Tag Archives: Craft

HEATHER WYLIE + BOHEMIAN BOP

HEATHER WYLIE + BOHEMIAN BOP

Heather Wylie is the daughter of Alabama Chanin friend and mentor Terry Wylie, and a welcome creative force in our shared factory space on Lane Drive. Heather is recently graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York, where she earned an MFA in Design and Technology. She learned printmaking as an undergrad at the University of Alabama, and it is her love of printing and her ingrained knowledge of the t-shirt business (thanks to Dad) that led her to create Bohemian Bop, a line of hand-printed, silkscreen and lace embellished tee shirts. We visited Heather’s studio to learn a little more about Bohemian Bop, her love of print making, and the future for Heather Wylie.

HEATHER WYLIE + BOHEMIAN BOP - photo by Valerie Crawford

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MACRAME HANGERS + KITCHEN HERBS

MACRAME HANGERS

This summer’s harvest has begun to reveal its bounty. Tomatoes and cucumbers are in full-swing and soon I will have all of the squash and zucchini I can stand (and plenty for the neighbors) not to mention, beautiful Italian basil, which I love with a tomato sandwich. I recently received this book, Vintage Craft Workshop, from friend and author Cathy Callahan. The macramé planter project immediately caught my eye and got me thinking about the possibility of year-round fresh basil and mint.

In my mind, I am planning several hanging pots that will live just inside a large window, where they will get lots of sun. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of hanging pots are the macramé plant holders in my home in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. They ran along the kitchen wall in varying heights, usually filled with ferns and the random “Spider Plant” (Chlorophytum comosum). Here, we attempted our own Alabama Chanin version, to test out the sizes we could make, the height, and how they would look made with our cotton jersey pulls. No surprise – they look exactly as I remember them.

MACRAME HANGERS

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MAKESHIFT + KRISTEN WENTRCEK

MAKESHIFT + KRISTEN WENTREK

Kristen Wentrcek is the founder, owner, designer, and creative director of Wintercheck Factory, a Brooklyn, New York, manufacturer producing American-made, design-focused goods for living. Wintercheck Factory began designing and manufacturing furniture in 2009 and soon after, expanded into soft goods, including apparel, accessories, and home goods with a balance of aesthetic and functionality.

During MAKESHIFT 2013, Kristen Wentrcek joined us as a presenter and moderator for MAKESHIFT @ The Standard, an evening of conversation and making centered around the concepts of fashion, food, design, craft, and DIY and where they intersect. As a presenter, she helped lead the conversation, moving between three groups of makers and along with other presenters, shared her experiences with starting and running Wintercheck Factory, and how the elements of fashion, food, design, craft, and DIY have impacted her venture. She also re-crafted the above tote for the MAKESHIFT Conversations Image Quilt.

Kristen joins us today for a brief Q&A about Wintercheck Factory, making, American manufacturing, and MAKESHIFT.

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CAST FABRIC CUFF

CAST FABRIC CUFF

While we are known for our elaborate hand-sewn, hand-embellished garments, collaboration has long been an integral part of our philosophy. My cousin’s family owns MTM Recognition in Princeton, Illinois, where they make an array of hand-made jewelry pieces produced by skilled craftsmen. When the opportunity to create jewelry together came up, the idea of capturing the texture of cotton jersey fabric and the detail of hand embroidery into a bracelet felt like a natural addition to the Alabama Chanin line. The Cast Fabric Cuff  was designed with our hand-sewn, heirloom garments in mind.

CAST FABRIC CUFF

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CLOSING: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN AMERICAN FACTORY

CLOSING: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN AMERICAN FACTORY

In Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory, Cathy N. Davidson writes:

“When the last worker passed through the doors of White Furniture Company in May of 1993, hardly anyone beyond the city limits of Mebane, North Carolina, noticed. In national terms, it made little difference that 203 men and women were out of work or that a venerable, family-owned firm (the ‘South’s oldest maker of fine furniture’) had been sold to a conglomerate and now was being shut down. After all, what happened to White’s is hardly unique. In the 1990s, in every walk of life and on all social levels, Americans have had to learn a new vocabulary of economic anxiety – layoff, outsourcing, buyout, off-shoring, downsizing, closing. The statistics are mind-numbing: 70,000 people laid off from General Motors in 1991; 50,000 workers from Sears and 63,000 from IBM in 1993; 40,000 from AT&T in 1996. In these times, why should we care about the closing of one furniture factory in a small southern town?”

