STITCH MAGIC + TEA TOWELS

The whimsical fabric creations of Stitch Magic are simply breath-taking. Alison takes inspiration from Colette Wolff’s sewing fetish book The Art of Manipulating Fabric, giving a contemporary spin to twenty beautiful projects, ranging from home decor to fashion accessories. Machine sewn projects include fabric necklaces with dainty button closures and hand embellished egg cozies that are two of our favorites.

We combined our hand-sewing techniques with simple pin tucks from page 58 and quilting from page 82 to make these tea towels using the pattern from page 91 of Alabama Stitch Book and our 100% organic cotton jersey in medium-weight (colors Sand and Doeskin).

My daughter loves to use these tea towels for napkins, as a bib to cover her school clothes when eating breakfast (we use a wooden clothespin to hold two corners behind her neck) and she takes one to school in her lunch box to use as her own personal placemat.  She started kindergarten last Thursday and I think I will be making a lot of these tea towels in the coming year! Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

DETOX UPDATE

I felt reluctant to continue writing about my detox after the first post as I thought that it could be, frankly, a bit boring. Each of us has visited a site where the writer has a fondness to overshare about their eating habits and diet: each morsel eaten, photos of unmentionable detox attributes, things that we really don’t want to know – way too much information. I don’t want to be that person.

However, I was surprised over the last week to receive emails, phone calls and questions from friends, and friends of friends asking about my progress. What I found was that there are people who genuinely want to know how it is going, how I feel, and if I have made progress.

If you are one of those people who really does NOT want to know, please look the other way, skip this post and forgive me. I won’t be offended.

I think that the crux of the matter is this:  we all have things about ourselves that we want to change.  And however difficult those changes might prove, they are harder in the “thinking about them” than they are in the doing. So we get inspiration for making our own changes where we can and sometimes look to others for inspiration on our own path. Hopefully, this update inspires courage to change and not just a bit of eye-rolling!

My uncle George used to say that the hardest part of running each morning was “tying his shoes.” On detox day seventeen, I have to agree. I put off a detox for years (literally).  There are myriad excuses:  can’t live without my morning coffee, my evening beer, wine, cocktail, my bread and olive oil, my _____ (fill in the blank).  Today, I am strangely elated to report that I don’t really miss any of those things.  The hardest part was actually starting and the withdrawal from those luscious, delicious, beautiful things.

I did continue to document my progress in short snippets – which you find below.  I want to say upfront that I would urge anyone attempting a similar cleanse to taper off and go slowly into the process rather that taking my lead to go cold turkey.

All the books present it, doctors sternly recommend it, and everyone you talk to is in agreement: phase out toxins, phase in the detox.  Why I chose to approach it this way, I cannot say – perhaps I threw caution to the wind?  I am stubborn?  I didn’t have time? (I chose a time when my daughter would be out-of-town.) Perhaps it was the only way I could have done it? Whatever the excuse, I don’t recommend it! Don’t do it… employ moderation.  (A theme I have spent my life trying to learn.)

All this being said, I am happy to report that I did survive (regardless of the pain of Day 6).  I am still here and I am still at it.

We left off at Day 5:

Day 6 – If I hit the wall on day three, the wall fell today.  More like the dam broke.  Sick. Sick. Sick.  I see myself as a healthy person, I grow our food, I cook at home, I eat organic. How could my body be so sick? Complete breakdown after the dam broke, I go to bed and start to feel better. I am alive. I sit very still.  I meditate.

Day 7 – Feeling better this morning.  And I mean better than before I started the detox. I write lunch on my calendar and pledge to take the time to prepare, sit and eat each day (well, at least three days a week). I breathe. Pilates feels good.

Day 8 – I tell my friend Angie that I am actually beginning to enjoy cooking in this new way.  Trying new combinations of smoothies. Meals without wheat.  A week ago I thought I could never live without coffee, wine, bread and cheese – today a quinoa salad with baked chicken for lunch is delicious. (These recipes helped so much.)

