Tag Archives: swatch of the month 2021

The School of Making Swatch of the Month Ruffle Inspiration


“Pleated Ruffle”, 2012 from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin (pages 108–109); The Ruffle Swing Skirt Kit in Black from The School of Making; “Galloon, Silk and metal thread”, 17th–18th century from the Metropolitan Museum of Art; “Riverside Museum”, 2011 by Zaha Hadid Architects via dezeen; The Ruffle Swing Skirt Kit in Black from The School of Making; Left: “Balenciaga’s gathered sleeve”; Right: “Balenciaga harem dress and cape”, 1950 by Irving Penn from On the Edge: Images from 100 Years of Vogue, 1992 by Vogue Editors. 

Today, we release two new DIY Kits featuring Pleated Ruffle, which is March’s Swatch of the Month technique. The Ruffle Scarf Kit and The Ruffle Swing Skirt Kit showcase the eye-catching technique along the hem. Pair the kits with Alabama Studio Sewing + Design for construction and technique instruction.  

When developing our March swatch, Natalie and The School of Making team looked to centuries-old passementerie and modern architecture to inspire the ornamental fabric application. 

From top left: The Ruffle Scarf Kit in Black from The School of Making; “Passementerie, Silk and metal thread”, 18th century from the Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe Ruffle Scarf Kit in Black from The School of Making; Beaded Pleated Ruffle Fabric Detail from Swatch of the Month; Satin Grey Bugle Beads from The School of Making; “Cathedral Fold – Axis Mundi’s proposal for a new cathedral in Strasbourg, France”, Architect: John Beckmann; Design Team: John Beckmann, Masaru Ogasawara and Viviane Liao; Visualizations and Diagrams: Viviane Liao and Masaru Ogasawara. 

As with every Swatch of the Month, this month’s subscription includes the fabric and notions to make your own swatch along with an exclusive newsletter featuring more inspiration, instructions, and surprises along the way. We’ve also partnered with Purl Soho, a fiber shop and valuable resource for fiber arts, crafts, and embroidery. In this month’s subscription box, they provide a tape measure and glass head pins to use as you create your swatch. 

Left: “Pleated Single-Edged Ruffle”; Right: “Pleated Double-Edged Ruffle” from The Art of Manipulating Fabric, 1996 by Colette Wolff, edited by Robbie Fanning (pages 64–65).

“A ruffle is a strip of fabric reduced in length by gathering or pleating which releases folds that configure its floating edge. Attached to another piece of fabric, ruffles add the dimensionality of multiple folds and fluttering edges to the surface they adorn.”  

Colette Wolff, The Art of Manipulating Fabric


Subscribe to March’s Swatch of the Month—or subscribe for the entire year.   

While not required, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and The Geometry of Hand-Sewing make great companion books for the work completed with March’s Swatch of the Month.  

Find our new Pleated Ruffle kits on our DIY Sewing Kit page among more kits and inspiration. 

Visit PurlSoho.com or find the shop and resource for fiber arts and embroidery on Facebook and Instagram.


This post contains some affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, we will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting the Alabama Chanin Journal.  



“Anything which is worth the effort to portray, is worth every effort to improve upon.”  – Eugene Von Bruenchenhein 

In case you missed it, read Natalie’s personal essay about the inspiration for our Marie Stencil from the work of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein. The Marie Stencil is featured as this month’s Swatch of the Month, and we’re showing more love for Marie with our latest DIY Kits—a cropped car jacket, pencil skirt, top, and swing skirt.  


From top left: The Marie Pencil Skirt Kit in White/Natural; The Frances Top Kit in Marie Black/Black; Points of Departure by Phillip March Jones; Bloomers Corset Kit in Plum/Carmine; Limited-Edition Variegated Embroidery Floss in Brown

Join our Swatch of the Month program at any time for inspiration and explorations in embroidery along with exclusive offerings like our monthly newsletter which includes instructions, behind-the-scenes stories, a list of design choices, first access to promotions and offers, and special collaborations.  

For March, subscribers will have access to an exclusive Q+A with Natalie in two virtual sessions on March 19th from 11:00am – 1:00pmCST. Subscribers will be able to send in questions for Natalie ahead of time, and she will answer as many as she can in each one-hour session. She’ll also share more about The School of Making and its mission during the Q+A. Participants must sign up for the Swatch of the Month program by March 18th to be a part of this event.  

