As we wrote in last week’s post on our DIY Exploding Zero T-Shirt, inspiration comes at us from every direction. Recently, our design team has been (almost endlessly) inspired by Eames: Beautiful Details. The use of color and form shown by Ray and Charles Eames is bright and modern, even by today’s standards. The image shown above at left inspired the swatch above right, and can be recreated using the basic instructions below in any combination of colors and techniques you choose. This is a perfect project for our Fat Eighths or scraps from your own stash.


7” x 9” cotton jersey fabric for top layer
7” x 9” cotton jersey fabric for backing layer
100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey scraps in various colors
Button Craft thread
Embroidery floss
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, pins, needles, ruler, rotary cutter
Fabric Markers

Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: All three of these books contain the basic sewing and embroidery techniques we used to appliqué the squares and add decorative stitches and beads.

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…the role of the architect, or the designer, is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests—those who enter the building and use the objects in it. – Charles Eames

Our favorite Eames quote above is now on our café tables, the production cutting room, and displayed front and center on our design room inspiration board. I looked at the pages above and tried to imagine what Charles and Ray would have served in their gorgeous mid-century kitchen. The kitchens of my 1960s childhood were inspired (through trickle-down design) by Charles and Ray Eames—who sought specifically to target the needs of the average American family.

And the American family was changing from the mid-1950s through the 1960s and 1970s. Where cookbooks in the 1950s advised women to have dinner ready for their husbands when they got home from work, moving into the 1960s they began to offer recipes for busy moms. You could now make dinner by opening cans and boxes of prepared foods. That meant a lot of casseroles and inventing creative ways to use canned foods like soup, tuna, and even SPAM. The food fads of the day leant a sense of the exotic and the exciting to the dining room. Fondue, Chinese woks, Julia Child’s advocacy of French cooking, and…all Jell-O everything—brought about food inventions the likes of which had never been seen.

For those who want to relive the good old days of Chicken a la King, ambrosia or gelatin salads, meatballs with grape jelly, onion soup dip, cheese balls, or Baked Alaska, we recommend visiting Mid-Century Menu or, my personal favorite, White Trash Cooking—for a treasure of Jell-O based recipes.

For everything else, we defer to the queen of the Mid-century kitchen: Miss Julia Child.

Learn more about the Eames, Mid-Century design, and the love the kitchen, purchase Eames: Beautiful Details, pictured above and now available from our online store. (Natalie’s personal copy shown here photographed by Abraham Rowe)


Alabama Chanin - LF8 - NYCLast summer, friend Lisa Fox hosted our first Alabama Chanin Pop-up Shop at her East Village store, lf8, for Makeshift 2014 and New York Design Week. After a run at Billy Reid Austin over the holidays, our indigo collection is available at lf8 in New York this spring. The shop features our one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed indigo pieces alongside our A. Chanin machine-made line, Heath + Alabama Chanin collaboration, accessories, books, and more.

Readings, workshops, Makeshift conversations, and special events will take place over the course of the two months–more details to come. Visit here to see last year’s programming and learn more about Makeshift.

Alabama Chanin @ lf8 through May 22nd:

80 E. 7th Street
New York, NY 10003

Store Hours:
Tuesday–Sunday 12:00pm–6:00pm
Closed Mondays

Follow @alabamachanin and @lf8_elevate on Instagram for updates.

For more information, contact: sales (at), or call, +646.861.2837




“Take your pleasure seriously.” ― Charles Eames

All of us, at one time or another, have associated the idea of work with a sense of dread. We’ve all had a job we thought was boring, repetitive, mindless, stressful; we’d zone out or procrastinate because, in our hearts, we weren’t invested. In such a situation, we were taught to create a time for work and a time for play: work/life balance.

The downside of this idea of work/life balance is that playtime is often interrupted with thoughts of work; and work time is spent dreaming of play. Mr. Rogers once said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.” This is certainly true of how the Eames ran their studio and the basis of the important, and playful, work of Ellen Langer.

The last decades have taught us (and our children) that to achieve is the ultimate goal—often to the detriment of play. When we think of play, we think of “time wasting” or “unnecessary.” But play can also meld the possible with the magical. When we play, we aren’t necessarily bound by limits; we are free. Most of us have notions as to what defines work and play – but those categories aren’t independent of one another. Ellen Langer states it so simply, “When we are at work, we’re people; when we’re at play, we’re still people.”

The new saying at my house and at the studio: It’s not hard work, it’s GOOD work. There is a big difference between the two.

The book, Eames: Beautiful Details—pictured above, is a beautiful testament to the playful nature of Ray and Charles Eames. Now available from our online store: Eames: Beautiful Details(Natalie’s personal copy shown here photographed by Abraham Rowe)

Watch the PBS Film, The Architect and the Painter, to learn more about the importance of play in their work and studio. See the trailer below.



