From far away, Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s large-scale artworks take on the appearance of textiles and tapestries with patterns resembling those a master weaver might create. But upon closer inspection, the poignant pieces are actually constructed with simple bottle tops connected by copper wire. Flattened then stitched, their unique assembly allows the works to move, flow, and take almost any shape. They speak volumes about El Anatsui’s education and home.
This month’s Desktop of the Month features our Spiral embroidery technique from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Due to its textural quality, I think the Spiral is one of the most beautiful techniques that we use here at Alabama Chanin. Those that wear garments embellished with this simple (but time consuming) embroidery treatment often remark that perfect strangers ask to touch their garments. While you can’t touch this image, it gives you a perfect illustration of what it might be like to touch and be touched.
A high-resolution photograph for use as your computer desktop background is now available as a download in our Resources section.
Come back this Thursday for our DIY Spiral Embroidered Coffee Cozies (although I wish it was for my DIY Spirals Couch).
Last month we launched our online class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery on Craftsy, along with our DIY Kit for the class, which includes all fabric, thread and paint needed. Originally we offered only one colorway for this project – Italian Plum #12536, shown above. We now have ten additional colorways from which to choose.
Sign up for Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery with Natalie to learn techniques on completing the project and choose your colorway for the Craftsy Bundle here. Bookmark this post for reference on colorway details and paint recipes for your project.
There are a growing number of programs tailored to adults in the workforce who want to advance their careers or earn a degree. These days, it’s not unheard of for someone to earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree online. There are also entirely new platforms emerging, called MOOCs, or massive open online courses. The expectation is that these new platforms for learning are going to change online learning, opening up opportunities to those who thought they’d never have the chance to further their education. While many of these courses offer no credits, the demand for them isn’t waning. People are looking for outlets to learn – simply for the sake of personal growth.
The trend is expanding into fields outside of higher education. Google search or visit YouTube and you will find an incredible number of courses in all imaginable subjects. Some courses are free; others require a fee or subscription. Still, the possibility of learning something – a skill, a subject, a language – all in your living room has a certain appeal to those of us who can’t imagine the thought of sitting in a classroom again. These classes can be taken on your time, fit between loads of laundry or after the kids have gone to bed. This time, it’s perfectly acceptable to go to class in your pajamas.
Fit is by far one of the hardest subjects to address within the realm of manufacturing. There are just so many different body types that it would be near impossible for one manufacturer to address EVERY type in one product—and often times in one line. The most basic body shapes range from round to pear, petite to lean, and every shape in between. When you start to do the math and include XXS – XXL, you come up with a number of patterns that reaches to the Nth power. When you begin to add categories such as Juniors and Misses, it becomes staggering.
Entire classes in design schools and universities around the world spend semesters working on streamlining and finding solutions for fit issues. Body scanners can now take perfect measurements of your body and supposedly create a jean that is perfect for your shape. I find that hard to believe, but based on the shape I have carried with me my entire life, I don’t really care for pants that much anyway.
Perhaps we too often think of women in the kitchen as just that: women (moms, wives) in the home kitchen, baking cookies and making dinner for their families. Whether this is because the “Chef” title has been dominated for so many years by men, or if it’s because we – those of us in the dining room, far away from the heat and toil of the galley – simply don’t think about how many, if any, women are actually preparing our meal, is up for debate (though it’s probably a little of both). Thank you to Charlotte Druckman for bridging an important industry conversation to us laymen and laywomen. There are not enough women in professional kitchens. Druckman’s cerebral, meticulously researched work, Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen highlights some of the problems and how (some) of this is changing today.
Women are the minority in most professional kitchens, often the only female on a crew of many. Professional cooking is a difficult, physical job with long hours, weekends and holidays dedicated to work in a very hot environment. It’s more than a job. It’s a lifestyle. As in many professions, women have to make choices between work and family. Societal demands and family responsibilities sometimes curtail how a woman can CHOOSE to do her job. Additionally, women are often subject to sexual harassment, intimidation, and unfair standards—and at times these situations go unobserved and unchecked in the late night environment that surrounds this industry.
We recently started a conversation on Real Women and fashion with Sara’s post “Too Fat For Fashion,” and your response has been lively, evocative and challenging. As we prepared to launch an extended ready-to-wear Basics section on our Alabama Chanin website, we found ourselves thinking more carefully about how our pieces fit different shapes, how they can be adjusted and streamlined for individual figures, and how many of our pieces flatter many body types.
Start with the material. By using 100% organic cotton jersey, we have given our collection a head start on both comfort and individualized fit. Jersey, by nature, has a generous stretch, but also memory. One member on our Alabama Chanin team loves the Alabama Corset because when she hangs it up after wearing she can still see the silhouette of her body in the fabric. It makes her feel as though the top was made especially for her.
As a small business with an artisan-based production system, we are aware that Alabama Chanin is unique in the way that we create our products. We would not exist without the skill and hard work of our artisans. Our cottage industry-style method of production is a subject of interest at many trunk shows, workshops, and forums. We are proud of what we have accomplished as a company and proud that we have been able to keep our manufacturing local. We are also excited to see a trend emerging among other small companies: DIY Manufacturing.
We recently learned about the work of Amor Muñoz in a New York Times article. Muñoz creates a specialized form of electronic textile and seeks her workforce by pedaling down the streets of Mexico City shouting through a megaphone. She has created a “maquiladora,” or factory that pays workers roughly the same as American minimum wage – well over the average rate of pay in Mexico. “It’s about community,” Ms. Muñoz said. “I’m interested in sharing the experience of art.” She wants to create art, but she wants to improve the rate of compensation for workers. This strategy runs counteractive to government agents’ strategy of keeping wages low to make Mexico competitive with China when manufacturing contracts are being signed.
“Change the pen and change the ink. Change the way you talk and think.” – #37 of 50: a love letter to change came in the mail from our friend, builder, and artist A.J. Mason.
Couching is another age-old technique that we employ over, and over again as a design practice at Alabama Chanin.
From page 110 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:
“At Alabama Chanin, we use the term couching to describe a form of appliqué in which cotton jersey ropes are appliquéd to a base fabric with a parallel whipstitch, following a design stenciled on the fabric.”
As one of our advanced techniques, couching requires a steady hand and thoughtful eye to hold the fabric into position as you sew. Continue reading