Tag Archives: the school of making

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2019 CUSTOM DIY KIT UPDATE: DESIGN YOUR OWN

The School of Making’s Custom DIY program has always aimed to help you express your creativity and embrace your own personal style, allowing you to choose every element of your garments and accessories. As we have done in the past, we continue to offer each Custom DIY Kit as a base kit, which we cut out and stencil according to your design choices—plus we offer you notions, if you need any, at a discount. You can use our Thread and Embroidery Calculator and Custom DIY Guide to help you make your decisions.

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We are updating our Custom DIY offerings to include the 2018 Build a Wardrobe garments—Panel Tank, Palazzo Pant, Frances Top, and Ezra Coat—plus each pattern variation. We have also added a few new options, including the Abstract and Canopy stencils, the fabric color Verdant, and our new Variegated Embroidery Floss colors.

To make it easier for you to customize your selections, the DIY order form can send you directly to your category of choice: Tops + Dresses, Bottoms + Outerwear, and Accessories, Home, + Other. The Custom DIY Guide will easily walk you through the ordering process, based on category. As always, we offer free domestic ground shipping for each Custom DIY Kit.

We invite you to browse our Journal for inspiration or start the customization process here.

Please share all of your projects with us using the hashtag #theschoolofmaking on Instagram, and join The School of Making Stitchalong on Facebook.

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THE FRACTAL DRESS PATTERN: BUNDLE + DESIGN CHOICES

The Fractal Dress Pattern was developed exclusively for our 2019 Build a Wardrobe program. When we were developing the pattern, we were drawn to the modern lines the pattern pieces create; they allow the endless opportunity to experiment with colors. Launching last month, the pattern has been popular with The School of Making community and many of you have already completed a basic garment.

Find details below for our “color block” designs to use as more project inspiration.

To make it easy, we’ve put together a bundle of pre-selected fabric colors to make the Fractal Crossover Top or Fractal Dress as imaged. Each bundle comes with enough fabric to make a single layer garment. Choose to add matching thread to complete your garment as shown. (Please note you will have plenty of thread left over to keep on hand in your studio for other projects.) If you have your own thread or want to use different colors, you can purchase Button Craft Thread here. We also offer free Resource downloads showing the cutting guides for the dress and the crossover top.

Shop The Fractal Bundle here.

Find The Fractal Dress Pattern here.

Below you will find a guide to match the fabric colors to your pattern pieces and the design choices for our Fractal Crossover Top and Fractal Dress.

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The Fractal Crossover Top Pattern Design Choices

Pattern variation – Fractal Crossover Top
Sleeve variation – Short Sleeve
Neckline variation – Crew
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey, single layer
Fabric color – Parchment, Ochre, Verdant, Forest, Black
Button craft thread – Cream, Dogwood, Sage, Brown, Black
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside Felled

The Fractal Crossover Top Pattern Fabric Color Guide

Crossover Top Right Side Front – Parchment fabric; Cream thread
Crossover Top Right Center Front – Parchment fabric; Cream thread
Crossover Top Right Sleeve – Ochre fabric; Dogwood thread
Crossover Top Right Side Back – Ochre fabric; Dogwood thread
Crossover Top Right Center Back – Verdant fabric; Sage thread
Crossover Top Left Center Back – Verdant fabric; Sage thread
Crossover Top Left Side Back – Forest fabric; Brown thread
Crossover Top Left Sleeve – Forest fabric; Brown thread
Crossover Top Left Side Front – Black fabric; Black thread
Crossover Top Left Center Side Front – Black fabric; Black thread

The Fractal Dress Pattern Design Choices

Pattern variation – Fractal Dress
Sleeve variation – 3/4 Sleeve
Neckline variation – Funnel
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey, single layer
Fabric color for outer layer – Parchment, Ochre, Verdant, Forest, Black
Button craft thread – Cream, Dogwood, Sage, Brown, Black
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside Felled

The Fractal Dress Pattern Fabric Color Guide

Fractal Dress Side Back Bodice – Ochre fabric; Dogwood thread
Fractal Dress Center Back Bodice ­– Verdant fabric; Sage thread
Fractal Dress Center Front Bodice – Verdant fabric; Sage thread
Fractal Dress Side Front Bodice – Ochre fabric; Dogwood thread
Fractal Dress Side Back Skirt – Black fabric; Black thread
Fractal Dress Center Back Skirt – Forest fabric; Brown thread
Fractal Dress Center Front Skirt – Forest fabric; Brown thread
Fractal Dress Side Front Skirt – Black fabric; Black thread
Back Sleeve – Parchment fabric; Cream thread
Front Sleeve – Parchment fabric; Cream thread

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MENDING MATTERS

Mending Matters: Stitch, Patch, and Repair Your Favorite Denim & More, by Katrina Rodabaugh, includes 22 how-to projects, a number of essays on the topic of slow fashion, over 200 color photographs, and a foreword by our own Natalie Chanin. Rodabaugh dedicated herself to repair and sustainability after the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, when she pledged not to buy new clothing for a year. After teaching several popular mending workshops, she realized that a growing number of people had an interest in clothing repair. All of this work led to the publication of Mending Matters, which is a tribute to the values of sustainability.

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The book focuses on using simple mending techniques to express personal style—whether through interior or exterior patches, different stitch patterns, darning, and weaving. There are step-by-step photos and easy-to-understand instructions that give guidance while discouraging absolute perfectionism.

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Rodabaugh weaves essays among her projects, explaining her own relationship with slow fashion and her personal philosophy on how the process of repair can change your outlook on the wider world. It encourages mindfulness and embrace of imperfection and promotes the idea that self-confidence can be born through making things with your hands. She uses mending as a metaphor for appreciating one another, flaws and all.

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This book inspires without intimidating and will encourage the reader to rethink their own ideas and feelings about fashion, waste, and thoughtful use of products. Mending Matters offers practical and beautiful solutions to everyday problems and is a steady voice in the slow fashion movement. Voices like Rodabaugh’s are the future of the movement and we look forward to hearing more from her.

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THE SCHOOL OF MAKING: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

On the Journal, as in life, we like to take an annual look back on our accomplishments as we head into a new year. This year we’re reviewing each of our Family of Businesses, starting with The School of Making today. Look for Bldg. 14, The Factory Store + Café, and Alabama Chanin in the coming days. Each of you has been a part of this journey and we’re grateful that you’ve come along with us. We wouldn’t be doing the work we do—designing, making, cooking, dreaming—if it weren’t for you.

It’s been a very busy year for The School of Making. We’ve expanded programming, and projects, and offerings across the entire year.  Natalie launched three virtual learning seminars this year through Bluprint: The Swing Skirt: Techniques & Construction, Creative Embellishments and New Embroidery. The beauty of this partnership is that anyone can purchase the packages and follow along at home. We created a School of Making Stitch Along group on Facebook, a creative space intended for the sharing of ideas and a resource for project and pattern questions.

Our patterns and kit options expanded, as well. We developed a pattern collection and released all of our available patterns as paper versions in 2018. We released a Thread + Floss Calculator to help home sewers determine how much product to purchase for each project. The School of Making also expanded its offerings with new products, kits, and programming. This will continue to evolve and expand in 2019.

As we have in the past, we explored collaboration from a maker point-of-view, creating Alabama Chanin-style versions of Fancy Tiger’s Fen Dress and A Verb For Keeping Warm’s Nell Shirt.

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We are also proud that The Geometry of Hand-Sewing is now available as an e-book—and we celebrated the ten-year anniversary of our first book, Alabama Stitch Book, which was re-released with a new cover and introduction. It is nearly impossible to believe that it has been ten years since we began our journey into publishing, which was the real inspiration for The School of Making.

We finished out the year with a new design palate for 2019 using a new fabric color, Verdant, new stencils, Abstract and Canopy, and launching preorders for Build a Wardrobe 2019.

The School of Making workshop space expanded in the spring, and we continue to welcome you to our home. Thank you for helping us create this community of makers and doers; here’s to continuing the journey in the coming year.

Look for Bldg. 14’s year in review on the Journal tomorrow.

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BUILD A WARDROBE 2019

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

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

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

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

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

When you purchase (or gift) a membership to Build a Wardrobe, you receive:

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

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

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

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

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

Quarter One: The Fractal Dress pattern

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

Quarter Two: The Jumpsuit pattern

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

Quarter Three: The Asymmetrical Trench pattern

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

Quarter Four: The Pencil Skirt pattern

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

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

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

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

#theschoolofmaking
#buildawardrobe2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ABSTRACT + CANOPY STENCILS FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

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

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With bold shapes and leaf motifs throughout, Abstract (35.5” x 31) is featured in Design Bundle #6 and is available as both a Mylar stencil and a downloadable PDF that can be used to create your own stencil. Abstract’s graphic design lends itself well to a variety of appliqué, embroidery, couching, and an array of beading techniques.

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Also featured in Design Bundle #6 is Canopy. Comprised of two separate stencils, the elements of the nature-inspired Canopy (35.5” x 28”) can be used alone or layered. The stencils have registration marks to help with their alignment if you choose to utilize both in your design. Choose to paint both stencils in different colors, a combination of layered paint and embroidery, or for a textural 3-D effect, use embroidery techniques on both on stencils. Like Abstract, Canopy is available in Mylar and PDF formats.

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

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

THE SCHOOL OF MAKING: DESIGN BUNDLE #6

The new year can refresh the mind and the blank slate it offers can inspire you to plan for the year ahead. Arriving just in time for the new year, and offering inspiration for projects you are planning for 2019, is The School of Making’s Design Bundle #6. Like the bundles before, this Design Bundle is a curated selection of fabric, stencil designs, thread, embroidery floss, and beads specifically created to allow you to practice your favorite appliqué, embroidery techniques, and bead arrangements from The School of Making.

With Design Bundle #6 we have, for the first time, created a single color card featuring our favorite paint colors (both tonal and metallic) for specific colors. We are also launching our newest fabric color, Verdant. A fresh green that is reminiscent of nature in woodlands, creeks, streams, and that is an intricate color in wildlife from a multitude of geographies, Verdant, and the entire color story of the bundle was inspired by the ideas of growth, renewal, and peace.

Additionally, Design Bundle #6 features two brand new stencil designs: Abstract and Canopy. Inspired by the natural world and ideal for practicing a variety of appliqué techniques, both are available as a 10mil Mylar stencil or as a US Letter or A4 downloadable PDF. (Follow the link on the Journal here for instructions on creating your own stencil.)

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Design Bundle #6 includes:

Design Bundle Color Card
10 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic medium-weight cotton jersey (two of each) in Parchment, Ochre, Verdant, Forest, and Black to use as your bottom layer
5 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic medium-weight cotton jersey (one of each) in Parchment, Ochre, Verdant, Forest, and Black, stenciled in Abstract to use as your top layer
5 – 10” x 16” swatches of organic medium-weight cotton jersey (one of each) in Parchment, Ochre, Verdant, Forest, and Black, stenciled in Canopy to use as your top layer
5 spools of Button Craft Thread in Cream, Dogwood, Sage, Brown, and Black
5 spools of Embroidery Floss in Natural, Ashe, Ochre, Salmon, and Charcoal
5 vials of Beads: Brown Seed, Satin Grey Bugle, Gold Armor, Brown Bugle, and White Sequins

For design inspiration and instruction, reference any of our Studio Books or follow along with Natalie through her online classes on Bluprint.

Find the Design Bundle #6 online and in-store.

And our new stencils: Abstract and Canopy here.

Get our new organic cotton fabric color, Verdant, by the yard, here.

And share your projects with us in The School of Making Stitchalong group and on Instagram using the hashtag #theschoolofmaking.

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NEW: VERDANT

/ˈvərdnt/
Adjective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Printed Jersey in Magdalena.

Utilize your design skills with our new Design Bundle.

And stencil at home with the Abstract and Canopy stencils.

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THANK YOU NOTE CARDS (+ SCRAPS)

Over the years, we have tried to create various ways to put our scrap fabric to good use and to inspire our fellow makers to do the same. We studied the zero waste design techniques of Dr. Timo Rissanen to understand how the patternmaking process could be streamlined. What is left after our garments are cut is often worked into other garments (or become the key component of them), have been used for decoration, made into wreaths, employed practically in mending, and factored importantly in our jewelry casting process. Perhaps our most ambitious use of scraps was baling them to create seating for areas in The Factory.

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As sustainability has always played an essential role in our company’s mission, we have always promoted a “waste not, want not” approach to design and to daily Factory life. Our newest effort to maintain a zero waste facility has resulted in a product we find to be beautiful—and a perfect match for Alabama Chanin and The School of Making: recycled paper note cards. Each bundle of pressed-paper stationery contains six note cards, each folded and embossed with the Alabama Chanin logo. A package of note cards also contains high-quality envelopes from French Paper Co. You can purchase your own bundle of note cards here.

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We also re-introduce our scrap bags in The School of Making store. Available in one-pound increments, the bags contain a random assortment of scraps in different colors, sizes, and fabric types, and each bag’s contents will vary. You can find your own ways to repurpose these, incorporating them into your own designs, making potholders, embellishing wrapped packages, or sprucing up canned jams brought as hostess gifts. We encourage you to be creative in your usage and let us know if you have come up with a particularly unique way to use your scraps.

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If any paper makers are interested in acquiring bulk fabric scraps to experiment with their own paper, please contact Rebecca by emailing service@alabamachanin.com for pricing and details. We want to see a scrap movement in the next year. Here’s to more upcycling in the coming days!

DIY BLAZER INSPIRATION

Since its launch in October, the Ezra Coat Pattern has become one of our best-selling patterns. The pattern dates back to 2012 and was developed with a handful of other outwear styles. At the time, only a coat version for Ezra existed—the “companion” blazer in the group was a different pattern. When we decided to make Ezra open source, our team created three other length variations: cropped jacket, jacket, and blazer.

A blazer is an extremely versatile piece and one that many might argue everyone should own. Wear it with jeans to dress them up or layer with a dress for a polished look. Today we share DIY blazer inspiration to help you visualize what a finished piece could look like. From classic reverse appliqué to the addition of vintage buttons for an eclectic look, you choose your style.

Please note the blazer style pictured in this post is not the same pattern as Ezra and is simply imaged to be used as inspiration.

Find the Ezra Pattern here and connect with other makers in our Facebook group and on Instagram.

DESIGN CHOICES

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Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Navy
Fabric color for inner layer – Black
Button Craft thread – Navy #13
Textile paint color – Navy
Stencil – Magdalena
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled

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Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Natural
Fabric color for inner layer – Natural
Button Craft thread – Cream
Technique – Basic with vintage buttons along placket
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled

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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 #13
Textile paint color – Navy
Stencil – Magdalena
Technique – Reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled

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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
Technique – Basic with vintage buttons along placket
Beads – Black Armor
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled

Feature image: Blazer pictured with the Panel Tunic in Navy with the Spiral stencil worked in Alabama Fur and the Full Wrap Skirt in Navy/Black Magdalena worked in Negative Reverse Appliqué

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NEW PAPER PATTERNS FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shop Studio Books + Patterns here.

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

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MAKE AND MEND WITH JESSICA MARQUEZ

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

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

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

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Through Jessica’s work, be inspired to mend and embellish your own garments in new ways.

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2018 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE EZRA COAT PATTERN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A VERB FOR KEEPING WARM: NELL SHIRT

The School of Making offers a wide range of sewing patterns—both in The School of Making Book Series and as standalone patterns—to fit many different body types and lifestyles. In the past, we’ve also adapted sewing patterns from other designers using our techniques and materials, with beautiful results. Some of our favorites from the past are the Fen Dress from Fancy Tiger Crafts, Anna Maria Horner, both The Dress Shirt and The Factory Dress from Merchant & Mills, along with a multitude of designer patterns from Vogue Patterns. Our latest installment in this series is the Nell Shirt from Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, California.

