DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: SATIN STAR

In conjunction with our Star stencil post today for DIY Thursday, we are featuring our Satin Stars fabric from page 129 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design as our March Desktop of the Month.

This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background, is now available to download from our Resource Downloads page.
xoNatalie

DIY THURSDAY: STAR STENCIL

The word “star,” with its many meanings, occupies several places in my mind (and the universe):

First, a star is simply a shape- the most common being five-pointed. As I was taught in geometry class, it is constructed from points, proportions, and folds. Seen in patriotic prints of the 1960s and 70s, its contour was fitting with the bold, geometric patterns of the time. Fifty of these shapes are on the American flag, each representing a state and the collection of stars symbolizing our country as a whole.

While designing and constructing quilts, I’ve learned that a quilt’s geometry is systematic. Sewing together the triangular and diamond-shaped puzzle pieces to make each polygon requires great planning and thought. This geometry is apparent in our Indigo Star Quilt, and in the repeated shapes of the Flag Quilt.

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MUSHROOMS + FERNS

Meet Kristy – friend, caterer for our Weekend Workshops @ The Factory, and the newest contributor to this blog. I love the symbiotic relationship between the ferns and the mushrooms – along with Kristy’s recipe. Enjoy!
xoNatalie

On a visit to the Florence/Lauderdale County Farmers’ Market last fall, I was taken by the beautiful shiitake mushrooms offered by one of the vendors. ”These are grown locally? Wow!“ was my initial thought, and that was before I tasted them. The mushrooms were not only beautiful, but deliciously earthy and some of the tastiest I’ve ever tried.

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A ROUND BUSINESS MODEL

While working on some press and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages this last month, I came across some texts that date back across the decade of Alabama Chanin. In reading and going over some of these texts, I thought it would be a good series to share on our Sustainable Design Tuesdays. Here is one of those texts about building a round company:

My goal with building designs – as I have built my company – is to make a sphere.  I strive to create a well-rounded, (w)holistic company that revolves around a central theme: sustainability of culture, environment, and community.

It has been over a decade since I started working on the company that Alabama Chanin has become today and I am often asked how I had the foresight to start a company based on the principles of sustainability and Slow Design. To this comment, I laughingly reply that I never intended to start a sustainable design company; I simply stumbled into it like the fool falling off the cliff. When I cut up those first t-shirts, I was doing something that I felt driven to do. I didn’t think of those garments as the basis of a business; they were simply pieces of clothing I wanted to wear and, perhaps more importantly, make. However, when I look back today, it all feels like a seamless and directed adventure into the realms of becoming a sustainable designer and manufacturer.

I am often invited to speak about this process and our resulting business model, as it has developed into an unusual one. However, truth be told, I have simply taken inspiration for our model from farmers and strive to build a zero waste company where the results of one production process become the fuel for another.

Our primary work is the business of designing and making clothing. And whether a dress calls for recycled t-shirts or locally grown, certified organic cotton, the designing and making of that product spurs our model. It was developed not by intention, but through process.

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CONGRATULATIONS + THANK YOU

Congratulations are due today to Chris Hastings, Rob McDaniel, and Sedesh Boodram for championing last night’s Iron Chef America. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Chris over the last few years and sharing all that the Southern Foodways Alliance holds common for us. Chris, chef and co-owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club, is a guest speaker at many events across the South and is the Alabama spokesperson for Wild American Shrimp. A giant round of applause for all that Chris does – aside from winning Iron Chef.

And another round of applause for Rob – the gracious host of our One-Day Retreat at The SpringHouse Restaurant this past January. We ate beautifully that weekend- shrimp and grits with cured bacon, miniature fried sweet potato pies, and a sampling of classic Southern dishes from SpringHouse’s menu.

And, finally, congratulations are in order today for Octavia Spencer. Originally from Montgomery, Octavia won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar last night for her role in The Help. In her acceptance speech, she first thanked her family- then the state of Alabama. Yes, Alabama love…

FERN STENCIL

Nature and flowers are often a source of inspiration for my pattern designs, which is evident in their titles: Climbing Daisy, Anna’s Garden, and Kristina’s Rose, to name a few. I simply find Mother Nature’s curvaceous forms and shapes alluring.

