I use ropes made from our organic cotton jersey fabric for wrapping all of my holiday packages (and for many other things–as evidenced in the DIY instructions below). If you have ever ordered garments or fabrics from our online store, you will have found your contents tied up in one of these Cotton Jersey Pulls. Follow the instructions below to make your own from scraps or from old t-shirts. You can also purchase a set of ropes from our online store in colors from White-to-Cream, Black-to-Grey, and Colorful– which includes a random range of our most loved shades. Look for more posts about how to use these pulls in the coming year. Anything you order from our online store between now and the end of the year will come shipped wrapped, tied with a Cotton Jersey Pull, and ready to gift.
For November, we’re featuring the Couching technique as our Desktop of the Month. Couching lends substantial weight and warmth to any garment. The final days of October brought quite a chill to Alabama, perfect weather for my favorite couched coat. I love pulling out my coats for the first time of the season; a sure-fire signal fall has arrived and the holidays are just around the corner.
We hope you have a cold-weather favorite you reach for year after year. Or, if it’s time to start working on a new favorite, you might consider making your own coat and embellishing with the Couching technique. The Alabama Chanin version of the technique is featured on page 110 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and shows several variations to work using beads or cotton yarn with a parallel whipstitch.
This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background, is now available to download from our Resource Downloads.
Amethyst, aubergine and lavender; lilac, mauve or mulberry; orchid, perse, plum, and violet. All of these beautiful words for one color, and yet, purple has never been one of my favorite shades. While I haven’t had any adverse experiences with the color purple (it is, after all, one of my favorite books— ever), it is just not a color that I have used often as a designer. (Although, I have enjoyed Purple Fashion since my days as a stylist.)
Perhaps it was those purple flavored hippie years in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or maybe a sensitive palate as a Supertaster for colors, but I have a hard time finding shades of the color to adore.
However, I note that there have recently been more and more requests to make items for friends, fans, and family in purple. Yesterday as I sat down for my morning reading, I was a bit perplexed to come across this article from Forbes titled “NASCAR Green is Really Purple.”
Purple, in this case means the merging of right and left, red and blue, Republican and Democrat for a common cause. It seems that everywhere I turn today, people are finding ways to reach other people IN SPITE of politics. Purple.
This past weekend, en route to the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, I listened to podcasts from The Civil Conversations Project— ideas and tools for healing our fractured civic spaces—from On Being. These talks of extremes between sides and WITHIN sides sprung to mind as I read through the Forbes article. Purple.
Can it be that we are finding ways to get along and that this color, which has never been my favorite, might be where we start conversations in this country? The world? With no screaming? No threats?
Community, conversation, and relationships are at the heart and soul of Alabama Chanin. In the end, I’ve come to realize that purple truly is a beautiful color. Don’t you think?
Look for Grape colored fabrics coming soon…
Yesterday morning, as we headed out the door to school, my daughter Maggie asked for a sweater. It feels like summer is quickly fading, and it’s time to break out light sweaters, ponchos, and scarves. Many of you have asked how we at Alabama Chanin wear our Organic Cotton Scarf, so we’ve compiled a few of our favorite looks for you to try. The versatility of this scarf makes it an essential piece for my closet, year-round.
The variation above is perhaps the most basic way to wear our Organic Cotton Scarf. Simply double the scarf in length, place around your neck, and insert the free ends through the loop. Voila!
To achieve this look, spread the fabric and drape it over your head so that it frames your face, leaving the ends hanging evenly in front of your shoulders. Take one end and place it over the opposite shoulder, allowing it to hang freely down your back. Do the same with the remaining end so that the fabric crosses loosely at your neck. Great for gardening, walks in the sun, or windy nights.
A look fit for evening or day: place the scarf around your neck with ends hanging in front. Allow the scarf to hang longer on the right side. Using your left hand, take the longer side of the fabric and lightly drape it around your right shoulder. Take that same piece around your front and toss it over your left shoulder, leaving the end to hang freely in the back. This can also be reversed so that the scarf drapes your left shoulder.
This look shows the scarf as a shawl. This is an easy way to achieve coverage when there’s a chill in the air and an easy way to bring together a classic evening outfit. Simply spread the fabric out and wrap around your shoulders. Let the excess hang at your side and flow with the movement of your arms.
Although this style may look more complex, it’s actually easy to achieve and can polish off your look in minutes. Spread the fabric and wrap it around your shoulders as shown above for the shawl.
From there, take the dangling ends and cross them around your back. Bring them back around to the front and tie on the side of your choosing.
For this wrap, begin as you did with the shawl, spreading and wrapping the fabric around your shoulders. As you begin to tie the excess fabric at chest, do not pull the end all the way through. Leave a loop and pull the fabric tight. This adds a different element to your scarf. Keep in mind, the wrap will fit loosely and may need to be adjusted throughout wear.
