Category Archives: THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN TUESDAY: ALABAMA CHANIN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

As Alabama Chanin has grown and evolved, we have built a business model that I strongly believe in. Many of you have been with us from the beginning, and many of you have found us along the way. On a daily basis, we receive a bounty of emails, phone calls, and letters. Here we have compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions. Included are the mission and some history of Alabama Chanin. We invite you to explore, share, and of course let us know if there is something that we missed.

We sincerely appreciate every email, query, and compliment that comes our way; we look forward to continuing the conversation. While our FAQs is not meant to replace old-fashioned interaction we hope it gives anyone interested the opportunity to learn more about our company, just as we hope for opportunities to learn more about all of you.

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THE HEART: RICK BRAGG AND “THE CHOICE”

When I returned to Alabama over a decade ago to start the project that has become Alabama Chanin, I had NO IDEA that this simple project would surround me with stories of cotton, mill work, and, quite honestly, the history of the small community where I grew up. This blog is proof to the fact that I am STILL learning – each and every day.

While researching the post about Sweetwater Mills and reading William McDonald’s books a few weeks back, I came across Rick Bragg’s book, The Most They Ever Had. As an avid reader and, quite honestly, a Rick Bragg fan, I was surprised that I’d never read this book before. I have followed his work for years: from Anniston, Alabama, to The New York Times, through all the novels, the Pulitzer, to the controversy surrounding his departure from the Times. (Full disclosure, I know some of the parties attached to The New York Times scandal and have a few thoughts on that myself – we will save that for a later day or a face-to-face conversation.)

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ALABAMA CHANIN: A COTTAGE INDUSTRY SUCCESS STORY

Thank you to our employees and artisans for their commitment to the extraordinary and thank you to everyone at Etsy for telling our story with this beautiful film. It makes us proud to share the stories that unfold each day in our growing community.

Please visit the Etsy blog to read a little more and leave a comment to enter to win a copy of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design plus a DIY kit that includes everything you’ll need to sew your own Alabama Chanin garment.

xoNatalie

 

DIY MUSIC: THE CIVIL WARS

At the Factory, we play music to help set an inspiring tone for our work environment, and sometimes to just get us through the day. At any given time, you will hear a range of genres including folk, classical, rock, country, and independent artists. We don’t usually pick favorites, but The Civil Wars’ sounds are often heard floating through the shelves of organic fabric in the studio.

Joy Williams and John Paul White’s soothing and harmonic melodies have provided the soundtrack to many FULL workdays. The songs are sometimes bluesy, sometimes haunting, and always powerful. Their voices simply sound natural and right together. Perhaps we’re partial to them—not only because of their poetic music—but also because they are rooted in the Shoals; The Civil Wars are a vital part of our artistic community. But, we also feel connected to the band because of their approach to making, or “crafting” music.

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THE HEART: BETTER JOYS

I feel so honored and happy to introduce Jessamyn Hatcher as a new contributor to this blog (soon we will add a face to the name). Jessamyn has been a source of inspiration for me as I continue to learn how to frame the work that is so easy for me to DO, but so difficult for me to EXPLAIN in words. My conversations with Jessamyn have taken place across several states, drinks, emails, and phone calls. I am so excited to expand upon those in-depth conversations here with you—beginning today. Please show a big, hearty, and embracing welcome to Jessamyn—our newest contributor and a part of the growing heart and soul of Alabama Chanin. Continue reading

SAMPLE BLOCK QUILT

As we posted last Tuesday, I highly recommend that you start a library to document your design work. As you create your samples, make them the same size so that your (master) pieces can be easily stored. And even if you don’t want to keep the samples for posterity, you can work towards making a Sampler Throw like the one shown above. As we develop our many fabrics, it often happens that a particular sample, as beautiful as it may be, just doesn’t fit neatly into one of our Fabric Swatch Books or collections. That was the case with the swatches that became the basis for this Sampler Throw. You may even find that you want to make the Sampler Throw not as a way of developing different fabric swatches, but just because it’s a beautiful and easy project. Either way, I urge you to explore our stencils, colors, techniques, and stitches to sustain rewarding design experiences.

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SHAKERAG WORKSHOPS

Shakerag Workshops have been taking place on the campus of St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School for some eight years now. Among the rolling hills of the Cumberland Plateau, Shakerag operates as a community where artists + those eager to learn a craft come together in a creative learning environment. Similar to our sewing workshops, the instructors work closely with students in a full-immersion studio course. This summer, I am eager to travel here with our studio Directress, Diane, to teach sewing, to learn, and explore the Sewanee Hollow.

We will be teaching Open Design: Sewing and Construction during the week of June 17-23, 2012, as part of the second session. This is how I intend to spend my days at Shakerag: coffee + breakfast, sewing, delicious lunch, more sewing, and a relaxing yoga session or a hike on the St. Andrew’s-Sewanee Perimeter Trail. To end the day, a locally-sourced dinner- featuring adapted recipes from A New Turn in the South- followed by enrichment + faculty artist’s lectures. And of course, Hugh Acheson’s lecture, Wednesday evening, June 20, 2012, is a welcome interruption in the schedule. Continue reading

THE HEART: ORGANIC COTTON

Organic cotton is the heart of Alabama Chanin. It binds all aspects of the company: sustainability, fashion, DIY, and craft. All of our garments- couture or DIY- are made with these naturally grown fibers. We have examined the influence cotton has had on our community. We have thought about its global impact. We have voiced our concerns.

I have spent countless hours contemplating major business decisions because I feel it is vital to my own ethical truths and the philosophy of our company to buy and sell only organic cotton. But, we have our own supply chain issues that affect commitment to organic cotton (more to come on this very soon). Continue reading

SAMPLE BLOCKS + LIBRARY

Fabric designs are the basis of all our collections at Alabama Chanin. Each design starts as a simple 10” x 16” rectangle of our organic cotton jersey that is embellished using a variety of techniques and manipulations that may include stenciling, embroidery, beading, and/or appliqué.

My decision to use a 10” x 16” rectangle was based on the mere fact that we can easily obtain 3-ring binders to store and display swatches this size. These binders also provide us a simple way to organize our designs by color, season, and/or pattern.

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THE HEART: A HISTORY OF TEXTILES (+ COMMUNITY)

It is no secret that I feel a commitment to my community; it is equally evident the role that growing up in Florence, Alabama, had on my development as a designer.  Textiles – the growing, picking, spinning, knitting, cutting, and sewing – were a part of the vernacular of small southern towns from the late 1800s until the signing of NAFTA. My community has been no different.

This textile history is present in our studio today and we are surrounded by friends, colleagues, and families who have worked textiles, their parents worked textiles, and their grandparents worked textiles. My great grandmother “worked socks” at the Sweetwater Mill in East Florence. Continue reading