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.
Today, April 24, is the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It has also been declared Fashion Revolution Day—celebrating best practices in the fashion industry and raising awareness of the true cost of fast fashion.
In homage to the anniversary, we etched wax candles with our Anna’s Garden and Bloomers stencil designs—candles we will light tonight in honor of the lives lost.
Fashion Revolution Day is asking: Who made your clothes? Not just where they were manufactured…but who spun the threads? Who sewed them together? Who grew the cotton? What you do with your discoveries is up to you.
The Fashion Revolution movement is encouraging everyone to wear clothes inside out today—tags showing—to join the conversation on fast fashion and creating a more sustainable future.
Mother’s Day will be upon us soon, and we hope that you are all planning a way to make it a special day. Our freelance editor, Sara, says that her father always got worked up over finding her mother just the right gift. Inevitably, this stress would result in a frantic, last minute decision that wasn’t necessarily the right choice. She says that they still laugh about the year he bought her mother a calculator. (And he still insists that she said she wanted one…) Other years, her father did a much better job; Sara remembers once planting a dogwood tree just outside her mother’s kitchen window.
We appreciate that mothers come in all forms, shapes, and sizes, so this DIY Check Tied Wrap featuring our 2014 Stencil of the Year is a perfect fit for your mother, or grandmother, daughter, or friend. In the morning sunlight, it almost looks like dogwood flowers blooming.
We are offering this DIY Kit as part of our Mother’s Day Gift Guide. Make something for mom – or give her something she will enjoy making for herself.
In service to everyone who showed such great response to our Swatch of the Month, we are featuring a series of DIY projects that you can create with your completed swatch(es). This month’s project is a book cover adapted to fit the size of our Studio Books. It requires one swatch and four blank panels of fabric to complete. Make your own Studio Book cover, or adapt the size to fit your favorite book.
We chose to use this month’s appliqué swatch for the main portion of our book cover. The additional four panels were left unembellished in order to highlight the intricate Anna’s Garden design.
The Swatch of the Month for April allows you the opportunity to experiment with a basic, traditional appliqué technique in our Anna’s Garden stencil design. Appliqué is a way of “applying” one fabric on top of another. We use appliqué for many reasons – to add color, texture, dimension, and more elaborate design work to a piece. You can use any number of stitches to appliqué your top design to the bottom fabric. Here, we demonstrate the most common way that we add an appliquéd element to a base fabric: a simple parallel whipstitch.
Detailed instructions on appliqué techniques can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Match up each appliqué shape with its correct position as you cut it to avoid creating a complicated puzzle for yourself. Take care to position your appliqué pieces precisely by pinning each cut shape of the stenciled design into place. Then, stitch each appliqué shape to your fabric using a parallel whipstitch, which will attach your appliqué pieces securely.
The hi-resolution photograph of our appliqué swatch, for use as your computer desktop background, is available for download from our Resources page.