January’s Swatch of the Month incorporates Alabama Chanin’s basic reverse appliqué technique with our Paisley stencil. Explore our techniques and build your skills with a membership to our Swatch of the Month Club and follow along here on the Journal.
The photograph above shows one of many options you can create when making your own swatch. (This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background, is now available for download from our Resources page.)
Experiment with your swatch. You can work it in reverse appliqué like we did, or use another treatment: negative reverse, backstitched reverse, quilted, or embellish with beaded stitches. Reverse appliqué can be done by beginners and experienced sewers alike and is worked on two layers of fabric: The top layer is stenciled and then stitched to the backing layer; next, part of the top layer is cut away to reveal the backing fabric underneath.
Each kit comes stenciled and ready-to-sew with all of the notions needed to complete the swatch—just provide your own needles, pins, and scissors (or purchase an essential sewing kit). Colorway options include Navy/Black (our design choice), White/Natural, Neutrals, Reds, and Blues. Techniques and instruction can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
December’s Desktop of the Month highlights an elaborate modification of a traditional embroidery technique, negative reverse appliqué.
Negative reverse appliqué looks much like traditional appliqué, but is worked slightly differently. Here, we stencil the top layer of fabric, then place it on top of the backing fabric. We then use a straight stitch to attach the top layer of fabric to the bottom layer, and cut away the top layer of fabric, leaving a 1/4” sliver of top-layer fabric beyond the stitching line.
November’s Desktop of the Month demonstrates that tone-on-tone designs—where both the front and back appliqué layers are the same or similar colors—allow the stencil to subtly take center stage.
The Magdalena stencil is shown in black-on-black backstitch reverse appliqué. Both the textile paint and the embroidery floss are black as well, but light hitting the surface of the two fabrics reveals the elegant stencil detail.
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.
Past & Present is a collection of essays on decorative art history and DIY projects by Design Sponge columnist, Amy Azzarito. Grace Bonney, founder of the very popular Design Sponge website, first met Amy while working on a video project at the New York Public Library. The two became instant friends, as Grace was impressed with Amy’s knowledge and passion for design and the history behind it. Thus the column, Past & Present, was born. In this book, Amy highlights some of her favorite styles in the history of decorative arts and pairs her essays with advice from various designers on creating DIY projects that reflect the eras she writes about.
We chose to create one of the projects, using our 100% organic cotton jersey, to make a Shaker-style hanging lamp.
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.
This month’s Desktop of the Month celebrates the arrival of spring. Variations of reds and pinks highlight our Daisy stencil, creating a strong contrast against the Natural colored background.
Taken from our new Collection, the Daisy appliqué features red variegated embroidery floss sewn with a whipstitch. We use this technique on our A-line Dress and a variety of jackets and coats to add a colorful depth to our collection.
This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background, is now available to download from our Resource Downloads.
Natural dyes have been used for thousands of years by nearly every civilization; however, these days most natural versions have largely been replaced by synthetics. With consumers today demanding to know more about what they wear and where it comes from, there is a resurgence of people who are learning and practicing the art of natural dyeing.
“At Alabama Chanin, we use the term couching to describe a form of appliqué in which cotton jersey ropes are appliquéd to a base fabric with a parallel whipstitch, following a design stenciled on the fabric.”
As one of our advanced techniques, couching requires a steady hand and thoughtful eye to hold the fabric into position as you sew. Continue reading →