My first sewing project was a “picture” of a flower that I made when I was about seven. I chose green and purple ribbon for the stem and petals, respectively, and a white button for the bloom’s center, which I attached to a square of quilted light blue Swiss dot fabric – aka the sky – with long, sloppy stitches.
It’s not a masterpiece by any means, with its loose stitches, unfinished edges. But precision is supposed to be beside the point when you’re a kid learning a new skill; the fun lies in the creative process, not necessarily the finished product.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had a rather hard time remembering this. I’m more than a little neurotic, and a bit obsessed with perfection, whatever that means. My natural inclination to create with abandon is at permanent odds with my OCD-driven desire for unsullied excellence, and it’s not always pleasant.
Today, for DIY Thursday, we are featuring a Guy Laroche pattern from Vogue Designer Patterns constructed in the Alabama Chanin style. I never had the chance to meet Guy Laroche, nor have I met the house’s current artistic director, Marcel Marongiu, but I admire their focus on impeccable tailoring. Laroche’s collections once featured billowing empire line dresses; the pattern that we chose to adapt combines the flowing nature of those garments with their famous tailoring skills.
Because this garment was dressier than some of our other Vogue Pattern adaptations, we only made a basic version. We think it is spectacular without embellishment. However, it would be gorgeous with some beading around the neckline or the hem. Either way, this dress is perfect for any upcoming holiday parties.
Last week, a group of friends in our community gathered together at one friend’s home to fill the living room with piles of their unwanted clothing that they then “shopped”. Part of the “Swap, Don’t Shop” movement, these women, friends and family, got together for their bi-annual clothing exchange party called ‘The Big Swap’. Interested in this growing alternative to shopping, we joined the party and brought along some of our lovingly worn Alabama Chanin garments to exchange.
In 2009 and 2010, an exhibition was held at Pratt Institute to help explain the relationship between fashion and sustainability.
For this exhibit (called Ethics + Aesthetics = Sustainable Fashion), curators Francesca Granata and Sarah Scaturro (now Conservator at The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) displayed garments from our Alabama Chanin Songbirds collection, and also from artists and designers like Susan Cianciolo, Andrea Zittel, Suno, and Bodkin.
Andrea Zittel’s smockshop pattern was included in the “Rethink” portion of the exhibition and provided as a printed pattern at the back of the catalog. From page 36 of the catalog:
A simple double wrap-around garment, the smock as designed by the artist Andrea Zittel, is a versatile and utilitarian garment. For the Smockshop project, it is reworked by a number of artists who reinterpret the original pattern based on their individual skill sets and tastes. In line with Zittel’s motto, “Liberation through Limitations,” the smocks are intended to be worn exclusively for six months, but in an understanding of the idealistic nature of such a practice, the artist is at least hoping “to inspire a more frugal approach to design.” The examples in the exhibition are by the artist Tiprin Follett, who wore her smocks continuously and documented her performance in an interview with Zittel as well as through snapshots.
Some months back, a bowl of tea towels became a permanent installation on my kitchen table. We use them as napkins for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and just about every moment in between.
I found one in the car yesterday that had served as an impromptu placemat for one of my daughter, Maggie’s fruit pops. I also used them as burp cloths and bibs when she was younger.
Purchase a set here, a DIY kit here, or make some yourself using the simple instructions from Alabama Stitch Book. There are colors and styles to match any kitchen. If you are like me, you will find endless uses for them.
From Alabama Stitch Book:
“Tea towels were originally handmade lined cloths specifically designed for English ladies to use to dry their teapots and cups after washing them. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and textile manufacturing, machine-made versions of these towels became readily available, and consequently they became a more “disposable” item. However, women like my grandmothers still chose to make their own. I have inherited some of their tea towels, which they made from flour sacks they cut into rectangles, embroidered, and beautifully finished on the edges. My grandmothers used these towels in bread baskets, as tray linters, and as little gifts for friends and neighbors. One of my grandfathers used one of these towels as his napkin at just about every meal of his married life.”
Olivia has been knotting away in the studio today.
We make our Knotted Necklaces from 100% organic cotton jersey fabric scraps and accessorize as a necklace, belt, or headband.