Day 9 – High energy.  First day since I started detox that I am not hungry. I feel energized and want to smile at the whole world. No one really notices the new me – except me. Sigh.

Day 10 – Ditto.

Day 11 – Ditto – High energy seems to be becoming a way of life…

Day 12 – I break down, break out and have a “wild” day:  A few pita chips with my salad, and a frozen yoghurt at night. I feel great and I am not ashamed. My girlfriend laughs that my “wild day” has certainly evolved (can’t imagine what she might be referring to).

Day 13 – I wake up and feel like I want to make a plan for life. I have lost 8 more pounds.

Day 14 – Finally, friends start to notice that I am standing up straighter, feeling better, and have more energy.  They ask what I have been doing and I explain my detox/acupuncture/Pilates combo.  I haven’t had a headache since the third day and three girlfriends commit to joining me in detox.  I urge them to taper off and ease in. We make a plan to go “hard core” in two weeks.

Day 15 – I ease off the detox “program” and feel like a whole new world and way to look at food is beginning. I have a plan.  I will continue to ease off the detox for the next two weeks but, I want do the full three-week detox with friends – partners.  So, I am easing off but starting again – from the beginning.  However, this time without the withdrawal symptoms – at least they will not be as severe.

I have a good day that includes a visit to my favorite Mexican restaurant in celebration of my daughter’s first day at kindergarten – it includes a salad and a margarita. Two weeks ahead to learn what feels good to my body and what doesn’t. I make the “Natalie Plan” which is a mixture of eating from my garden, the farmers market, Clean, Fat Flush and “The Maggie” (my daughter’s plan).

Day 16 – I wake up each morning energized – without my morning latte (or 3).  I head to the farmers market and buy a load of fruit to freeze for my morning smoothies – seems to make it easier for me and the smoothies become like ice cream.  I will work in the studio for a while and then head home for my planned, healthy and relaxing lunch. There will always be a few “treats” included in my day, but they feel like just that – “treats.”  I will savor each and every one.

I purchase Canyon Ranch: Nourish which my friend Kay recommends.

I vow to cook more. I will celebrate.

Thank you for all the well-wishes, emails, phone calls, recipes, ideas, and support along the way,
xoNatalie

ONE WOMAN’S TESTAMENT TO THREAD AND NEEDLE

This is my first installment of a new bi-weekly fashion column for EcoSalon. Material Witness will offers my perspective on the fashion industry, textile history and what happens when love for community trumps all.

From EcoSalon – August 12, 2011

ONE WOMAN’S TESTAMENT TO THREAD AND NEEDLE

As a designer and entrepreneur in the fashion industry, it is a bit uncommon that I am also an author. A few weeks ago I turned in the very last edits to my third book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Truth be told, in my younger, bolder, high school days, I fancied myself an aspiring writer. I imagined traveling the globe with pen in hand, creating change at every turn. I fantasized leisurely lunches at Paris cafés. I subscribed to magazines; I was an avid reader. My only hindrance in achieving my dreams was that I was a rather lazy student and proper usage of English grammar and punctuation escaped me. Even today, the comma splice can present problems. So, it is a bit exciting, humbling, and, frankly, scary that I have been so graciously asked to contribute as a bi-weekly columnist at EcoSalon.

While I have had the opportunity to lunch in places like Paris over the years, I haven’t quite traveled the globe with pen in hand yet, though circumstances always change. These books I have written aren’t the next great American novel, they’re craft books. They’re books that teach the time-honored, hand-sewing techniques that are the basis of my fashion company, Alabama Chanin. The books are simply guides that speak to a sustainable lifestyle that is at the core of my work. I want to make that lifestyle available to all.

The decision to open-source Alabama Chanin for individuals through our books is not common in the fashion world, in an industry that is more accustomed to secrecy. However, you have to look at the whole of the picture to understand why sustainable designers do what we do.