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

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

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The Nell Shirt is a modern twist on a classic button-down shirt. The top was originally designed for woven fabrics, but with a few alterations, it works just as well with our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey. (You may want to size down when using a knit fabric.) We made the top with a combination of our Forest and Peacock medium-weight jersey using Forest and Navy colored Button Craft Thread and a beautiful hand-dyed indigo embroidery floss from A Verb for Keeping Warm.

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SUPPLIES

Nell Shirt Pattern (Printed version or Digital PDF version)
2 yards of 60”-wide 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey for garment body and sleeves
1 yard of 60”-wide 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey for contrasting inset Front Panel
1 spool of Button Craft Thread or 2 spools if making a contrasting colored garment
1 spool of Embroidery Floss or skein of hand-dyed floss
Basic sewing supplies: scissorspinsneedles, ruler, rotary cutter
The School of Making Book Series: These books contain the basic sewing and embroidery techniques we used to make our version of this shirt.

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

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

Eliminate all interfacing for knit fabrics.

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

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

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

We left our shirt hem as a raw cut edge.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

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

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

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P.S. – We’ve partnered with A Verb For Keeping Warm to create a Nell Bundle—3 yards of our 100% Organic Medium-weight Cotton Jersey (2 yards Forest, 1 yard Peacock), 2 spools of Button Craft Thread, one skein AVFKW Naturally Dyed Embroidery and a printed copy of the Nell pattern. You can purchase the bundle and pattern on the A Verb for Keeping Warm website.

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NEW PAPER PATTERNS: BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

After the wonderful response to our first stand-alone paper pattern, the Swing Skirt, The School of Making launched the 2018 Build a Wardrobe patterns (Panel Tank, Palazzo Pant, Frances Dress, and soon-to-be-released Ezra Coat) as digital PDF downloads and printed paper versions. We’re expanding our offerings with the launch of the paper version of all four 2017 Build a Wardrobe patterns.

Only offered in digital formats previously, the Factory Dress, Drawstring Pant, Wrap Dress, and Car Coat patterns can now be purchased à la carte and added to your home design studio.

Packed in a sturdy, eco-friendly paper envelope, each nested pattern comes in sizes XS to XXL, and includes instructions for fabric selection, cutting, and garment construction.

For in-depth sewing, appliqué, alteration, and embellishment instructions pair any of the patterns with our School of Making Book Series. Be sure to visit our Maker Supplies and Maker Supplies + Stencils page for bead mixes, fabric, Mylar stencils, and all the notions you will need to create your newest garments.

To find these paper patterns, simply select the “physical” option in the drop-down menu of the pattern of your choice on the Studio Books + Patterns page:

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Factory Dress

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Car Coat

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Drawstring Pant

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Wrap Dress

Follow The School of Making on Facebook and Instagram for the latest launches and happenings and tag your projects with hashtag #theschoolofmaking.

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

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SWING SKIRTS + ALABAMA STITCH BOOK

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 Bluprint class, there are more of these skirts walking around in the world than any other Alabama Chanin or The School of Making garment.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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ALABAMA STITCH BOOK: CELEBRATING 10 YEARS

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.

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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!

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INTRODUCING THE MARIE STENCIL

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

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

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

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

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

Design Choices

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

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THE ART OF EMBROIDERY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Françoise Tellier-Loumagne

Bettina Matzkuhn

Meredith Woolnough

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INSPIRATION: BEADS + BEADING

For millennia, from the Great Plains of North America to the southern regions of Africa (and all the cultures and continents in between), beads have been used as a way to adorn garments and to communicate with others. The definitive guide to these beading traditions, The History of Beads, was first published in 1987 and is still an indispensable reference today.

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Left: A-line Tunic with Armor Beading; right: Red Armor Beads

Throughout our own history, Alabama Chanin and The School of Making have incorporated beads into countless designs; from adding elaborate embellishment to classic outerwear to making a statement on a T-shirt. To enable you to adorn your own wardrobe and home goods, we offer Bead Mixes in curated colorways that fit your design style: subtle monochromatic looks or striking contrasts that add visual interest.

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Left: Gold Armor Beads; right: Large Paradise stencil shown with couching and beading

The beading used in our own work has evolved and become more elaborate over time—with each bead meticulously placed with purpose to create a rich texture and give the fabric depth and dimension. To make this precise work possible, our design team first creates samples and then fabric maps to show every artisan the placement of each bugle, chop, and seed bead. Sequins are also used to add subtle sparkle. To fill larger areas armor beads, a mix of chop beads, bugle beads, and sequins are used. This combination of craftsmanship and impeccable supplies produce the heirloom quality pieces we pride ourselves on creating.

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Left: A-Line Tunic with Beaded Stars using Armor Beading; right: examples of bead vials included in our Design Bundle

Along with The History of Beads, we are inspired often by other artists and cultures and the way they incorporate beading into their work. We recently hosted a photography exhibit at The Factory from Pableaux Johnson that showcased the intricate beadwork the Mardi Gras Indians use in their costumes. Sissi Farassat—photographer and dear friend of Natalie—uses detailed beading and stitches to transform photographs into tapestry-like pieces of art.

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Sissi Farasset Me, Me, Always Me III, 2010 Unique photograph embroidered with Swarovski crystals 8 × 12 in; 20.3 × 30.5 cm

We encourage you to experiment with beading in your own work and even push it beyond fabric into other mediums—just make sure you’re using the right needle when you do so or you’ll cause yourself unnecessary frustration. And if you need beading inspiration, we’ve got a wealth of projects and ideas available on the Journal.

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Share your bead inspirations with us in the comments of this post and explore some of our favorite bead-inspired posts from the Journal below:

From the Archives: Beaded Facets Coat

DIY Swatch Tote

DIY Kits for The Geometry of Hand-Sewing

DIY Check Skirt

Project 6

DIY Stars Tunic

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T-SHIRT PATTERN: FITTED + UNISEX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DESIGN FOR ARTISTS AND CRAFTSMEN

We continue our book review series with contributing writer and textile artist, Elaine Lipson, with a look at a classic design tome, Design for Artists and Craftsmen.

What can a funky old hardbound Dover book, written by a man born in the 19th century, teach us about modern design? First published in 1953 (and available used and in libraries today), Design for Artists and Craftsmen is a workbook of design exercises that will push your skills and imagination in unexpected ways. If you’re searching for new approaches to motif and pattern, this book will challenge the predictable Instagram looks of so much of today’s pattern and surface design and teach you to create stylized and abstract variations of any form.

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Louis Wolchonok was an American painter, printmaker, muralist, art teacher, and graphic designer. Part of the social realist school of painting (think Grant Woods’ famed American Gothic, Dorothea Lange’s photographs, and the Works Progress Administration murals), his works are in several museum and gallery collections today. Design for Artists and Craftsmen, one of three design education books Wolchonok wrote, is very much about two things: the fundamentals of forms, and how to create infinite, modern design variations for any form. Wolchonok’s style is highly individual, but his exercises can be adapted to your own.

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His prompts to generate more and more variation, and his guidance on breaking down and building up shapes, lines, forms, and combinations make the book and its exercises exciting. Wolchonok characterizes all source material and starting points as geometric (including the curvy amoeba-like shapes that almost define mid-century design), flower and plant, animal, human, and man-made (such as buildings and tools). Exercises in a final section on composition build complexity and add dynamic elements.

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What does this mean for the designer? A simple oval becomes a whole series of curvaceous, decorative motifs. Loose, quick sketches of horses evolve into highly simplified graphic forms that could have come from ancient South American tapestries. Stick figures become lyrical, expressive humanoids. Wolchonok calls out exactly what shifts from one variation to the next, so you can try it for yourself: changing the emphasis, the flow of the line, the proportions, the shapes of parts, the arrangement of the parts.

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If you find that your sketching, design, or logo work is stuck or repetitive, seek out this book from a used book source or library and work through its pages. Imagine yourself in the 1950s, creating new kinds of designs that we now know as iconic, and see what you discover.

P.S.: Look for a design project based on this book on the Journal in the coming months.

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2018 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE FRANCES DRESS PATTERN

The third quarter of 2018 Build a Wardrobe kicks off today with the launch of the Frances Dress pattern. The Frances Dress has three body variations—the top, T-shirt dress, and baby doll dress—along with two sleeve length options, an optional collar, and optional side seam pockets. The simple silhouette provides a blank canvas for embellishment—or make a basic in every version to add easy pieces to your wardrobe.

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The relaxed fit of the top and T-shirt dress is perfect for the heat of summer, while the dress gives you the option for layering over leggings or tights in cooler weather. This pattern is a quick sew—especially when using the V-neckline—and could be used to make a shirt or dress for each day of the week.

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The Frances Dress pattern is included in the Build a Wardrobe subscription but can be purchased à la carte on our Studio Books + Patterns page here.

The nested pattern includes sizes XS up to XXL. The paper pattern is $24, and the digital pattern comes in both US Letter and A4 (for our international customers) formats and is priced at $18. Visit our Journal here for instructions for home printing.

Share your work with us and the maker community on Instagram using #buildawardrobe2018 and #theschoolofmaking and join The School of Making Stitchalong on Facebook.

P.S.: We ask that you respect our creative integrity when working with this, or any pattern, and not produce garments to sell.

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VINTAGE PATTERNS WIKIA

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

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

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

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

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

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FANCY TIGER CRAFTS: THE FEN PATTERN

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

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

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

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SUPPLIES

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

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

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

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

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

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NEW WORKSHOPS FOR 2019

We’re nearly halfway through the year, and the rest of our workshops for 2018 are filling up quickly. We recently hosted our largest Three-Day Workshop—with 20 guests—and the popularity of our workshops continues to grow.

We normally wait until later in the year to announce upcoming workshops, but we have already set dates through part of 2019 and wanted to give you as much time as possible to plan your trip to The Factory. Whether you’re a sewing novice or a seasoned pro, The School of Making has something for you.

Intro to Hand-Sewing Workshop

Dates:
March 15, 2019
August 16, 2019

The Intro to Hand-Sewing Workshop is the perfect introduction to sewing, and it makes a great gift for a loved one (or yourself). During this workshop, you’ll learn the physics of sewing, reverse appliqué, and an overview of garment construction and other techniques from The School of Making. Work with our team to create a hand-sewn project from a selection of our most popular kits. Join us in The Factory Café for lunch immediately following the workshop and stay for a free, guided tour of our design and production studios as well as our Building 14 production facility.

Three-Day Workshop

Dates:
May 16, 2019 – May 18, 2019
November 7, 2019 – November 9, 2019

Our popular Three-Day Workshop opens the studio doors at The Factory in Florence, Alabama, and allows participants to work with The School of Making team, a selection of our most loved DIY garment patterns, and our extensive DIY stencil library. Participants create a customized hand-sewn garment or project of their choice from The School of Making Book Series and newer styles from the Build a Wardrobe program. We offer a range of options that can be tailored to any skill level. The three-day schedule also includes a Swampette tour of the Shoals music scene, history of Alabama Chanin, and a studio tour.

Classic Studio Week

Date:
June 3, 2019 – June 7, 2019

This week-long event invites participants into The School of Making’s expanded studio for a total immersion into our philosophies, methods, materials, and products. Participants will experiment with several different techniques in hand sewing and will be guided through each step in the process of creating a garment from The School of Making. Techniques include design basics and the physics of sewing, stencil design and creation, airbrush and stenciling of garments, fit and basic pattern alterations, discussion, and critique. This Monday-through-Friday event includes yoga sessions, time for sight-seeing, and some delicious, locally sourced meals with optional time Saturday for any last-minute studio time, packing up, and purchases.

Keep an eye on the Journal for information about upcoming away workshops with The School of Making team, and check the Events calendar for added programming throughout the year.

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P.S.: The Shoals is an area rich in history with many unique destinations to experience during your stay. We encourage you to plan an extra day or two to get out and explore. There are also a number of points of interest within a day’s drive if you want to see more of Alabama while you’re here.

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FOLD-OVER ELASTIC UPDATE

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

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

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E-BOOK NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

The Geometry of Hand-Sewing has received positive reviews since its launch back in November—and this month, the e-book version of The Geometry of Hand-Sewing became available through Amazon for instant viewing on a Kindle or other device.

The e-book is perfect for traveling when you have limited space but want to learn a new stitch or any time you’re sewing when having a book in tow is inconvenient. It’s an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to access all the images and instructions from The Geometry of Hand-Sewing. You will be able to download the stitch cards to print out and mark off your fabric. Purchase your copy now through Amazon.

P.S. – Be on the lookout throughout the year as we make more of our titles available in digital form.

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DESIGN ON FABRICS

As a textile artist and designer, Elaine Lipson has spent much of her life exploring creative mediums and the fine arts. Born in Canada, Elaine has found a home (many, in fact) in the United States and spent time living in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco before settling in Colorado where she currently has a studio in Boulder. Elaine has an appreciation for the work that we do here at Alabama Chanin and The School of Making, and we’ve found great synergy in each other’s interests in the textile arts. Given her comprehensive design and writing background, we are excited to welcome her as a contributing writer for the Journal, where she will examine and feature some very special books from both her and Natalie’s libraries and beyond.

From Elaine: I know I’m not alone in finding immense satisfaction and joy in discovering books, both new and old, that contain a wealth of design and textile knowledge. As an editor, artist, maker, and textile explorer (I like the term “textilian” coined by Victoria Z. Rivers, author of The Shining Cloth), I was thrilled when Natalie Chanin invited me to write for the Journal about some favorite volumes I’ve collected over the years. This is the first of what we hope will be an enjoyable series. These books remind me that we’re all connected by our instinct to decorate, design, and communicate through cloth, our search for beauty, and our imaginations.”

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Though many people now have an appreciation for textile design and surface design and find it easy to learn and experiment with these arts, it wasn’t always so. Textile design was something you had to go to a city with a major textile center or art school to learn; designs were painted and put into repeat for production by hand, rather than by computer. Surface design—dyeing, block printing, batik and, other methods—required materials, tools, and skills that weren’t readily available outside of art schools and art centers.

The burgeoning textile and surface design maker culture we know today emerged from seeds planted in the 1950s and 1960s; the mid-century era was fertile ground for now-iconic organic, modern forms and a handmade aesthetic that was reflected not only in textiles but in furniture, publications, clothing, and more. Design as a sophisticated form of communication and expression, different from art and craft but integrating both, took hold.

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Design on Fabrics* by Meda Parker Johnston and Glen Kaufman (Reinhold Publishing, 1967), is one of several books from the era that is still available today and provides a rich resource on theory and methods of surface design. Johnston was an assistant professor of textile design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and taught at Cranbrook Academy; Kaufman, her co-author, was a weaver and head of the textile design department at the University of Georgia in Athens. Part textbook, part how-to, their book thoroughly explores a range of surface design techniques and roots their modern design philosophy in centuries of human impulse to decorate.

The book is rich with photographs, almost all in black and white. Johnston reminds us that “It is possible to plan a design almost to finality without the introduction of color.” Looking at the included fabrics and patterns in grayscale forces us to focus on the design instead of the color, and consider what makes the fundamental elements successful—or not.

Johnston and Kaufman break down the elements of line, shape, color, texture and space as considerations for the designer. They also discuss concepts like rhythm and how an understanding of the concept can help the maker create more complex and rich designs.

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The book’s concepts are illustrated via instructions for multiple design experiments made with cut paper, followed by chapters on block printing, screen printing (including stencil cutting), painting and other direct applications, batik and other resists, and tie-dye, or pleated, wrapped, tied, and stitched resist methods. These methods are followed by a chapter on dyes and pigments; it’s here that we recommend that readers explore updated information. Safety and environmental concerns of dyes, pigments, and chemicals in the studio weren’t commonly addressed at the time of this book’s publishing in the way they are today (although the instructions for creating a DIY steamer, steam cabinet, and printing table could be used as effectively today as 50 years ago).

If you are interested in surface design, mid-century design, or just love vintage textile books, this study of decorative textile history, design principles, and application methods would make an informative, interesting addition to your library. Combine the techniques introduced in this book with your modern design sensibilities to expand your viewpoint and your creative processes.

