I have done a bit of traveling and it has been my lifelong habit to observe local fashion trends – what crosses regional boundaries or doesn’t, what I predict will be a passing fad, and what has become a mainstay. In the last couple of years, it has become evident that tweed is reappearing in a big way all across the globe. Years ago, it was considered by many to be an old man’s fabric, representative of a stuffy, moneyed culture. It is refreshing to see that contemporary designers and connoisseurs have adopted tweed and added modern styling touches. Tweed is timeless. And today, certain varieties of tweed are still hand woven by individual artisans in their own homes; a skill that is reminiscent of our own artisans.
Tweed was first crafted in Scotland and Ireland in the 1700s; a coarse cloth woven from virgin wool, it is naturally wind and water resistant and well suited for the local farmers working in damp, cold climates. In fact, surplus cloth was often traded among farmers and workmen – becoming a form of currency in the Scottish Isles; it was not uncommon for islanders to pay rent in tweed blankets or bolts of cloth. There are a remarkable number of types and classifications of tweed. There are clan tartan tweeds, which are used to identify members of a specific family, and estate tweeds, which were used to denote people who lived and worked on an individual estate. Some tweeds are named for the type of sheep who produced their wool (like Cheviot or Shetland); others denote their region of origin (Donegal or Saxony). There are also brand names of tweed – such as Pendleton Woolen Mills and Harris Tweed (the latter being one of the most well-known).
About four years ago (to my dismay), Diane Hall, our head seamstress and studio directress, turned in her five-year notice. However, as her retirement grows closer, it has become evident to all of us at the studio that we will continue to see her around The Factory after her “official” retirement.
Diane has developed a passion for natural dyeing—in addition to sewing, pattern making, etc. She first encountered natural dyeing with indigo during our workshop at Shakerag in 2012. Her experience there with the renowned dyer Michel Garcia left a lasting impression. Last summer, while our entire company was writing a 10 year vision, Diane wrote that she envisioned a natural dye house here at The Factory and volunteered herself as the head dye master after her retirement.
After that simple act of writing our vision, the dye house miraculously began to take shape.
We love these every-day, stylish canvas bags from the Brooklyn, New York and Athens, Georgia-based, sister-owned textile company Hable Construction. Perfect for carrying anything and everything – take your Hable tote bag to the office, gym, airport, or even to the grocery store.
Browse our selection of Hable Construction totes and toiletry bags, alongside our One-of-a-Kind Indigo pieces, here.
Two weeks ago, our team left New York feeling excited and energized—and with the conversation at The Standard the night before fresh on our minds. This was the third annual Makeshift, held in New York each spring during Design Week. Over the years the conversation has shifted—but our goal of learning how certain themes cross industries (and how they learn from each other and work together) stays the same.
Makeshift began as a conversation about the intersection of the disciplines of design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—and, on a bigger level, using this intersection as an agent of change in the world. Since then, we’ve explored making as individuals, and how making as a group can open conversations, build communities, and help us co-design a future that is filled with love and promise—for planet, community, and one another.
MAKESHIFT began three years ago as a conversation about the intersection of the disciplines of design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—and, on a bigger level, using this intersection as an agent of change in the world. Since then, we’ve explored making as individuals, and how making as a group can open conversations and build communities.
For MAKESHIFT 2014, we have once again partnered with Standard Talks in New York to host the conversation, and will cover a range of topics, including raw materials, craft, fashion, global communities, food, and the act of making. 2014 James Beard award-winning chef Ashley Christensen will also participate in the discussion, helping answer the question: What can design learn from food?
The tote bag has almost completely replaced all other sorts of bags in my house. I have different types of bags for different purposes. There are organic canvas totes in a variety of sizes for trips to the grocery store and for holding my laptop and supplies as they are ferried between my home and office, plus smaller bags to keep Maggie’s school supplies and lunch in one place as we travel between home and school. Hers are clearly marked in case they wander off somewhere. I have wicker market baskets to hold large, heavy loads from the farmer’s market and a sizeable leather tote for when I need to carry an arm’s load of items to an event.
The tote bag has been described as the new “purse” by Style.com, Vogue, and the likes. And as the desire for sustainable living increases, the increased usage of the tote bag, particularly in place of plastic shopping bags or other disposable carrier bags, is a more than welcome sight.
Last weekend, some of our team traveled down to Montgomery, Alabama for the second annual Southern Makers event. Southern Makers is a one-day experience that celebrates innovation and creativity of all types of makers in Alabama. The day is filled with everything from panel discussions and live music, to cooking demonstrations and workshops. Some of the top talents working in design, architecture, fashion, and food throughout the state are celebrated each year.
Maker booths are organized by region; North, Central, and South Alabama were all represented at this year’s event. Alabama Chanin set up shop next to our several of our neighbors and friends, including artist Audwin McGee, Scout By Two, Billy Reid, Zkano, and Butch Anthony.
Our team experiments with all types of fabric manipulation here at Alabama Chanin. We have used ruffles to create texture in our textiles and jewelry; have featured crochet work in our collections and projects, and love how something so simple as a knot can add complexity and depth to a piece. In Alabama Stitch Book, we showed how fabric might be used to repair and repurpose farm chairs – an idea that we explored further in our MAKESHIFT 2013 Chair Workshop. Lately, the team has been experimenting with a large floor loom in The Factory. I have long wanted to incorporate rugs into our lifestyle collections, which would also be a wonderful way for us to utilize scraps and decrease waste. I remember my grandmother saving fabric to make rag rugs and there was always a rag rug in front of her sink.
In its most basic definition, weaving is a way to produce fabric using two sets of thread, yarn, or fabric, that are interlaced to form cloth. The longitudinal threads are called the “warp” and the lateral threads are the “weft.” Though hand and finger weaving is suitable for small projects, larger fabrics are usually woven on a loom.
Weavers have been valued craftspeople almost since the beginning of humankind. Very rudimentary woven cloth has been found in prehistoric graves and settlements. Tens of thousands of years ago, man began to develop string by twisting together plant fibers. Weaving together this primitive string by hand was the next logical step. The first, crude weaving looms were likely developed in the Neolithic Era. Weaving looms were developed from this basic form in China, where silk from silkworm cocoons was utilized and the weaving of this silk was a well-defined craft.
I have a deep respect and admiration for the work happening at Rural Studio, located in Hale County, Alabama. Founded in 1993 by the late Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee and D.K. Ruth, the studio is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.
After having the chance to visit the stunning Yancey Chapel in 2008, I noted on the Journal that “the work and life of Samuel Mockbee is a yardstick for us to hold up to our lives each and every day to take measure of the road that we walk on this planet.”
I will be heading to Hale County this weekend, for a special dinner and pig roast as part of their yearlong 20th anniversary celebration. My friend (and acclaimed chef) Scott Peacock is preparing the menu and family-style meal. The evening will be a celebration of Rural Studio and an acknowledgement of their ongoing community project at Rural Studio Farm—where students are working to construct a greenhouse, irrigation system, planter beds, and more. In fact, a few of the vegetables that will be served over the weekend were grown by students at the farm. The Hale County community is contributing to the dinner, providing fresh hen eggs for deviled eggs and the local pig that was raised to be roasted just for this occasion. Friends of Rural Studio are also making contributions—Alabama Chanin donated 170 organic cotton jersey napkins for the event, which students of the studio will manipulate and design for the dinner. It will be an evening filled with laughter, community, delicious food, and storytelling.