Tag Archives: Fabrics

GOING, GOING, GONE.

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.

-June

A PLEA FOR ORGANIC COTTON

Thanks to everyone who reached out about and/or shared my post on organic cotton last Friday on @EcoSalon.

For the sake of making a plea for organic cotton, here it is again… spread the word.
xoNatalie

Pound for Pound:

I am pissed. It doesn’t happen often, but, it does happen.

I grew up in cotton country. My mother and her sisters picked cotton every summer to make money for new school clothes, as they didn’t want to head back in “handmade.” My aunts and uncles raised this cotton. I slept under blankets made from scrap cotton that grows after the harvest has taken place – the dregs that are left over.  I made a film about cotton and rural quilting. For better or for worse, cotton is part of the vernacular of my community, my childhood, and my life. I would venture that cotton plays a large role in your life as well.

Since this fiber is so prevalent in our lives, I think that there are 10 things you should know about it.

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MENDING

Mending is not something we – as a culture – spend a lot of time doing these days.  Fast fashion and mass consumerism has taught us to simply throw older or imperfect items away and replace them with newer versions. I am all for the “Sewing Schoolyard” – let’s teach ourselves and our kids to mend – a satisfying task.

My favorite, 10-year old tea towels have seen better days; but, I just can’t find the perfect replacement.  I use our Alabama Chanin Tea Towels for most kitchen tasks but these have just given me so much kitchen love that I can’t bear to part with them.

In perfect wabi-sabi style, Olivia – our Studio Assistant (and budding pattern maker) – mended my old tea towels using scraps of our organic cotton jersey and Button Craft thread.  Using applique in combination with seed, whip and eyelet stitches, she repaired the holes and covered the stains.  Perfect.

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THE HEART

I once had a close friend who was the most incredible painter, yet never sold a single piece of art. I (and everyone who saw her work) was certain she was destined for artistic greatness and critical acclaim, if only she could get people to see her work. She thought it unfair and ridiculous to allow a gallery to take a commission on her sales when she did all of the work. As her collection grew, her apartment shrank, and I decided to play hero – or at least middle man.   That was free of charge.

Unfortunately, my efforts met with failure after failure; despite interested buyers, the deal always fell through. Mostly she claimed the piece was in need of some minor finishing then failed to follow up, refused to return calls. How could someone struggling with bills be so unmotivated that they couldn’t even schedule a time to collect some cash? Finally I realized (and after a couple of cocktails she admitted) that she had no intention of selling those paintings- they simply meant to much to her.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an artist who hasn’t experienced this sort of attachment to their art. Investing so much of your time and energy into a piece shapes the way you view and how much you appreciate it. When I begin a project that I know is destined for someone-somewhere else, I take a moment to focus on that fact; I take a moment to hope it will bring happiness to the wearer. Then, I let it go.

It’s hard to see a piece of our clothing in-person and not touch it – strangers have been known to sacrifice their understanding of personal boundaries on more than one occasion. The beauty of hand-stitching is almost shocking in its simplicity, and even the most perfect looking stitches are not- that’s the point. It is impossible to conceal the artistry and expression in a garment that has been made by human hands. Diane, our head seamstress (who you will meet later),  can tell you which one of our stitchers is responsible for a garment with a quick glance… we wonder if she can tell their mood as well.

Alabama Fur (in the picture above) is one of the most time-intensive treatments in the collection; it can take several weeks to complete an all-over application. Every time I run my hands across a sample of it I can’t help but think of how much time it spent with the artist who made it.  Was it put aside at the same time every day in the name of homework assistance? Did it suffer through the new season of True Blood, or help with any important decisions?

The Alabama Chanin collection (in the best case scenario) is made from cotton that is grown in Texas, spun in North Carolina, knit in South Carolina,  dyed in Tennessee and North Carolina, and sewn by our incredible Artists here in Alabama. I’d like to introduce you to the people that take part in the making of your Alabama Chanin pieces, those that cut your fabric, pack the boxes that are mailed to you, and those that hand-stitch our collection on their own terms and time.  Each garment is hand-numbered and signed by the artisan who assembled it. Who made your favorite piece? Check the tag, and if you’re inclined, say hello when he or she is featured. We love learning more about our friends, fans, and clients. We hope you enjoy getting to know us a little better during the upcoming months.


A (PRE) LABOR DAY CELEBRATION

Please watch this beautiful film about the labor of making linen.

Thank you to our farmers in Texas, our spinners, and Green Textiles in Spartanburg, South Carolina, for laboring to spread cotton love.

Join the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative for their annual Fall Field Day on Thursday, October 20, 2011, in the heart of the South Plains of Texas.

And thank you to Eric and Beth at Etsy for sharing the  Be Linen Movie by Benoit Millot with us!

I want to make a film about the production of our organic cotton.

STITCH MAGIC + TEA TOWELS

The whimsical fabric creations of Stitch Magic are simply breath-taking. Alison takes inspiration from Colette Wolff’s sewing fetish book The Art of Manipulating Fabric, giving a contemporary spin to twenty beautiful projects, ranging from home decor to fashion accessories. Machine sewn projects include fabric necklaces with dainty button closures and hand embellished egg cozies that are two of our favorites.

We combined our hand-sewing techniques with simple pin tucks from page 58 and quilting from page 82 to make these tea towels using the pattern from page 91 of Alabama Stitch Book and our 100% organic cotton jersey in medium-weight (colors Sand and Doeskin).

My daughter loves to use these tea towels for napkins, as a bib to cover her school clothes when eating breakfast (we use a wooden clothespin to hold two corners behind her neck) and she takes one to school in her lunch box to use as her own personal placemat.  She started kindergarten last Thursday and I think I will be making a lot of these tea towels in the coming year! Continue reading

LIGHTWEIGHT ORGANIC COTTON JERSEY

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.

 

BRITISH TEXTILES

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…