My personal work is expensive because it is organic, custom-dyed cotton jersey that is cut, painted, sewn, and embellished completely by hand in America with skilled artisans who set a fair price for their work. Over the years, I heard rumblings in the media of my work being “elitist,” and “inaccessible” because of its price. And while our collections have been deemed “couture,” we run our business in the most down-to-earth way from a small community in North Alabama. Sustainability – both ecological and cultural – has defined our growth from the very beginning and “elitist” would actually be the antithesis of who we are.

When the thought of sharing our techniques and patterns to individual users arose, I understood that this could both sustain the needlework traditions that our company celebrates while making our work available to many more people. The concept of open-sourcing seemed a way to make our products more accessible.

Timing is everything and to understand my decision it’s important to understand the period in which I was working. As all of this was unfolding in 2003, open-sourcing was a new idea. Wired Magazine wrote about and provided music tracks for sampling that were free reign for anyone who had the desire to use them. The internet was spreading like fire and for the first time, vast amounts of information was, almost literally, at our fingertips. Books like The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson (on my required reading list), about the concept of selling less of more were being heatedly discussed. The world of business was changing and it seemed to me that sharing traditions that I did not invent was not only the right thing to do but the modern way to approach my business.

Of course, there were naysayers who firmly believed that, by openly sharing, I was putting the nails in my own coffin. They thought that once our “trade secrets” were common knowledge, no one would purchase our couture garments. Honestly, I was fearful when Alabama Stitch Book landed on the shelves around February 2008. However, the book sold well and, more importantly, interest in our couture collections continued to grow. My fears proved groundless. But then, isn’t that the way it usually goes?

Readers who work with the techniques described in the books now tell us that they understand not only why our garments cost so much but why they are worth so much. At the same time, a completely new part of our business has burgeoned. We now sell the supplies needed to make our designs (organic cotton jersey, thread, stencils, fabric paint, beads, and project kits) via the internet and host hands-on workshops both in our studio in Florence, Alabama, and around the country.

So, all of this information is the story of how a feeling to do what is right – not perhaps what was right for my industry – changed my business and my life. I am not sitting in too many Paris cafes these days. But then, I have a five year old daughter and I imagine that she and I will have plenty of time for that together. I do write a lot these days – revisiting my younger, bolder, high school dreams – and, it seems that I am traveling the world, pen (or computer and camera) in hand and trying to make a difference. On this journey, I find it inspiring to start conversations about life, living and, of course, fashion.

The thing about fashion is this: I want to OWN my clothing on all levels – just like I want to own my life. I want to cut it up, sew it back, and make it MINE. I want a skirt I buy to make it through the first wash and a hundred more.  I want to take the time to make decisions about what I choose to put on my body with the same care that I decide what I put in my body.  I’m hopeful that you feel the same way. In fact, I want to know more about you and hope to start a conversation next time by answering ten reader inspired questions – fashion industry or otherwise.

 

 

ECO SALON + ALABAMA CHANIN = FRIDAY LOVE

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Eco Salon*, it is my sincere pleasure to introduce you to this wonderful site. You will find me there (along with a barrage of incredible content) starting tomorrow, and every other Friday until…

Please take a moment to visit and say hello while we turn our lens to fashion, life, and living.

Let Eco Salon know that Alabama sent you by leaving a comment on their Facebook Page and ours today and you will be automatically entered for a chance to win a one-of-a-kind, hand-sewn journal cover with a Moleskine notebook. We’ll pick a winner later today-good luck!

Still not convinced?

Here’s a bit more from the Source:

Eco Salon is the conscious culture and fashion website.

Welcome to the place for modern minds with hearts on fire. We celebrate, we criticize. We cover what’s now – and what’s next – in fashion, culture, shelter, food, and sex. As the #1 website for conscious women, Eco Salon is leading the way to a more holistic definition of green. Influencers read us. Tastemakers read us. Women love us. (And we love you.) Our motto: Have a heart.

See you there tomorrow!
xo Natalie

* EcoSalon ceased publishing in October 2012, after 4 years of existence. We value the partnership we had with them and wish everyone involved a happy future.

