Our finished Alabama Chanin garments, made from 100% organic cotton jersey, are beautiful when worn as unembellished Basics; however, through the years, most of our designs have highlighted the incredible number of stencil patterns in our growing library. These stencils are the cornerstone of both our design process and our business model.
From page 10 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:
We use stencils as tools to transfer decorative patterns onto projects like dresses, skirts, and pillows. The stenciled patterns are then used by our artisans as guides for positioning embroidery and beading. Because the stencils so effectively guide the design, our artisans don’t need to work in our studio. Rather, they can work independently as individual business owners when and where they want, scheduling their work time as they like.
Abbie’s Flower All-over Stencil
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.
Couching is one of the more sculptural techniques that we use to embellish garments at Alabama Chanin. The effect adds a unique texture and visual appeal.
Traditional couching is a very old technique where yarn (or another material) is laid across fabric and sewn into place, creating shapes and patterns. Our process of couching involves stitching cotton jersey ropes to an stenciled base fabric.
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.
Last October, we held a One-Day Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia. DIY Kits for the workshop had been cut, packaged, and shipped days before the event, but they never arrived in Atlanta, lost in transit. This was a workshop crisis. However, this particular workshop turned out to be one of our best to date. In a beautiful expression of communal crafting, twelve people collaborated to create two Alabama Chanin Swing Skirts from the only kits I happened to carry with me. While we were initially disappointed over the lost box, we soon learned of the people in the Northeast who lost lives and homes as Hurricane Sandy beat down on the New Jersey and New York shores. We didn’t know how lucky we were.
Yohji Yamamoto has been a hero of mine since I graduated from design school. I once saw him walking down the streets of Milan, Italy, not long after I started working in the New York garment district, and felt that I had made the big time. “Walking on the same street as Yohji Yamamoto?” I thought. It was a momentary highlight in my career that I remember like it was yesterday.
He is known as an avant garde Japanese designer and famous for his intricate designs and impeccable tailoring. He often experiments with different draping methods and varied fabric textures. Yamamoto is also known to integrate wabi sabi, an ever-changing state of beauty, simplicity, and asymmetry, combined with an appreciation for natural elements, into his design aesthetic.
The fashion website Showstudio launched Design Download – “a series demystifying the fashion process by offering prestigious designer garment patterns for download” – with a Yamamoto pattern for a jacket in classic Yamamoto style. He remained mysterious about the process, revealing very little, and challenging the maker to pay close attention to detail, shape, and technique. There is no “how-to,” like you would find with a traditional pattern. Design Download calls this piece a “mystery garment,” telling the reader that the “photographs of the piece hold the visual key to stitching together your own.”
September’s Desktop of the Month illustrates the strength of contrasting color choices in a fabric design. Red and blue elements, when placed beside a light, neutral tone, bring a strong focus to the image or pattern – in this case, long-time favorite, Angie’s Fall. Additionally, placing some of the knots on the outside of the design adds a textural element that draws the eye to the embroidered stencil shapes.
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
Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Backing layer – Midnight
Top layer – Natural
Stencil – Angie’s Fall
Treatment – Backstitch reverse appliqué
Textile paint – Light Grey
Thread – Red #128
Knots – both outside and inside; outside knots strategically placed for design emphasis
If any of you are like me, when preparing food, you end up with at least a modest amount of flour, eggs, or whatever you’ve cooked for dinner all over your clothes. (Close family members also know that I am notorious for dropping food, plates, and glasses.) Anyone will acknowledge that this is not a good look when you have visitors over for coffee or dinner. I always keep several aprons on hand for myself or for visitors or little ones who want to help in the kitchen.
We also go through an incredible number of towels in our kitchen. Perhaps I’m messier than I’d like to admit (maybe I can blame that on Maggie). It seems that I always have plenty of dishes that need drying or hands that need wiping. These Tea Towels work perfectly as a napkin or a makeshift bib for messy foods, too. They can be sewn up so quickly that I keep the necessary supplies on hand in case I need a hostess gift.
A “Fat Eighth” is a term well known to many quilters and practiced crafters. For those of you who have never seen or used them, Fat Eighths are bundles of 1/8 yard cuts of fabric often used by quilters to make patchwork patterns. This technique allows makers to create a varied, often colorful quilt that features an array of techniques, shapes, and patterns.
We began offering basic Fat Eighths and Stenciled Fat Eighths in our DIY Store when we learned just how many uses our Studio Book readers were finding for scraps and small pieces of fabric. These fabric squares have uses that stretch far beyond quilting. Readers have related using them as appliqué pieces, shared stories of using the squares to patch holes in well-loved garments, and even reported using scraps as gift wrap. We designed a Quilt of the Month that featured Stenciled Fat Eighths, which was simple, colorful, quite beautiful, and a quick project for both beginning and advanced stitchers.
We have added new options to our selection of Stenciled Fat Eighths: Paisley and Anna’s Garden stenciled squares. In combination with our popular Facets pattern, these options should allow you greater artistic freedom when designing your projects. All Fat Eighths are 9” x 20” and are cut from our 100% organic medium weight cotton jersey. Your stencil selection will be sprayed on each fabric square using our Cream colored textile paint. The bundle contains 25 squares and you can choose from Color Card 1 or 2, or purchase both.
Visit our website for more information on our Stenciled Fat Eighths here.