*This review refers to the original 1967 edition; a later 1977 edition is currently available.

DESIGN CHOICES: EMBROIDERY STRIPE

The Variegated Stripe Stencil made its first appearance in The Geometry of Hand-Sewing. It’s our take on a classic stripe that provides visual interest with its contrasting stripes, and it provides a great base for intricate embroideries. Learn to create the embroidery stitches shown on these swatches with Natalie’s newest Bluprint course, “The New Embroidery”.

Find the design details for the Variegated Stripe colorways below to create your own versions at home, and find a selection of striped DIY kits—including the Swing Skirt, Table Runner, T-Shirt Top, Poncho, and Scarf—online.

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DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – Natural
Textile paint color – Pearl Silver
Stencil – Variegated Stripe
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué and reverse appliqué with mixed embroidery
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Embroidery floss – Ashe, Cream
Knots – Inside
Stitches (from top to bottom) – Straight stitch, chained feather stitch, chain stitch, double Cretan stitch with straight stitch, feather stitch, whipstitch, straight stitch, whipped herringbone stitch

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DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Sand
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Textile paint color – White
Stencil – Variegated Stripe
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué and reverse appliqué with mixed embroidery
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Embroidery floss – Ashe, Cream
Knots – Inside
Stitches (from top to bottom) – Chained feather stitch, chain stitch, double Cretan stitch with straight stitch, feather stitch, whipstitch, straight stitch, whipped herringbone stitch

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DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Camel
Fabric color for inner layer – Natural
Textile paint color – Pearl Silver
Stencil – Variegated Stripe
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué and reverse appliqué with mixed embroidery
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Embroidery floss – Ashe, Cream
Knots – Inside
Stitches (from top to bottom) – Chained feather stitch, chain stitch, double Cretan stitch with straight stitch, feather stitch, whipstitch, straight stitch, whipped herringbone stitch

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DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Blue Slate
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Textile paint color – Charcoal
Stencil – Variegated Stripe
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué and reverse appliqué with mixed embroidery
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Embroidery floss – Ashe, Cream
Knots – Inside
Stitches (from top to bottom) – Chained feather stitch, chain stitch, double Cretan stitch with straight stitch, feather stitch, whipstitch, straight stitch, whipped herringbone stitch

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DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Blue Slate
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Textile paint color – Charcoal
Stencil – Variegated Stripe
Technique – Reverse appliqué with mixed embroidery and beading
Button Craft thread – Slate
Embroidery floss – Dark Grey
Bead – Natalie’s Mix
Knots – Inside
Stitches (from top to bottom) – Herringbone stitch, backstitched sequins, Cretan stitch, backstitch, bugle-beaded whipstitch, whipstitch, chained feather stitch, zigzag chain stitch, feather stitch, chain stitch

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THE NEW EMBROIDERY

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

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

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

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

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

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CUSTOM DIY UPDATE

Custom DIY has always been a resource to design your own garments and accessories—personalizing everything from fabric and thread color to stencil design and treatments. Now, you have even more control over what you receive once you place your Custom DIY Kit order.

The new programming provides even further customization, allowing you to take into account the notions and supplies you already have in your sewing kit. You will still choose your project, size (if applicable), fabric colors, treatment, and stencil, but you now have the option to get only what you need. Each Custom DIY Kit is now available as a base kit—with your cut-out project stenciled in your design of choice—with the option to add on any notions you need for an additional discounted cost. Our new Thread and Embroidery Calculator is available online here and also in the Custom DIY Guide. Use this chart to help you determine how many spools of each you’ll need for all your sewing projects from The School of Making. As always, shipping is free for all Custom DIY Kits.

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In addition to the new “à la carte” ordering, fresh styles have been added from 2017 Build a Wardrobe. All variations of the Factory Dress, Car Coat, Wrap Dress, and Drawstring Pant patterns are now available as well as the Variegated Stripe stencil from The Geometry of Hand-Sewing.

Find inspiration for fabric treatments, and start customizing your project here.

Share all of your projects with us using the hashtag #theschoolofmaking on Instagram, and join The School of Making Stitchalong on Facebook.

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MENDING: SLOW DESIGN + MODERN LIFESTYLE

We’ve written before about the process of mending and of integrating it into your lifestyle. Embracing mending as sustainable practice and a component of everyday life can be a small change that makes a big difference. Mending acts as a solution to economic challenges by utilizing your own skills to repurpose, repair, and restore your wardrobe. With the perpetuation of “fast-fashion”, mending your clothes is an action you can take to make an impact on a grassroots level.

Plus, as we have discussed in our Worn Stories conversations, people develop relationships with their clothing, keeping and valuing them long past their intended lifespan. Our garments can become part of our personal histories, whether we intend them to or not.

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Mending is part of the philosophy of the “living arts” and, like the rest of those skills, we want to see mending grow in popularity. We have hosted Patagonia’s traveling “Worn Wear” repair truck that, in accordance with the company’s repair philosophy, travels the country mending clothing or accepting donations of items that can’t be repaired so they may be repurposed—just as they have been in our Patagonia scarf collaboration. Places like repair cafés—locations where people can take broken or worn items and learn to repair them rather than throw them away—are slowly popping up across the country. iPhone owners are proposing vocal arguments that they should have the ability to repair their own electronics instead of having to buy new (very expensive) phones and gadgets.

As part of our support for the mending movement, Alabama Chanin has created its own mending space that is available to everyone. This month, The School of Making store and workshop space has undergone an expansion, allowing more room to integrate the community into our space. Our expansion includes a mending table, a loom for our zero-waste product development, and a larger workshop area (which is currently getting its finishing touches). The mending table will offer tools like needles, thread, and scissors for those who want to mend any items—not just Alabama Chanin pieces—whether you need to attach a button, patch a hole, or want to rework your item to give it a new life. Organic cotton fabric scraps will be available for purchase to patch and repair your garments too.

The new mending space is open now, and its hours are in conjunction with our store hours: Monday – Friday from 10am  – 5pm and Saturdays by appointment. Join us in advancing the mending movement in America.

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2018 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE PALAZZO PANT PATTERN

The second quarter of the Build a Wardrobe 2018 subscription debuts today with the launch of the Palazzo Pant pattern. Transcending any season or occasion, the flattering Palazzo Pant—with its comfortable pull-on elastic waist and wide, flowing leg—can be made in a variety of lengths and works well basic or embellished.

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For a special occasion, the wide legs offer the ideal canvas for appliqué, embroidery, or bead treatments. A basic version offers a more relaxed feel, and the roomy, comfortable legs are ideal for lounging at home.

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The Palazzo Pant pattern is included in the Build a Wardrobe subscription but can be purchased à la carte on our Studio Books + Patterns page here.

It is offered in both physical and digital forms and comes in three length variations: 19″ shorts, 30″ cropped pants, and 33″ long pants. The nested pattern includes sizes XS up to XXL. The paper pattern is $24, and the digital pattern comes in both US Letter and A4 (for our international customers) formats and is priced at $18. Visit our Journal here for instructions for home printing.

We ask that you respect our creative integrity when working with this, or any pattern, and not produce garments to sell.

Share your work with us and the maker community on Instagram using the hashtags #theschoolofmaking and #buildawardrobe2018.

NEW BEAD MIXES

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

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

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

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NEW SCISSORS FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE SCHOOL OF MAKING STITCHALONG ON FACEBOOK

Always striving to be a center for inspiration, instruction, and community, Alabama Chanin and The School of Making are excited to announce The School of Making Stitchalong group on Facebook. A creative space intended for the sharing of ideas and to be a resource for all your School of Making project and pattern questions.

Our aim is for you to be engaged and encouraged to grow your skills as you create projects or a hand-sewn wardrobe.

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This is a closed group, so you will have to request to join. Visit the Facebook page here to request an invite. Once you join, the rules are simple; we ask that you adhere to the three group guidelines below:

1. Be kind. Comments or posts that make anyone feel uncomfortable will not be tolerated. If you see something inappropriate, flag the post or comment for us to intervene.

2. Stay on topic. This is a group for sharing projects from The School of Making and asking questions along the way. Please keep your posts related to hand-sewing and embellishment. If you have an unrelated question or comment, please email us at office@alabamachanin.com, and we’re happy to help.

3. Have fun, talk, learn, and share your projects. We encourage you to engage with one another.

As a member, you will have access to the wealth of knowledge provided by the making community as well as exclusive previews, discounts, and giveaways from The School of Making. Group members will also have access to inspiration photos, archived projects and posts, and stencil artwork that is free and exclusive to the Stitchalong group.

During your discussions in the Stitchalong group, or when working on any projects from The School of Making, we ask that you keep our creative integrity in mind.

We invite you to join the Stitchalong today, tell us about yourself, and share your favorite or latest project. As an icebreaker, a few of our team members and friends have shared theirs.

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BLUPRINT: TECHNIQUES FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

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

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

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

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

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

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INSPIRATION: PANEL TANK

The Panel Tank style made its first appearance in the Alabama Chanin collection in 2013. It has been one of our most requested patterns ever since due to its form-flattering fit and debuted as the first pattern in our 2018 Build a Wardrobe program. Find design details below for some of our favorite versions for your project inspiration:

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

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Pattern variation – Panel Tank
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button craft thread – White
Stencil – Spirals
Textile paint – Pearl Silver
Technique – Alabama Fur
Embroidery floss – White
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan

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Pattern variation – Panel Tunic
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Sand
Fabric color for inner layer – Sand
Button craft thread – Cream
Stencil – Fern
Textile paint – White
Technique – Beaded Fern
Beads – Chop
Bead color – White
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan

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Pattern variation – Panel Tunic
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Navy
Fabric color for inner layer – Navy
Button craft thread – Navy
Stencil – Daisy
Textile paint – Black
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan

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Pattern variation – Panel Tunic with 3” border
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Ochre
Button craft thread – Dogwood
Technique – Armor beaded stripe with Herringbone appliquéd border
Beads – Bugle, Chop, and Sequins
Bead color – Gold
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan and Herringbone

PS – Follow us on Instagram and find inspiration (and share your own) using #buildawardrobe2018.

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2018 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE PANEL TANK PATTERN

2018 Build a Wardrobe kicks off with our beloved Panel Tank Pattern. The Panel Tank flatters all body types with a fitted bust and generous flare to the bottom hem. The thin straps and scooped out neckline well to layering underneath a cardigan or jacket, or over a long sleeve tee or turtleneck.

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The pattern has four length variations: tank, tunic, knee-length dress, and long dress, and is graded in sizes XS to XXL. By signing up for the year, your Build a Wardrobe package includes all the fabric and thread you will need to complete a basic top or dress.

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The Panel Tank pattern is available as part of Build a Wardrobe or à la carte.

Please share all of your Build a Wardrobe projects with us and The School of Making community by using the hashtags #theschoolofmaking and #buildawardrobe2018.

If you have questions about construction of your Panel Tank or need advice on sizing, stenciling, or embellishments, give us a call at 256-760-1090 or email us at office@alabamachanin.com.

P.S.: We ask that you respect our policies and use our patterns for your own personal projects. They are designed for individual use and are not intended for reproducing, distributing, or commercial venues.

View our current Build a Wardrobe Collection here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + FERN STENCILS

INTRODUCING THE TARTAN STENCIL

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

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

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

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

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

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ERRATA: THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

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

Page 49: Double Chain Stitch – Front

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Page 49: Double Chain Stitch – Back

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Page 57: Zigzag Chain Stitch – Back

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Page 77: Coral Stitch – Back

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Pre-orders have shipped, so keep an eye on the mail for your book. Look for products and programming to go along with The Geometry of Hand-Sewing in the coming weeks. Visit our Makers Supplies + 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.

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DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 4

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

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

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Your Design Bundle will include:

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

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

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

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LIMITED-EDITION EMBROIDERY FLOSS (+FABRIC)

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SWING SKIRT TECHNIQUES & CONSTRUCTION

BLUPRINT: THE SWING SKIRT TECHNIQUES & CONSTRUCTION

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SWING SKIRT TECHNIQUES & CONSTRUCTION

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

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

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

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

And sign up for the course here.

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

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2017 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE DRAWSTRING PANT

As the final installment of our 2017 Build a Wardrobe subscription, we introduce the Drawstring Pant Pattern. Flattering on all body types and adaptable to any wardrobe or season, the pattern offers four length options for the pant (shorts, knee-length shorts, cropped pant, and long pant), three skirt length options (short, mid-length, and long), and multiple pocket variations (cargo, patch, five-sided patch, and side-seam).

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Available for the first time today, the digital pattern for the Drawstring Pant is $18 and is formatted for tiled, at home printing, or full-size printing at a copy shop using large-format printers. Learn more about how to print here.

Build a Wardrobe 2017 can be purchased through the remainder of this year; with all four quarters shipping to you at the same time.

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For the latest updates on The School of Making, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Share your Build a Wardrobe garments using the hashtags #buildawardrobe2017 and #theschoolofmaking‑and all of your projects with #theschoolofmaking.

P.S.: We ask that you respect our policies and use our patterns for your own personal projects. They are designed for individual use and are not intended for reproducing, distributing, or commercial venues.

P.P.S.: The Long Pant and Long Skirt are pictured above with The Crop Tee, and the Drawstring Shorts are pictured above with The Coverup.

View our current Build a Wardrobe Collection here.

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TEXTILE PAINT + CUSTOM COLORS

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

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

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

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THE SCHOOL OF MAKING ON ALABAMACHANIN.COM

The School of Making was created in 2014—though our workshops, educational services, and DIY projects date back to the early 2000s. This important part of our business allows us to make living arts accessible to all consumers.

Today, we guide you through this section of our new site, which has a few updates.

What We Love is, well, just that. This page gives us a place to share favorite products, and you can expect this section to change as we introduce or highlight new and different designs. (These items can also be found in their respective categories.)

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On our previous site, the DIY Sewing Kits were nested under the Maker Supplies section—now they stand out on their own making them easier to find. With the site launch, we’ve also introduced four new kits: the Alabama Fur Corset, Anna’s Garden Corset, Anna’s Garden Factory Tunic, and Stars Alabama Sweater.

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Maker Supplies + Stencils are our go-to notions, tools, and materials and our medium-weight jersey in a variety of colors, all products that we use day after day in our own studio. The new site design showcases the quality of the materials through our photography.

We’ve folded our digital stencil tools, artwork, and laser-cut Mylar stencils together into the same page. Now you can choose between the digital or physical offerings (where available)—and see fabric design inspiration for your next project.

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In Studio Books + Patterns, The School of Making Book Series can be found alongside our digital garment patterns (which have moved from the Resources section on our previous site). Use these books as resources to get started sewing and learn all our techniques and methods. Expect more patterns in the collection in the future…

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Workshops + Events is divided up by type of workshop and easily shows you each available date. You can also find these listed on our company-wide Events calendar in the footer.

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Custom DIY and Host a Party are still available too! Access these programs through the feature images across our site.

And use our Site Map to navigate and find your way…

Check back on the Journal tomorrow as we highlight Bldg. 14 on AlabamaChanin.com.

Give us a call if you have any questions: 256.760.1090

ALABAMA CHANIN – TRANS-PECOS FESTIVAL + A WORKSHOP

TRANS-PECOS FESTIVAL + A WORKSHOP

Marfa, Texas, has fascinated the American imagination since we saw James Dean cross our wide movie screens in 1956’s Giant. It can seem both stubbornly Texan and confoundingly trendy at times, but it actually holds a great deal of magic for those willing to make the journey. Liz Lambert’s El Cosmico is a campground wonderland of brightly colored vintage campers, teepees, yurts, and lots of open spaces. Marfa can bring out your nomadic spirit if you embrace the intentional lack of wi-fi and communal kitchens and fire pits. And the darkness. After the sun sets, Marfa is one of the darkest places you may ever experience, making the stars brighter, in turn.

