Some things are said a thousand times. Sometimes we still need reminding.
It is hard for me to believe that I am almost finished with my third book, now titled Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Had someone asked a decade ago where I saw myself in ten years, it certainly would not be lying in bed, reviewing and making notes on a “pass” (publishing lingo for a low resolution printout) of my third book, writing additional texts, and trying to be quiet while a sleeping five year old tries to nudge me out of my own bed.
Strange where life takes you when you least expect it.
For our avid journal readers, I believe that it was clear over the last year that I was – at times – absent. I most definitely was. There were certainly times when I wanted to write – and felt that there was something important to say – but could not find the words.
For my staff, it must have seemed that I would never return (and am not fully “back” yet).
I am driven by enthusiasm – in all areas of my life. So, when we signed the contract with STC for our third book, I was over the moon and (CERTAIN I) knew exactly how the book would work and look. I was convinced that this was going to be a piece of pie. You know, third book, seasoned designer, a decade of work behind me… I was sure things would just fall into place, right?One and a half years later, I am thinking that I survived by the skin of my teeth. I can’t tell you exactly why this book was harder than the rest. But I assure you, it was. I remember once distinctly calling out across our studio, “Can someone please drive me to O’Neal Bridge, so I can jump off?”
Those days are fading in (my tarnished) memory and these days I patiently await the final proof from the printer – the last step in this intricate process. I look back over the printout from the photo above and I am surprised how much information we managed to pack into 176 pages. And I think to myself that, I am really, really proud of this work.
The Alabama Studio Design Series truly documents my path these last ten years. From simple new t-shirts crafted from recycled ones, to couture garments, to sustainability on all levels, the books follow from one stage to the next. Alabama Chanin history is all here: from the materials we use, to the way we make our garments, to cultural sustainability, and finally to open-sourcing our patterns for individuals. (More about my decision to open-source coming soon.) It is a path that makes me proud.
A big warm thank you to everyone in our studio – who put up with me over the last year (I am asking forgiveness for all transgressions), to Sara Martin – who read and reread and listened to me rant, to Robert Rausch – our book designer – who practiced zen patience with every tiny change, and to Melanie and all the folks at STC who believed that we had one more in us.
The book Clean, by Alejandro Junger, has been sitting on my nightstand since December of last year. Over the last months, I have read parts of it and “toyed” with some of the recommended practices (eliminating aluminum pans from the kitchen, drinking clean water, etc.), but it has taken some time for me to actually embrace the full-on detox program. I started last Wednesday. And when I say “started,” I mean hard core: no coffee, no dairy, no wheat, no red meat, no sugar, no alcohol, and as much organic as possible.
Over the decade of my design work in Alabama, I have tried endless types of fabrics and combinations of fabrics; however, our clients return over, and over again, to our organic cotton jersey. And as often as I have wanted to move away from cotton jersey, I reach for it each morning as I get dressed. In my busy life, it is like having pajama day every day. (If you can call an all-over, hand-embroidered dress a pajama.)
However, there is truth in the fact that one of our embroidered dresses can take you from morning coffee to an evening event with little modification. (I do normally stop to change shoes.) Consequently, I have come to know a lot about organic cotton jersey.
Cotton-jersey fabric comes in a variety of weights and those weights are commonly described as ounces per linear yard. For the last decade at Alabama Chanin, we have been using a medium-weight jersey that averages 9.80 ounces per linear yard. However, we recently started working with a lighter weight jersey that is stretchier than the medium-weight fabric and averages 5.6 ounces per linear yard.
I adore the quality of this new fabric when worked in our back-stitch reverse applique with our Anna’s Garden stencil. After several requests, we have added this new fabric to our D.I.Y. Store. There are several colors in stock and new colors arrive weekly. The fabric below is made from our color steel.
The outfit above (in sand and black) features two patterns from our upcoming Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Both the T-shirt Top and the Mid-Length Skirt are perfect in our new lightweight cotton jersey. I am currently making the Long Sleeve T-Shirt Tunic from Alabama Studio Style in the steel colored, lightweight cotton jersey using a back-stitch reverse applique Anna’s Garden stencil (as in the photo below). I foresee this being my new favorite piece for summer and fall – while layering it with a t-shirt for the winter.
A weekend with new friends (our design team included), a rack of sample sizes, and our fabric archives were the beginning of one truly magical garment (actually, two).
120 hours, at least ten times as many stitches, and 5 ounces of glass beads later…
Amy said “I do.”
If you’d like to be a success in business, start working!
If you’d like to be a success as a housewife, start cooking!
If you’d like to be a social success, start smiling!
If you’d like to get married, start looking!
I am sitting down with Miss Head’s reissued manual after a long morning (it is only 8 am) of cooking breakfast, gardening, cleaning, conference calling, laundry and assorted cat wrangling. It is delightful and charming to read her advice, even though I seem to be in direct violation of the bulk of it. I am in a simple jersey dress that will take me from home, to the office, to the market, and to dinner (hopefully) without a single judgmental glance (and I haven’t stocked my handbag with gloves or pearls).
Her advice for a bygone era is captivating, often relevant, and inspiring.
I love the illustration below from page 145 – and the quote to go with it from the opposite page: “No one knows better than a studio designer how important underthings are in changing a woman’s appearance.” As a girl who likes to collect pretty “underthings,” I couldn’t agree more.
Don’t miss the “Color Aura Chart” starting on page 123 and the “Successories” from page 133.
Lipstick and perfume before breakfast? Tomorrow- just maybe.
We invite you to share your tips and tricks by commenting below before Sunday, July 31, 2011. We’ll select a contributor at random to receive a copy of the book!
I just arrived back from a whirlwind trip to Penland School of Crafts.
It is a remarkable, inspiring, and beautiful place. I found that here was something for each moment of the day and the time went by much too quickly. Maggie insists that we are going back next year. Indeed, we will.
In our few days, I found a place to sit,
and lots of doors to open.
I will be teaching a two-week class there next summer on “Experiments in Hand-Sewing: A Study on Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.”
Class registration opens in January, 2012.
“We met on a clearcut while tree planting. It’s kind of a romantic story. I was starting with a new company. I’d been planting for about 3 years by this point. My dad drove me up to camp… I didn’t know anyone in camp. I was working away, my first day there, I was singing – was always singing while I worked – then I heard this other person singing from the next piece of ground over. It was pouring rain and all I could see was this little yellow sou’wester bobbing up and down, this person in a raincoat singing with this amazing voice ‘I’d rather drink muddy water’ Aretha Franklin style. I was singing some Joni Mitchell song. I sort of planted my way over there, and said ‘I like singing while I work too. Wanna sing together?’ That was 1993, I think.”
Samantha Parton - “An Angel Whispered In My Left Ear”
Songs to Sing With: The Harrow & The Harvest
P.S. Catching Song with Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” fame on singing out:
“And now I can say that I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even think about singing. I just sing…
You know? It just comes out. There use to be a point where I would be afraid of making mistakes. I’m no longer afraid of making mistakes. I make them every night during a performance. Something happens: I meant for my voice to go right and it went left instead. I meant for my voice to go up and it goes down, you know. Wherever my voice goes, wherever it takes me I just follow it. I just watch it. It leads me to whatever, you know. I trust it.”