At Alabama Chanin, we have often looked to nature for stencil inspirations. Many of the first stencils I designed when I started embellishing recycled T-shirts were of bugs and animals—what I felt were constant surroundings when I made my return home to Alabama from New York over a decade ago.
Our newest DIY Men’s Kit features the Scorpion stencil, designed by Butch Anthony, on a yoked T-shirt. The yoke cut of the T-shirt helps it stand apart from the standard tee. The design and style fit easily into any man’s wardrobe.
We are in New York City this week for our third year of the MAKESHIFT initiative. MAKESHIFT is, at its core, a conversation about the intersections of fashion, design, craft, and food, and how each discipline can better work together to elevate those principles. Alabama Chanin has set up shop at our friend Lisa Fox’s beautiful East Village store, lf8, for the month of May. lf8 (elevate) is also featuring the work of photographer Mary Ellen Mark, as well as a special performance piece by musician and friend Allison Moorer. Event details are as follows: Store Hours Tuesday – Sunday 12:00pm – 6:00pm Closed Mondays lf8 80 East 7th Street New York, NY 10003 The pop-up features works by Mary Ellen Mark, the Alabama Chanin collection, and one-of-a kind, indigo-dyed Alabama Chanin garments and accessories, alongside the lf8 collection. Visit in the afternoons from 2:00pm until 4:00pm through Friday, May 16 to sit with Allison Moorer and sew, talk, sing, and conspire. Continue reading
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.
Each month, we highlight one of our favorite embroidery techniques through our Swatch of the Month Club. As a companion to that monthly series, we have also put together a selection of projects you can create with your completed swatches. This month, we have created a beaded clutch bag, which you will need one finished swatch to complete. We created our bag using May’s beaded ruffle swatch.
Supplies for May’s Swatch of the Month (or your favorite swatch of choice)
1 – 10” x 10” 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey panel, unembellished, for pocket
1 – 10” x 1 1/4” strip cotton jersey (cut across the grain), for rib binding
Basic sewing supplies: fabric scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat, ruler, tailor’s chalk, needles, thread, pins.
Complete your Swatch of the Month according to the instructions – or create a swatch using your own personal design choice. Refer to Alabama Studio Sewing + Design as a resource, if you need additional guidance.
“In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is – as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art.” –Josef Albers
Color, as we see it, results from our eyes and brains working together to make sense of the light around us. Since as early as the 15th century, artists and philosophers alike have tried to understand how this works and create a unified approach to color – a color theory – to understand how colors complement or contrast with each other and why they rouse our emotions and influence our decisions.
Essentially, color theory, like the interaction between our eyes and brains, helps us make sense of what we “see.” Perhaps one of the most influential color theorists was artist and educator Josef Albers, who published Interaction of Color in 1963. A tome of a book on color theory, it was made for interaction, to be pored over and actively, even emotionally, involve students as they learned Albers’ philosophy of color.
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.
Long-time friend and artist Jack Sanders is also an architect, filmmaker, and baseball enthusiast. He is the founder of Design Build Adventure, a full-service “design, build, and adventure company” that focuses on collaboration.
I first met Jack when he was a student of Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee of the Rural Studio. I sent him a box of t-shirts (which he never returned) in the hopes that I could convince Rural Studio to come up to Florence and build us a production facility. (It turns out that work outside of the Black Belt wasn’t possible.) But Jack (then known as “Jay”) and I remained friends. Years later, he co-produced a feature-length documentary on Sambo, called Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio which won many accolades.
As you may remember, our MAKESHIFT initiative asks the questions: How do we define and transform the intersection of fashion, food, design, craft + DIY through innovation and collaboration for the better good? How can varied disciplines work together as one?
The most recent Alabama Chanin collection features several new men’s garments. These pieces, like the rest of the collection, were inspired by photographs taken by the Massengill family in rural Arkansas just before the Second World War, as seen in Maxine Payne’s anthology, Making Pictures: Three for a Dime. Many of you have been asking for more men’s options, and as Alabama Chanin continues to expand as a lifestyle company, it is our hope to reach a larger audience with our collections and collaborations (and hopefully give you what you’ve been asking for in the process).
While all of these tops can be worn by both men and women alike, we designed them with a more masculine-driven wardrobe in mind. Browse some of our favorites below, or view the entire collection here.
Vogue designer patterns, which are available to all at reasonable prices, are excellent examples of resources contributing to and encouraging the DIY opportunities in modern fashion. The existence and availability of such resources help us to continue our ongoing conversation on Design, Craft, and Fashion and how they intersect.
As part of our ongoing series adapting open-source designer patterns using Alabama Chanin techniques, we selected a dress from DKNY—Donna Karan New York—the mainline label for the Donna Karan brand. I’ve written before about the connection I have with Donna Karan as a designer and we’ve previously featured another of her Vogue patterns as part of this DIY series.
This modern shift dress pattern is flattering on all body types, simple enough for beginners, and can be easily accessorized and embellished. We made both a Basic version, as well as an embellished version, featuring the Check pattern, our Stencil of the Year.
Recently, Building 14, our new Design + Manufacturing Services division, produced the Grist in collaboration with our friends at Billy Reid. This raglan style men’s t-shirt is made with our 100% organic cotton and features an antique button snap pocket.
Read more about our team, the manufacturing collaboration, and Building 14 on the Billy Reid Journal.
Photos courtesy of Bradley Dean.