Featured in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
Our Camisole Dress from Alabama Studio Style is highlighted in a video class on Traditional Appliqué at Creativebug.com. You fill find the pattern sheet for this dress at the back of the book and can follow along step-by-step with our instructions on Creativebug.com. We now offer this project as a DIY Kit from our online store and all the supplies we used are listed below.
Creativebug.com is a subscription service and just in time for the holidays has Gift Subscriptions available starting at $24.99 for a month. I love this as a gift for my crafting friends as there are so many great classes available for the holiday season.
About our appliqué class from the Creativebug website:
“Appliqué is beautiful way to add texture, pattern and color to a project. Natalie uses applique to stunning effect in her Alabama Chanin collection, and in this workshop, she’ll share with you her basic technique. She’ll also show examples of how using different stitches and thread result in dramatically different finished looks.”
Our camisole dress is shown in Apple (double-layer) with Anna’s Garden appliqué in Natural placed around the bottom of the dress . The appliqué is sewn with a whipstitch with a single layer of Cream #256 Button Craft thread. We used Red #128 Button Craft thread for construction of the dress and also for the Cretan stitch along the binding. Seams are felled on the wrong side (inside of the garment).
September’s Desktop of the Month features our Anna’s Garden pattern worked with an appliqué technique.
Create your own Studio Style garment using these techniques with our Anna’s Garden stencil, our Dove and Dark Grey medium-weight organic cotton jersey fabrics, and the help of our Studio Books. Notions and other necessities for our DIY projects can be found under the Fabric + Sewing tab of our website.
This hi-resolution photograph is for use as your computer desktop background and is now available to download on our Resource Downloads page.
Continuing our conversation around design, craft and fashion, this week we present a Tracy Reese pattern from Vogue Designer Patterns for DIY Thursday. In all my years as a designer, I have not had the chance to meet Tracy, although I have been familiar with her work since the launch of her collection in the mid-1990s. At that time, I was working as a stylist in Europe and spent much of my time in boutiques, reading fashion magazines, and working with clients.
In an effort to understand Tracy Reese’s philosophy, we reached out to her press office for information and received a note stating that they could “not provide any information at this time.” However, this is what I found on the CFDA website:
“Detroit native Tracy Reese is a graduate of Parsons School of Design. Reese apprenticed under designer Martin Sitbon and worked as design director for Women’s Portfolios at Perry Ellis before launching her eponymous collection in 1996. The collection blends the ultra-feminine and nostalgic with modern polish. plenty by Tracy Reese, was introduced in 1998, after a trip to India provided endless inspiration. A joyful color palette, art-inspired prints and playful details are seen on essentials with a bohemian spirit. With flagships in Manhattan and Tokyo, the Tracy Reese and plenty brands have expanded to include footwear, handbags and home goods.”
Martine Stibon remains one of my all-time favorite designers and I used those pieces often during my days as a stylist. I do love the dress that emerged using our organic cotton jersey fabrics with Tracy Reece’s pattern.
Crocheting was one of my first creative outlets, once I felt the distinct urge to make. When I had a crochet hook in hand, making hats, scarves, bags, whatever I might need, the process came to me like second nature. Often, I couldn’t find patterns to fit what I needed so I ended up making them myself, using trial and error. When Natalie asked me to review the book, So Pretty! Crochet!, I was hesitant; I felt like I had already seen them all. For me, crochet books rarely used the right kind of yarn, they were at times overly wordy, the photos weren’t always helpful, the patterns were sometimes hard to read, etc. As you can tell, I’m a harsh critic when it comes to this type of book.
However, as I scanned through the pages of So Pretty! Crochet, I felt inspired. We adapted a pattern from this book to make the nesting bowls found on page 115. Instead of using the cotton yarn they suggest, we made our own yarn out of ½ inch strips of the organic cotton jersey fabric that we use to make our yarn balls. The bowls seemed a unique use for our scrap materials. The instructions in the book are easy to follow and exact, when using yarn. Our sizing is slightly different because we used cotton jersey rope rather than cotton yarn, but it doesn’t cause much of a problem. I used the size crochet hook they suggested, but you may want to experiment to see which size hook works best for you.