I am a child of the 1960s…no way around it. And, while denim has been around since 1860’s-era France, the decades of the 60’s and 70’s jump to my mind when I think of this fabric. That era also makes me think of all the controversy around the American Flag and its use as a symbol on both sides of divisive matters like segregation, the Vietnam War, and other social issues. Images of Abbie Hoffman, clad in his American Flag button-up shirt, alongside flags made entirely of cut-up old blue jeans come to mind. Like I said, a child of the 60’s.
We recently received a comment, referring us to the United States Flag Code, suggesting that our American Flag Quilt doesn’t adhere strictly to the advisory rules. I want it to be clear that I love my home and our flag—that symbol of home. The Alabama Chanin representation of the American flag is made by stitching together disparate pieces to create a beautiful, larger whole. We take care with every small scrap of fabric, embroidering each stenciled piece so that when inspected up close, you can see the detail involved; each small piece painted with a different stencil; stitched using a different technique; each technique modified to highlight the possible variations; all somehow fitting together…much like our country.
This year, with MAKESHIFT 2013, we expand ideas that were born from MAKESHIFT 2012 to create a global conversation among artists, designers, and makers. The first part of the MAKESHIFT 2013 SERIES took place at the Standard, East Village where panelists and conversation guides Cathy Bailey – Heath Ceramics, Rosanne Cash – Singer/Songwriter, Natalie Chanin – Alabama Chanin, Jessamyn Hatcher – Professor of Global Studies, NYU, Nathalie Jordi – People’s Pops/Writer/Author, Tift Merritt – Singer/Songwriter, Andrew Wagner – Krrb, and Kristen Wentrcek – Wintercheck Factory, shared their stories and experiences involving collaborative projects and making within their industries. Throughout the evening, guests were invited to express their thoughts from the conversations, 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.
Earlier this year, we featured artist, friend, and collaborator, Anna Maria Horner. As that week came to a close, we were inspired by Anna Maria’s elaborate needlepoint projects and decided we would experiment with more involved embroidery techniques ourselves. For our first project, the Embroidered Flowers T-shirt, we mixed traditional embroidery stitch work with retro patterns using modern silhouettes. We adapted a vintage McCall’s pattern for the floral embroidery design and used the Alabama Chanin T-shirt pattern as the base. The result was relatively simple to complete.
For this project, our Garden Geometry Skirt, inspired by Anna Maria’s pattern of the same name (and available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook), we adapted our Swing Skirt, creating intricate embroidery designs on a larger scale. In her book, Anna Maria writes, “this is by far the most straightforward approach I have made toward the traditional way of creating a crewel design.” As she also mentions, the pattern lends itself to enlargement and experimentation. The result is a colorful expression of our experimentation. Make your own Garden Geometry Skirt using fabric and thread colors that suit your personal style. There are stitch and pattern diagrams available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook that can help direct your design.
The process of writing a book is involved. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Each draft gets written and edited, reviewed, passed from hand to hand, rewritten, reedited, and re-reviewed until – after many (many) drafts – you finally arrive at a finished product. It’s a shiny new representation of years of hard work. And in a best case scenario—like a perfect dinner party— it looks effortless.
Each author wants her books to be perfect, especially considering the blood, sweat, and tears that go into every word. You haven’t just written the pages, you have rewritten, proofed (see photo below), had projects produced, reproduced, pages designed, and then redesigned again. It’s all part of the glorious process of eliminating errors, removing comma splices, making things pretty, laying a foundation, and inspiring a person to want to hold your book, to open it and, in the end, find it perfect.
On the heels of MAKESHIFT 2013, we are inspired and invigorated by the conversations around design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY that took place last week during New York Design Week. We hope that you have followed our explorations throughout the events this year and have used our discussions to begin conversations of your own. We are even more convinced about the importance of making, sharing, and finding common ground, and look forward to expanding the conversations about design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY over the coming months.
One thing that resonates from those talks last week, are the concepts of collaboration and skill sharing. As we continue to open source our ideas, our Alabama Chanin workshops will continue to grow. These events—like MAKESHIFT—have become an intimate, extraordinary way for us to connect with fellow makers, designers, and like-minded creators across the country (and the world).
“Craft” might seem like it’s for the amateurs, and “fashion” for the auteurs. Yet we live in an age where creativity and innovation are increasingly found in collaborations between makers and users, crafters and designers, designers and manufacturers, and in the loosening of the boundaries between them. – MAKESHIFT 2012
The MAKESHIFT conversation began last year to discover where and how various creative industries can work together as one. The discussion continued last Thursday evening at The Standard, addressing the intersection of industries on the artisan level, where the interchanges occur, and how we can transform those intersections through innovation and collaboration for the greater good.
As this posts to our Journal this morning, part of our Alabama Chanin team will be in the air and on their way home from MAKESHIFT 2013. We hope that you have followed our explorations and conversations during New York Design Week via Instagram and have had conversations of your own. Leaving MAKESHIFT this year, we are even more convinced about the importance of making, sharing, and finding common ground. You can expect a full recap of our experiences from New York Design Week in the next days, plus expanding conversations about design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY over the coming months.
One thing we do know is that, as we continue to open source our ideas, our Alabama Chanin conversations series and workshops will continue to grow. These events—like MAKESHIFT—have become an intimate, extraordinary way for us to connect with fellow makers, designers, and like-minded creators across the country (and the world). See more in the coming weeks about the bag project we started at MAKESHIFT 2013. In the meantime, here are some instructions for a different kind of bag (with an equally important message).
In the early spring of this year, Alabama Chanin designed and created a one-of-a-kind bag to support the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s “You Can’t Fake Fashion” campaign. We loved the finished product so much that I wanted my own version, adapting the OrganicTote Bag #3. This bag measures 17 1/2” x 13 3/4” x 4 3/4” and is large enough to use as a purse or laptop bag or to carry your sewing projects. The tote has been double-layer appliquéd all-over using our Paisley stencil in Alabama Indigo fabric.
The bag comes in Natural. We chose to customize this tote to match our CFDA bag by dyeing it indigo, but your design choices are endless.
Southern children who grow up with a healthy respect for their elders, particularly their mothers, are said to have been “raised right.” Across the south, most children (and their fathers) must have been “raised right,” because there is almost always a big to-do made about Mother’s Day. Even though new Easter clothes have just been bought, a slew of children will go shopping again for new Mother’s Day outfits; it is expected to make a good impression at church on that big day. Mom gets to sleep in (just a little) and breakfasts will be prepared and served by the children. We present our mothers and grandmothers with beautiful corsages. Often in my community, the tradition is to give carnations. It’s common to give Mother a red or pink one and to set a vase of white carnations upon the kitchen table for grandmothers or great-grandmothers who have passed away. In my family,we presented corsages to Mother and Grandmother on Mother’s Day morning.
Last fall, one of my neighbors gave me a box of vintage patterns he found tucked away in his basement. The weather-stained cardboard box that once belonged to his mother was filled with patterns that represented decades of accumulation: Vogue Patterns, McCall’s, Simplicity, and Butterick . Each had been purchased for as little as a dollar and some change.
My friend Kay and I started giving one another socks for each holiday several years ago. Although this may bring back memories of dreaded Christmas gifts from years past (not socks again!), I find the gift of socks a very practical thing. It’s just not one of those things that I go out and purchase for myself on a regular basis—but, anyone who has had to show their threadbare socks in public understands that such a reveal can cause major embarrassment. Think back to that cliché, “Always wear clean underwear because you never know where you will find yourself.”