Davidson’s text accompanies Bill Bamberger’s photographs, which document the closing of this small American factory and capture the artisans, many of whom were masters of their craft. White’s Furniture Company operated by assembly line, though many of the details were executed by hand. The company was small, almost unknown, but to people in the know, White’s was regarded as one of the highest quality furniture crafters in America. Though Closing was published in 1999, nearly fifteen years ago, the trend of downsizing and outsourcing has continued, and our American factories have all but disappeared. Production, as we well know, has mostly been shipped overseas.

CLOSING: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN AMERICAN FACTORY

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A RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE PAINT

A RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE PAINT

I’ve been thinking about painting my back porch and deck white since it was built last summer. After all, we spend about fifty percent of our time out there. I’ve long disliked the toxicity of commercial paints on the market. Most common indoor and outdoor household paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs contain a variety of chemicals, some of which give off noxious fumes and may have short term or long term adverse health effects. According to the EPA, levels of some VOCs are 2 to 5 times higher inside a home than outside; when you are painting or stripping paint in your home, particularly in older homes where lead paint may have been used in the past, indoor levels of VOCs may be 1000 times that of outdoor levels. I’ve used VOC-free paints for all of my indoor and outdoor painting since they came on the market some years back.

In thinking about my outdoor living area, I wanted to investigate additional ways to paint more safely, and came across two options that I could possibly make myself: whitewash and milk paint. Whitewashing, which many of us remember from Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was commonly used for years because it is inexpensive, can be homemade, and homeowners could use ingredients they had on-hand, improvising their own recipes. It is still used in rural areas to protect wooden surfaces like fences and barns, or by designers who want to give furniture a rustic look. The mixture’s base is always lime and water, which makes a chalky type of plaster. Then, ingredients might be added to thicken or strengthen the mixture, like flour, glue, sugar, soap, soil, or milk.

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SIGN PAINTERS (THE MOVIE)

Sign Painters - Authors_Levine_Macon

Yesterday, I wrote about my appreciation of hand-painted signs, inspired by the book Sign Painters, authored by friend Faythe Levine with Sam Macon. Faythe and Sam have directed a documentary – also called Sign Painters, as a companion to the book.

In 2008, Faythe co-authored and directed a book and film, both named Handmade Nation: The Rise of Craft and DIY. We welcomed her to Alabama last April for our Visiting Artist Series, where she highlighted “craftivism” and brought her light-hearted stories to the Factory. This summer she has taken Sign Painters on the road for a series of screenings.

Faythe has an itinerant spirit. She states in the book’s preface, “Many of my earliest memories involve travel, much of which was by car. I’d stare out the window of the family station wagon and watch America transition from one place to the next.”

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FAYTHE LEVINE AND SIGN PAINTERS

SIGN PAINTERS

Growing up in small town Florence, Alabama, a trip into downtown meant a visit to colorful shops, recognized by equally colorful signs. Ye Ole General Store had a block letter, serif-type sign across the entrance way and inside, we could find canteens and hats and overalls for backyard battles and explorations. Next, we’d walk to Court Street and look for the black and orange store front that meant Wilson’s Fabrics. The simple lettering, enhanced by the high contrast color choices, told my grandmother to come right in – the “Tall Man with the Low Prices” had just the cotton and muslin she needed. Finally, the best part of our trip was our visit to Trowbridge’s for hot dogs and milk shakes. The hand painted awning, with its swirling cursive script, told us we were headed in the right direction. The front window advertises: SANDWICHES, ICE CREAM, SUNDAES. We would slide into a booth and look at the hand-painted menu hanging behind the ice cream counter. That beautiful menu is still there today, challenging me to choose between the hot dog and the chicken salad sandwich. I think the town would riot if it were ever taken down.

This sentimental love I have for hand painted signs was rejuvenated when friend and fellow maker, Faythe Levine, and her co-writer Sam Macon published Sign Painters. This book chronicles the histories and modern-day stories of sign painters. In the 1980’s and 90’s, the art of painting signs became doomed to obscurity, or worse -extinction- with the invention and widespread use of vinyl lettering and digital design. In today’s world, full of Adobe software and inflatable dancing tube men, it is hard to remember that every grocery store sale sign, billboard, storefront, and banner was once carefully designed and painted by hand.

