We’ve written before about the importance of color – from a cultural standpoint and a design perspective. At Alabama Chanin, we tend to embrace more muted tones for our design color palette. Muted colors have a reduced intensity, so any saturated color stands out in comparison. We are drawn toward natural tones and some of our fabrics are colored with natural dyes to create rich, pure shades of color.
When it comes to individual style, our feelings about color can be personal; a color can make you feel happy or sad, energetic or depressed. Colors can transmit mood, thought, and feeling. When discussing the best way to exhibit the color options for our DIY projects, Olivia – a member of our design team – suggested that we approach the display as an art project. The result of her work, this wrapped canvas, is beautiful, simple, and focuses the viewer’s attention directly on color. Anything else you take from this, like your thoughts on color, is personal.
The Alabama Chanin Gore Skirt is one of our more popular DIY items because it is a simple design that is the perfect canvas for a wide variety of colors, stencils, and embroidery techniques. Shown here in reverse appliqué in our Magdalena design, the skirt sits low on the waist and flares to the hem—creating a beautiful, flowing silhouette.
Using our Custom DIY options, you can choose every aspect of a reverse appliqué garment to fit your style and personality. For instance, you can go for a subtle, yet beautiful tone-on-tone approach, as we have shown here. Or, you may choose a high contrast option for your backing and top layers. The Gore Skirt featured here is just one example of how you might create your own garment.
Long gone are the days when dad took no interest in the kitchen and left the cooking to other members of the family. These days, many fathers are foodies or wine experts or whiskey connoisseurs—or all three. Here, a neighborhood group of fathers regularly challenge one another in unofficial competitions over who can make the tastiest fried chicken, ribs, or barbecue. They compare knives and talk marinades and rate craft beers.
Years ago, fathers and grandfathers who cooked may have viewed apron usage unnecessary. My own father rarely cooked during my childhood (I was well-fed by my mother and both of my grandmothers), but he does still join me in the kitchen each New Year to help prepare Hog Jowl, Collards, and Black-eyed Peas (the holy trinity of the south). And yes, I have also lent him an apron to wear on these occasions. These days, the visibility of celebrity chefs and barbecue pit masters – all wearing aprons – has made the apron dad’s new must-have accessory. In fact, my son, Zach, who is a chef (and a now a father) has quite a collection of aprons which I’m sure have served as giant bibs, stain concealers, makeshift blankets, and impromptu cleaning rags.
This Father’s Day, we recommend that you try your hand at the all-new DIY Men’s Pig Apron. It is an easy project for sewers of all experience levels and the basic embroidery techniques make it a good way to involve kids in the gift-making process.
The Swatch of the Month for June combines a number of embroidery techniques into a single design. This stencil, appropriately titled June’s Spring, combines both basic techniques, like backstitch embroidery and appliqué, with more elaborate treatments, like beading and Feather stitch embroidery. The combination of these elements on one swatch results in a lush, rich looking textile.
Detailed instructions for completing the June’s Spring fabric treatment and a fabric map illustration can be found on pages 118-119 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. This particular swatch allows you quite a bit of creative freedom, since you decide what elements to embellish and to what degree they will be decorated. We recommend that you make a plan (like the fabric map shown in the book) ahead of time for how you will decorate each element. But, you might think it is more fun to improvise and make decisions as you create. Either approach will undoubtedly result in a beautiful completed swatch.
At Alabama Chanin, we believe DIY projects are integral to sharing creativity and promoting sustainable heirloom-worthy pieces. Bibliocraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects is a great guide to DIY crafts that utilize a range of library resources for inspiration. Written by rare book librarian Jessica Pigza, this book contains over 20 unique projects and crafts for your home, including the Cyanotype Throw, designed by the Alabama Chanin team.