Register here or reach out to join: orders@alabamachanin.com or call 256-760-1090.  

Lead image from top left: The Marie Cropped Car Jacket Kit in Black/Black; Thread Color Sampler; The Maggie Tunic Kit in Anna’s Garden Sand/Sand; The Fitted Babydoll Top Kit in Paisley Carmine/Carmine; The Faded Stripe Keyhole Tunic Kit; Marie Stencil



From top left: Fabric Swatch in Marie Natural/Carmine with Whipstitch Appliqué;  The Marie Swing Skirt Kit in White/Natural with Reverse Appliqué; Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands by Philip March Jones; “Marie”, by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein from Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands; Fabric Swatch in Daisy Carmine/White with Variegated Red Embroidery Floss with Whipstitch Appliqué; Fabric Swatch in Large Polka Dot Natural/White with Beaded Whipstitch Appliqué.  

Last week, we continued to build on February’s Swatch of the Month stencil design with the release of the new Marie DIY Kits. This week, we share an essay from Natalie about the inspiration for the stencil.  

From Natalie: 

I fell in love with the work of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein when my friend, sometimes collaborator, and well-known curator Phillip March Jones was working on an exhibition and the beautiful coinciding book, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands about the artist and his wife, muse, and collaborator Marie. Phillip is the founder of Institute 193 in Lexington, Kentucky, a 501c3 that “collaborates with artists, musicians, and writers to document the cultural landscape of the modern South.” Phillip has written for our Journal, and written, edited, and/or curated loads of books (including a favorite, Points of Departure, and catalogs (just a few of them here). In 2018, Phillip opened a satellite location, called Institute 193 (1B) in New York’s East Village, serving as a bridge between the Southeast and the art world at large.  

I remember promenading the streets of New York City late one spring afternoon when Phillip first mentioned the love/work relationship of Eugene and Marie, thinking that I would love the costumes, colors, and sets of vivid photos. What began that afternoon as a conversation about photography, art, and collaboration developed into an obsession of mine and, eventually, a collection that launched in the fall of 2014, inspired by these photographs of Marie. The Marie stencil is one of the many enduring artifacts of my decade(s) long friendship with Phillip and remains one of my all-time favorites. 


From top left: Fabric Swatch in Marie Natural/White with Reverse Appliqué; Fitted Babydoll Top Kit in Paisley Carmine/Carmine Negative Reverse Appliqué; “Chair sculpture made of poultry bones” from Mythologies: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein exhibition 2017 at John Micheal Kohler Arts Center; photograph by Rich Maciejewski; Fabric Swatch in Marie Black/Black with Negative Reverse Appliqué; “Marie”, by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein from Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands; Points of Departure by Phillip March Jones. 

The Von Bruenchenheins’ photos are an explosion of pattern, color, whimsey, and beauty. They are at once pin-ups, portraits, and role-play that culminate to what I love to think of as the many lives of Marie. From our Journal:  

“In 1939, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein met a 19-year-old girl named Eveline Kalke, whom he nicknamed “Marie,” at a state fair in Wisconsin. The two married in 1943, and settled into their daily lives in Milwaukee where Eugene worked as a baker. Unlike most bakers, Eugene spent his free time composing poems on the subjects of love, nature, reincarnation and time travel. He made fantastical paintings of unknown universes, ceramic vases pieced together from dozens of hand-sculpted leaves, towers and thrones fashioned from chicken bones, concrete masks, and perhaps most importantly, elaborately-staged photographs of his wife and muse, Marie.” 

I love to see the Marie stencil both colorfully rendered and stripped of color, and combined in unexpected ways for whimsical pattern play.

I’m currently feeling inspired to play with lots of disparate and unexpected textures, stencils, threads, variegated flosses, and fabric colors. Perhaps it’s the thought of spring (and her flowers) just ahead, or of the dark days that are (hopefully) behind. Nonetheless, I can’t stop looking at these photos of Marie and dreaming in black, white, and color.  