SIGN PAINTERS

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CRAFTSY CLASS (A RECAP)

CRAFTSY RECAP

This past February, Alabama Chanin partnered with the team at Craftsy, an online community of makers who offer projects, craft ideas, and courses on dozens of topics. Our online class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, has provided us with a new way to interact with our fellow makers and has given us the opportunity to share just a few of the techniques that we teach in our Workshops.

We have talked before about the concept of online learning and how the Internet is making education opportunities that were once expensive and inconvenient cheaper and more accessible. Enrolling in online courses takes geography out of the equation. It is no longer essential to sit in a physical classroom with other participants. You don’t have to plan your life around when classes are scheduled. Online classes, like our Craftsy course, allow you the opportunity to learn the same stitches and techniques as someone on the other side of the country, or the world.

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DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

It is generally understood that taking a shower uses less water than taking a bath. Even so, I must admit to enjoying a good soak occasionally. Either way, my bathing routine can be one of my favorite parts of the day (at least on days when I have time for more than a cat bath). Sometimes, I’ll bring my iPod and speakers into the bathroom to supply a soundtrack for my rituals of teeth brushing, face washing, and a nice scrub. Other days, my mind is busy and I get right down to business solving the world’s problems (I wish) or thinking of the perfect thing that I should have said in a conversation, after the fact. But, most of the time, it provides me with a quiet moment to myself. I recently stayed at a hotel that had the most luxurious vanity table with mirrors that showed way too much, a comfortable chair, and all the things you need to “get ready.” I swore that I was going to create this at home and, as I write this, am plotting an update.

I live in a 1950’s era home with tile floors that seem to stay cold in winter and summer, so a good bath mat is essential to this feeling of luxury. I admit to letting past bath mats get threadbare and unattractive. Many-a-time I’ve just tossed down an old towel when I couldn’t find the bath mat (or it is covered in what was left of the dog’s bath). Neither is an ideal substitute for the real thing.

Last summer, I built an outdoor shower (which definitely works better for dog baths) and I have to say, a bath mat is equally important outdoors and indoors. Below are instructions on how to make your own Alabama Chanin bath mat from our cotton jersey fabric. It’s super soft, easy to wash, absorbent, and will protect you from cold tiles or rough wood—plus, what a great way to use scraps. I’m thinking of a larger one so that the dog might even have his own.

DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

And now that the weather has warmed and the sun is out, I can use my much loved outdoor shower. The new deck is a source of great happiness for me, and the shower is something of a dream come true.

SUPPLIES

Aluminum Crochet Hook. (We used Boye Size K/2-6.50MM)
Approximately 2 yards of 100% organic cotton jersey fabric
Olfa rotary cutter
Olfa cutting mat
18” transparent ruler

 

To begin, you will need approximately 2 yards of our cotton jersey fabric. Use your rotary cutter and cutting supplies to cut strips of fabric about 1/2” wide. Take the ends of these strips and pull the ends tightly. Once you have about 240 yards of pulls, tie them end to end to make one long piece. We used a square knot (right over left, then left over right) to join the ends of each pull together.

These pulls were made specifically for this project and are not as thick as our cotton jersey pulls, which are cut into approximately 1″ to 1 1/2″ strips. If you choose to experiment by using our cotton jersey pulls, keep in mind your bath mat will be thicker and require fewer pulls.

To start, chain 55 (or until you reach 22 inches), then turn and double-crochet in the 3rd stitch from the end.

For row 1, double-crochet in each stitch until the end. Turn

For row 2, chain 2 and then double-crochet in each stitch until the end; turn.

Repeat approximately 27 times, or until your piece is 16” tall.

We chose to leave the tails of the ties exposed, both for the look and the texture of the finished bath mat. Feel free to tuck them in if you prefer a cleaner look. Our bath mat measures 22” x 16”, but you can tailor your own to fit the size of your bathroom. You will simply need to adjust the length of your cotton jersey pulls to meet your needs.

DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

Use your bath mat inside, or out. Repeated washings and use will just make the mat softer…