Pigza walks readers through different types of libraries, collections, and other resources that can foster motivation and provide ideas for the curious and creative. The book shows you how to find the right library for you and also provides information on digital libraries and an array of library catalogs. To get you started on your project, there are lists of recommended library collections from general visual resources to performing arts and film. The book is an informative and inspiring guide for learning about new resources and turning to libraries for discovery. There is something different and special about holding an actual, physical book in your hand that continues to draw me toward libraries. As a designer I find escape within library walls, and as a business owner I find critical information that has helped me grow into who I am as an entrepreneur.
At Alabama Chanin, we have often looked to nature for stencil inspirations. Many of the first stencils I designed when I started embellishing recycled T-shirts were of bugs and animals—what I felt were constant surroundings when I made my return home to Alabama from New York over a decade ago.
Our newest DIY Men’s Kit features the Scorpion stencil, designed by Butch Anthony, on a yoked T-shirt. The yoke cut of the T-shirt helps it stand apart from the standard tee. The design and style fit easily into any man’s wardrobe.
Each month, we highlight one of our favorite embroidery techniques through our Swatch of the Month Club. As a companion to that monthly series, we have also put together a selection of projects you can create with your completed swatches. This month, we have created a beaded clutch bag, which you will need one finished swatch to complete. We created our bag using May’s beaded ruffle swatch.
Supplies for May’s Swatch of the Month (or your favorite swatch of choice)
1 – 10” x 10” 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey panel, unembellished, for pocket
1 – 10” x 1 1/4” strip cotton jersey (cut across the grain), for rib binding
Basic sewing supplies: fabric scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat, ruler, tailor’s chalk, needles, thread, pins.
Complete your Swatch of the Month according to the instructions – or create a swatch using your own personal design choice. Refer to Alabama Studio Sewing + Design as a resource, if you need additional guidance.
One of our Mother’s Day Gift Guide selections, the DIY Magdalena Shawl is versatile in design and function. The Magdalena stencil is a bold design that dresses up casual wear. A shawl is a simple way to adjust to the changes in weather that tend to occur on a whim this time of year and acts as a perfect canvas to display the Magdalena design.
I like to keep a variety of shawls on hand for chilly mornings and to use as a pillow or blanket on long airplane or car rides. Depending on how you wear your shawl, it is possible that both the front and the back may be visible, showing off the intricate stitches and handwork used to finish it.
The Swatch of the Month for May demonstrates our beaded ruffle stripe technique. This is a variation of our random ruffle technique, featured in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. You can add several rows of ruffles for a more elaborate textural design or use just one if you want to highlight the technique itself.
Detailed instructions on how to apply ruffles can be found on pages 107-108 in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. To add ruffles to your swatch, you will need to use tailor’s chalk to draw a line (or several lines) on the right side of your top layer fabric. This will be your guide for where to add your ruffles.
To make a ruffle stripe, cut a 1”-wide strip of cotton jersey, sew with a basting stitch down the middle of the strip, then pull on the ends of the basting thread to ruffle, or gather, the strip. Attach the ruffled stripes to your double-layer fabric swatch by first basting them down (along your chalked line) with an all-purpose thread and then securing them with a stretch stitch or another decorative stitch down the center of the ruffle. We used a zigzag chain stitch on our version of the swatch.
For our swatch, we have opted to add chop beads to the stitches securing the ruffle to the base fabric. The beading adds a bit of sparkle, dimension, and detail.
The hi-resolution photograph above of our swatch with the random ruffle, for use as your computer desktop background, is available for download from our Resources page.
Our classic Short Skirt is great for just about every occasion, including Mother’s Day. Whether you arrange an outing to church, a restaurant, or just a walk in the park, you can make Mom happy by making her something she’ll love.
Currently featured as part of our Mother’s Day Gift Guide, the DIY Check Skirt is the only DIY Kit pattern we currently feature using our Short Fitted Skirt pattern from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
This version of the skirt is made using the reverse appliqué technique and is embellished with beaded eyelet details. Instructions for the Short Skirt can be found on pages 60 – 61 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. When ordering, please specify your desired top layer and thread color.