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Natalie will be visiting for the 12th Annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love at El Cosmico from September 28 – October 1. The festival includes music from a number of talented artists (including Tift Merritt, Wilco, and Jenny Lewis), lots of community dining, a wide variety of workshops, and an epic sandlot baseball game. Natalie will be hosting a workshop on Stenciling, Hand Sewing, and Creative Process on Friday, and there are also workshops hosted by friends and fellow travelers Rinne Allen and the Kitchen Sisters. For more information on the festival, tickets, lodging information, and all other necessities, visit the El Cosmico website.

THE NEW ALABAMACHANIN.COM

In fashion, graphic design, art, architecture, and other creative mediums, designs evolve and change with time. The same is true for website design (and technology)—and with that idea in mind, today we are over-the-moon to announce the launch of the newly designed AlabamaChanin.com.

What began as a conversation about AlabamaChanin.com over a year and half ago, is realized today online.

Like any proud parent, this is something we’re really proud to share.

We want to thank all the team at Hugo & Marie—our website design and development team of over five years. They’ve created a beautiful place for us to call home while connecting to our global community.

Take a look around.

Use our Site Map to help find your way.

Tell us if there are any hiccups. We’ll be spending the next few days working through the kinks.

Tell us what you love. Tell us what we can do better.

Look at it on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone (yes, it works there too).

Oh, and we’ve launched a new Collection too.

Navigate Alabama Chanin, The School of Making, The Factory, and Bldg. 14.

Happy Day. Happy Exploring.

xo from all of us @ Alabama Chanin

P.S.:  If you’re still having trouble navigating the site, email us at orders@alabamachanin.com or call us at 256-760-1090.

If you have frequented our site recently, we suggest refreshing your web browser’s cache to make sure you have the most up-to-date information from our site.

Visit this site to learn how.

Blue fabric detail with couching and black beads

COUCHING INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

Cut couching ropes in black

SUPPLIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW: ARMOR BEAD COLORS

NEW: ARMOR BEAD COLORS

While our basic, unadorned garments provide a great foundation for your wardrobe (and are quick and easy to stitch up), it’s the embellishments you add that make them truly unique and turn them into statement pieces for your growing hand-sewn wardrobe. Beads, sequins, and decorative stitches can transform a simple hand-sewn garment into an heirloom.

We have developed a variety of beading styles with which to embellish garments, and one of our favorites is Armor Beading. Armor Beading combines chop beads, bugle beads, and sequins applied in a random order. It looks beautiful as an accent around a neckline—especially when applied heavily at the edge and then fading out towards the body of the garment—as well as a stripe around a hemline. Armor Beading can also be used to fill a stenciled space.

A bead mix is now available as a product and offered in six colors now—Black, Dark Grey, Gold, Red, Silver, and White—to use on a wide range of available colors of organic cotton jersey. As with any of our beading techniques, Armor Beading works best with our Beading Needles and a single strand of Button Craft Thread.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW: ARMOR BEAD COLORS

Armor Beading is used in the June’s Spring fabric treatment (shown above) as well as Beaded Stars. Find instructions and a Fabric Map for June’s Spring on pages 118 – 119 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

INTRODUCING THE LARGE PARADISE STENCIL

Inspired by the work of French naïve artist, Henri Rousseau, and originally used in our 2015 Collection, the Large Paradise stencil is now available through The School of Making. The stencil features a tropical-inspired motif that harkens back to Rousseau’s lush, jungle setting of his 1910 painting The Dream.

The Large Paradise stencil is available cut on 10mil Mylar and as a digital artwork download. Large Paradise is also now a stencil option for Custom DIY Kits as well.

Follow @theschoolofmaking on Instagram and share all your projects with using the hashtag #theschoolofmaking.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

The Wrap Dress style made its first appearance in the Alabama Chanin collection back in 2008. Over the years, it has been made in many different variations—dressed down in a basic tank style for summer as well as dressed up as a fully embellished dress for a wedding. The sleeve variations and length options make this garment endlessly versatile and easy to fit into your existing wardrobe.

Below you can find design choices for some of our favorite versions throughout the years.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Pattern variation – Wrap Tunic (shown above)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Black
Fabric color for inner layer – Black
Button Craft thread – Black
Stencil – Stars
Textile paint – Slate
Technique – Beaded Stars
Sleeve variation – Sleeveless
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Herringbone

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Pattern variation – Wrap Tunic (shown at left)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Ballet
Fabric color for inner layer – Ballet
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Textile paint – Pearl Silver
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Sleeve variation – Sleeveless
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Pattern variation – Wrap Tunic
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – White
Fabric color for inner layer – White
Button Craft thread – White
Stencil – Facets
Textile paint – Pearl Silver
Technique – Negative reverse appliqué
Sleeve variation – Cap sleeve
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: WRAP DRESS

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Pattern variation – Wrap Dress (with lengthening border added)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Ballet
Button craft thread – Dogwood
Sleeve variation – Long Fluted Sleeve
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Herringbone

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE WRAP DRESS

2017 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE WRAP DRESS

Universally flattering and a staple of any wardrobe, the Wrap Dress is the focus of the third quarter of Build a Wardrobe 2017 and is available for the first time today as a digital pattern download. Offered with five sleeve options and five length variations, the pattern is available in sizes XS through  XX-Large. The $18 download also includes construction instructions and is formatted for both wide-format and tiled printing.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE WRAP DRESS

Make a basic version or use any of the techniques in our Studio Book series to take your Wrap Dress from casual to special occasion worthy. Be sure to share your project with us using the hashtags #theschoolofmaking and #buildawardrobe2017.

Check back with us in October for our fourth and final quarter release of 2017.

Purchase the Wrap Dress pattern.

Visit The School of Making’s Facebook page here.

P.S.: We ask that you respect our policies and use our patterns for your own personal projects. They are designed for individual use and are not intended for reproducing, distributing, or commercial venues.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW TO MAKE A HEADER (+ NEW BINDERS)

HOW TO MAKE A HEADER (+ NEW BINDERS)

We’ve written before about the importance of sample blocks and how we use them to design our collections and other projects. As you explore new techniques, we encourage you to create your own fabric library to document your process. The most efficient way we’ve found to do so is to attach what we call “headers” to each one of your sample blocks.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW TO MAKE A HEADER (+ NEW BINDERS)

To make your own header for a 10” x 16” sample block, follow the instuctions below:

  1. Cut an 8 1/2″ x 11” piece of white cardstock in half lengthwise so it measures 4 1/4″ x 11.”
  2. Fold your 4 1/4″ x 11” piece of cardstock in half lengthwise again so it measures 2 1/8” x 11.” Your header will have one long side that is a fold and another long open side.
  3. Using a three-hole punch, punch each long side of your folded header to create a total of 12 holes.
  4. On the open side of your folded header place a 10” piece of double-stick tape just above the three holes. The double-stick tape will hold your fabric swatch in place and prevent shifting.
  5. Place one 10” edge of your fabric swatch on top of the double-stick tape, making sure that it is centered on your cardstock.
  6. Thread a needle with a double strand of Button Craft thread, love it good, and tie a double knot following the instructions from our Alabama Studio book series.
  7. Attach your fabric to your paper header by sewing through the fabric at each of the punched holes, alternating from front to back until you arrive back at the beginning.
  8. Knot off securely. Your fabric swatch is now attached to your header.

We have our headers printed locally with our logo, but in the past, we used a rubber stamp to add our logo to our headers. We also give each fabric swatch a number and a name that can be referenced in the creation of new garments.

We cover our 3 ring-binders with white organic cotton jersey using the instructions for our Book Cover given on page 115 of Alabama Stitch Book.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOW TO MAKE A HEADER (+ NEW BINDERS)

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

INSPIRATION: ONE-OF-A-KIND INDIGO

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

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

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

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

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

THE SCHOOL OF MAKING ON FACEBOOK

The School of Making launched in October 2014, and over the past 2 ½ years it has grown into a flourishing division of the Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses. In the time since its launch, we’ve increased DIY kit offerings, introduced new programming like Build a Wardrobe and Host a Party and expanded our workshop space to better accommodate guests.

And while The School of Making is a core part of Alabama Chanin, it continues to grow and stand on its own apart from our Collection of made-to-order items. As we continue to further distinguish The School of Making as the educational arm of our company, you can expect to see more of the following:

As our programming expands, we have updated our social media channels to more directly get news to our followers. Last year, we introduced separate Instagram accounts for The School of Making (@theschoolofmaking), The Factory Café (@alabamachaninfactorycafe), and Natalie’s own personal account (@alabamachaninlife).

Today, we announce a new Facebook page for The School of Making. Like and follow our page for new pattern and product launches, workshop dates, project inspiration, and more.

Find The School of Making here:
On Instagram
On Facebook
On alabamachanin.com

And tag #theschoolofmaking to share your most recent projects with us.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

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

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

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

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

Purchase The Geometry of Hand-Sewing here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LAUNCHING THE GEOMETRY OF HAND-SEWING

ALABAMA CHANIN – STENCIL HIGHLIGHT: SMALL POLKA DOT + AURORA

INTRODUCING THE AURORA STENCIL

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – STENCIL HIGHLIGHT: SMALL POLKA DOT + AURORA

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN - FADED FABRIC INSTRUCTIONS 1

FADED FABRIC INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN - FADED FABRIC INSTRUCTIONS 2

SUPPLIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 2

DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 2

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 2

What you will get:

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

NEW (+ IMPROVED) PACKAGING FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – FASHION REVOLUTION

FASHION REVOLUTION WEEK: #WHOMADEMYCLOTHES

The global fashion industry is notoriously opaque, and it depends upon exploitation of workers and environmentally damaging practices. It is an issue that we’ve spoken of many times and one that drives us to do our very best to remain as transparent in our methods and materials as possible. But for us, there is also great joy in sharing what we do—in finding beauty in building a community and working with such incredibly talented employees and artisans. Nothing that Alabama Chanin makes will be at the expense of our people or our planet.

The Fashion Revolution movement works to do all of this on a global level. Their goal is to unite the fashion industry in an attempt to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced, and purchased—so that what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean, and fair way.

Fashion Revolution Week runs from April 24th – April 30th and coincides with one of the events that inspired this movement: the third anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, where 1,138 people were killed and many more injured. They are asking people across the world to ask brands, “Who Made My Clothes?” as a way to demand greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.

We will continue to work toward the most ethical and transparent supply chain possible. At Alabama Chanin, these are some of the people from our studio and Building 14 production team who make your clothes. We invite you all to get involved and to ask more questions, not just of us, but of all your favorite brands and designers. #whomademyclothes

ALABAMA CHANIN – FASHION REVOLUTION
Luda Matmuratova

ALABAMA CHANIN – FASHION REVOLUTION
Olivia Sherif

ALABAMA CHANIN – FASHION REVOLUTION
Sue Hanback

ALABAMA CHANIN – FASHION REVOLUTION
Victoria McCoy and Margaret May

ALABAMA CHANIN – FASHION REVOLUTIONCorey tenBerge

If you own any of our garments, we encourage you to proudly wear and share them on Instagram tagging #alabamachanin and #whomademyclothes.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FASHION REVOLUTION

ALABAMA CHANIN - SPOONFLOWER DAISY PROJECTS1

SPOONFLOWER DAISY PROJECTS

Since the launch of Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey, we’ve used both Anna’s Garden and New Leaves variations to create a Factory Tunic and Swing Skirt (respectively). The printed fabric allows you to make quick and easy basics with the added visual interest of a pattern. With spring in full effect here in north Alabama, we created a few staple pieces to ease us into the warmer months—a Poncho, Casual T-Shirt Top, and Armor Beaded Scarf—and experiment with Hand-Dyed Organic Indigo Fabric in Light Indigo.

ALABAMA CHANIN - SPOONFLOWER DAISY PROJECTS3

DESIGN CHOICES

Project – T-Shirt Top from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color– Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey in Daisy
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Sleeve length – Short
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

ALABAMA CHANIN - SPOONFLOWER DAISY PROJECTS2

DESIGN CHOICES

Project – Poncho from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color – Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey in Daisy
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Knots – Outside
Seams – Outside floating

ALABAMA CHANIN - SPOONFLOWER DAISY PROJECTS4

DESIGN CHOICES

Project – Scarf*
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color– Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey in Daisy
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Knots – Inside
Seams – Inside felled
Technique – Armor beading
Beads – Bugle beads, chop beads, and sequins
Bead color – White

*This scarf is a 12” x 56” strip cut across the grain. This project could easily be made from fabric leftover from another project shown here.

ALABAMA CHANIN - SPOONFLOWER DAISY PROJECTS5

DESIGN CHOICES

Project – Sample Block (10” x 16”)
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Hand-Dyed Organic Indigo Fabric in Light Indigo
Fabric color for inner layer – Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey in Daisy
Button Craft thread – Dogwood
Textile paint color – Pearl Silver
Stencil – Daisy
Technique – Negative reverse applique
Knots – Outside

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE CAR COAT

2017 BUILD A WARDROBE: THE CAR COAT

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE CAR COAT

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

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

Purchase the digital pattern here.

Sign up for Build a Wardrobe here.

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

P.S.: We ask that you respect our policies and use our patterns for your own personal projects. They are designed for individual use and are not intended for reproducing, distributing, or commercial venues.

NEW: INDIGO DYE KIT

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW: INDIGO DYE KIT

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

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

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

BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: THE FACTORY DRESS SLEEVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY: DAISY

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – APPLIQUE DAISY ALABAMA SWEATER TUNIC

APPLIQUE DAISY ALABAMA SWEATER TUNIC

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – APPLIQUE DAISY ALABAMA SWEATER TUNIC

DESIGN CHOICES

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – INDIGO STORIES: DONNA HARDY

INDIGO STORIES: DONNA HARDY OF SEA ISLAND INDIGO

We have, over the years, done quite a bit of experimenting with natural dyes, and we try to integrate naturally dyed fabrics into our collections of low-impact dyed yardage whenever possible. We have also been lucky enough to benefit from the wisdom of many natural dye experts. Picking up from a conversation we had last fall, we continue to talk with and highlight the work of experts in the indigo industry in a series on our Journal. Today we feature someone with astonishing knowledge of the history of indigo in America, and years of experience in using indigo and other natural materials—Donna Hardy of Sea Island Indigo.

Years ago, before there was much conversation about “green” or organic products or processes, Donna purchased a book about herb gardening that included a chapter on creating a “dye garden”. Her interest piqued, she researched further and eventually began working with a group of women in the mountains of northeast Georgia who were foraging and growing dye plants. Her network of makers eventually led to an encounter with Michele Whipplinger—a well-known and respected natural dye expert who trained in France and Switzerland to become a master in her field. Donna began traveling to Michele’s home base of Seattle each summer to study and perfect her own techniques. Donna said, “One day, in her studio, we were having a conversation about indigo [and] the subject of the history of indigo growing in Charleston and Lowcountry came up. I had the thought, ‘If they could do it then, why can’t we do it now?’”

Donna continued to explore that idea when she could, doing research on the Indigofera genus—the kind of indigo historically grown in the Lowcountry. She experimented with various kinds of indigo at her home in the north Georgia mountains—but the growing season was too short for the species she wanted to focus on. Donna began to travel to Charleston, South Carolina, once a month to do more research on the historically relevant varieties of indigo, because there simply was not much contemporary information available; she found herself researching historic texts and combing through very old documents for information on how to advance her contemporary goal. If she was going to dedicate the time necessary, Donna felt she had to move to Charleston.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INDIGO STORIES: DONNA HARDY

In the 1700s, indigo was South Carolina’s second largest cash crop and Charleston was the center of indigo production in the American colonies, exporting nearly a million pounds of indigo per year at its height. Donna’s research had uncovered the species that flourished in the Lowcountry all those years ago and was working hard to reintroduce the plant and expand its numbers. “The type of indigo used at Sea Island Indigo is Indigofera suffruticosa, from Central and South America. This is the indigo used by the ancient Mayans, Aztecs, and Incans for thousands and thousands of years. The specific strain is from Ossabaw Island, an island off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. Before the American Revolution, Ossabaw was an indigo plantation. This indigo has been growing on Ossabaw for over 270 years. It produces particularly rich and vibrant blue that is different from most indigo on the market today.”