I look for pattern inspirations everywhere I go, and most often find them when gazing out of my kitchen window. Ferns, such a strong presence in the South, have always found their place either hanging on the front porch, or perched on a pedestal in many a home. With our unusual weather in Alabama, I’ve watched this year’s ferns move along rather quickly; their early appearance takes my mind back to the time when I was fervently working on my new book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

This book introduces the Beaded Fern Fabric that has been a part of our Collection over the years. While the fern isn’t quite a flower (I believe it fits more into the ‘spore’ category), I still find it to be an elegant decorative element, one that has been a staple in fashion history.

Historically, the fern motif dates all the way back to the ancient Egyptians. Ferns became incredibly popular during the Victorian Era in Britain, when botanists began going out into the field to further their research. Fern Fever- they called it. During this time, artists frequently replicated the fern motif in pottery, glass, textiles, and sculpture. Back in August, Garden & Gun highlighted the trend, which is making yet another comeback in modern fashion.

When designing, I think about the ebb and flow of organic patterns, how they will translate onto the garments, and if the finished product will retain a natural beauty as our bodies move in those garments. Looking at our beaded fern embellishment, I can almost see the wispy leaves dancing.

Our Beaded Fern fabric below has a particularly organic, but elegant feel and is among our clients’ favorites. We choose to use a satin stitch and incorporate chop or seed beads. To experiment with this design yourself, download the Fern stencil from our Resources page or purchase a mylar Fern stencil from our website.

 

THE HEART: OLIVIA SHERIF

Sometimes, the hectic nature of running Alabama Chanin makes me feel that we are all running at a frantic pace. I’ll be answering a ringing phone, hurriedly returning emails, picking up Maggie from school – then, I’ll glance up and notice that our Production Department is completely calm. They are moving fluidly along, peacefully and happily making, sewing, cutting, doing. This serene productivity comes to us through our Studio Directress, Diane Hall, and now, Olivia Sherif, who is following in Diane’s footsteps.

Olivia came to Alabama Chanin at just the right time and set about making herself indispensable almost immediately. You see, when Diane turned in her five-year notice, I experienced a not-so-slight panic (along with a few tears). Continue reading

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DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: CLIMBING DAISY

Melanie – my editor – recently asked if I would send her a hi-resolution photograph of one of our embellished fabrics that she could use for her computer desktop background.  In talking about this simple act, we decided it would be nice to share these photographs with everyone.

Thus was born our Desktop of the Month series. Each month, a different photograph will be available to download from our Resource Downloads page, which you can use as your desktop background. Each Desktop of the Month will be available for one calendar year, when we replace it with a new image for the current year. Though we only have one week left in the month of February, we decided to start early (or late) and include our ribbon embroidered Climbing Daisy, which was featured in our Cotton Ribbon post today.

xoNatalie

 

DIY THURSDAY: COTTON TAPE

Cotton-Ribbon-(1)-WIn New York’s Garment District, there are two stores that take the prize for the most comprehensive selection of embroidery ribbons: Mokuba Co., Ltd and Tinsel Trading Company. At Alabama Chanin, we happen to purchase the cotton tape that we use for embroidery from Mokuba, who supplies us with gorgeous ribbons and other notions made in Japan. I have visited Mokuba many times in search of the perfect ribbons and always found a more than exquisite selection.

This week for DIY Thursday, we would like to share instructions on the ribbon embroidery used as an embellishment in our newest book. In Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, we introduce ribbon embroidery with 100% Cotton Tape as a beautiful way to add delicate dimension to your projects and garments. (Color card available here.) We have been using this technique since 2002, when I began using ribbon embroidery for our collections. This ribbon creates a sophisticated, old-world effect and gives the garment a unique sculptural quality. Below, we share the steps to create this detail, using the Climbing Daisy stencil.

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COFFEE 101

Whenever I meet someone, the first thing that usually comes out of their mouth is, “You’re the girl that made me coffee that time.” And as long as that statement is followed by, “It was the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had,” I am a happy girl. I had 6 years of coffee-slinging under my belt before laying down the steam wand and picking up a sewing needle, so I’ve learned a few things about this “black gold” that so many find themselves indulging in on a daily basis.

People that love coffee tend to be among my favorite people – kindred spirits, of sorts. Benjamin Franklin stated that, “Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.” I’m one of those that not only loves coffee as a hot beverage, but I also love the entire ritual of it all; it’s more than just a drink, it’s an experience: the selection of the perfect coffee bean, the method you utilize to brew, and your additions or tweaks that make your coffee the perfect enhancement to a normal day. I may even enjoy making coffee more than I like drinking it. Continue reading

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