book is watching that book come to life in the hands of another.” It’s true. I experience that exact feeling as I sit here today and write this post. While the book is not a life, it does take on a life of its own. Today, I am the proud mama of a 1 pound, glowing book.
So, without further ado, here you find photographs of some of my favorite spreads in the book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. You will notice that I have included instructions and patterns for some of our favorite collection pieces. You can find the book on-the-shelves by mid-February (good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – as we like to say in the South).
DIY Kits, fabrics, and other goodies will begin to appear in our online store over the next weeks. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say… xoNatalie 


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

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

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


This is my first installment of a new bi-weekly fashion column for EcoSalon. Material Witness will offers my perspective on the fashion industry, textile history and what happens when love for community trumps all.

From EcoSalon – August 12, 2011


As a designer and entrepreneur in the fashion industry, it is a bit uncommon that I am also an author. A few weeks ago I turned in the very last edits to my third book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Truth be told, in my younger, bolder, high school days, I fancied myself an aspiring writer. I imagined traveling the globe with pen in hand, creating change at every turn. I fantasized leisurely lunches at Paris cafés. I subscribed to magazines; I was an avid reader. My only hindrance in achieving my dreams was that I was a rather lazy student and proper usage of English grammar and punctuation escaped me. Even today, the comma splice can present problems. So, it is a bit exciting, humbling, and, frankly, scary that I have been so graciously asked to contribute as a bi-weekly columnist at EcoSalon.

While I have had the opportunity to lunch in places like Paris over the years, I haven’t quite traveled the globe with pen in hand yet, though circumstances always change. These books I have written aren’t the next great American novel, they’re craft books. They’re books that teach the time-honored, hand-sewing techniques that are the basis of my fashion company, Alabama Chanin. The books are simply guides that speak to a sustainable lifestyle that is at the core of my work. I want to make that lifestyle available to all.

The decision to open-source Alabama Chanin for individuals through our books is not common in the fashion world, in an industry that is more accustomed to secrecy. However, you have to look at the whole of the picture to understand why sustainable designers do what we do.

My personal work is expensive because it is organic, custom-dyed cotton jersey that is cut, painted, sewn, and embellished completely by hand in America with skilled artisans who set a fair price for their work. Over the years, I heard rumblings in the media of my work being “elitist,” and “inaccessible” because of its price. And while our collections have been deemed “couture,” we run our business in the most down-to-earth way from a small community in North Alabama. Sustainability – both ecological and cultural – has defined our growth from the very beginning and “elitist” would actually be the antithesis of who we are.

When the thought of sharing our techniques and patterns to individual users arose, I understood that this could both sustain the needlework traditions that our company celebrates while making our work available to many more people. The concept of open-sourcing seemed a way to make our products more accessible.

Timing is everything and to understand my decision it’s important to understand the period in which I was working. As all of this was unfolding in 2003, open-sourcing was a new idea. Wired Magazine wrote about and provided music tracks for sampling that were free reign for anyone who had the desire to use them. The internet was spreading like fire and for the first time, vast amounts of information was, almost literally, at our fingertips. Books like The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson (on my required reading list), about the concept of selling less of more were being heatedly discussed. The world of business was changing and it seemed to me that sharing traditions that I did not invent was not only the right thing to do but the modern way to approach my business.

Of course, there were naysayers who firmly believed that, by openly sharing, I was putting the nails in my own coffin. They thought that once our “trade secrets” were common knowledge, no one would purchase our couture garments. Honestly, I was fearful when Alabama Stitch Book landed on the shelves around February 2008. However, the book sold well and, more importantly, interest in our couture collections continued to grow. My fears proved groundless. But then, isn’t that the way it usually goes?

Readers who work with the techniques described in the books now tell us that they understand not only why our garments cost so much but why they are worth so much. At the same time, a completely new part of our business has burgeoned. We now sell the supplies needed to make our designs (organic cotton jersey, thread, stencils, fabric paint, beads, and project kits) via the internet and host hands-on workshops both in our studio in Florence, Alabama and around the country.

So, all of this information is the story of how a feeling to do what is right – not perhaps what was right for my industry – changed my business and my life. I am not sitting in too many Paris cafes these days. But then, I have a five-year-old daughter and I imagine that she and I will have plenty of time for that together. I do write a lot these days – revisiting my younger, bolder, high school dreams – and, it seems that I am traveling the world, pen (or computer and camera) in hand and trying to make a difference. On this journey, I find it inspiring to start conversations about life, living and, of course, fashion.

The thing about fashion is this: I want to OWN my clothing on all levels – just like I want to own my life. I want to cut it up, sew it back, and make it MINE. I want a skirt I buy to make it through the first wash and a hundred more.  I want to take the time to make decisions about what I choose to put on my body with the same care that I decide what I put in my body.  I’m hopeful that you feel the same way. In fact, I want to know more about you and hope to start a conversation next time by answering ten reader inspired questions – fashion industry or otherwise.


My son Zach’s lacrosse shirt from high school was re-fashioned following the pattern and instructions from Alabama Stitch Book.