There is quite a bit of talk about the idea of preserving heirloom varieties of cotton and vegetables and the differences between those plants and their genetically modified cousins. We asked Donna about the importance of preserving heirloom or rare varieties of indigo. “As far as I know, indigo (and this includes all varieties) has not been manipulated and modified as most modern vegetables and grains have. There was probably some selective breeding, which is different, but most indigo is fairly pure. We need to be preserving these strains because the world is changing day to day, and many areas where these plants grow are being cleared or developed and the plants are being lost. And as you know, when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – INDIGO STORIES: DONNA HARDY

She is also working hard to increase the amount of research available on indigo and natural dyeing techniques. “Working with Michele and Michel [Garcia, esteemed botanist] made me realize that there will never be enough time to learn about all the various natural dye materials from around the world. I have studied and experimented and amassed quite a library of books, but I will never know all there is to know. We need to be documenting all of this information because this knowledge—knowledge that has been around for thousands and thousands of years—is being lost on a daily basis.”

Working with indigo is part art, part science. Those with a great deal of experience and understanding of the chemical reactions can tailor and tweak the smallest element or technique to obtain unique results. Donna is one of those people. “On one level, creating an indigo vat is just chemistry. But on another level, creating a vat is art. It involves all of your senses, especially a fermentation vat. Of all the dyes, indigo has the most myth and mystery surrounding it. Vats are sometimes considered living beings with their own quirks. You can be working with a vat and know you have the chemistry correct and the vat just won’t work. It won’t cooperate with you—so you let it ‘rest’, and after it’s rested you ‘wake it up.’ Knowing how to effectively read the mood of a living, but silent thing takes a specially trained eye and a sixth sense, of sorts.” Donna has just that sense.

Just as we at Alabama Chanin have witnessed the effects of fast fashion on the world economy and environment, Donna has seen what careless use of synthetic dyes—combined with the disposable fashion mindset—has done to entire regions and groups of people. “I believe we need to move away from fast fashion,” she says. “Our pursuit of cheap textiles has polluted rivers around the world. The people that depend on these rivers for food and drink can no longer use them. Slavery does exist in today’s world, and it’s in the garment industry.”

“Synthetic dyes have been around since 1854, for 160 years. When they were created, within 100 years they had replaced the colors used for thousands of years that were obtained from plants, insects, and minerals. Most synthetic dyes are created from coal tar or petroleum and are pretty toxic to, well, everything. Historically, natural dyes were not always safe either because a lot of heavy metal and toxic mordants were used.” But, as with other aspects of sustainable fashion, there is realistic room for improvement in this area—if companies are willing to commit. “Today we can create beautiful, lasting colors with natural dyes, without the use of these toxic mordants and chemicals. As far as indigo, the chemical formula for synthetic indigo and natural indigo are exactly the same, but synthetic indigo is flat and has no depth. On the other hand, natural indigo has other chemical components in it that create rich color depth. It seems to glow sometimes; it has life.”

alabama-chanin-indigo-stories-donna-hardy-photo-credit-donna-hardy-3

Having faced our own unique challenges regarding supply chain and sustainable production methods, we wanted to know Donna’s thoughts on the feasibility of large-scale natural dyeing, as opposed to small-batch making. “Yes, it can be done on a larger scale, and there are folks doing that. There are many ways to do things and there is room for everyone. I’m working on smaller, artisan-produced indigo that creates a very beautifully crafted product that is a joy to work with, use, and wear. This will be applicable to independent dyers for small industries who want to grow, process, and dye with the indigo they’ve grown. It will be a ‘closed system’, so to speak.” But as with slow fashion in general, there is a challenge in educating both makers and consumers to the benefits of slow and natural dyeing processes. Donna admits that “some people just don’t care. They want cheap clothes, whatever the cost.”

Currently, Donna is working with Dr. Brian Ward at Clemson’s Coastal Research and Education center in Charleston. His program is doing practical research on the most effective ways to grow indigo. She is also working with a group of engineering students at the University of Georgia to create a new and more efficient way to process indigo. “I’ve been thinking about the importance of preserving this knowledge and have been contemplating that maybe we need a center to bring all of the blue-producing plants from around the world together and record and document the many ways they are used. Create a center for indigo culture, so to speak.” We consider Donna Hardy to be one of the premier experts on indigo in America and think she could be just the person to create such an endeavor.

All images are courtesy of Donna Hardy. Feature image photo credit: Karen K. Powers

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

BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: FULL WRAP SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

FULL WRAP SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find the pattern for the Full Wrap Skirt here.

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

PULL-ON SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

APRON SKIRT INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repeat this process with the second facing.

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: WALKING CAPE INSTRUCTIONS

Download a printable PDF of the Walking Cape instructions here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE DAISLY STENCIL AND ANNA'S GARDEN TOO

INTRODUCING THE DAISY STENCIL

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE DAISY STENCIL AND ANNA'S GARDEN TOO

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE DAISY STENCIL AND ANNA'S GARDEN TOO

#theschoolofmaking

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: ALABAMA SWEATER INSTRUCTIONS

BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: ALABAMA SWEATER INSTRUCTIONS

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: ALABAMA SWEATER INSTRUCTIONS

ALABAMA SWEATER TUNIC/TOP/CROP TOP INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: ALABAMA SWEATER INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

Find downloadable and printable stencils here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 1

DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 1

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN BUNDLE: QUARTER 1

What you get:

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY UPDATE

CUSTOM DIY UPDATE

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

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

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

BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: MAGGIE DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: MAGGIE DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

MAGGIE TOP/TUNIC/DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: MAGGIE DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2016: MAGGIE DRESS INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

Download a printable PDF of the Maggie Dress instructions here.

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – SPOONFLOWER + THE FACTORY TUNIC

SPOONFLOWER + THE FACTORY TUNIC

We’ve been loving our Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey—part of our collaboration with Spoonflower—which we debuted a few months back. Since then, we have used it to create a Swing Skirt, and here we utilize it to introduce the Factory Tunic. We used a variation of the Factory Dress pattern—now available through our 2017 Build a Wardrobe programming, or for purchase online.

The Factory Tunic features princess seams and flares at the hem, giving it a feminine silhouette. It is perfect for layering or wearing on its own.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SPOONFLOWER + THE FACTORY TUNIC

DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight organic cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey
Fabric color for inner layer – Sand
Button Craft thread – Cream
Textile paint color – Slate
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Technique – Negative reverse applique
Knots – Outside
Seams – Inside felled
Binding stitch – Cretan stitch

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

Purchase the Factory Dress pattern here.

Subscribe to Build a Wardrobe here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – UNWASHED FABRIC

UNWASHED FABRIC

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – UNWASHED FABRIC

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

BUILD A WARDROBE 2017: FACTORY DRESS PATTERN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S.: We ask that you respect our policies and use our patterns for your own personal projects. They are designed for individual use and are not intended for reproducing, distributing, or commercial venues.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN INSTAGRAM: @ALABAMACHANIN

THE YEAR IN INSTAGRAM: @ALABAMACHANIN

This year was a busy and productive year for all of our divisions at Alabama Chanin. The School of Making and The Factory teams worked hard to introduce new and expanded programming for our customers. Our design team launched new home items and Collection #30, which produced some of our most intricate and beautiful garments yet.

It was a year of change with new team members, office rearranging, organizing, goal setting (and exceeding), and a lot of personal and professional growth along the way. We’re proud of our team, and we’re grateful to do what we do every day. We look forward to the fresh start a new year brings, and we hope you’ll continue to follow along on our journey.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN INSTAGRAM: @ALABAMACHANIN

Follow us on Instagram to see our design and production studio, Building 14 manufacturing facility, new garments and products, what inspires us, and more. And check back on the Journal tomorrow for a full recap of our year.

Happy New Year to all,
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SCHOOL OF MAKING INSTAGRAM

INSTAGRAM: @THESCHOOLOFMAKING

We’ve stated before how much our maker community continues to inspire us, and we’ve been so excited to see how you’ve used our programs and patterns to expand your creativity throughout the past year.

Host a Party opened up new opportunities for reaching out in your own communities and teaching sustainable practices in a way unique to you. Build a Wardrobe gave full creative control over your handmade wardrobe by providing you with patterns, instructions, and fabric choices tailored to best suit your life.

Our team traveled to France and spent a week at Chateau Dumas working with a group who was able to immerse themselves in our techniques and methods—all in the French countryside. We had a wonderfully successful year of workshops here at The Factory with visitors from all over the country and the world. And we launched a new DIY collection with new silhouettes, patterns, and color options.

We have so much planned for the coming year, and we can’t wait to share it all with you. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to create with you and for you. Follow along @theschoolofmaking on Instagram, and share your process and projects with us using the hashtag #theschoolofmaking.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – BUILD A WARDROBE 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#theschoolofmaking
#buildawardrobe2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

View our current Build a Wardrobe program here.

THE MAGDALENA CLASSIC JACKET DIY KIT

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE MAGDALENA CLASSIC JACKET DIY KIT

DESIGN CHOICES

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE MAGDALENA CLASSIC JACKET DIY KIT

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOST A PARTY: YEAR ONE

HOST A PARTY: YEAR ONE

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOST A PARTY: YEAR ONE

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

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

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

Shop DIY Sewing Kits from The School of Making.

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

SCOTT PEACOCK, PLANT SAFARI, + INDIGO

There is a lot you can say about Scott Peacock: James Beard Award-winning chef, engaging storyteller, companion to Edna Lewis, budding farmer, writer/filmmaker, experimenter with indigo—yes, you got that right, indigo.

Several weekends ago, my daughter Maggie and I took a road trip to meet Scott at his home in Marion, Alabama. We were joined by a lovely group of makers: Rinne Allen—photographer extraordinaire, Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors, Hunter Lewis and Liz Sidamon-Eristoff of Bois d’Arc Farm—a certified organic farm in the middle of Perry county, and Ozella Thomas—native to (and expert on) the Black Belt.

Booker T. Washington wrote of the Black Belt in his autobiography Up from Slavery:

The term was first used to designate a part of the country which was distinguished by the color of the soil. The part of the country possessing this thick, dark, and naturally rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable, and consequently, they were taken there in the largest numbers.

The black soil of this fertile plain was formed during the Cretaceous period, about 145 to 66 million years ago. At that time, this part of Alabama was covered by a shallow sea where the carbonate skeletons of marine plankton accumulated into massive chalk deposits. That chalk eventually became a soil suitable for growing crops, this ancient shoreline creating the arc that came to be known as the Black Belt.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SCOTT PEACOCK, PLANT SAFARI, + INDIGO

Three hours south of my home in The Shoals, the Black Belt has been home to some of the deepest poverty in my home state (and our nation). At the same time, it has also nurtured some of the most flourishing and prolific creativity (from natives and visitors alike) that defines the very best of the new south (Gee’s Bend, Rural Studio, HERO, photographer William Christenberry, Walker Evans, James Agee, Lonnie Holley, Emmer Seawell, Charlie Lucas, and writer Mary Ward Brown just to name a few). In fact, Mary Ward Brown is what originally brought Scott Peacock to Marion, Alabama—but I digress.

The weekend Maggie and I spent in the Black Belt was adventure-filled, and as I sit down to write about the experience, I’m not really sure where to start. I call Scott to reminisce and question him about some of the most fascinating moments. I’ve tried to create a transcript of our conversation; those of you who know Scott (or have eaten his food) will know that his agile mind finds connections between the most disparate topics and tastes, weaving together a banquet of food and story that feels (and tastes) like poetry.

NC: Friends who saw that I had visited with you sent me messages of astonishment that I’d actually “laid eyes” on you. It is rumored that you’ve become a hermit and that you’ve “turned your back on cooking.” I see this differently—to me, it feels like you’ve gone to the very root of cooking: the plants. Can you tell me just a little about that transition and how you got to Marion, Alabama?

SP: [laughing] I’ve heard that I was opening a cooking school, opening a bed and breakfast, lost my mind. Maybe I am a bit of a recluse at the moment but this isn’t a forever thing.  I think of it as a cycle; I go in and out of this. I’m slow, it takes me time to understand things, to build my understanding. I came to Marion because, in my gut, I knew it was the right thing for me to do. And that sense was so strong—even without knowing exactly what I’d be doing once I got here—I had a feeling of certainty. We all have that internal compass. It took me a lot time to trust it, but I do now.

My oral history work led me here originally. I first came here to interview the writer Mary Ward Brown, the PEN Hemingway awarded writer. I was working on a book and film project interviewing the oldest living Alabamians I could find. I was really interested in people who were born and raised in Alabama. I wanted to record their recollections of food and the food culture of their childhood. As you know, we are running out of time. The oldest person I interviewed was 107. This is part of an evolving project.

I’d never been to the Black Belt, didn’t know anything about it. It was that process of falling in love with Alabama—this place I’d been so happy to have left. There were two places I was never ever going to live again: 1) Alabama 2) a small town.

Now I’m completely happy living in a small town in Alabama and secure in my decision to do this.

I’m as mystified myself, and I marvel at that every day. I’ve gained this appreciation through the older people I’ve met. It’s for an Alabama I didn’t know existed. As T.S. Eliot said, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – SCOTT PEACOCK, PLANT SAFARI, + INDIGO

NC: And now you’ve got this gorgeous house and you plowed up your back yard, and you are raising rare varieties of plants. Your house even has a name; can you tell me about that?

SP: My personal name for my home is Alabama House—all the old houses around here have those historical markers out front but not mine. So Alabama House became my affectionate name for the house when I was still in Atlanta. I would say, “I’m going to the house,” They would ask, “What house?” I’d answer, “Alabama House.” But then it resonated.

It all started with Mary Ward Brown, and then this house, and then I started hearing about this man Hunter Lewis. I’d been in Marion a few months. Out of the blue, I heard about this man who had purchased Reverie—a Greek Revival mansion in Marion—and was restoring and had purchased land and that he wanted to farm organically. I was skeptical, as much as anyone is. You know, you hear all sorts of things and you take them with a grain of salt until you know it to be true. I had heard things about myself that weren’t true. But it turned out to be absolutely true about Hunter.

Hunter and I met for lunch, had lots to talk about, and I realized that he was serious about farming. He was assembling a herd of Piney Woods cattle—the oldest breed of cattle in the country and one of the rarest—with an important history in the Black Belt. I was fascinated by this all-purpose breed. In the 1800s, they were the meat cow, dairy cow, work cow. There are lots of noble things about this cow and their relationship to the Black Belt, and the ecology of the Black Belt is astonishing. There aren’t that many of them left. So Hunter and I had this idea to track and discover what attributes of the cows are best. There are so many questions: figuring out the impact of the different forages, understanding the right age to slaughter, discovering how the cow is best hung for aging. There is a talented young butcher in Atlanta named Brent Lyman working at Spotted Trotter who is working with us to develop the potential of the breed. We’re working and experimenting with age, forage methods, ways of curing—evaluating the full potential.

A friendship developed between Hunter and I—we were interested in one another’s work. It’s been the last year and a half that I became more involved in the farm. The whole farm is an exploration. We don’t have all the answers.

Sometime in this process, it occurred to me that I wanted to learn about indigo (more on this later). So I called Glenn Roberts. Glenn has been a generous friend and mentor to me; he is also changing the landscape of seeds and heirloom strains of all varieties of plants. Glenn and I began our conversation about indigo but wound up talking about the history of the Black Belt and the plants that would have been grown in this region. After one of these conversations, Glenn sent me 3 tablespoons of Purple Straw Wheat (called Alabama Blue Stem Wheat in Alabama). And yes, 3 tablespoons, which was incredibly generous given its remarkable scarcity.

I felt such a responsibility to Glenn Roberts for giving me these rare seeds, so I didn’t want to take my eyes off of them—and that’s how the decision came to plow up my back yard to see what could be gleaned from it planting wisely, harvesting wisely.