When working on a new collection, part of the design process involves creating fabric swatches in various colorways and patterns, and using an assortment of embellishment techniques. These “samples” help us quickly and sustainably choose the perfect finish for our garments.
I’ve written before about our Sample Block library and swatches as part of a sustainable design practice. Unfortunately, not all created swatches make their way into the final collection and library. Subtle changes might happen in the design process or a color dropped from the line altogether. However, these swatches are all beautiful in their own right. A stunning way to display them (rather than having them collect on my desk) is to incorporate these swatches into a Sampler Block Shawl, modeled after the Sample Block Quilt.
The 10” x 16” dimension is based on the size of the binders we use to store our fabric blocks. You can use any dimension of fabric block you’d prefer by cutting organic cotton jersey to your desired size.
As we posted last Tuesday, I highly recommend that you start a library to document your design work. As you create your samples, make them the same size so that your (master) pieces can be easily stored. And even if you don’t want to keep the samples for posterity, you can work towards making a Sampler Throw like the one shown above. As we develop our many fabrics, it often happens that a particular sample, as beautiful as it may be, just doesn’t fit neatly into one of our Fabric Swatch Books or collections. That was the case with the swatches that became the basis for this Sampler Throw. You may even find that you want to make the Sampler Throw not as a way of developing different fabric swatches, but just because it’s a beautiful and easy project. Either way, I urge you to explore our stencils, colors, techniques, and stitches to sustain rewarding design experiences.
Fabric designs are the basis of all our collections at Alabama Chanin. Each design starts as a simple 10” x 16” rectangle of our organic cotton jersey that is embellished using a variety of techniques and manipulations that may include stenciling, embroidery, beading, and/or appliqué.
My decision to use a 10” x 16” rectangle was based on the mere fact that we can easily obtain 3-ring binders to store and display swatches this size. These binders also provide us a simple way to organize our designs by color, season, and/or pattern.
While working on some press and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages this last month, I came across some texts that date back across the decade of Alabama Chanin. In reading and going over some of these texts, I thought it would be a good series to share on our Sustainable Design Tuesdays. Here is one of those texts about building a round company:
My goal with building designs – as I have built my company – is to make a sphere. I strive to create a well-rounded, (w)holistic company that revolves around a central theme: sustainability of culture, environment, and community.
It has been over a decade since I started working on the company that Alabama Chanin has become today and I am often asked how I had the foresight to start a company based on the principles of sustainability and Slow Design. To this comment, I laughingly reply that I never intended to start a sustainable design company; I simply stumbled into it like the fool falling off the cliff. When I cut up those first t-shirts, I was doing something that I felt driven to do. I didn’t think of those garments as the basis of a business; they were simply pieces of clothing I wanted to wear and, perhaps more importantly, make. However, when I look back today, it all feels like a seamless and directed adventure into the realms of becoming a sustainable designer and manufacturer.
I am often invited to speak about this process and our resulting business model, as it has developed into an unusual one. However, truth be told, I have simply taken inspiration for our model from farmers and strive to build a zero waste company where the results of one production process become the fuel for another.
Our primary work is the business of designing and making clothing. And whether a dress calls for recycled t-shirts or locally grown, certified organic cotton, the designing and making of that product spurs our model. It was developed not by intention, but through process.
Melanie – my editor – recently asked if I would send her a hi-resolution photograph of one of our embellished fabrics that she could use for her computer desktop background. In talking about this simple act, we decided it would be nice to share these photographs with everyone.
Thus was born our Desktop of the Month series. Each month, a different photograph will be available to download from our Resource Downloads page, which you can use as your desktop background. Each Desktop of the Month will be available for one calendar year, when we replace it with a new image for the current year. Though we only have one week left in the month of February, we decided to start early (or late) and include our ribbon embroidered Climbing Daisy, which was featured in our Cotton Ribbon post today.
This text – some of our most important sewing tips at Alabama Chanin – is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design (which we plan to receive and start shipping around the 15th of this month). It is important to us at Alabama Chanin that we as a humanity (women and men – girls and boys) take back the essential survival skill of hand-sewing, and that we also understand the physics behind the clothing that shelters our bodies. It’s as simple as picking up needle and thread.
Old Wives’ Tales and Physics
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of old wives’ tales around the sewing room, but I’ve come to learn that many of these tales find truth in everyday life. And as tale after tale has proven true, I’ve also come to understand that there’s reason, or “physics,” behind them.
Needle your thread; don’t thread your needle:
This makes perfect sense in that the thread is the weaker of the two elements and easily moves or bends. Moving the more stable element—the needle—over the thread to “needle the thread” makes this a simple task.