Category Archives: SUSTAINABLE LIFE + DESIGN

SUSTAINABLE COLLABORATION: MAGAR HATWORKS

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In continuing our collaborations with partners that share our sustainable philosophies and values, Alabama Chanin is proud to launch a line of hats alongside our current collection. The hats, designed and manufactured by Leigh Magar of Magar Hatworks, were also inspired by the same photographs that served as inspiration for our most recent collection: Three For a Dime photographs of families during the 1930s and 1940s in rural Arkansas.

Leigh’s sustainable design philosophy includes utilizing old techniques and craft, while embracing artful and unique design.

“I use the original process of hand making hats,” she explains. “The hat blocking technique—using antique wooden hat forms to create shapes. Each hat is steam shaped, hand sewn, and then adorned by hand.”

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THE HISTORY OF WEAVING (AND RAG RUGS)

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Our team experiments with all types of fabric manipulation here at Alabama Chanin. We have used ruffles to create texture in our textiles and jewelry; have featured crochet work in our collections and projects, and love how something so simple as a knot can add complexity and depth to a piece. In Alabama Stitch Book, we showed how fabric might be used to repair and repurpose farm chairs – an idea that we explored further in our MAKESHIFT 2013 Chair Workshop. Lately, the team has been experimenting with a large floor loom in The Factory. I have long wanted to incorporate rugs into our lifestyle collections, which would also be a wonderful way for us to utilize scraps and decrease waste. I remember my grandmother saving fabric to make rag rugs and there was always a rag rug in front of her sink.

In its most basic definition, weaving is a way to produce fabric using two sets of thread, yarn, or fabric, that are interlaced to form cloth. The longitudinal threads are called the “warp” and the lateral threads are the “weft.” Though hand and finger weaving is suitable for small projects, larger fabrics are usually woven on a loom.

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Weavers have been valued craftspeople almost since the beginning of humankind. Very rudimentary woven cloth has been found in prehistoric graves and settlements. Tens of thousands of years ago, man began to develop string by twisting together plant fibers. Weaving together this primitive string by hand was the next logical step. The first, crude weaving looms were likely developed in the Neolithic Era. Weaving looms were developed from this basic form in China, where silk from silkworm cocoons was utilized and the weaving of this silk was a well-defined craft.

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NEW COLLECTION FAVORITES

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Earlier this year, after months of careful preparation selecting fabrics, colors, and silhouettes to translate our vision from paper to concept to reality, we launched our new Alabama Chanin collection. Here, we highlight some of our favorite new springtime-appropriate pieces.

Our Magdalena V-neck Shell Top (above) features our Magdalena stencil in placement fashion, hand sewn in backstitch reverse appliqué. Offered in 100% lightweight cotton jersey and three sleeve lengths, this top has a casual but feminine fit, and is slightly nipped at the waist. The beautiful tone-on-tone detailing around the neckline highlights the chest and neck, bringing attention to the face.

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BASICS IN COLOR

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Our line of Alabama Chanin Basics, including some pieces from our A. Chanin line, is now available in a range of colors, including those featured in our most recent Alabama Chanin collection. Each of these garments make great layering pieces, which is especially helpful as temperatures continue to fluctuate.

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Our Alabama Vest adds a layer of interest (and pockets) to any ensemble. It features a halter neckline and can drape loosely or be wrapped around the body. It is available in dozens of colors, in both lightweight and medium-weight organic cotton jersey.

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The A. Chanin Long Sleeve Raglan top is part of our growing machine-made line. It is light and loose fitting, with a wide neckline and raglan-style sleeves. This can be layered over Tank or Tunic Tops, adds a casual flair to any sleeveless dress, and is a great cover-up for chilly spring evenings. Available in our medium-weight organic cotton jersey.
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MEN’S COLLECTION HIGHLIGHT

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The most recent Alabama Chanin collection features several new men’s garments. These pieces, like the rest of the collection, were inspired by photographs taken by the Massengill family in rural Arkansas just before the Second World War, as seen in Maxine Payne’s anthology, Making Pictures: Three for a Dime. Many of you have been asking for more men’s options, and as Alabama Chanin continues to expand as a lifestyle company, it is our hope to reach a larger audience with our collections and collaborations (and hopefully give you what you’ve been asking for in the process).