So I planted 2 teaspoons of the 3 tablespoons and those produced about 8 cups of viable seeds after the birds ate half the crop—greedy bastards. I wound up having to put up two layers of bird netting to keep them out. We’re now in the process of planting those 8 cups on a test plot at Bois c’Arc Farm.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SCOTT PEACOCK, PLANT SAFARI, + INDIGO

NC: Hunter has a miraculous certified organic farm in the very center of the Black Belt. Can you tell me about the farm and what you’ve been working to do?

SP: There are 80 acres set aside as test plots at Bois d’Arc (pronounced Bo’dock in the Black Belt), and I will keep planting some of the seeds in my back yard plot as a sort of insurance policy for the seeds. Just to make sure we don’t put all our eggs in one basket (or seeds in one plot).

Bois d’Arc is the largest certified organic grain farm in the southeast. Bois d’Arc is the French word for Mock Orange or Osage—at present 5300+ acres of certified farmland.

Glenn [Roberts] uses the word “repatriate.” I like that. And it is Hunter who drives the experimentation, he once said to me “not to go in this direction would really be to miss an opportunity.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – SCOTT PEACOCK, PLANT SAFARI, + INDIGO

NC: For me, the most beautiful part of the weekend was Sunday morning (just before we were leaving) and what Maggie and I have come to call the Plant Safari. Tell me about the purpose of that day and what you hope develops from it:

SP: Botanist Brian Keener who is from the University of West Alabama – The Center for the Study of the Black Belt joined us on this adventure. The purpose of the Plant Safari was to go with Dr. Keener who is so knowledgeable about The Black Belt and to assess the native plants for botanical pigments with Kathy Hattori from Botanical Colors. And we really just started to scratch the surface. There is perhaps the thought of growing indigo on a larger scale—for production. But also, Osage Orange (known as Mock Orange in the southeast) is very prevalent at the farm—all over the Black Belt.

The wood is so hard that it is difficult to mill after it is dry and the farmers aren’t crazy about Mock Orange because it has very large thorns and takes over the farm. But it makes a beautiful color of yellow dye. Mock Orange renders a lightfast yellow pigment when dying fabric. Depending on what mordant is used, you can develop a range of colors. So, it would be interesting if something considered to be a pest could be turned into a cash crop.

So we set off around the hedgerows of the farm to look at Mock Orange and try and discover any other dye stuffs that might be prevalent. And then we went back to Reverie and created dye baths and colors.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SCOTT PEACOCK, PLANT SAFARI, + INDIGO

NC: And then there is the Indigo—which is how this whole story started. Let’s talk about that:

SP: Indigo is one of those things that happens with me where something just pops into my head. I was in Atlanta and thinking about Alabama House and how an old crumbling house needs something new. A new crisp cocktail napkin would make this all right.

But I couldn’t find the right thing one day as I was avoiding something that I should have been doing, and I started Googling organic indigo and found Kathy Hattori. I called her and she offered to walk me through it. Kathy had read an article in the NY Times about Ms. Lewis and me—it’s a moving piece and Kathy had remembered it. She asked me if I was that Scott Peacock. I remember that both of us weren’t having the very best day and it felt affirming to just speak about this plant. And I realized that I was on the right path. She was getting ready to go to Charleston to visit Donna Hardy who was harvesting and making dye baths from indigo that she was growing.

So all of this started with those cocktail napkins, and they are still not dyed even though everybody was here two weeks ago with their arms in the dye vats.

From census records, indigo was grown here in the 1700s—crop records…indigo and rice. I started researching different kinds of indigo and where I could get seeds. Glenn told me that by 1780 anything that was being grown in Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas was being attempted in Alabama because those were the crops that the settlers brought with them. We found records of people moving into Alabama and growing indigo.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SCOTT PEACOCK, PLANT SAFARI, + INDIGO

NC: There are several people doing great work of indigo. There is Donna Hardy of the Sea Island Indigo in Charleston, South Carolina, Sarah Bellos of Stony Creek Colors in Nashville, and Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors in Seattle, Washington, who joined us for the weekends Plant Safari and indigo test.

SP: Sarah Bellos, Donna [Hardy], everyone was incredibly generous and gave me seeds and put me in touch with contacts. I got seeds from several different sources and all have grown and behaved a little differently from one another. There are several varieties of indigo from tropical to Japanese. The Japanese indigo is just now going to seed.

Next spring, I’ll be planting again in my back yard but also at the farm on a larger scale.  Increasing seed stock and experimenting with what grows well, what thrives, and once the plant is harvested, what kind of color does it produce that can be applied to textiles. There are so many variables. Isolating variables: environmental, mistakes, when to harvest, what sort of vat to use to maximize potential. In most circumstances, we’re just figuring out how to make it survive.

You know, Glenn inspired me and guided me towards the books and sources I need to learn about growing wheat and indigo and now sugar cane and rice. This is so much like cooking it’s always humbling. You are always learning and always evolving. Happy to discover that gardening is a lot like cooking and the closer I stick to that, the less daunting it is. At the end of the day, it is alchemy.

And that is what drew me to cooking as a young child: the miracle of transformation.

Images courtesy of Rinne Allen

______________________________________________________________________

Look for more on Eliza Lucas and Sea Island Indigo in the coming weeks.
xoNatalie

P.S: Anyone who has any information about the history of indigo in the state of Alabama please let us know in the comments section.  And if you just happen to have seeds from the past, we can connect you to Bois d’Arc farm. You never know, the seed you save might just be the most important one.

NEW DIY COLLECTION FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW DIY COLLECTION FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

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

Explore our current DIY Sewing Kit Collection here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – NEW DIY COLLECTION FROM THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

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

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

DIY FULL WRAP SKIRT (+ VARIATIONS)

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY FULL WRAP SKIRT (+ VARIATIONS)

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY FULL WRAP SKIRT (+ VARIATIONS)

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY FULL WRAP SKIRT (+ VARIATIONS)

Find our current Build a Wardrobe collection here.

CLAIRE MCCARDELL

“Clothes are for real live women…They are made to be worn, to be lived in.” – Claire McCardell

Claire McCardell is effectively the founder of American ready-to-wear fashion. Working from the 1930s through the 50s, McCardell was innovative because she designed clothing that was fashionable but also allowed women to move, breathe, and generally live their lives comfortably—all while feeling beautiful. Focusing more on sportswear, she turned her back on girdles, corsets, and uncomfortable construction, emphasizing that “clothes should be useful”—but still attractive, comfortable, and feminine.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CLAIRE MCCARDELL

McCardell designed throughout World War II, coming up with innovative workarounds when faced with wartime restrictions. She utilized whatever fabrics were available (even parachute cotton) in her designs and, when shoe leather became scarce, contracted Capezio to make their iconic ballet slippers, which would become a mainstay of the modern woman’s wardrobe. After World War II, American women had limited (if any) access to French fashions—and France was basically rebuilding an entire clothing industry. This opened the door for McCardell to recreate the image of the American woman, independent of excess outside influence. Her new style was more casual than pre-war clothing and embraced fabrics like denim, calico, and stretch jersey. She created wardrobes of mix-and-match separates that could be worn in a number of combinations—meaning more outfits for less money.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CLAIRE MCCARDELL

According to McCardell, her main design inspiration was her own intuition—believing that most women were employing their wardrobes to generally achieve the same things and solve the same problems. “Most of my ideas,” she said, “come from trying to solve my own problems.” The functionality and comfort of her garments relied on how they were constructed. Where some dresses had built-in shoulder pads to accent the shape of the arm, McCardell’s dresses created a similar look by changing the cut of the sleeve; pre-war dresses widely relied on corsets or foundation garments to create a desired silhouette—but McCardell created fitted garments by cutting on the bias or by belting full, circle skirts to create the “wasp waist” look of the day.

Her “American Look” permanently changed the landscape of fashion. Looking at photographs of McCardell’s designs today, it is clear that many of them have a timeless quality. Because she was not constantly adjusting her style from fashion season-to-season, her looks were consistent. They didn’t look dated. Many of her garments made in the 1940s would fit comfortably in closets today. Her once-revolutionary approach to style has become the norm.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CLAIRE MCCARDELL

The Museum at FIT has a collection of McCardell garments. To see more of her garments, browse those photos here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CLAIRE MCCARDELL

Photos from The Red List and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

P.S.:One of Natalie’s all-time favorite books on fashion is Claire Mccardell Redefining Modernism by Kohle Yohannan.

#womenartists

SPOONFLOWER: NEW LEAVES SWING SKIRT

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUPPLIES

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

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

DESIGN CHOICES

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

LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY

Anyone who is familiar with our company knows that Alabama Chanin is built on the beliefs of collaboration and the open exchange of information. Our connections and relationships with fellow designers, makers, customers, and suppliers run deep, and we appreciate every opportunity to learn from, be inspired by, and to teach and work with others. Examples of design and manufacturing collaborations from Alabama Chanin include Patagonia, 6397, Heath Ceramics, Little River Sock Mill, and DPM candles.

And after months of development (and years of requests for pre-printed yardage), we’re happy to announce our newest collaboration: The School of Making @ Spoonflower. The fabric base is our 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey in Natural, printed with grey ink, in two designs: Anna’s Garden and New Leaves.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEYALABAMA CHANIN – LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY

These designs are digitally printed using eco-friendly, water-based inks and dyes. Unlike our normal jersey yardage, this fabric is sold unwashed.

We are testing this first foray into pre-printed fabrics—so based on the response, look for expanded selections in the future. Be sure to wash your fabric before beginning any new project and, as always, share what you create with us using #theschoolofmaking on social media.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LIMITED-EDITION PRINTED COTTON JERSEY

Purchase Limited-Edition Printed Cotton Jersey here.

Learn more about Spoonflower here and follow along @theschoolofmaking on Instagram here.

SUPPLY CHAIN (+ DYE HOUSE) UPDATE

One of the challenges of running a company dedicated to sustainability is adjusting to the ebbs and flows of other small businesses in our supply chain—businesses that are devoted to sustainable practices themselves. Sadly for us, one of those companies has closed its doors after almost 20 years of operation. North Carolina-based Tumbling Colors, our dye house since 2008, worked with Natalie and the Alabama Chanin design team on color development for all of our fabrics. They dyed small batches of our 100% organic cotton jersey with low-impact dyes, producing custom colors for our Collections and DIY. To Chuck and the rest of the Tumbling Colors team: we have thoroughly enjoyed doing business with you.

Beginning last month, Green Textile, located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, became our dedicated dye house. We have employed them as our knitters since 2006 and now they will also be dyeing our fabric with the same low-impact processes we are used to.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SUPPLY CHAIN (+ DYE HOUSE) UPDATE

As a small business ourselves, we’re always navigating the challenges of supply and demand. Last fall, a portion of cotton was contaminated, lowering our stock of 100% organic cotton. Since then, we have been working to build up our stock. With recent changes in dyehouses, our stock in colors has been substantially reduced, and much of our fabric is currently low stock or backordered (as noted on the color cards). We appreciate everyone’s patience, and we are diligently working to match our supply with our demand.

If there is a fabric color you’d like to order that we currently stock, we encourage you to make your purchase now. We’ll have more updates soon and a lot of new DIY offerings in the coming months. Be sure to check back on our Journal and subscribe to our mailing list for the most up-to-date news.

Purchase our 100% medium-weight organic cotton jersey colors here.

INSPIRATION: WALKING CAPE

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.” – Charles Dickens

Our Walking Cape is the perfect all-weather staple, and it lives in my closet all year long. It is the ideal companion for the days between summer and fall, for cold plane rides, and hot summer afternoons spent in chilly movie theaters—and now it is the third pattern in our Build a Wardrobe program. Snap or no snap, pockets or no pockets—the Walking Cape is an easily customizable wrap.

Below you can find design choices for some our favorite designs over the years.

ALABAMA CHANIN - INSPIRATION: WALKING CAPE - 2

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Navy
Fabric color for inner layer – Navy
Button Craft thread – Navy #13
Textile paint color – Pearl Charcoal
Stencil – Medium Polka Dot
Technique – Backstitch reverse appliqué
Knots – Inside
Seams – Clean finished
Binding stitch – Cretan

ALABAMA CHANIN - INSPIRATION: WALKING CAPE - 3

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Black
Fabric color for inner layer – Black
Button Craft thread – Black #2
Suggested textile paint color – Pearl Charcoal*
Stencil –  Spirals, see page 86 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design 
Technique – Alabama Fur – see page 83 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design for instructions
Knots – Outside
Seams – Clean finished
Binding stitch – Cretan

*Note that our artisans sew this technique free-handed, but the choices are listed above for stencil and paint color should you want to use the stencil as a guide.

ALABAMA CHANIN - INSPIRATION: WALKING CAPE - 4

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color for outer layer – Navy
Fabric color for inner layer – Navy
Button Craft thread – Navy #13
Textile paint color – Pearl Charcoal
Stencil – Large Polka Dot
Technique – Featherstitch negative reverse appliqué
Knots – Outside
Seams – Clean finished
Binding stitch – Cretan

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

DIY WALKING CAPE

The third quarter of our Build a Wardrobe program has arrived, with our beloved Walking Cape pattern. The individual garment pattern, which includes instructions for selecting fabric, cutting, and constructing, can be purchased for $18 – $24 online, depending on format. This pattern is designed for use with our Studio Book Series.

The Build a Wardrobe program is intended help you refresh and rebuild your personal (sustainable) wardrobe. It includes four brand new DIY patterns, which launch quarterly. Just like our Swatch of the Month program, subscribers use the Alabama Studio Book Series to create their garments. And the best part is—you can sign up at any time (like now) and receive the previous quarter’s materials.

For example: this quarter, all subscribers will receive a printed and digital version of the Walking Cape pattern, fabric yardage in their color(s) of choice, and thread to complete the project. And additionally, Build a Wardrobe subscribers are able to order custom DIY kits of each Build a Wardrobe pattern at discounted rates.

ALABAMA CHANIN - WALKING CAPE

The first quarter introduced the DIY Maggie Dress and the second quarter provided another practical pattern, the DIY Alabama Sweater. The third quarter brings this perfect all-weather staple that features a collar, three pocket variations, and a snap closure. Purchase the Walking Cape pattern here. Look for our own one-of-a-kind interpretations of the Walking Cape in the coming weeks.

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

THE HISTORY OF SILHOUETTES

Our clothing today says much about who we are and—in some cases—what we believe in. To some, what they wear is of great importance and to others, not so much. But modern women in most Western societies have the agency to decide what to wear and how much meaning they assign to what they wear. In the past, what women wore presented how societies wanted them to be seen; today women can use fashion to project how they want to be seen. Those ideas and presentations have evolved drastically over the years. It is undoubtedly impossible to document women’s fashion silhouettes through the years in a blog post; there are entire books that detail the evolution of fashion. But observing how Western and European women’s garments have changed tells us quite a bit about women—how they have changed society and how they have been changed.

Almost until the Renaissance era, before existence of the middle class, clothing was seen by the average man or woman as a way to cover their bodies. Garments were boxy and utilitarian and women probably owned about 2 or 3 outfits. But slowly, the ideas of the medieval period began to fade away in favor of an age of awareness—of art, of science, and of beauty. Toward the end of the medieval era, clothing for women of all classes became more colorful and better fitted; garments of well-off women became tighter and more form fitting. Fabrics like silk, linen, and fur set the wealthy apart from the working class. We saw the birth of tailoring and witnessed as the idea of fashion as a concept emerged. The appearance of tailor as an occupation showed how division of labor was evolving.

One of the first truly ornamental silhouettes grew out of the years preceding the French Revolution—a time of abundance and decadence. Gowns were elaborately draped in heavy silks. At events, society women wore panniers, which were side hoops that extended the width of the dress, while keeping the front and back relatively flat. These extravagant garments became symbolic of widening class differences, fanning the flames of the French Revolution.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF SILHOUETTES

But, after the revolution, very few wanted to be associated with the excess of those they so recently overthrew, and fashions became simpler and less ornamental. A high-waisted silhouette, known as the “empire” style, was inspired by Greco-Roman artwork and popularized by Josephine Bonaparte, wife of the French emperor. The bodice was fitted until just below the bust, when a long, gathered skirt was attached. The style represented freedom to many women who were happy to escape heavy and uncomfortable petticoats.