Subscribe to February’s Swatch of the Month here—or subscribe for the entire year.  

Get the Marie Stencil here in both as a digital download or physical stencil.  

Find our new Marie Kits here on our DIY Sewing Kit page.  

Read about Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: King of Lesser Lands. 

This post contains some affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, we will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting the Alabama Chanin Journal.  



From top left: February 2021 Swatch of the Month: Marie White/Natural Fabric Swatch in Backstitch Reverse Appliqué; The Marie Swing Skirt Kit in White/Natural; Limited-Edition Variegated Embroidery Floss in Variegated Brown; Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas 

February’s Swatch of the Month design features the Marie Stencil, which debuted in The School of Making in 2018. The stencil design was inspired by the work of photographer Eugene Von Bruenchenhein and his wife, Marie. (More inspiration to come next Thursday…)  

Today, we release a series of new DIY Kits featuring the bold, graphic stencil design.  

Find The Frances Top Kit, Marie Cropped Car Jacket Kit, Marie Swing Skirt Kit, and Marie Pencil Skirt Kit among more DIY Sewing Kits and Inspiration. 

Subscribe to February’s Swatch of the Month—or subscribe for the entire year.  

Get the Marie Stencil in both as a digital download or physical stencil.   

Check back next Thursday for more Marie inspiration on the Journal. 


From top left: The Marie Cropped Car Jacket Kit in Black with Black Appliqué; February 2021 Swatch of the Month: Marie White/Natural Fabric Swatch in Reverse Appliqué; Bead Mix #1; “Untitled (Marie relaxed and seated on couch)” by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein.


From top left: The Marie Swing Skirt Kit in White/Natural; Gold-Handled Embroidery ScissorsAlabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin; Fabric Detail of Marie Black/Black Negative Reverse Appliqué


From top left: Points of Departure by Phillip March Jones; The Marie Pencil Skirt Kit in Natural with White Appliqué; Lightweight Jersey Car Coat Kit in Peacock; The Studio Bundle #1


From top left: The Frances Top Kit in Marie Black/Black Negative Reverse Appliqué; The Faded Stripe Pencil Skirt Kit; Fabric Detail of Marie Natural/Natural Whipstitch Appliqué; The Geometry of Hand-Sewing: A Romance in Stitches and Embroidery from Alabama Chanin and The School of Making by Natalie Chanin



From top left: January’s Swatch of the Month Magdalena Black/Faded colorway; Fabric Detail of Black 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey stenciled in Magdalena; Lightweight Jersey Car Coat Kit; Black Bugle Beads; The Faded Stripe Pencil Skirt KitThe Swing Skirt Pattern in Bloomers Black/Faded Colorway 

What I love about watercolor is that a lot of happy accidents occur. – Jane Seymour 

January’s Swatch of the Month features our faded organic cotton fabric, which made its first appearance in a 2008 Alabama Chanin collection. To create the faded fabric, a wet-stenciling technique was developed by Natalie as an alternative to dyeing fabric. It creates a watercolor effect and a random and blurred design emerges.  

This month, we are taking inspiration from Swatch of the Month and have developed a series of DIY Kits and organic materials using faded fabrics. 

Find these designs alongside refreshed DIY Kits and bundles that showcase a range of colors, silhouettes, and embroideries to create garments and projects at home.  

Learn more about Swatch of the Month here.  

View our 2021 color palette inspiration here.  


From top left: Fabric detail of Bloomers Black/Faded colorway; Black Armor Beads from The Studio Bundle #1The Faded Stripe Keyhole Tunic Kit; The Studio Bundle #1; Organic Cotton Fabric Scrap Bundle made with faded techniqueLimited-Edition Faded Bloomers Fabric 

Find out what’s new below.  


The Faded Maggie Keyhole Tunic and The Faded Maggie Long Skirt Kit use the Magdalena Black/Faded colorway, making Swatch of the Month the perfect start to practice embroidery techniques for these garments.  


The Faded Stripe Keyhole Tunic Kit and The Faded Stripe Pencil Skirt Kit were developed as “basic” kits, which means they don’t require embroidery and can work up quickly. The silhouette designs are classic, and the graphic stripe is softened with the faded watercolor effect. 


