Category Archives: THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

NATURAL DYES

A combination of hand and manmade dyes are used for our fabric selection (over 45 colors and growing) at Alabama Chanin. Today we share some information on the natural dye processes, which we use for four of our fabrics: our current Coral and Indigo, Light Golden, and Goldenrod.

Our organic cotton jersey is dyed at two locations in the southeast region: Tumbling Colors in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville, Tennessee. In the Bronx, New York, we dye Indigo with Father Andrew at Goods of Conscience.

Artisan Natural Dyeworks naturally dyes our cotton jersey fabric from the following plants: common madder root to produce Coral, the indigo plant to produce Indigo, and osage orange wood and myrobalan fruit for our Light Golden and Goldenrod fabrics. (More on Artisan Natural Dyeworks this Friday.)

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FASHION & SUSTAINABILITY: DESIGN FOR CHANGE

“Sustainability is the forerunner of greater diversity and choice, not less.”
- Paul Hawken

In the book Fashion & Sustainability: Design for Change, our friends Kate Fletcher and Lynda Grose tackle the issue of sustainability in the fashion world. Within its pages you will discover practices that have the potential to transform the fashion system for the better. From framework to production to design practices, Kate and Lynda break down the topics that matter when it comes to the design process of the fashion industry.

Their work challenges designers and manufacturers to consider their practices and the impact they have on the environment. Reduce, re-use, and recycle are words we hear often, but this book offers real ways to integrate those words into daily practices. Not only that, it shares how to do so with little cost or interruption to the manufacturing or creative processes; you might even say it enhances these processes by challenging creators to explore new methods and materials.

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REPORT FROM PENLAND: TUESDAY 7/17/12

As the first week at Penland progressed to week two, the piles of books on our studio meeting table (and the individual studio tables) have grown substantially. We have spoken of so many things and explored SO many ideas.  Here are a few of the volumes that have made their way into our conversations:

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(PROGRESS) REPORT FROM PENLAND – 7/16/12, MONDAY

Just when I think that it can’t get any better, it does. A weekend in the mountains was what I needed and it’s the first time in ages that I meet Monday morning feeling rested, relaxed (beyond measure), and balanced. The highlight of my weekend was certainly a swim in the North Toe River: icy cold waters, a gentle rain, friends, a series of rapids, warmer pools of water carved into the rocks. I often forget how MUCH I NEED to be outside.

While I swam, my studio continued their adventures in stenciling and sewing.

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REPORT FROM PENLAND: THURSDAY 7/12/12 (PORTRAITS)

I was about 22 years old when I entered my first design studio. I felt like a baby. I had rarely taken an art class in school.  When I say rarely, I mean there had been a few special days of art in grade school – nothing particularly formal, and certainly nothing recent. At that time, I didn’t think that I KNEW how to make. In that moment, those grade school classes and the lessons of my grandmothers in living arts didn’t seem to matter; I was scared of the entire process and frozen. The freedom that seemed to stretch before me was too much for my young mind to handle.  As a young adult, my best friend was a budding artist. I remember her beautiful drawings so clearly and I began to think that that art was fascinating, but something that OTHER people did. Prints of Pinkie and The Blue Boy in gold foil frames, purchased at the local furniture store, were the only “art” that hung in our home.

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MADE IN AMERICA (PART 2)

We recently shared companies that are making quality products in the United States. To continue this ‘Made in America’ post from last week, we feature another round of companies who practice the same excellence and pride.

Some of these products have been staples in my daily wear for ages; they’ve held up to the test of time. I look forward to incorporating newer products into my lifestyle for years to come. Please share with us your experience with these makers, as well as any other companies, artisans, or manufacturers from the United States that have a presence in your wardrobe, and life.

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RED, WHITE, AND BLUE CERAMICS

When I was working on our Heath Ceramics collaboration, we worked with colors rooted in the Southern vernacular and my upbringing in the 1960s and 70s in Alabama. When I look at the dishes, I see parts of my childhood in the shades of red and blue.

The chosen red is appropriately called red clay, as it was inspired by the color of Alabama soil. This miraculous color used to bring tears to my eyes as I would fly in from my time living in Europe.  As a child, our summer clothes were stained with the color. The bottoms of our feet were permanently red clay colored after the temperature reached 78 degrees.  Gillian Welch’s song Red Clay Halo cannot say it any better:

All the girls all dance with the boys from the city,
And they don’t care to dance with me.
Now it ain’t my fault that the fields are muddy,
And the red clay stains my feet.

Being a barefoot child who played in the garden, I knew this color intimately. This is the color of hard-working farmers and farm wives; it is the story of a community.

Southern musicians have written about Alabama’s red soil for decades. EmmyLou Harris’s Red Dirt Girl is another iconic example.

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