“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
In continuing our celebration this week of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his philosophy and teachings, we sought to create something sustainable that could share this hopeful message that stemmed from the American Civil Rights Movement.
I have always found this quote inspiring, and have applied its message in my own life time and time again: reminding myself each day that it is just about showing up and doing what you can do—today. It seems appropriate, in this new year of new beginnings, to create a reminder (and testament) to this continued commitment to moving forward. Step by step.
Make this corset by following the instructions from page 144 of Alabama Stitch Book. (The pattern is included on the pattern sheet at the back of the book.) We made our version with medium-weight organic cotton jersey fabric, but it could easily be made using recycled t-shirts, as well. This technique can also be used to embellish other patterns or existing garments with scooped necklines.
We are in the season of giving – giving thanks, giving gifts – but also of making. Perhaps you’re baking a pie, sewing a stocking, or creating a one-of-a-kind garment or handmade item full of personal touches and plenty of love. No matter what you choose to make, handmade items are certainly the best kind of gift to give and to receive.
Designed with the holidays in mind, this DIY Kit for our classic T-Shirt Top, featuring a negative reverse appliqué Paisley pattern, can be completed quickly, but has lots of detail. The pattern for this Capped Sleeve T-shirt Top is included in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and detailed instructions for construction can be found on pages 48-49.
Use our Studio Style DIY supplies to make your own or get the pre-cut and stenciled kit here.
Before Alabama Chanin existed in its current form, before the Journal, the Studio Books, the DIY Kits, even the website, we were a very small company. When I began working to create these garments, I was doing the majority of the making myself. That meant buying t-shirts from thrift stores around the community (or anywhere I could find them), washing them, dyeing them, cutting them up, painting them, and sewing them back together again—all of this from my home/makeshift production office. It was thrilling and exhilarating and exhausting and I learned so much about designing (and running a business) by trial and error. Eventually, staff was hired and our production office moved out of my home and into The Factory; however, those early efforts were a daily experiment.
The first men’s t-shirts were a bit different from those we make today. We had no real patterns for the men’s shirts and each shirt was designed, cut, and sewn based entirely on the style of the t-shirt itself. We were in the beginning stages of developing different seams, stretchable stitches, and elaborate embroideries, so the garments were experiments in non-traditional translations of classic sewing techniques and pared down versions of some of the Alabama Chanin garments you might see today.
The “Pig Shirt” in the photo above is one of my very early garments. It is made from a recycled tee, which was hand dyed (in the bathtub) and the pocket removed. The fabric for the reverse appliqué was taken from a different recycled (printed) t-shirt and everything was sewn together with a straight stitch. The aesthetic was meant to be a tribute to traditional stitch work and the colors and the style served to highlight the stitches themselves. This project is a tribute to our roots, a reflection upon where Alabama Chanin grew from and how those early years helped form the company we are today.
When you select a recycled t-shirt for this, or any, project pay close attention to the quality of the cotton. Look for shirts that are soft and smooth to the touch and don’t ball or “pill” easily. Thicker shirts are less prone to tearing or wearing out quickly. Always make sure that you wash any recycled t-shirt before using it. This ensures a clean surface, but also reduces any chance of shrinking. If you are working with red t-shirts, wash them two or three times to prevent the color from bleeding and avoid mixing red with light colors.
We use stencils in many of our designs. Most often employed as a pattern to follow when adding elaborate embroidery, beading, and appliqué, we also love the simplicity of a stenciled pattern on a basic silhouette.
This DIY Stencil T-shirt focuses on the simple beauty that emerges when you combine just the right pattern, stencil, and colors. The techniques used are easy for both the beginning and the advanced sewer to master. This design is our classic T-shirt Top. Here we used the sleeveless version, but you could use any sleeve length, depending on your personal style and taste.
October’s Desktop of the Month highlights the detail of a herringbone embroidery stitch along the rib binding of our Basic Tank Dress, featured on page 69 of Alabama Studio Style. The herringbone stitch is an impressive stitch because of the variation created by the small slanted stitches and it has appeared often in our collections. As with all embroidery stitches, the herringbone stitch takes time and patience to perfect (especially when working within the 5/8” space of a rib binding, along the curved edge of a neckline or armhole).
A parallel whipstitch, seen in the photo on our open-felled seams, is another alternative to the herringbone when attaching the binding. You will find other decorative stitches which can be used for bindings and open-felled seams on page 71 of Alabama Studio Style and look to Elegant Stitches by Judith Baker Montano for a wealth of alternatives for both simple and more elaborate embroidery stitches.