The Car Coat pattern was introduced in 2017 and has been a favorite layering piece. This kit style has a boxy fit, patch pockets, and can be worn throughout the year as a transitional coat with a statement-making interior liner from Faded Stars fabric.  


The Studio Bundle #1 is designed to experiment with color, appliqué, and stitching with enough materials to create a variety of garments and projects. This curated bundle contains five maker-favorite colors: medium-weight Black, White, Natural, and Baby Blue, and lightweight Venetian, paired with optional thread, embroidery floss, and bead add-ons in complementing hues. Pair each 2-yard fabric piece with any style in our pattern library to create a sustainable, handcrafted wardrobe. Learn more about our color palette inspiration here.  


Grown and ginned in Texas, spun in North Carolina, and knit and dyed in South Carolina, the “hyper-local” supply chain for our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey is the result of years of work aimed at providing responsibility, sustainability, transparency, and an end-product that is produced entirely in the USA. This limited-edition fabric yardage is stenciled in our Bloomers design using a unique painting treatment that gives a watercolor effect across the fabric.



Clockwise from top left: “Magpie” from the In Flight series, 2020 by Mark Harvey; Swatch of the Month 2021 Subscription from The School of Making; Graffiti Painted Tee from the Alabama Chanin Archives; Black Bugle Beads from The School of Making; The Keyhole Dress Kit in Baby Blue from The School of Making; “Structural Constellation” by Josef Albers via “Josef Albers’ Intimate Visual Relationship with Music”

Feet on the ground. Eyes to the horizon. Reach for the sky.  

– Christine Smith — (1920–2015), Natalie’s Grandmother 

Inspired by the deep connection between earth and sky and the liminal spaces between, explore our newest color bundle from The School of Making. Learn more about our Swatch of the Month and subscribe for exclusive content. Explore our most beloved DIY Kits, featuring a few of our newest Faded Fabric.  


Clockwise from top left: February 2021 Swatch of the Month; “Holon”, 2014 by Manuel Ferreiro BadiaThe Faded Maggie Long Skirt Kit from The School of Making; Fabric detail of Beaded Couched Large Paradise in Black from The School of Making; Faded Magdalena Apron from the Alabama Chanin Archives; Wheat breeder Stephen Jones, photographed by Yaroslav Kryuchka for “Joining the Stay-at-Home Bread Boom? Science Has Some Advice”

“I’ve come to believe that craft, making, and creative endeavors toward producing sustainable products will create an enduring future for our community.” –Natalie Chanin 


Clockwise from top left: Fabric detail of Backstitch Reverse Appliqué Magdalena in Sand from The School of Making’s Embroidered Swing Skirt Kit; “Pavillon de L’Esprit Nouveau”, 1925 by Le Corbusier in Bologna, Italy via Commune Design; Fabric swatch in Magdalena Black from The School of Making. 

Clockwise from top left: Photograph of Bruce McCandless II during a 1984 Spacewalk taken by his fellow Challenger crew members via “NASA Celebrates 50 Years of Spacewalking”; Fabric swatch in Magdalena Sand from The School of Making; Fabric detail of Beaded Stars in Black from The School of Making. 


Clockwise from top left: “Untitled, plate 6 of 8”, from the puritan, 1990 by Louise Bourgeois via The Museum of Modern Art; Black Armor Beads from The School of Making; Fabric detail of Medium Polka Dot Appliqué in Sand from The School of Making; Beaded Pleated Ruffle Appliqué in Black from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design; The Wrap Top Kit from The School of Making; “The False Mirror”, 1929 by René Magritte via The Museum of Modern Art. 


Clockwise from top left: The Geometry of Hand-Sewing, 2016 by Natalie Chanin; Wrap Dress Pattern from The School of Making; “Untitled Blue Sponge Sculpture (SE 161)”, 1959 by Yves KleinThe Studio Bundle #1 from The School of Making; The Faded Stars Car Coat Kit in Peacock from The School of Making; Beauty Everyday, 2013 by Rinne AllenKristen Bach, and Rebecca Wood


Clockwise from top left: Fabric detail of Beaded Stripe in Black from The School of Making; Hand-Sewn Corset from Alabama Chanin ArchivesPatti Smith. Before Easter After, 2020 by Lynn Goldsmith via TaschenLimited-Edition Faded Bloomers Fabric from The School of Making; Fabric detail of Anna’s Garden Inked in Sand from The School of Making; The Cropped Car Jacket Kit in Tartan from The School of Making. 