The high-waisted fashion lasted for years, but one of the next trends saw women combining the silhouette with more structured garments. Gauzy fabrics gave way to twills and taffeta and heavy, weighted hems replaced flowing skirts. By the 1830s, waistlines had again dropped to just above natural position. In both Europe and the United States, those with means found it desirable to embrace full, bell-shaped skirts and bodices laden with underpinnings. Boned stays put pressure on the waist and had gussets that pushed the bust upward. Massive “leg o’mutton” sleeves were supported with whalebone and skirts were corded or supported with heavy petticoats.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF SILHOUETTES

In the United States, women adopted the hoop-skirted style that remained popular until beyond the Civil War era. The exaggerated hip structure caused women to become walking hazards—constantly knocking over candles and gas lamps and setting their heavy dresses and wooden skirts on fire. Women could actually be swept away by heavy winds and some drowned, weighted down by the hoops and stays and heavy fabrics. This is in high contrast to the garments assigned to enslaved women of this time, who were dressed in clothing made from the most inexpensive cloth available, usually coarse, uncomfortable, and unfeminine. To strip females of their agency and identity, slave owners would often take away any feminine apparel—dressing them in the same clothing as men and cutting off their hair. (See more about this here.)

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF SILHOUETTES

In Europe and the US, the following decades saw women’s skirts become even larger and stiffer with the addition of metal hoops and crinolines. During the Victorian era, silhouettes remained tightly fitted and skirts became even more voluminous. Bustled silhouettes with back-heavy petticoats put even more emphasis on waistlines. Boned bodices were creating the newest popular shape, emphasizing the rear. Though corsets and body braces had been around for quote some time, women were now pushing their physical limits to an extreme to create the desired shape. Some attempted to slim their waists to the ideal 16 inches—and some even smaller. Of course, this style did not come without a price. Repeated years of corset wearing resulted in broken ribs and shattered ribcages, damaged and herniated organs, or suffocation. Toward the end of the Victorian Era, women reformers began to openly oppose these body-modifying garments. The Rational Dress Society was founded to oppose fashion that “deforms the figure, impedes the movements of the body, or in any way tends to injure the health.” Still, the hourglass silhouette is now an iconic visual representation of this era.

By the turn of the century, the S-Bend corset (considered a “healthy” corset, as it removed significant pressure from the abdomen) became popular. It pushed the hips backward and the chest forward. Separates became popular, as detached skirts assisted women in creating this pigeon-like silhouette. But, things were about to change drastically as World War I began—and women were forced to adopt more practical clothing, including (gasp) trousers.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF SILHOUETTES

By the 1920s, women’s fashion had undergone a drastic evolution. Short skirts were en vogue and androgynous looks became more popular. The flapper, with her dropped waistlines, knee-length skirts, and colorful garters, is symbolic of the “Roaring 20s” era. Rayon fabric, created as a more affordable, artificial silk, allowed more women access to the silk-stocking look. More women were entering the workplace—or simply wanted a less fussy wardrobe—and so metal hooks and eyes, buttons, and zippers were substituted in place of lacings and corsets. The runways displayed luxurious, high-end designs that were adapted or copied by department stores using more affordable materials. All of these new developments were effectively democratizing fashion.

In the 1930s, many women wanted a highly feminine, glamorous look. Parisian designers introduced the bias-cut evening gown, meant to skim along the body’s curves. The average American woman’ wardrobe was greatly affected by the Great Depression—but Hollywood promoted this glamorous trend as an escape of sorts. They would embody everything that the everyday woman wanted but could not achieve.

Rationing due to World War II also placed limits on the average woman’s clothing budget. Dresses became slimmer in order to conserve fabric and separates became popular as a way to make a greater number of looks from fewer items of clothing. The look of the military uniform influenced women’s wear and practical garments became essential as more women entered the workplace. For those who went to work in factories during the war, adornments were hazardous; practical, basic clothing would not get caught in heavy machinery. In an effort to prevent looking entirely masculine, women adopted high-waisted pants—like those popularized by Katharine Hepburn.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF SILHOUETTES

In the days immediately following the war, women were eager to embrace feminine fashions again. Young people’s income was higher, now that the war was over and many designers focused on youth. Fuller skirts came into fashion again, though the lengths remained shorter than in previous decades. The pencil-skirt silhouette also became popular—and girdles were wardrobe staples that helped women achieve a “wasp waist” without a corset. By the 1960s, the girdle had largely been replaced by panty hose—and “control top” pantyhose for those who wanted a more secure garment.

During the 1960s, women’s fashion trends were influenced a great deal by social movements. Many women wanted to be a fashion-forward mix of independent and traditional—like First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The Mod style—sleek, with bold colors and patterns, emboldened women to wear less with more confidence. Hippie fashion placed more importance on comfort and less importance on expensive fashions; it was fashionable to embrace non-Western cultures in fashion and ideology and do less with more.

From that moment on, many women’s fashion trends grew from the ideas of the Women’s Liberation movement and the cultural norm of women in the workplace. Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress was a staple for women who needed versatility. Women seeking equality at work sometimes embraced the “power suit”, with a masculine edge and large shoulder pads. As women’s earning potential rose, so did the rejection of Hippie styles in favor of powerful, dramatic looks inspired by the decadence of television shows like Dynasty. In the decades that followed, women continued to use fashion to exhibit confidence and power. The 1980s trend of wearing visible undergarments was a way for women to be empowered by their femininity and sexuality. The same was true in the 90s, when so-called Grunge musicians like Kathleen Hanna commanded stages, sometimes wearing only slips or nightgowns.

I’m not entirely sure if the current era has any defining style. Perhaps we are to be defined by our revolving door approach to fashion: keep producing and give us more… At the moment, two very different points of view are emerging in women’s fashion: the fast fashion ideology and the new maker movement. Since the 00s, fashion labels have designed more and more collections each year to keep up with a near-insatiable consumer appetite for relevance. But also, more and more people want to know more about what they wear and more women want to be involved with making their garments. We are perhaps at a crossroads where we decide if we are to be defined by our fashion or if our fashion is to be defined by us.

Photos by Abraham Rowe of the books Costume 1066-1966, Evening Dresses 1900-1940, Historic Costumes in Pictures, Fashion in Detail, The Concise History of Costume and Fashion

DIY STARS: INSPIRATION + INDEPENDENCE

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY STARS: INSPIRATION + INDEPENDENCE

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY STARS: INSPIRATION + INDEPENDENCE

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

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

MAKING AND GIVING

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – MAKING AND GIVING

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – MAKING AND GIVING

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

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

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

FROM THE ARCHIVES: QUEENIE

In Spring 2005, Natalie launched a collection (for her company at the time, called Project Alabama) that featured photographs from her family history and community, heat transferred onto t-shirts. She then added appliquéd details and embroidery, including written words and embroidered lines of text.

The photo shown above was one of the images included in the collection. Taken about 1964, the photo pictures Natalie, her father, and a horse Natalie always called Queenie (though the horse’s true name has been lost to history). And while the embroidered shirt and photos have been misplaced, we found photos of similar shirts in our archives from the same collection.

ALABAMA CHANIN - FROM THE ARCHIVES - QUEENIE 1

*Photos of shirts from Natalie’s portfolio by Reyez Melendez Photography.

P.S.: With Father’s Day fast approaching, use our Unisex T-Shirt pattern from The School of Making to create your own t-shirt honoring your father, grandfather, or any of the men who helped raise you.  Share your stories with us by tagging @theschoolofmaking.

SPOONFLOWER

For the uninitiated, Spoonflower is a North Carolina-based web company that allows individuals to design, print, and even sell their own fabrics, wallpaper, and giftwrap. Founded in 2008 by Gart Davis and Stephen Fraser, the Spoonflower user community now numbers over a million people who use their digital textile printers to print custom runs of fabric. This is not typical large-run, conventional textile manufacturing. Their large-format inkjet printers can create small batches at a relatively inexpensive cost. They print fabric with very little waste of materials or environmental impact. The company uses eco-friendly, water-based inks on natural and synthetic textiles, with no additional chemicals added to the production process.

ALABAMA-CHANIN---SPOONFLOWER-1

Recently, Fraser has created a book that is intended to help readers and makers get the most out of the Spoonflower technology—The Spoonflower Handbook: A DIY Guide to Designing Fabric, Wallpaper, and Gift Wrap. Designing digital art is intimidating and seems complicated to the average person. But, while the book assumes that the reader is familiar with using a computer, the instructions make the design process understandable for those who aren’t that tech-savvy. The book contains about 30 projects and its chapters are structured so skills build upon one another. Even if you opt not to use the Spoonflower printing service, you can still use the information in the book to create your own patterns and designs.

ALABAMA-CHANIN---SPOONFLOWER-2

The book itself is structured in two parts. The first part is designed to get the reader comfortable with digital design. It describes how the Spoonflower print-on-demand process works, and also gives important information on different types of printing surfaces and how to create digital files. Part one does an excellent job of delving into relatively complicated topics like color and repeating design patterns. In part two, they build on the basics of part one with a number of projects and invite the reader to experiment with simple ideas and more complex techniques. There are plenty of examples of projects and custom designs created by Spoonflower’s maker community.

ALABAMA-CHANIN---SPOONFLOWER-4

We have been experimenting with the Spoonflower site for a while now and are excited about the possibilities it affords us in our design processes. We look forward to a few The School of Making + Spoonflower special projects available this fall. Stay tuned…

INSTAGRAM: MORE #THESCHOOLOFMAKING

We last shared about The School of Making on Instagram in March, and we’ve been thrilled with the increase in sharing your projects through #theschoolofmaking. Here are some of our recent favorites from our online maker community.

P.S.: Follow us on Instagram: @theschooloofmaking, if you don’t already.

And tag and share your projects with #theschoolofmaking

Thank you to the makers above for sharing their photos with us: @designthirtyone, @ebbandsew, @mchrisrogersaquilio, @melinda_bren, @oldsaltstudios, @eaclaes, @avfkw, @quiltotaku

INSPIRATION: ALABAMA SWEATER

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: ALABAMA SWEATER

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: ALABAMA SWEATER

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: ALABAMA SWEATER

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

THE HISTORY OF TAILORING

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF TAILORING

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF TAILORING

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

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

THE MODERN NATURAL DYER: MORE EXPERIMENTS IN COLOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

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

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

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

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

INSPIRATION: AN IRON BATH + CROP CARDIGAN

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: AN IRON BATH + CROP CARDIGAN

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

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

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

INSTAGRAM: @THESCHOOLOFMAKING

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

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

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

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

 #theschoolofmaking

CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – CUSTOM DIY: BRIDAL

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

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

STAMP STENCIL PAINT

We have used stencils to transfer designs onto fabric since the earliest days of Alabama Chanin. There is a section of The School of Making devoted to the art of stenciling, and you can read about making and using our stencils on our Journal here: #stenciling. And while we’ve developed stencils of all sorts and used them extensively, we’ve only rarely used painting, and almost never used stamping—until now. Stamp Stencil Paint by Anna Joyce offers easy-to-follow instructions for adding paint and pattern onto fabric, wood, walls, and more.

She writes about stamping:

“As a printmaker, I have a soft spot in my heart for stamps. I use my own hand-carved stamps, and I love watching the pattern grow with each impression. Stamping is very immediate—you can carve a simple one in a few minutes and then use it for years, building a library of patterns as you go. Hand stamping is also a meditation on embracing the unexpected. No matter how consistent you are, each impression is unique and that uniqueness breathes life into your patterns.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – STAMP STENCIL PAINT

Aside from my favorite stamping projects, you’ll find tips for transferring stencils and for the successful use of paints and brushes. I’m excited to combine some of the stamping ideas on a Maggie Dress from our 2016 Build a Wardrobe.

Get a copy of Stamp Stencil Paint, make your own garment using Anna’s techniques, and share with our community using #theschoolofmaking.

ALABAMA CHANIN – STAMP STENCIL PAINT
ALABAMA CHANIN – STAMP STENCIL PAINT

QUILT LOCAL: DAYTON NO. 2

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – QUILT LOCAL: DAYTON NO. 2

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

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

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

SUPPLIES

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

VARIATIONS

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

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

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

And a few of my other favorite designs:

ALABAMA CHANIN – QUILT LOCAL: DAYTON NO. 2

ALABAMA CHANIN – QUILT LOCAL: DAYTON NO. 2

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

BUILD A WARDROBE: SINGLE- OR DOUBLE-LAYERED

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

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

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

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

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

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

ON DESIGNING STENCILS

Last fall, our friend (and editor) Melanie reached out with the desire to design her own stencil—and use that stencil for one of our of our Custom DIY Kits. She documented her process, and we’ve named her design “Circus”. (She also likes the subtitle, “If Not Now, When.”) Seen above, the finished artwork is approximately 24.3” x 30.1” and is the result of several months of work and many conversations between our studio and hers.

When I spoke with her on the phone last week, she mentioned that “creating a stencil from scratch was much harder than I expected. You’ve made it seem so easy.” I have to admit that this made me giggle a bit because I once felt the same way. When you are learning just about any skill for the first time, there is a moment when it just feels hard. To date, we have over 550 stencil designs in our archives, and there are some days where it still feels challenging.

As Melanie was starting, we tried to give her a few tips, which we’ve shared below:

Think about the size and the shape of the individual motifs you are designing and how these shapes interact with one another.

You can create a design where the primary motifs of the stencil have a similar scale (or size)—as we have done with our New Leaves and Anna’s Garden stencils.

Or you can manipulate the scale of all the individual motifs—like our Magdalena stencil—where small and large shapes are combined in a single stencil design.

Think about the embroidery techniques you want to use and how they will be applied to each of the motifs and also to the individual shapes of the motif. For example, if you know that you like to work in reverse appliqué, you will want shapes that are larger than 1/2″ so that you can trim your outer layer of fabric after sewing.

SIDENOTE: Many of our stencils have both larger and smaller motif shapes combined. We often use embellishments such as appliqué and/or a satin stitch to embellish these smaller shapes that are too small for reverse appliqué. See Bloomers and June’s Spring stencils.

If you are working in Adobe Illustrator or any other graphic design program, stop and print out your stencil to better view the scale of your design and the placement of individual motifs.

Think about both the positive (the individual motifs of the stencil) and the negative spaces (the area between the individual motifs). You can invert the color of a black and white design to white and black to better understand the relationship between positive and negative space.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGNING STENCILS

Allow a minimum of 1/8” space between individual stencil motifs that your cut stencil remains sturdy over time. If your shapes are too close together, your stencil can become fragile and break.

We often to make our stencils that we intend to use all over a garment or project a minimum of 18” x 24” total size that we can more easily airbrush larger fabric areas. However, we use different size stencils for different purposes. If you are only adding stenciling to the neckline of a garment, you may choose to create a smaller stencil.

Here are some sizes of a few of our favorite stencil designs:

Anna’s Garden: 22” x 28” finished stencil size | 19” x 24” cut stencil area
Fern Stencil: 28” x 22” finished stencil size | 24” x 17” cut stencil area
June’s Spring: 23 1/2″ x 24” finished stencil size | 19” x 21 1/2″ cut stencil area
Large Polka Dot: 31” x 46” finished stencil size |  22” x 38” cut stencil area
Magdalena: 42” x 27” finished stencil size | 35 1/2” x 20” cut stencil area
New Leaves:  31 1/2″ x 47” finished stencil size | 25 1/2″ x 40 1/2″ cut stencil area

Research pattern and stencil designs for inspiration, make photocopies, cut things apart, trace, try to understand what is appealing, and then start putting the pieces back together again. You may find that you migrate from the original motif as your voice and hand take over the work.