I am not sure if that stain is blood or juice and I prefer not to know.

Choose your team and get started.

This shirt was constructed many years ago using a beaded stitch of my own invention (although I am sure that it has been done before!):

Thread your needle, love your thread and tie off with a double knot. Insert needle through either side of pinned seam, pull through to other side and add one bugle bead.  Take one “stab” stitch and bring needle back through to your beginning side.  Make one whip stitch over the seam allowance, coming back to the same side.  Add one bugle bead and take one “stab stitch” bringing your needle through to the opposite side of your seam.  Add bead and repeat.

Post pictures of your Team Corset to our Facebook page.


It is hard for me to believe that I am almost finished with my third book, now titled Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Had someone asked a decade ago where I saw myself in ten years, it certainly would not be lying in bed, reviewing and making notes on a “pass” (publishing lingo for a low-resolution printout) of my third book, writing additional texts, and trying to be quiet while a sleeping five-year-old tries to nudge me out of my own bed.

Strange where life takes you when you least expect it.

For our avid journal readers, I believe that it was clear over the last year that I was – at times – absent.  I most definitely was.  There were certainly times when I wanted to write – and felt that there was something important to say – but could not find the words.

For my staff, it must have seemed that I would never return (and am not fully “back” yet).

I am driven by enthusiasm – in all areas of my life.  So, when we signed the contract with STC for our third book, I was over the moon and (CERTAIN I) knew exactly how the book would work and look.  I was convinced that this was going to be a piece of pie. You know, third book, seasoned designer, a decade of work behind me… I was sure things would just fall into place, right?One and a half years later, I am thinking that I survived by the skin of my teeth.  I can’t tell you exactly why this book was harder than the rest. But I assure you, it was. I remember once distinctly calling out across our studio, “Can someone please drive me to O’Neal Bridge, so I can jump off?”

Those days are fading in (my tarnished) memory and these days I patiently await the final proof from the printer – the last step in this intricate process. I look back over the printout from the photo above and I am surprised how much information we managed to pack into 176 pages. And I think to myself that, I am really, really proud of this work.

The Alabama Studio Design Series truly documents my path these last ten years.  From simple new t-shirts crafted from recycled ones, to couture garments, to sustainability on all levels, the books follow from one stage to the next. Alabama Chanin history is all here: from the materials we use, to the way we make our garments, to cultural sustainability, and finally to open-sourcing our patterns for individuals.  (More about my decision to open-source coming soon.)  It is a path that makes me proud.

A big warm thank you to everyone in our studio – who put up with me over the last year (I am asking forgiveness for all transgressions), to Sara Martin – who read and reread and listened to me rant, to Robert Rausch – our book designer – who practiced zen patience with every tiny change, and to Melanie and all the folks at STC who believed that we had one more in us.


Stencil artwork used in our Studio Style Book Series are now available for download from our new Resources page.

These stencils should (in best case scenario) be to full scale when printed; however, keep in mind that different printers can alter the scale slightly.

Visit Studio Book shop for our favorite sewing, resource, and inspirational books.


It seems that I have been lost for the last months as I finish up – our new book – Alabama Studio Design (working title). Between writing (and re-writing) texts, working on the design, and taking some of the pictures, there seems to have been little time for anything other than family, garden and my (other) job as designer and entrepreneur. As I move towards the end of the book, it feels like life is beginning.

Looking at my desk this afternoon, I see a pile of ideas, new books, maps, notes, lists and random objects that I can’t wait to uncover. Lying on top of this pile is an orange slip of paper with a poem that has been sent to me twice in the last few months. I am thinking that this is a good place to start:

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from House of Light by Mary Oliver

And I ask myself, “What is it I plan to do with this wild and precious life starting today?”

What are your plans?


Outline and (most) first drafts for book number three submitted and approved – check.

(Thank you Melanie – celebrate tonight!)

Plan workshops for 2011 – check.

(Spots are filling up fast – reserve one today and join us.)

Holiday gifts made and wrapped – check.

Sign out early, pick Maggie up from school, make gumbo, read, build a fire, watch a movie, bake cookies, nap, cocktail with friends, write a letter, holiday video, family pictures, sit still, sigh…

*Photo from Lisa “Are You Kidding Me” Eisner of the E.B White Chair & Gumbo:

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This is what I want for the holidays: the largest cast iron skillet that can be had for oven-roasting vegetables.

I am no recent convert to the joys of cast iron cooking as the pans pictured above have traveled the world with me for 30+ years. However, I was reminded of the detriments of aluminum while reading Clean last week and want an alternative to parchment paper and the large “roasting” pans in my kitchen cabinets.

In terms of sustainability, reasonably priced cast iron lasts forever and, with a bit of care, provides a stick-free surface for life. Use kosher salt and water to clean and your “seasoned” pan will thank you.

When I was pregnant with Zach, my doctor was shocked that my iron levels kept getting better and better as I had a tendency towards anemia… of course the answer was cast iron cooking.