The most important thing is that you love what you are doing, and the second that you are not afraid of where your next idea will lead. – Charles Eames 

At The School of Making, we preserve the Living Arts through educational and open source initiatives and programs. We work at the intersection of fashion, craft, and DIY—utilizing 100% organic materials, educational experiences, books, and DIY Kits to create an elevated making experience. We seek to create a community of makers by sharing ideas and inspirations and using craft to inform our design process. 

Our newly relaunched Swatch of the Month is a monthly subscription program from The School of Making for design explorations and embroidery technique practice and development. It marries our values of design and craft with 100% organic cotton fabrics, offering you the opportunity to experiment with our techniques and designs as you sew your monthly fabric swatch. Our Swatches and DIY Kits provide pre-cut, pre-stenciled pieces with all the thread and notions needed to explore design, create a garment, build a wardrobe, and fill everyday life with creativity and making. 

This program was offered in 2014 and 2015 and is being reintroduced again in 2021 with new designs and additions to the monthly subscription service. Pre-order now for January delivery and learn more about the program below.  

In 2012, Natalie wrote more about our fabric swatches in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design

“My simple decision to set up a standard way of recording the development of every design and fabric has led to an elaborate library consisting of more than five hundred swatches. To date we have twenty-seven books of fabric swatches that we use for everything from custom orders for clothing and interiors to inspiration for participants in our weekend workshops. When I spread these books across one of our 14′-long work tables, I am amazed to see the beauty we’ve created. In the past, we often tested colorways in garment form. Today, before any garment is cut, a tested and completed fabric sample swatch is approved. This small step has saved the company untold money, time, and waste.”  

Through our Swatch of the Month program, we’ve developed monthly fabric and textile designs for at-home sewing. This process has helped us find more ways to share the beauty and inspiration in design and making. It contributes to and fuels the creative process—a unique (and often-times challenging) journey for each of us. 


At the beginning of each month in 2021, participants will receive a DIY Kit featuring a unique fabric swatch to be sewn using embroidery techniques from The School of Making. Embroidery techniques can be found in The School of Making’s Studio Book Series. Each kit comes stenciled and ready-to-sew with all of the notions needed to complete the swatch in the shown design choices.  

We will also be sharing the swatches, our design choices, and options for different techniques in an exclusive monthly newsletter. Share your project and follow along with others in the maker community using the hashtags #theschoolofmaking and #swatchofthemonth21. 



24 Fabric Swatches – Each fabric swatch is a 10” x 16” rectangle of our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey. Every month, participants will receive two fabric swatches. The top layer fabric will be stenciled; the bottom layer fabric will be un-stenciled. 

10 spools of Button Craft Thread – Utilized throughout the projects in The School of Making, Button Craft Thread is our go-to for all hand-sewing projects. It is strong, durable, and long-lasting. 

12 Paper Headers – Made from recycled card stock, each header can be labeled and attached to your fabric swatch before organizing into a three-ring binder.  

Exclusive monthly newsletter – The newsletter will be filled with inspirations, behind-the-scenes stories, a list of design choices, first access to promotions and offers, and special collaborations.  


(Purchase separately) 

Studio Book Series: Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, The Geometry of Hand-Sewing 

Needle Sampler  

Embroidery Scissors 

Pin Cushion 

Binder (Add-on for Swatch of the Month)

Fine-point Sharpie (for writing on your header) 


All orders from now through 2020 will receive a digital PDF that can be printed and gifted. In January, we’ll ship out our first monthly subscription along with the exclusive newsletter. January’s shipment will include 12 headers, 10 spools of Button Craft Thread, and fabric swatches for January. Each subsequent month’s shipment will include that month’s swatches and any additional notions needed to complete the swatch design and the exclusive newsletter to your inbox.   

For questions or assistance ordering, contact:  

Robin Hall 
+1.256.760.1090 x 116 

Carlisle Sandy: 
+1.256.760.1090 x 105