I like to work with photocopies of motifs that I scale up and down, cut up and paste, and then trace over again and, sometimes, again. This multilevel process makes me feel like I have more control over the final stencil design. Others like to work directly in graphic design computer programs, like Adobe Illustrator.

Once your motif has been finalized, the process of making a stencil is a simple process. When cutting, be sure to leave a minimum of a 2” border around the outside of your cut stencil for stability.

Look for #stenciling on our Journal to read posts about stencils and stencil transfer, find more on stenciling in our Alabama Studio Series, and share any tips you’ve learned in the comments below.

Subscribe to Build a Wardrobe and receive a discount code for 25% off your next purchase of stenciling supplies. Use the tags #buildawardrobe2016 and #theschoolofmaking to join the global conversation.

CREATIVE INTEGRITY

I’ve recently been reading Brené Brown’s new book, Rising Strong. I’ve found so much good in the book, both for me personally and also for how we run our business. In any small (or young) business, you must have the courage to fall down, over and over again, and to “rise strong.” Because we aren’t perfect and make mistakes all the time, we have opportunities to examine why we get up and keep going—and in the process, learn to be our best selves.

Brené has taken inspiration in her work from this quote in a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

I highly recommend the book to every maker and entrepreneur who reads our Journal. The book is encouragement for giving yourself permission to experiment, learn, and create, BUT also for learning to set boundaries for what you are willing to permit.

This idea of boundary setting—of standing firm in what I believe is and is not okay—came into focus recently. So much of our lives are lived online; it is incredibly easy to let critical remarks become part of your “arena.” Artists know that it isn’t particularly productive to read reviews or comments on our work, whether negative or positive. It’s easy to get caught up in what other people think and to freeze. You can have 1000 beautiful responses to a work and you start to wonder, can I do something equally as good again? You can have 1000 beautiful responses to the work you do (take our newest book as an example), and yet a few negative remarks about how one pattern prints out can slay you. It’s enough to make you feel like you are crazy. It’s enough to MAKE you crazy. (When I’m feeling this crazy-don’t-know-what-to-think-kind-of-way, I go back to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird—over and over again.)

ALABAMA CHANIN – CREATIVE INTEGRITY

When Collection #29 launched last year, we were so grateful for the positive responses… Thank you. I’m really proud of the work and our team. But when a response appeared on one of our social media channels implying that one of our designs would be easily copied, my immediate response was one of crazy (see above) frustration. In my mind, I thought, “We’ve worked 6 months on new designs; at least 7 people in our studio and 36 artisans have made these abstract ideas into beautiful textiles, and this person is grateful that the designs will be easy to copy.”

Crazy Me thinks, “A comment like that makes it seem silly that anyone would want to want to purchase our work because it’s, in essence, not that hard to make.” To paraphrase Brené, in that moment, my emotion was driving the car and my thoughts and behavior were in the backseat. I had to catch and reality-check myself before that emotion took me somewhere I did not need to go. And so I asked myself: What am I feeling? What’s driving it? How should I respond?

In Chapter Six, of Rising Strong, Brené writes about her friend and artist Kelly Rae Roberts, who teaches, publishes, and shares her knowledge. During a time when Kelly felt that people were taking too many liberties with her own work—instead of wavering or remaining silent—she wrote a blog post about “what is and is not okay.” After reading this, I asked myself why this single comment made me feel the way it did. Part of the answer is that I’m proud and protective of my team and of this company. The other part is that I was assigning importance to an opinion that shouldn’t matter—in the end, for me, it is the WORK itself that matters.

Our sharing philosophy has allowed our company to grow for the exact reason that some thought it would fail: we wanted to be inclusive where others were exclusive. The initial decision to open source our techniques and materials (and ultimately to create The School of Making) grew from our commitment to sustainability. Doing so allowed us to make living arts accessible to all consumers, not just those who could afford our handmade collection pieces. In general, our community works and plays well together—and for that we are extremely grateful.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CREATIVE INTEGRITY

We find inspiration from many different places and work to create different designs with different intentions—and we are inspired by others. In the past, certain Alabama Chanin stencil designs and garment patterns have crossed over between our hand-sewn collection and our DIY projects. For example, you can’t find a more perfect skirt than The Every Day Long Skirt—my favorite skirt. Therefore, we decided to make it available in different forms: with hand embroidery in our collection, in basic fashion in our Essentials line, and as a DIY kit that you can make for yourself.

This will continue to be true for a few designs in the future—though not every design will be available in every configuration. We want to challenge ourselves to create something special and meaningful that has been designed and made with purpose—this is what makes the work challenging, and rewarding. For this reason, we create unique designs for our hand-sewn collection that are only available as ready-made garments. We will always experiment with new techniques and, at the same time, take some of our tried-and-true methods a step further. Our design team has also spent a great deal of time developing a new DIY collection, kits, programming, and projects. Right now, our graphics and design teams are working on never-before-released DIY patterns. We believe that this way of working celebrates each of our divisions, all of our makers, and allows us to hone our craft as designers.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CREATIVE INTEGRITY

Alabama Chanin is a brand, but it is also a company made up of real people. We have a talented design team who work hard to create new designs for our customers. It is an honor to know that we have inspired a community of makers with similar philosophies and design aesthetics. But, I would like to take a moment to emphasize that we at Alabama Chanin are still individuals, trying to make a living and support our families—all while opening up our ideas to a global makers community. Designing the way we do requires us to be vulnerable; it requires that we place faith and trust in our community.

All of this made me sit down and think about my own vulnerability as a designer and business owner. I took inspiration from Kelly Rae Roberts’ manifesto to make my own list of what is and isn’t okay.

And so this is what I know:

It is really important for us to share our techniques. We didn’t invent embroidery stitches or reverse appliqué, and we are constantly inspired by both age-old techniques and current trends in creating our designs.

Working with our hands is a good way to have really important conversations about making, and the future of work in our nation and across the globe.

We offer the knowledge that we’ve been collecting over the years, as we believe that cultural sustainability is just as important as environmental sustainability. We want to preserve these techniques for the next generation.

Job creation in every community in America is important right now. We believe that the loss of manufacturing and maker jobs changed how we see ourselves as individuals and as a nation. The capacity to take care of ourselves and our families is one of the most vital functions of being a human being. Science is catching up with this thought. Read Mike Rose’s conversation with Krista Tippet. Listen to Ellen Langer talk about language, read Shop Class as Soulcraft, watch Gever Tulley, this list can go on and on…

We want you to use our books as inspiration and tools to learn the beautiful handwork techniques we utilize. We want you to use your work with us as a jumping-off place to spur your own creativity and bring that creativity to your own community. We are inspired by how many of you have adapted and expanded upon what we teach in our books and workshops; it inspires us daily to be more creative.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CREATIVE INTEGRITY

What is okay:

To learn to do the work we promote and share it freely with your friends. Host a party, teach and learn from one another, spread the love, and have fun. To help Alabama Chanin keep our doors open and lights on, please let your friends know where your inspiration comes from. Buy fabric from us and order your kits and supplies through us. All of these things help us make beautiful, inspiring things, in addition to feeding people in our community.

To be inspired from our work. Take what we’ve learned and make it your own. Develop stencils, dye fabric, love your thread. It will take you places you never imagined you might go. I know this from experience.

What isn’t okay:

To copy our designs to sell or pass off our work as your own. As part of a sharing community, it is painful when we see this done. But, as we encourage teaching and sharing, our concern here is with selling, publishing, and/or making money from ideas that take livelihood away from our design and production teams and our artisans.

To take text from our Studio Books and use that to teach your own class for profit—unless you are a store that works with us directly.

To use our name or logos to sell garments or any other products for personal or corporate financial gain.

What will always be true:

It is easy to post negative comments online. As painful as those comments may be to read, we cannot stop—nor would we want to stop—them from coming. While we believe such comments have the potential to devalue the work of our design team, our artisans, and our customers and supporters, we do not rely on Internet comments to make ourselves feel worthy. And sometimes, we might need to be called out.

You may feel, because we have chosen to open source our techniques, that copying our designs and passing them off as your own is okay. It is not okay. We promise you—no joy or pride that you feel when copying another’s work can match what you feel when you create something truly your own.

I have returned again to Brené’s thoughts from Rising Strong, that life is better when we assume that everyone is doing their best. Even when people speak or act in ways that are intentionally hurtful, I want to believe they are doing the best they can with what they have available to them. That idea keeps me from bitterness and removes me from those moments when I am too affected by what others say (online or otherwise). This doesn’t mean that I think people should get away with behaving badly. It does mean that as Brené says, we can “hold people accountable for their actions in a way that acknowledges their humanity.”

It is okay to think what you think and to express your opinion; it is your right to say what you want to us in person, via email, and on the Internet. “The moment we deny a difficult experience, it owns us,” writes Brené. It is an act of compassion to love yourself. In this case, loving myself and loving my team means setting boundaries and sometimes saying, “that’s not okay”.

And so much of the time it is absolutely wonderful, and inspiring, and brings me personally, and our entire Alabama Chanin team, such great pride to watch our growing group thrive and flourish. Thank you.

xoNatalie

P.S.: Thank you again (and again) to Brené Brown and Kelly Rae Roberts—there is so much good in what you do. I’m a better person for having read you both.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CREATIVE INTEGRITY

INSPIRATION: MAGGIE TUNIC

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

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

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

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

Join our 2016 Build a Wardrobe program here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: MAGGIE TUNIC

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

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

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

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

DIY MAGGIE DRESS

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY MAGGIE DRESS

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

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

ALABAMA CALABAMA CHANIN – DIY MAGGIE DRESS

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY MAGGIE DRESS

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

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

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

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

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

Here’s what I’m thinking:

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

That’s it.
xoNatalie

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE YEAR IN REVIEW

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

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

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

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

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

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

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

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

Thank you for following along with us,

Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

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

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

CRAFT AND IMPACT

In March of 2015, The School of Making launched a partnership with Nest—a non-profit that joins together with artisans across the world to bring about positive social impact through sustainable development. Nest works specifically with artisans because they are often community-based businesses or organizations; they collaborate with those artisans to provide tools, training, infrastructure, and other resources that champion artisans themselves as the makers of change. When artisans are empowered in this way, entire communities are better able to tackle global issues like poverty, preservation of craft and local tradition, and advancement of women (who are often both artisan and primary household caregiver).

Nest’s 2015 impact was felt strongly by artisans across the globe. Nest grew from serving just more than 1,500 artisans in 2014 to serving 5,646 artisans in 2015. Nest’s work is reaching more than 100,000 people, including not only artisans but also their families and members of their extended communities. For every artisan employed, 20 or more people are impacted through the ripple effect.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CRAFT AND IMPACTALABAMA CHANIN – CRAFT AND IMPACT

Our collaborative partnership with Nest finds voice through our educational arm, The School of Making, with a long-term goal of reversing some of the manufacturing outsourcing that has affected our local economy over the last two decades. Together, we are expanding Alabama Chanin’s Building 14 machine-manufacturing division with a plan to create educational programs and up-to-date training on modern textile manufacturing methods. This initiative provides further foundation for Florence, Alabama, and the greater Shoals community to continue growing in the global textile industry.

Alabama Chanin and our Building 14 Design + Manufacturing division are incredibly grateful for the donations we have received this year. When we consider the scope of our long-term goals, it gives us comfort and hope, knowing that Nest—and all of you—are standing alongside us as we grow. We know that during the holiday season, many of you “give” as a gift to others. We also hope that you will consider giving to Nest and to our Building 14 initiative to help us grow and create viable options for our region’s economic future.

ALABAMA CHANIN – CRAFT AND IMPACT

To read more about the incredible initiatives Nest is guiding and to donate, please visit the Nest website.

Photos courtesy of Rinne Allen

BUILD A WARDROBE (JOIN THE CLUB)

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

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

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

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

When you order Build a Wardrobe you will receive:

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

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

In January—the first quarter—you will receive:

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

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

In April—the second quarter—you will receive:

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

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

In July—the third quarter—you will receive:

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

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

In October—the fourth quarter—you will receive:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View our current Build a Wardrobe collection here.

NOVEMBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WORKSHOP ABROAD: CHATEAU DUMAS

Several years ago, Alabama Chanin hosted our first Weekend Away Workshop in Taos, New Mexico. Around that time, I had recently visited Taos with a friend and when I returned home I found myself thinking about it constantly. I knew I wanted to share that same feeling I had there with others. I dreamt of creating a space where people could relax, feel inspired, dream, learn, and have their own adventures. I only hope that those who joined us on that first Weekend Away left with just a bit of that sense of magic I first felt.

Our second Weekend Away Workshop was at Blackberry Farm – one of my favorite spots for relaxation, food, and fellowship. Any trip to the Smoky Mountains allows me to breathe deeply and inspiration almost certainly follows. And while the terrain of Taos and Blackberry Farm certainly differ, the sunsets are magical no matter where you are standing. (The sunrises are even better.)

WORKSHOP ABROAD: CHATEAU DUMAS Continue reading

ON DESIGN: HARVESTING AMERICA

As many of you know, artist and photographer Rinne Allen has been a friend and collaborator for years. In our recent profile of Rinne, we told a little of her personal story and highlighted her incredible light drawings. In addition to her work with chef Hugh Acheson, magazines like Selvedge, and her own site Beauty Everyday (shared with Kristen Bach and Rebecca Wood), she has also worked with Alabama Chanin as a photographer for our Alabama Studio Book Series, our collections, our website, and our Journal.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGN: HARVESTING AMERICA

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THE SCHOOL OF MAKING LAUNCHES HOST A PARTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good lighting makes all the difference in the world.

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

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

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

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

 

ON DESIGN: WORKING FOR SOCIAL CHANGE

The design world is filled with innovators making products that can impact the human experience for good or for ill. The idea of designing and making with positive, spirited intention is growing far beyond its early influencers like Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio or the now defunct Architecture for Humanity—inspired by Mockbee’s project. Today, AIGA—one of the oldest and largest professional design organizations—has an entire program dedicated to Design for Good. Design leader John Bielenberg created the innovative and influential Project M that is always generating creative solutions to real design challenges. (See Project M’s Pie Lab in Greensboro, Alabama, for an example.)

One of our earliest “social” collaborations was with an organization called Goods of Conscience, whom we worked with on some of our first indigo dyeing experiments. This was quite a few years ago, when design and social change were words that weren’t often used together. It was one of the early examples in the textile industry we encountered that proved the two ideas could exist together and elevate one another.

All design has social impact, but good design focuses on people as fundamental to the products they make. Designers have a remarkable ability to influence how we communicate and with whom, what we think about, what is relevant, and how social and economic power balances might be restructured. When designing for the good, effective ideas, methods, and products can better a society and humanity. Nest, the non-profit organization we’ve partnered with through The School of Making, has fostered successful initiatives by building deep relationships with the global makers with whom they partner—collaboratively building sustainable solutions to the greatest needs within communities where artisan craft stands to create positive, long-lasting change.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGN: WORKING FOR SOCIAL CHANGE

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OCTOBER + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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#THESCHOOLOFMAKING

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

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

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

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

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

MAKESHIFT @ SAN FRANCISCO

Makeshift is a series of events, talks, workshops, and gatherings that invite a dynamic group of participants to explore the ways in which the fashion, art, and design worlds are inextricably linked to the world of craft and DIY, and how each of these worlds elevates the others.

In its fourth year, Makeshift conversations create an intersection where we can explore, discuss, and celebrate the role of local production, handmade, and craft/DIY in fashion and design as a way to empower individuals, businesses, and communities.

We continue to expand the ideas that were born from our first Makeshift event in 2012 to create a global conversation among artists, designers, and makers. Each year, panelists and participants share their stories and experiences involving collaborative projects and making within their industries. And in 2013, we introduced a method to facilitate the conversation: guests were invited to express their thoughts, literally or conceptually, using an organic cotton tote bag from Alabama Chanin as a blank canvas. A variety of materials were also provided to design, decorate, and customize each bag.