COME HOME TO ME SOMEDAY

I have several of these Alabama Chanin zipper bags to hold pens and pencils, small electronics, sewing supplies, and cosmetics. But, my daughter can think of a million (very important) things that need a bag (hair bows, toy ponies, pennies, you name it).

Over the years, I have misplaced so many bags that I started customizing each bag with my contact information so that kind souls may help my beautiful bags come back to me.  Works like a charm.

100% Organic Cotton Canvas  + Made in the USA.  Permanent markers for customization included with every purchase made before August 31, 2011.

Give us a shout out in the comments below by August 31st for a chance to win this (already)  customized bag  for your very own.

TEAM CORSET

My son Zach’s lacrosse shirt from high school was re-fashioned following the pattern and instructions from Alabama Stitch Book.

I am not sure if that stain is blood or juice and I prefer not to know.

Choose your team and get started.

This shirt was constructed many years ago using a beaded stitch of my own invention (although I am sure that it has been done before!):

Thread your needle, love your thread and tie off with a double knot.  Insert needle through either side of pinned seam, pull through to other side and add one bugle bead.  Take one “stab” stitch and bring needle back through to your beginning side.  Make one whip stitch over the seam allowance, coming back to the same side.  Add one bugle bead and take one “stab stitch” bringing your needle through to the opposite side of your seam.  Add bead and repeat.

Post pictures of your Team Corset to our Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/VisitAlabamaChanin

 

THE END OF SUMMER

The school year starts early here in Alabama.  Maggie and I are already packing her backpack, organizing outfits and preparing for kindergarten this week (that is really hard for me to grasp).  Our dear friend and babysitter – Briana – is heading to college.  The teachers are preparing their classrooms for the barrage of eager students who are headed their way. And I can’t believe that summer is over (although it feels about 120 degrees outside).

Over the next few days, we will share some projects to get us in the mood for school.

(Truth be told, I really disliked school but loved university. If I had more time, I would start working on a Master’s Degree today.  Do three books count as a dissertation?)

Share a story about a first day at school (or your dissertation) for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate for our STUDIO STYLE DIY SHOP. Sweepstake ends August 21, 2011.

HAVE THREAD WILL TRAVEL

At times my schedule can seem a bit daunting, but I feel nothing but ready for the upcoming months.

Our Events Calendar is a sight to behold – I can barely contain my excitement at the thought of connecting with friends at Hello Etsy in Berlin;  then on to Marfa, Texas for a workshop and trunk-show, and, if the stars align, a round of drinks with some soul-sisters I haven’t seen in ages.

Maybe the Alabama heat has driven me mad,  perhaps it’s the building anticipation of overdue reunions, or quite possibly it’s the energy surge that comes with over a week of good behavior (Detox day 10!) but I’m ready for adventure…

Alabama Chanin is hitting the road.

Everyone in our studio seems to be in agreement: It’s time to see the sights and make some house calls (and a few new friends). If you or yours are interested in hosting an event just contact our studio; 15 participants and a little notice are all we require.

P.S.: A company favorite – our One-Day Workshop @ the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley – is now open for registration.

CUT-UP WATERMELON SALAD

When our good friend Kristy brought this amazing dish to our last weekend workshop, I instantly knew it would become a summer staple in my kitchen. The sweetness of the watermelon  balances perfectly with the acidity of the tomatoes, and the hint of mint makes it extra refreshing on hot day.

Everyone was asking for the recipe. Not very much to it:

Cut-up watermelon, remove seeds (I used about a quarter of a watermelon)
Diced tomato, seeds removed (I used two medium tomatoes)
Spinach or other green
Feta (as much as you’d like)
Mint (4 sprigs, stems removed and leaves chopped)
A drizzle of olive oil
Pepper

Let everything reach room temperature (to bring out the flavors) except for the watermelon and added the chilled watermelon at the end just before serving.

(And leave out the feta cheese if you are – like me – in a “cleansing” phase – still delicious. Day 9 and going strong!)