We have written before about the rich manufacturing and textile history present in our community. The Shoals area and surrounding communities were working fabric and textile materials beginning in the late 1800’s. Those earlier years were often unkind to the mill workers and their families who worked long hours, lived in factory-owned apartments, and shopped in factory-owned stores. But, as the Industrial Revolution gave way to reform, textile manufacturing stayed in our community and flourished. Eventually, it was something that we in The Shoals were known for, as we were often called the “T-Shirt Capital of the World.”
Terry Wylie’s family founded Tee Jay’s Manufacturing Co. here in Florence in 1976, and in doing so became the foundation for a local industry. Whole families were known to work together, producing t-shirts and cotton products. Typical of our community, the company and the employees were loyal to one another. It was common for an employee to stay at Tee Jays for decades. Our Production Manager, Steven, worked for the Wylie family for years – for a time, working in the same building where Alabama Chanin is currently housed. It was this way until the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Tee Jays and other local manufacturers eventually shuttered all domestic manufacturing. It was an undeniably tough hit for a community that had “worked” cotton for most of its existence. Some of those who hand stitch for us once worked in mills and lost their jobs when plants here in Alabama closed and moved to cheaper locations. This move left our building, once a thriving manufacturing center, an empty shell, as you can see from the picture above. Machines like the ones below were moved elsewhere, and the resounding hum of our once busy manufacturing community was silenced.
As this posts to our Journal this morning, part of our Alabama Chanin team will be in the air and on their way home from MAKESHIFT 2013. We hope that you have followed our explorations and conversations during New York Design Week via Instagram and have had conversations of your own. Leaving MAKESHIFT this year, we are even more convinced about the importance of making, sharing, and finding common ground. You can expect a full recap of our experiences from New York Design Week in the next days, plus expanding conversations about design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY over the coming months.
One thing we do know is that, as we continue to open source our ideas, our Alabama Chanin conversations series and workshops will continue to grow. These events—like MAKESHIFT—have become an intimate, extraordinary way for us to connect with fellow makers, designers, and like-minded creators across the country (and the world). See more in the coming weeks about the bag project we started at MAKESHIFT 2013. In the meantime, here are some instructions for a different kind of bag (with an equally important message).
In the early spring of this year, Alabama Chanin designed and created a one-of-a-kind bag to support the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s “You Can’t Fake Fashion” campaign. We loved the finished product so much that I wanted my own version, adapting the OrganicTote Bag #3. This bag measures 17 1/2” x 13 3/4” x 4 3/4” and is large enough to use as a purse or laptop bag or to carry your sewing projects. The tote has been double-layer appliquéd all-over using our Paisley stencil in Alabama Indigo fabric.
The bag comes in Natural. We chose to customize this tote to match our CFDA bag by dyeing it indigo, but your design choices are endless.
February’s Desktop of the Month is all about pink (and shades around it). To celebrate the spirit of love, we’ve talked about what the heart symbolizes and what we might want it to mean for 2013: joy, beauty, acceptance, and more. Here, the backstitched reverse appliqué hearts in gray and pink are simply a way to celebrate those sentiments.
Download the Desktop of the Month here.
P.S. Come back Thursday to see our Camisole Dress made in the Hearts pattern.
Rain on the metal roof, Natalie’s holiday iPod mix, and scissors through fabric – that’s all I can hear. It’s a busy day at the studio. Spirits are high, the orders are many, and some of our fabric stock is low.
Apologies to lovers of Burgundy and Blue Slate; we have exhausted our supply of these and a few other color options. There are still plenty of beautiful colors to choose from but supplies are limited; please order early to ensure selection.
Over the decade of my design work in Alabama, I have tried endless types of fabrics and combinations of fabrics; however, our clients return over, and over again, to our organic cotton jersey. And as often as I have wanted to move away from cotton jersey, I reach for it each morning as I get dressed. In my busy life, it is like having pajama day every day. (If you can call an all-over, hand-embroidered dress a pajama.)
However, there is truth in the fact that one of our embroidered dresses can take you from morning coffee to an evening event with little modification. (I do normally stop to change shoes.) Consequently, I have come to know a lot about organic cotton jersey.
Cotton-jersey fabric comes in a variety of weights and those weights are commonly described as ounces per linear yard. For the last decade at Alabama Chanin, we have been using a medium-weight jersey that averages 9.80 ounces per linear yard. However, we recently started working with a lighter weight jersey that is stretchier than the medium-weight fabric and averages 5.6 ounces per linear yard.
I adore the quality of this new fabric when worked in our back-stitch reverse applique with our Anna’s Garden stencil. After several requests, we have added this new fabric to our D.I.Y. Store. There are several colors in stock and new colors arrive weekly. The fabric below is made from our color steel.
The outfit above (in sand and black) features two patterns from our upcoming Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Both the T-shirt Top and the Mid-Length Skirt are perfect in our new lightweight cotton jersey. I am currently making the Long Sleeve T-Shirt Tunic from Alabama Studio Style in the steel colored, lightweight cotton jersey using a back-stitch reverse applique Anna’s Garden stencil (as in the photo below). I foresee this being my new favorite piece for summer and fall – while layering it with a t-shirt for the winter.
I own a lot of books on pattern design but British Textiles – published by V&A – is one of the loveliest I have seen for a long time.
(It was at the bottom of the pile yesterday but is on top today.)
The book highlights woven and printed fabric (embroidery is planned for an upcoming volume); however, I adore the simple painted designs that sometimes include the artist process. In my favorites, you can see finely drawn pencil lines, loosely painted swaths of color and the underpinnings of structural grids. The silk design above from page 29 feels incredibly modern but was designed by James Leman in 1719.
Moving through the book, you experience an exquisite evolution of British color and design through the ages.
While expensive, this big (weighs 6 pounds), complete (494 pages), beautiful (over 1000 images), inspirational book is one of my new favorites:
British Textiles: 1700 to the Present
Looking very forward to the embroidery volume as well…