In 2014, we were inspired by our extensive fabric library—and readers expressed interest in trying new techniques—to create our first Swatch of the Month Club. Our library of sample swatches archives over 500 techniques, embroideries, fabric treatments, and colorways that we have experimented with or used in past and upcoming Alabama Chanin collections.
If you have visited one of our trunk shows or attended a workshop, you have likely browsed giant binders of these swatches. Each individual sample represents a small moment in our company’s history and growth—as a whole, they represent a decade of design history. In 2015, we are offering a new Swatch of the Month Club with an expanded selection of stencils and techniques. We learned a few things about this process during our 2014 run and have updated the program this year to reflect those lessons and streamline, saving packaging and reducing our carbon-footprint.
When you enroll in Swatch of the Month 2015, you will receive the full year’s necessary notions (thread, embroidery floss, and a label), along with the first month’s swatch in a beautifully wrapped box. For those who want to add additional embellishment to swatches, you have the option to add 6oz. of chop beads, 6oz. of bugle beads, and 1oz. of sequins for an extra $30—or you may choose to purchase sequins and beads separately. Select this option upon ordering and you will receive all beads, along with your notions, in your first package. After the initial shipment, we will mail your 10” x 16” fabric swatches and an informational insert via United States Postal Service (USPS) at the beginning of each month.
The Swatch of the Month for November highlights one of my all time favorite designs, Climbing Daisy. The technique uses ribbon embroidery, which beautifully adds dimension and detail to projects and garments. The concept is simple: we use cotton ribbon rather than thread or embroidery floss to stitch the design. This technique can be applied to almost any of our stencil designs and combined with any of our stitching practices.
To create the swatch, begin by stenciling the design to the top layer of fabric using your transfer method of choice. (The Climbing Daisy stencil is available for download from our Resources page.)
Stitch the larger petal shapes using 100% cotton tape and a large-eyed embroidery needle. (Note: over the years, we’ve found that upholstery needles with a large eye also work quite well with this technique.)
After the larger petals are stitched, create French knots (see page 75 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design) with the cotton tape at the center of the petal shapes, as well as along the stems.
Next, stem-stitch (see page 85 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design) long, curving stems using the embroidery floss. Repeat this process until you have stitched each of your stenciled shapes.
As I’ve mentioned before, writing a book is no easy feat. It involves months (often years) of planning, drafting, edits, new designs, reviews, rewrites, photo shoots, patternmaking…basically, equal parts labor and love. So, I honestly surprised myself when I agreed to write another one. While still a work in progress, the end is in sight, and I’m proud to officially announce Alabama Chanin’s upcoming book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. This is the fourth (yes, fourth) book I’ve worked on with my editor (and friend), Melanie Falick, of STC Craft and Abrams.
Around the studio, we’ve been referring to this project as the ‘addendum’, as it acts as a supplement to our Studio Book Series—Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
Since the launch of Alabama Studio Style, our DIY Eyelet + Angie Throw (also known in my family as a “couch saver”) has been a favorite do-it-yourself kit among home sewers and our workshop participants alike. Today we launch another design option for this project: the Polka Dot throw. This 36” x 48” throw, made from our medium-weight 100% organic cotton jersey, is patterned with our Medium Polka Dot Stencil and can be worked in a variety of techniques. The throw is shown here sewn in alternating double-rows of quilting, appliqué, and reverse appliqué, and then finished with a blanket stitch that runs around the entire outside edge. Find instructions for all of these techniques and more in our Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and/or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
This DIY kit comes with the backing layer in Navy blue; choose your top layer and appliqué colors. Our production team will match the thread color based on your choices. Or, design your own throw with our Custom DIY option.
From Alabama Studio Style:
Couch savers were a permanent fixture in my grandmother’s home. All manner of crocheted, quilted, and plain fabrics were safety-pinned to upholstered couch backs as well as the arm sand heads of chairs in order to protect the fabric from undue wear and tear. In homage to Gramperkins, who taught me just about everything I love about domesticity, I created this couch saver. To make one of your own, cut a 36” x 48” piece of cotton jersey and embellish as shown. I love to read, relax, and watch movies in bed rather than on my couch, so that is where I display and enjoy this beautiful work.
