DIY MEN’S CHECK T-SHIRT

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Our newest men’s DIY Kit features the Check, our 2014 Stencil of the Year. The shirt is shown here worked in reverse appliqué, but there are various ways to work this stencil, including negative reverse appliqué and outside reverse appliqué, along with a variety of other techniques found in the Alabama Chanin Studio Book series.

The body of the shirt is our popular men’s classic T-shirt which has long been a unisex favorite. However, this top can be easily adapted to a women’s T-shirt – pattern and instructions for which are found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

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BLOOD ORANGE POMEGRANATE COCKTAIL

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Ever since I read about classic Southern drinks in the latest issue of Garden & Gun, I’ve been craving a crisp, refreshing cocktail. We’ve shared some grenadine-inspired libations before and, in keeping with that theme (and continuing our love affair with Jack Rudy’s Small Batch Grenadine), we created a blood orange-infused pomegranate cocktail.

Boasting a deep and rich citrusy flavor, blood oranges are considered to be among the finest dessert oranges in the world and are at their seasonal peak right now. These oranges are quite sought after by most bartenders—they are only ripe for a few months each year. The perfect pairing with a range of spirits, we chose to mix ours with Cathead Vodka.

Tip: Blood oranges will only last a couple of days at room temperature, so we suggest refrigerating them; they will last up to two weeks that way.
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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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TWO-HOUR WORKSHOP + AFTERNOON TEA

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Our first workshop of the year is this Friday at The Factory in Florence. It’s not too late to register and spend the afternoon with Natalie and the Alabama Chanin team. Registration closes at noon on Wednesday, February 26.

This workshop is suited to beginner and experienced sewers alike. Work with Natalie and our Alabama Chanin DIY Kits to create a project from our Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. DIY Kit options for this workshop include one of the following projects: scarf, T-shirt, set of four tea towels, set of four placemats, baby blanket, onesie, apron, or journal.

After the workshop, join us in The Factory Café for Afternoon Tea (a selection of gourmet sandwiches, savory pastries, Southern-inspired sweets, and an assortment of teas and coffees). The cost of the workshop includes materials, instruction, afternoon tea, stories, and laughter.

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THE FACTORY | THIS WEEK 2.24.2014 – 2.28.2014

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“We are celebrating a generation of makers. We are reshaping how people consume and interpret the handmade. I want to remind people that craft is what you make it… It is a labor of love, appreciation, and respect.”
–Faythe Levine, Handmade Nation

At Alabama Chanin, we like to describe ourselves as makers and educators, working to elevate and merge design, craft, and fashion. We hope to see you this week at The Factory and that you may be inspired to create something yourself…
xoNatalie

Here is what we have going on at The Factory Store + Café this week, Monday, February 24 – Friday, February 28:

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This week, we are having an in-store special on stenciled fat eighths. Come browse our Studio Style DIY section, and receive a 15% discount on our selection of fat eighths—9” x 20” pieces from our 100% organic cotton jersey. They are perfect for quilting, appliqué, placement reverse appliqué, and small projects.

Also, there is still time to sign up for our Two-Hour Workshop + Afternoon Tea, happening this Friday at The Factory.
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HEIRLOOM #1: GRAM PERKINS’ BLANKET

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Alabama Chanin has always aimed to make products that will last a lifetime – even multiple lifetimes. We create things that are both beautiful and durable and we embrace the ideas of Slow Design. But, once upon a time, Slow Design did not exist as a theory or a process; rather, it was simply how things were made. Those that were fluent in “The Living Arts” knew how to make things – food, clothing, shelter, etc. – and they didn’t want to make them more than once, unless they had to. Durability was necessity. Craftsmen and women were born out of requirement. But, often those craftsmen became so skilled that their products were, quite simply, art. Their creations that remain behind and are passed along—heirlooms—still hold meaning.

For some, the word “heirloom” brings to mind a valuable painting or, perhaps, an antique necklace. Certainly both of those things qualify; but, as part of a new series on the Journal, we want to highlight some of our own personal heirlooms – things that are valuable to us on a personal level, regardless of their financial value. As always, we want to celebrate the things that last, the things that we choose to keep in our lives, the things that we assign meaning to, on a personal level.

From Natalie:

The blanket above rested on an upstairs bed at my Grandmother Perkins’s—called Gram Perkins—house for as long as I can remember. In my mind, it belonged to my uncle, but I’m not absolutely sure. The upstairs of my grandparents’ home was completed when my mother was already in high school (although they had lived in the house for many years, starting in the basement and building up as they could afford).  In the upstairs, there were rooms for each of the four children. The older children were already in college by the time it was finished, so my uncle, the youngest sibling, spent the most time in the space and, though all of the bedrooms were filled with things, his room felt the least “empty.”

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DKNY VOGUE PATTERN + AN ALABAMA CHANIN DIY DRESS

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Vogue designer patterns, which are available to all at reasonable prices, are excellent examples of resources contributing to and encouraging the DIY opportunities in modern fashion. The existence and availability of such resources help us to continue our ongoing conversation on Design, Craft, and Fashion and how they intersect.

As part of our ongoing series adapting open-source designer patterns using Alabama Chanin techniques, we selected a dress from DKNY—Donna Karan New York—the mainline label for the Donna Karan brand. I’ve written before about the connection I have with Donna Karan as a designer and we’ve previously featured another of her Vogue patterns as part of this DIY series.

This modern shift dress pattern is flattering on all body types, simple enough for beginners, and can be easily accessorized and embellished. We made both a Basic version, as well as an embellished version, featuring the Check pattern, our Stencil of the Year.

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CHICKEN STEW

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As a Southerner and a cook, I often find myself included in lively debates about regional cuisine, long-winded discussions of the dozens of types of barbecue preparations, cornbread recipe swaps, or conversations on the perfect biscuit dough. Those of us who love food treasure the dishes we were raised eating and love to swap recipes and tips.

In my travels, I have done my fair share of boasting about my hometown’s specialties. One dish that I speak of frequently, that is such a big component of The Shoals’ local food culture, is chicken stew. And almost every time I mention it (outside of my home region), no one else in the room seems to know quite what I’m describing.

“Is it like a vegetable soup?” Not exactly. “A Brunswick stew?” Hmm. Not really.

So, I gradually came to understand that this dish—that was as ubiquitous to every neighborhood kitchen as cornbread or tea—wasn’t a staple meal for the rest of the world. In fact, it really doesn’t exist much outside of our small region of the Tennessee Valley.

Truthfully, the origins of chicken stew cannot be traced. And, no one can explain exactly why it is so specific to this region. I remember being told by an aunt that, once upon a time, chickens were kept for the eggs they produced. By the time a family killed a chicken for its meat, it was a “tough old bird,” only suitable for stews and other slow-cooked dishes. As with many rural households, you made the most of what you had and, logically, a stew fed more mouths than one fried chicken. Most likely, as with most regional foods, the recipe was created when poverty crossed paths with farmers, native people, and West African-style dishes. The result, in this case, is a dish that’s similar to existing recipes but that remains explicitly exclusive to one place.
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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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ADVICE ON SEWING, FROM 1949

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Prepare yourself mentally for sewing. Think about what you are going to do… Never approach sewing with a sigh or lackadaisically. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates.

Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing. When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Put on a clean dress. Keep a little bag full of French chalk near your sewing machine to dust your fingers at intervals. Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on. If you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home, and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing.

Sent from our friend and fellow sewist Rosanne Cash—who always looks absolutely gorgeous no matter what she does. And, after reading, our friend Sara recommends following all of the advice so generously given, but to “keep a little bag full of French fries” nearby, instead of the recommended French chalk.