Category Archives: THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

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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LAUNCHING A. CHANIN

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Last year, we announced with great excitement that Alabama Chanin would be launching a machine-made line called A. Chanin. After months of hard work from our team (and the receipt of the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge award), the inaugural A. Chanin pieces are here.

Until now, all Alabama Chanin products have been made by hand, using sustainable practices. We have worked hard to develop machine-made garments that stay true to our ideals of high quality, slow fashion, sustainable design, and Made in the USA production. The A. Chanin line maintains the same commitment to these ideals that our products have always demonstrated, but at a lower price.

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NEW FABRIC COLORS + COLOR CARD UPDATE

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Over the past six months, we have been developing a selection of new colors to add to our fabric library. Each time we add to our color library, we begin the color development process by browsing through Pantone Solid Chips. In the studio, these books are used for reference as we select new fabric dyes. Once potential color options are chosen, color swatches—in the form of paper, fabric swatches, and/or Pantone chips—are sent to the dye house in Raleigh, North Carolina, so that they can create dyes to match the samples. We have worked with our dye house extensively for custom color development and dyeing since 2008. They perform lab dips—developing a color recipe—and test dyes on our organic cotton jersey; the fabric samples are then sent to us for comparison, inspection, and approval. Sometimes the hue comes out right on the first try; other times there is a back-and-forth process until the perfect shade and hue is achieved.

We are excited to announce the addition of seven new medium-weight organic cotton jersey fabric colors: Dusk, Gold, Persimmon, Autumn, Wine, Teal, and (an updated) Peach. They are vibrantly saturated and fit perfectly alongside our existing shades.

While the first six are additions to our existing color palette, Peach is an improved-upon color. Dye lots can change over time, with variations in the ingredients and methods. Our Peach had begun to resemble Light Pink, and therefore it was due an update to a fresher, brighter look.

These new colors will be replacing Popcorn, Green Tea, Green Organic, Brown Tea, and Brown Organic fabrics, as these naturally grown colored cottons are no longer available.  At the same time, Indigo—originally included on Color Card 2—is also grouped with our more robust selection of nine Natural Dye fabrics, and is offered in both Light and Medium-weight.

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THE ALABAMA CHANIN LOOKBOOK

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With the launch of our new collection, we have also launched a lookbook online, with the aim to share our design inspirations and (hopefully) inspire your own look and style.

View our look book to see how A. Chanin seamlessly integrates with our new Alabama Chanin collection, discover interpretations of Three for a Dime and Disfarmer-style looks, and get a close-up look at fabric details and garment designs.

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MAXINE PAYNE: THREE FOR A DIME

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In 2008, Maxine Payne, an Arkansas-based artist, self-published a book of photographs titled Making Pictures: Three For A Dime. She catalogued the work of the Massengill family who worked from 1937 to 1941 as itinerant photographers in rural Arkansas documenting farmers, young couples, babies, and anyone else who had a few minutes and an extra dime to spend. The Massengills’ photos provided candid snapshots of the rural South just before the Second World War. Through her efforts, Maxine Payne has given new life to these old photographs by coordinating exhibitions and projects, including a forthcoming book by the Atlanta-based publisher Dust-to-Digital and a collaboration with Alabama Chanin on our new collection. We asked Maxine to describe her connection to the Massengill family and her involvement with Three For A Dime:6UP-GRID

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INTRODUCING THE NEW COLLECTION

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We are very proud to announce the launch of the new Alabama Chanin collection. Here at the studio, we have all been busy over the past months preparing for this endeavor—from a collaboration with artist Maxine Payne (more from the story behind our inspiration and Maxine tomorrow…), to perfecting organic cotton fabric and colors, designing and producing garments pattern-by-pattern, swatch-by-swatch, creating and hand sewing sample garments, organizing photo shoots, and finally, preparing for this launch today.

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Lots of work, time, and love go into every piece of a new collection. Each of our fabrics and garments are designed to last a lifetime: some pieces intended as heirlooms, others seamlessly integrated into everyday wardrobes.

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In addition to the collection, you will notice several updates to our website—including the “soft launch” of the machine-sewn A. Chanin line, organic cotton socks from our collaboration with Little River Sock Mill, and a brand new feature: the Alabama Chanin lookbook (more on that tomorrow, as well).

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The new collection features several designs, including our Magdalena, Daisy, Scallops, and Whispering Rose patterns worked in a variety of techniques and a selection of colors including: Natural, Navy, Black, Lime, Natural Blue Grey, and Nude. Our Basics and A. Chanin line are also available in these new collection colors.

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Highlights of our process, the story behind the collaboration, new designs, and new fabric colors will be coming soon. Stay tuned…

Browse our new look here.

2014 STENCIL OF THE YEAR: CHECK

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When Alabama Chanin was founded, part of our initial mission was to create modern garments using age-old techniques, like hand sewing and quilting. Though we have continually grown, we still believe in celebrating the “living arts” and community-building traditions like quilting circles. As Alabama Chanin has expanded, our goals have also matured and expanded and we are happily developing our scope and physical size – though we continue to embrace that first set of ideals.

The past year has seen a growth and expansion that I could never have imagined those many years ago. We opened a flagship store and café in our Factory home and we are preparing to launch our machine-made line, A. Chanin. When I was beginning my efforts to produce those first t-shirts, I was told repeatedly that it was not possible to produce responsibly sourced, machine-made garments in the United States. Time after time, I heard that this kind of item would never make a profit. And, yet, we persevered.

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ECO FASHION

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In the book Eco Fashion, our friend Sass Brown celebrates and examines designers and labels practicing sustainability in the fashion industry, including Alabama Chanin (you might have recognized our hand-sewn garment featured on the cover).

Sass offers several definitions for eco fashion—from slow design and traditional techniques to recycled, reused, and redesigned methods—and explores ecological design and the connection between green lifestyle choices and successful business models.

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