“Zero” is both a number and a concept. It is both incredibly complex and perfectly simple. Zero is both a value and a digit—a number and a placeholder. It can be called: nil, oh, naught, nada, and zilch. Complex chemical and physical theories involve and surround the concept of zero. All of this to say that, though the word “zero” may describe something that is very small, the larger idea of zero is very, very big.
Our goal at Alabama Chanin is to become a zero waste company. This means we repurpose and recycle every possible material, letting nothing go to waste. There are times when it is challenging to approach design with the idea of waste in mind; designing patterns and establishing cutting techniques that maximize our materials are not necessarily glamorous or exciting tasks. But, we believe taking those extra steps makes our products—and our company—more beautiful.
Quite a few years ago, I loaded up the car with scissors, needles, and an array of other sewing supplies and took a trip with a group of friends and fellow stitchers to a women’s prison facility (at their invitation, of course). My friend Kyes had organized this meeting in the hopes of developing a program within our Alabama Prison system for training life and job skills. The scissors wound up staying in the car for security reasons, but the experience was life changing. The intent of the day was to show these women—on their way out of prison and back into the “real” world—how to hand stitch and work together. We wanted to help them see that they could make something beautiful with their own two hands and, at the same time, perhaps challenge all of our preconceived notions about our neighbors and the world at large. It’s fair to say that I walked away from that day and the experience a different person. At that point, I’d begun to realize that education was going to be an important element in the life of my company. I wanted to help others understand how essential “living arts” are—and what it would mean if we lost connection to those skills and our shared history.
Slowly, Alabama Chanin added stitching workshops to our traveling trunk shows. We scheduled intimate one-off events that were as much about storytelling as they were stitching (as Blair Hobbs famously exemplified with her “granny panties” story years ago). We were creating a community through making. It was happening. And so we committed to this enterprise of creating communities for makers, of building workshops both here at The Factory and across the globe. Alabama Chanin and our customers have become part of one another’s lives in ways I never imagined; we’ve made lifelong friends, helped create wedding gowns, hosted classrooms of college students, and traveled across the country. I’ve met some of my personal heroes through sharing ideas on making and sustainability.
New season = new colors.
For a limited time, we are offering our new (bright) autumn colors bundled together in one yard cuts. This fabric stack includes one yard lengths, each, of Dusk, Gold, Persimmon, Autumn, Wine, and Teal.
Our medium-weight 100% organic cotton jersey is 56” wide, made in the USA from domestically grown organic cotton, and comes to you pre-shrunk and ready-to-use.
Enjoy free shipping on orders over $300.
The October Swatch of the Month highlights one of our most popular embroidery treatments—Alabama Fur. The technique, first presented in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, combines our Spiral stencil with backstitch-worked embroidery floss, and incorporating exposed knots and tails. Simple, yet time consuming, the end result is a hypnotic continuation of curves that is both a beauty to behold and touch (the texture is irresistible).
To create the swatch, begin by stenciling the design to the top layer of fabric using your transfer method of choice. (The Spirals stencil is available for download from our Resources page.)
Align your top and backing layers of fabric, with right sides up and pin together. Using four strands of embroidery floss (or two strands doubled) thread your needle. When you knot off, use a double knot and make sure to leave a 1” tail of floss (note that this tail is longer than we use when working with Button Craft thread, for effect).
You asked for Lime; you got it. For a limited time, and in limited stock, you can purchase our 100% organic cotton jersey in our collection color, Lime. Available in both light and medium-weight.
As a designer, I am constantly in search of inspiration for new patterns. Often, I find ideas in nature. Other times, I’m drawn to simple geometric shapes – such as circles or dots – and how they interact with one another. Polka dots, with their equal size and relative spacing, create a classic pattern on a garment. In fact, polka dots have quite an interesting history throughout fashion.
The spotted design gained popularity in the mid to late-19th century, as the polka dance came into fashion. Martha Stewart describes the origins of the term in her book, Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts:
“To capitalize on the popularity of the polka in the late nineteenth century, one enterprising American textile manufacturer coined the term “polka dot” to describe the dots on one of his fabrics. The name stuck, and today the term refers to round, evenly spaced dots of identical size.”