This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background, is now available to download from our Resources page.
The photograph above highlights one of the many options available when creating a Custom DIY Kit. There are hundreds of options to choose from, including fabric, colors, thread, stencil, embroidery or treatment, and garment or item. View our Alabama Chanin Custom DIY Guide for ideas to create your own project. Click here to design your own Custom DIY Kit.
OUR DESIGN CHOICES
Garment – Tank Dress from Alabama Studio Style
Fabric weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric color – Faded Leaves
Thread – Slate #26
Rib binding (or stretch) stitch – Herringbone
Seams – Open-felled on right side
We frequently talk about the heirloom aspect of our hand-made clothing, the timeless design and lasting quality that allows for an Alabama Chanin garment to be worn for years and, in some cases, passed along to a younger family member. While we know this to be true, we don’t often have the opportunity to witness a specific garment change and evolve over time. Perhaps a perfect example: my daughter, Maggie has been wearing the above dress for five years (and counting).
The dress was made for her, cut from an oliver + s pattern, when she was a curly headed, cherub faced two year old. Made with our organic cotton jersey in Butter and Natural, the dress has been through about a million washes and worn on too many occasions to count. It’s been stained, ripped, appliquéd (to cover the rips), and dyed blue (to cover the stains). No longer a dress but a summer top, she will not give it up.
The Bolero is a popular item for those of us in Alabama, as spring and fall temperatures (and in some years, mid-winter) can swing from 50 degrees to 80 degrees in the course of one day. It is an easy piece to toss into your bag on the way out the door and an effortless way to accessorize your look in any weather.
We shared the pattern for this garment in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, with four variations of how it might be constructed: sleeveless, with cap sleeves, short sleeves, and long, fluted sleeves. It can be completed quickly, regardless of your chosen style, and requires only 1 yard of fabric or so. Imagine our surprise, and disappointment, when some readers reported that their Boleros weren’t coming together as expected, that the pattern was a little bit off. Errata déjà vu.
The Eagle T-Shirt is the second in a new series of Men’s DIY projects, designed in a style that is flattering to both men and women. The Eagle stencil has been in the Alabama Chanin library for several years now. We shared instructions on how to create the stencil and apply it to a basic recycled t-shirt in 2008. (Read more about that here). Since those early years, we’ve designed and created patterns for Alabama Chanin original t-shirts, which you can see on Natalie’s son, Zach, above.
The long sleeve t-shirt is made with our 100% organic cotton jersey and constructed with floating outside seams that add a nuanced detail, emphasizing the hand-stitched quality, though you can make your own design decisions.
Join us for our first ever Studio Style DIY Trunk Show
August 14 – August 26, 2013
@ A Verb for keeping warm
6328 San Pablo Ave
Oakland, CA 94608
For more information, contact: office (at) alabamachanin.com or A Verb for Keeping Warm + 510.595.8372.
Trunk shows have long been a part of the Alabama Chanin business model. It’s a rewarding experience to share the Collection with fashion enthusiasts and loyal customers, to watch them fall in love with the details and intricacies of our hand-sewn, hand-embroidered garments.
Now, for the first time ever, we are hosting a trunk show solely for our Studio Style DIY customers. Makers will have the opportunity to handle and try on the basic, unadorned pieces in a range of sizes, while reviewing a selection of fabric swatches that can be made into custom DIY Kits. Additionally, there will be a selection of our embellished garments, Studio Style books, fabric swatches, fabric, and a variety of notions for sale.
If you know a knit shop or sewing store in your community where you’d like to see our Studio Style DIY fabrics, kits, and supplies, or a Studio Style DIY Trunk Show, reach out and let us know. For more information on wholesale accounts and for setting up a Trunk Show, contact office (at) alabamachanin.com or call +1.256.760.1090 and ask for Betsy.
The Alabama Chanin Studio Style DIY selections are expanding with the addition of Men’s DIY items. Many of you have been asking for more men’s options and this is the first in a series of new DIY Kits that we will feature in our online store.
The Bee is one of the earliest stencils I created upon moving back home to begin the work that has become Alabama Chanin. At that time, I was newly-returned to the south after years abroad. Happy to be home, the rural setting inspired a series of animal designs: The Pig, The Steer, The Rooster, and the Eagle.
The t-shirt body is our ever-popular men’s classic; however, the style has been loved by both men and women alike for over a decade. We are now offering this t-shirt style as a DIY Kit for the first time. As always, you have the ability to embellish the shirt as much or as little as desired – whatever suits your taste (or the taste of the man in your life).