If you visit our studio here in Alabama, you will arrive to find that we are housed in a sturdy, industrial-style, metal building which we call “The Factory.” Our community was, for generations, home to textile mills that employed an incredible number of area residents. This industrial building where we work and spend hours of our lives has seen thousands of workers pass through the doors over the years; it has heard the hum of machines running and the voices and laughter of employees passing the day away. This building is part of Alabama Chanin’s history, but, more importantly, it is part of our community’s history—a symbol of economic boom, hard times, and community rebuilding.
Mary Adams studied art, not fashion, in college, but eventually chose fabric, specifically, the dress as her medium of choice. Her first storefront in New York City was in the Lower East Side, on the corner of Ludlow and Stanton in the early 1980’s, when that area of the city was cheap and dirty and home to artists, writers, musicians, actors, and designers. In her book, The Party Dress Book, Adams shares a glimpse of New York at that time and how the city and its creative inhabitants influenced her work – the brightly colored, twirling dresses she and her friends would wear to nightclubs and parties. Adams worked in an influential time and place for fashion history and her work continues to resonate. Her stories of inspiration introduce how-to instruction on specific dressmaking and embellishment techniques for designing and constructing the best looking dress at any party, anywhere.
The Party Dress Book inspired us to adapt one of our favorite, featured projects into an Alabama Chanin piece, Mary Adams-style.
As part of our Handmade Holiday 2013 selection, we are offering limited edition Holiday DIY Kits. Look for brand new items, some favorites from the past, and special, holiday picks. Alabama Chanin believes that holiday gifts mean more when they are handmade.
This DIY Onesie + Baby Blanket Kit is a two-item option normally only offered for our One-Day Workshops. The smaller scale of each item means that experienced sewers will quickly have a completed gift, ready for wrapping; beginning sewers can learn, practice embroidery techniques on a smaller canvas, and expectant parents (and/or grandparents) can spend (at least a little) time making for baby.
I met photographer Rinne Allen years ago, through mutual friend Angie Mosier, and have adored her ever since. Her work inspires me over and over again as it is always stunning and captures intimate aspects of life that many overlook.
Over the years, our Journal has developed a growing community of readers. What began as an occasional post about the progress of my garden or a favorite book has become a six-year,1,000 post chronicle of everything from DIY projects and recipes to important conversations on sustainable design and fashion. The Journal is our platform to connect with and learn from our readers. Our always-growing readership allows us to write about an expanding range of topics and explore new people and places; this provides constant inspiration and education for us.
Recently, we added a new option to our mailing list subscription: DAILY JOURNAL. By signing up, you will receive daily Journal posts, sent directly to your inbox. Join our mailing list to receive our Daily Journal, or update your subscription to include it here.
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
In 1939, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein met a 19-year-old girl named Eveline Kalke, whom he nicknamed “Marie,” at a state fair is Wisconsin. The two married in 1943, and settled into their daily lives in Milwaukee where Eugene worked as a baker. Unlike most bakers, Eugene spent his free time composing poems on the subjects of love, nature, reincarnation and time travel. He made fantastical paintings of unknown universes, ceramic vases pieced together from dozens of hand-sculpted leaves, towers and thrones fashioned from chicken bones, concrete masks, and perhaps most importantly, elaborately-staged photographs of his wife and muse, Marie.
Belle Adair. Photo: Ashton Lance
Name: Matthew Green
Band: Belle Adair
Instrument(s) you play: Guitar and bass
Place of Birth/Hometown: Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Presently residing: Tuscumbia, Alabama
Before Alabama Chanin existed in its current form, before the Journal, the Studio Books, the DIY Kits, even the website, we were a very small company. When I began working to create these garments, I was doing the majority of the making myself. That meant buying t-shirts from thrift stores around the community (or anywhere I could find them), washing them, dyeing them, cutting them up, painting them, and sewing them back together again—all of this from my home/makeshift production office. It was thrilling and exhilarating and exhausting and I learned so much about designing (and running a business) by trial and error. Eventually, staff was hired and our production office moved out of my home and into The Factory; however, those early efforts were a daily experiment.
The first men’s t-shirts were a bit different from those we make today. We had no real patterns for the men’s shirts and each shirt was designed, cut, and sewn based entirely on the style of the t-shirt itself. We were in the beginning stages of developing different seams, stretchable stitches, and elaborate embroideries, so the garments were experiments in non-traditional translations of classic sewing techniques and pared down versions of some of the Alabama Chanin garments you might see today.
The “Pig Shirt” in the photo above is one of my very early garments. It is made from a recycled tee, which was hand dyed (in the bathtub) and the pocket removed. The fabric for the reverse appliqué was taken from a different recycled (printed) t-shirt and everything was sewn together with a straight stitch. The aesthetic was meant to be a tribute to traditional stitch work and the colors and the style served to highlight the stitches themselves. This project is a tribute to our roots, a reflection upon where Alabama Chanin grew from and how those early years helped form the company we are today.
When you select a recycled t-shirt for this, or any, project pay close attention to the quality of the cotton. Look for shirts that are soft and smooth to the touch and don’t ball or “pill” easily. Thicker shirts are less prone to tearing or wearing out quickly. Always make sure that you wash any recycled t-shirt before using it. This ensures a clean surface, but also reduces any chance of shrinking. If you are working with red t-shirts, wash them two or three times to prevent the color from bleeding and avoid mixing red with light colors.
In addition to showcasing the new Alabama Chanin collection at Worthwhile in Charleston, South Carolina this week, we are also hosting a Studio Style DIY Trunk Show at SpaceCraft Studios.
October 10, 2013 – October 12, 2013
8 Avondale Avenue
Charleston, South Carolina 29407
Thursday and Friday: 11:00am to 5:30pm and 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am to 3:30pm
Come browse through our swatch books and see ready-made garments for inspiration and sizing, then create a customized DIY project. Our DIY kits, fabric, sewing notions, and the Alabama Chanin Studio book series will be available for order at the Trunk Show.
There will also be an Open Sewing Night on Thursday and Friday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00pm. The sewing nights are free with the purchase of an Alabama Chanin DIY Kit during the Trunk Show, or $20 without purchase. There is no instruction, and registration is required in advance. We hope to see you there.
For more information, contact SpaceCraft Studios: +1.843.284.6253.
Our friend Tasia, owner of Alabama’s Belle Chevre creamery, has been busy with several new projects since we last saw her at Southern Makers. Her first cookbook, which features a foreword by Natalie (and is full of amazing Southern and Greek-inspired recipes), was released last year. Tasia has been crafting new recipes, teaching cooking classes, working on a second book and, most recently, she opened a new cheese tasting room at their flagship storefront in Elkmont, Alabama.
A few months ago we discovered Belle Chevre’s DIY Kits are perfect for gifting (and for starting your own goat cheese tasting room). We often snack on Tasia’s amazing cheese creations here in the studio. Tasia notes that her goat cheese can be used as a base for many of her recipes, as well as a substitute for mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, and butter. The possibilities are endless. We recently substituted some of our homemade goat cheese for mayonnaise in a warm potato salad, sprinkled with fresh herbs from the farmers’ market, and served alongside baked organic chicken. The results were richer and creamier than a traditional potato salad. And a bit of leftover goat cheese was devoured atop fresh pumpkin bread with some local honey. Decadent and delicious. Here’s Tasia’s recipe for making goat cheese at home.