While all of these tops can be worn by both men and women alike, we designed them with a more masculine-driven wardrobe in mind. Browse some of our favorites below, or view the entire collection here.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: MARCH 2014

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Each month, as part of our Swatch of the Month Club, we are demonstrating some of our most popular techniques so that you might try your hand at creating new designs and embroideries. If you join the Swatch of the Month Club, you will receive a ready-to-sew package each month with the supplies needed to make that month’s unique piece. Just provide your own needles, pins, and scissors (or purchase an Essential Sewing Kit from our online store). Techniques and instruction can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

The hi-resolution photograph above of March’s featured technique, for use as your computer desktop background, is available from our Resources page.

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NEW COLLECTION ADDITIONS

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The latest Alabama Chanin collection launched last month and we have now added even more new pieces to our online store. These handmade garments are worked in a variety of techniques and colors. We’ve added several new men’s styles (more on that soon…), Basics, and Accessories.

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Our Basic Panel Tank is a great layering piece, especially underneath corsets or other form-fitting tops (as seen layered with our DIY Martin Luther King Jr. Quote corset above and paired with our Magdalena Scoop Neck Top below). It adds just the right amount of extra coverage to the hip area, further accentuating your curves.

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A MANUFACTURING COLLABORATION: LITTLE RIVER SOCK MILL

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Alabama Chanin recently partnered with our friend Gina Locklear of Little River Sock Mill (and Zkano) to create a line of Made in the USA, organic cotton socks as part of our new collection.

We’ve written before about the textile and manufacturing history of the Shoals, and our current strides towards revitalizing manufacturing within our community (and beyond). Florence was once known as the T-shirt Capital of The World, and another northern Alabama town—Fort Payne (home to Little River Sock Mill)—held the title of Sock Capital of The World. We are proud to launch this line of Alabama-manufactured organic cotton socks, alongside the machine-manufactured line A. Chanin.

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THE GRIST – A MANUFACTURING COLLABORATION

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Recently, Building 14, our new Design + Manufacturing Services division, produced the Grist in collaboration with our friends at Billy Reid. This raglan style men’s t-shirt is made with our 100% organic cotton and features an antique button snap pocket.

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Read more about our team, the manufacturing collaboration, and Building 14 on the Billy Reid Journal.

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Photos courtesy of Bradley Dean

AN ALABAMA CHANIN FAMILY OF BUSINESSES

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Those of you who have followed Alabama Chanin for years know that this company was built around the concepts of expert craftsmanship, beauty, function, and utility. Focusing on using sustainable, organic, and local materials and labor, we have committed ourselves to producing quality products made in the USA.

As we grew, the company developed a life of its own that emerged as a multi-fold organization—while staying true to the original mission and business model. We encouraged organic growth, without forcing ourselves to fit into a traditional mold. We recently began referring to what has emerged as the “Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses”—a heartfelt nod to the Zingerman’s approach and their Community of Businesses. Each of our divisions has individual specialties, yet all fall under the same mission established for Alabama Chanin. Our philosophy guides each arm and we all work together toward the same goal: creating beautiful products in sustainable ways that enrich our customers, community, and co-workers.

From our mission statement:

At Alabama Chanin, we preserve traditions of community, design, producing, and living arts by examining work and life through the act of storytelling, photography, education, and making.

Thoughtful design. Responsible production. Good business. Quality that lasts.

A guide to our growing family of businesses:

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Alabama Chanin—the heart and head of our family of businesses—began early in 2000 with the creation of hand-sewn garments made from cotton jersey fabric—and retains the same intention and integrity today. Heirloom pieces are made from 100% organic cotton, sewn by hand through a group of talented artisans who each run their own business, in their own time, and in their own way. The company strives to maintain sustainable practices—across its disciplines—and create sustainable products, holding ourselves to the highest standards for quality.
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