We learn our first real poem around the age of 2 — the ABC Song. Soon, we graduate to nursery rhymes, then rhymes for jumping rope. By the time we reach junior high and high school we’re reading Epic Poems, like The Odyssey, and reciting Shakespeare in Iambic Pentameter—well sometimes. Songs can be poems set to rhythm. If we’re lucky, perhaps someone has written a love poem or a song—or two—for us.
Poems are rhythmic—they have patterns, beats, stanzas, couplets, and verses. They have been instrumental at critical moments in our history. Witness:
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.
Earlier this year, we featured artist, friend, and collaborator, Anna Maria Horner. As that week came to a close, we were inspired by Anna Maria’s elaborate needlepoint projects and decided we would experiment with more involved embroidery techniques ourselves. For our first project, the Embroidered Flowers T-shirt, we mixed traditional embroidery stitch work with retro patterns using modern silhouettes. We adapted a vintage McCall’s pattern for the floral embroidery design and used the Alabama Chanin T-shirt pattern as the base. The result was relatively simple to complete.
For this project, our Garden Geometry Skirt, inspired by Anna Maria’s pattern of the same name (and available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook), we adapted our Swing Skirt, creating intricate embroidery designs on a larger scale. In her book, Anna Maria writes, “this is by far the most straightforward approach I have made toward the traditional way of creating a crewel design.” As she also mentions, the pattern lends itself to enlargement and experimentation. The result is a colorful expression of our experimentation. Make your own Garden Geometry Skirt using fabric and thread colors that suit your personal style. There are stitch and pattern diagrams available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook that can help direct your design.
Southern children who grow up with a healthy respect for their elders, particularly their mothers, are said to have been “raised right.” Across the south, most children (and their fathers) must have been “raised right,” because there is almost always a big to-do made about Mother’s Day. Even though new Easter clothes have just been bought, a slew of children will go shopping again for new Mother’s Day outfits; it is expected to make a good impression at church on that big day. Mom gets to sleep in (just a little) and breakfasts will be prepared and served by the children. We present our mothers and grandmothers with beautiful corsages. Often in my community, the tradition is to give carnations. It’s common to give Mother a red or pink one and to set a vase of white carnations upon the kitchen table for grandmothers or great-grandmothers who have passed away. In my family,we presented corsages to Mother and Grandmother on Mother’s Day morning.
We often hear the mantra, “Live for today.” Most of us need to slow down, curb our expectations and anxieties, and embrace the present. And for the most part, I try to approach life that way. But we can’t always live completely in the present. Sometimes we have to plan ahead, we have to think of our future generations and give them the tools they need to make this world a better place.
It’s not always easy to be a mom (single or otherwise) and live constantly in the present. Duties call. Spilled milk may not be something to cry over, but someone still has to clean it up. I was having one of those spilled milk days – dog chaos, bills to pay, groceries to put away – when Maggie came to me with this drawing and said, “I want you to make this dress for me.” It’s a miracle I even heard her.
As you can see, the dress was made, Maggie was ecstatic, and somehow, in the midst of chaos, I was able to inspire her to believe she can make anything. The best Mother’s Day gift of all is just to have that moment when you think, “I do make a difference.”
Happy Mother/Daughter Day (coming soon) to Maggie and me… and to you and yours.
Last fall, one of my neighbors gave me a box of vintage patterns he found tucked away in his basement. The weather-stained cardboard box that once belonged to his mother was filled with patterns that represented decades of accumulation: Vogue Patterns, McCall’s, Simplicity, and Butterick . Each had been purchased for as little as a dollar and some change.
Confession: I have a certain disdain for flip flops. More often than not, they are considered a faux pas in the fashion world, and sometimes for the right reasons. This being said, I must also confess I own a pair of Havaianas that I bought years ago on my Venezuelan adventure. They are packed snuggly in my tote this week as Maggie and I celebrate spring break with a trip to the Florida Pan-Handle and the beach. Honestly, Maggie saunters in flip flops throughout the Alabama summers. I can hardly get anything else on her feet as the scorching heat necessitates barely-there footwear – if not bare feet. When in Rome…
My flip flop rant aside, our Baby Doll Camisole Dress is also packed neatly in my traveling bag. In fact, a DIY garment often makes its first travels in pieces, taken on long car rides or trans-Atlantic flights to be embellished.
Once complete, squarely folded or rolled up, it easily transports on-the-go. My dress has made multiple trips with me to California, returning to Alabama a little more worn (and loved) each time. The gathered ruffles relax the wrinkles from the trip, and yes, it is possible to tastefully pair our Baby Doll Camisole Dress with flip flops (or your favorite pair of heels) on certain occasions. Look for me at the Seaside Promanade this week in both and this weekend at the Doo-Nanny).
In addition to our Appliqué Baby Doll Top, we now offer our Baby Doll Camisole Dress as a DIY Kit. For this kit, we chose the Camisole Top pattern from Alabama Studio Style rather than our Fitted Top pattern paired with the Baby Doll Dress in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design for a more fitted bodice.
Fit is by far one of the hardest subjects to address within the realm of manufacturing. There are just so many different body types that it would be near impossible for one manufacturer to address EVERY type in one product—and often times in one line. The most basic body shapes range from round to pear, petite to lean, and every shape in between. When you start to do the math and include XXS – XXL, you come up with a number of patterns that reaches to the Nth power. When you begin to add categories such as Juniors and Misses, it becomes staggering.
Entire classes in design schools and universities around the world spend semesters working on streamlining and finding solutions for fit issues. Body scanners can now take perfect measurements of your body and supposedly create a jean that is perfect for your shape. I find that hard to believe, but based on the shape I have carried with me my entire life, I don’t really care for pants that much anyway.
As I mentioned earlier in the week, I live in a house where hearts can be the overriding theme for weeks on end. I find them tucked under plates, randomly lying on the floor, taped to my bedroom door, and, yes, the most beautiful little heart-shaped lips that kiss my face all-over. You haven’t truly lived a Valentine’s Day until you live it with a six-year-old-girl. Forget Hallmark (the modern day creator of Valentine’s Day), the sweetness in-and-around our home makes this hallowed institution look like a 1980’s punk gathering in a dead-end alley.
So, when in Rome… You need a dress to celebrate this favorite of all six-year-old holidays in its crowning glory – hence, A Dress of Hearts.
While cleaning up for our recent Garage Sale (stay tuned for another coming towards the end of February), I found a bag of our Cotton Jersey Pulls cut into 4” lengths. Most likely, these were prepared for button loops, but no one in the studio can remember exactly why they were prepared and cut.