“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality, per se.” – Charles Eames

Our first official On Design conversation and event centered on the Bauhaus—founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius. This movement’s core objective was a radical concept: to reimagine the material world to reflect the unity of all the arts. The main influences behind the Bauhaus were Modernism, the Arts and Crafts movement and, perhaps most importantly, Constructivism.

The Bauhaus school was closed in 1933 by its own leadership under pressure from the Nazi regime and many of the designers and artists who had been working within the school and those with similar philosophies, moved to the United States. Those of you who were present for our On Design: Bauhaus discussion (or who read about it) will remember that this movement came to change my life (and save my life), because the School of Design at North Carolina State University grew out of Black Mountain College—where some of the instructors from the Bauhaus settled. And, thus I essentially received a Bauhaus training.

The reach of the Bauhaus school is immeasurable. The foundations and design approach influenced designers like Frank Lloyd Wright, Edith Heath, Mies Van De Roe, Le Corbusier, Herbert Bayer, Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer, and eventually Ray and Charles Eames.

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THE FACTORY | THIS WEEK 3.23.2015 – 3.28.2015

The Factory This Week

“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Here is what we have going on this week, Monday, March 23 – Saturday, March 28:

Don’t forget to explore our Alabama Chanin and Studio Style Mother’s Day gift guides. Let them help you find the perfect way to say “thank you” this Mother’s Day.

Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday, 10:00am – 4:00pm

Stop by any weekday at 2:00pm for a guided tour of our space, including The Factory, the Alabama Chanin production and design studio, and Building 14.

Join us for lunch at The Factory Café this week and enjoy a new menu every day.

Also don’t forget to take a look in our cooler—fully stocked with homemade ready-to-go items like pimento cheese and our carrot and ginger soup.

We offer freshly baked whole cakes as well. Our cakes are made from scratch, fresh from the oven. Please provide 24 hours’ notice when placing an order.

Custom catering is now available for all events and occasions. Work directly with our head chef, Zach Chanin, and the Alabama Chanin team to create a menu tailored to your needs.

Monday – Saturday, 11:00am – 2:00pm
*Lunch service begins at 11:00am but coffee and snacks are available all day.

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Saturday Brunch + The Factory This Week

Join us for Saturday Brunch at The Factory Café. This week’s Brunch features our French Toast made from ciabatta bread, soaked in a cinnamon custard and served with maple syrup.

As always, we will have selection of seasonal choices that highlight products from local and regional farms and purveyors.

View our Saturday Brunch menu here or check below.

Saturday Store Hours: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Café Hours: 11:00am – 2:00pm

The Factory Store + Café
462 Lane Drive
Florence, Alabama 35630

Call us: +1.256.760.1090 or email office (at)

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Music has always been an integral part of The Shoals. We are placed along the banks of what the native people have long called, “the river that sings.” W.C. Handy, The Father of the Blues, was born here; legendary producer and founder of Sun Records, Sam Phillips, is also from The Shoals. So, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the influential style of music known as the Muscle Shoals Sound emerged from this same musically rich place.

Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, we had an abstract idea of the big sounds being produced all around us—but no one ever made a fuss about it. Sure, our neighbors made music for a living, but those neighbors certainly weren’t famous, were they? (Were they?) And so it wasn’t until years later that many in our community began to understand exactly what was happening around us while we were growing up.


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Inspiration: where does it come from?  That’s one of the most asked questions of designers and artists.

The answer is complicated and breathtakingly simple: inspiration is right in front of us. It comes to us over the airwaves, through the endless streams of data we consume, and is found on deserted street corners.

The exploding zero graphic above (on the left-hand side) landed on my desktop sometime last year and made us think about exploding our own preconceptions and also about the number zero—the number of infinite possibilities.

This manipulation of type that inspired our entire team was created by Jack Crossing. Design on paper translated to fabric, thread, beads, and sequins.

DIY Exploding Zero T-shirt is shown here with our sarong (simply a 36” x 72” rectangle of lightweight cotton jersey fabric cut lengthwise with the grain) and Natalie’s vintage Helmut Lang shoes (in pink) circa Spring/Summer 2000.

Make your own exploding zero project following the instructions below, or purchase our t-shirt DIY Kit from The School of Making.

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The process of canning and preserving is just one of the “living arts” that we are thrilled to see making a comeback. This year at The Factory Café, we have set ourselves the goal to “put-up” as much of the bounty of summer as we possibly can. (Not to mention my plans for my own backyard.) Our kitchen staff is constantly searching for ways to further source organic and local ingredients. Part of that solution means growing herbs, tomatoes, and other vegetables on-site; canning as much locally grown produce is another.

Last summer we made my Gram Perkins’ recipe for 14-Day Pickles for our café Egg Salad and, unfortunately, ran out of pickles by November. This coming summer we plan to, well, make better plans.

We are starting with the canning calendar below to save our harvest at its peak and preserve only the freshest garden fare. (Please note, the calendar below is tailored for the Southeastern U.S., but you can look for more specific information on your region or zone on The Old Farmer’s Almanac website.)

Find more information and resources on home canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. We also recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life for further inspiration.

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