I am planning a family outing to the Lodge Factory in South Pittsburg, Tennessee and have been dreaming of designing my own pans.  Imagine “Alabama Chanin for Lodge”… mmmm.

Any great recipes for cast iron that I need to try over the holidays? Please comment! Continue reading


And in speaking of happiness…

Nothing like giving – and receiving, hint, hint – the bounty of summer.

Canning-Jar Covers – pictured here – from page 137 of Alabama Studio Style.  Made with scraps of our 100% organic cotton jersey, Small Medallion stencil pull-out from Alabama Studio Style and an extra-fine permanent marker.

Prepare to be loved.

Have you ever baked in canning-jars? Angie Mosier did this when we were in New York City last year and I have been wanting to try it… seems like a perfect way to wrap up some holiday joy for friends.

Got recipes for me to try out with Maggie on these cold and icy days?


Over the holidays, I will take more time to sit and sew.

Over-the-Arm Pincushion – instructions from Alabama Stitch Book – on the back porch swing.

Did you know that sewing, cooking and all acts of hands-on making stimulate happiness and over-all well being?

From Kelly Lambert:

“Lambert shows how when you knit a sweater or plant a garden, when you prepare a meal or simply repair a lamp, you are bathing your brain in feel-good chemicals and creating a kind of mental vitamin. Our grandparents and great grandparents, who had to work hard for basic resources, developed more resilience against depression; even those who suffered great hardships had much lower rates of this mood disorder. But with today’s overly-mechanized lifestyle we have forgotten that our brains crave the well-being that comes from meaningful effort.”

Thanks to Catherine Newman for sharing Kelly’s work:

Lifting Depression:  A Neuroscientist’s Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain’s Healing Power


I have always loved quilt tops and have collected them for many years from thrift stores and yard sales. The problem with these beautiful hand-sewn tops is that it is impossible to use them until they have been quilted as the delicate woven fabrics fall apart when washed. Not so with our 100% organic cotton jersey, Alabama Indigo and Faded Leaves Jersey fabrics.

Our quilt this month is inspired by one of my favorite antique quilt tops and sewn to be the perfect lightweight cover. Made with our cotton-jersey in a single layer and a range of our Indigo, the quilt is sewn with our floating seams – described in both Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style which give the effect those antique quilt tops. However, this technique eliminates the need to finish raw edges which will roll beautifully with the first washing.

The back of the is also very beautiful with the clean finished edges:

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

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

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

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


Our copies of Alabama Studio Style are arriving to our studio today and will be shipping out today and tomorrow!

Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered. As a thank you, all of the pre-ordered books are being shipped with a little gift of a yard from our Green Organic cotton jacquard and inspiration for a project using both Alabama Studio Style and Alabama Stitch Book.

This Green Organic cotton jacquard is one of my favorite fabrics and the one that I used to make the Chair Pillow pictured above. Make one for your home by using the Chair Pillow instructions starting on page 152 of Alabama Studio Style along with appliqué instructions from page 62 of Alabama Stitch Book.

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This corset – one of my all-time favorites – was part of our Songbirds Collection for Fall/Winter 2009.

The pattern is available in Alabama Stitch Book and it is made using our 100% organic indigo fabric and the Angie’s Fall stencil from Alabama Studio Style.


Corset pattern from Alabama Stitch Book
2 yards 100% organic indigo fabric
Pearl Silver textile paint
Angie’s Fall stencil
1 spool Button Craft thread in Slate #26
1 package Red bugle beads

Fabric Detail:


Faded Leaves fabric is made by Wet-Paint Stenciling – one of the new techniques included in Alabama Studio Style. The fabric was first included in our Fall/Winter 2008 Revolution Collection.  At the time, I was looking for new ways to color fabric that did not require dyeing. Faded Leaves was the result and here are a few of the ways that we incorporated it into the collection.

Here is a sample of the fabric before sewing:


A photo from Li Edelkoort’s exhibition last year titled: Archeology of the Future

A table from Studio Jo Meesters in collaboration with Marije van der Park sits before one of our Textile Stories Quilts – a project included in our new book Alabama Studio Style.

*Photo courtesy of Li Edelkoort


This shawl was made from a pattern similar to the Rose Shawl pattern from page 108 of our Alabama Stitch Book. The shawl was cut in our white 100% organic cotton jersey fabric (doubled layered) and the ends of the top layer were painted with the Facets Stencil using grey airbrush paint. After drying, the ends were reverse appliquéd using the instructions from Alabama Stitch Book and the shawl constructed. After construction, selected areas of the pattern were beaded with white bugles in circular patterns. Finally, the entire scarf – yes, beads and all – was over-dyed in a color similar to our storm blue.

You can re-create this look with the following materials:

Rose Shawl pattern from Alabama Stitch Book
2 yards 100% organic cotton jersey in Storm Blue
Facets stencil
White textile paint (to mix grey)
Black textile paint (to mix grey) 1 spool
Button Craft thread
in Slate #26
White bugle beads

Fabric Detail:


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.