Last fall, one of my neighbors gave me a box of vintage patterns he found tucked away in his basement. The weather-stained cardboard box that once belonged to his mother was filled with patterns that represented decades of accumulation: Vogue Patterns, McCall’s, Simplicity, and Butterick . Each had been purchased for as little as a dollar and some change.
This week, we’ve been exploring Finnish design company, Marimekko, well known for creating colorful, often bold patterns and fabrics. While their designs were first made popular in the 1960’s by Jacqueline Kennedy, the bright and vibrant garments remain classic choices, appropriate for any generation. Personally, I love to add a bold pattern or color to my regular wardrobe from time-to-time, and re-visiting the Marimekko story inspired this Tunic.
This pattern is a variation of our T-shirt Top, available in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design cut to tunic length. The tunic has a bit of a flare starting at the waist, which makes it comfortable and forgiving. We also have variations of tunics – the Camisole Tunic and the Tank Tunic – available as patterns in Alabama Studio Style.
Two years in the making, we are thrilled to officially introduce our Anna Maria Horner collaboration to Alabama Chanin’s Studio Style DIY. In-depth conversations, back-and-forth emails, and Nashville-Florence meetings with Anna Maria resulted in two textile pattern designs called “Little Flowers” and “Little Folks”.
Our collaborative process illustrates the infinite design possibilities that emerge when you start a conversation on design; our collaboration is an enlargement and elaboration of Anna Maria’s textile pattern: Little Folks.
I’ve been a fan of Anna Maria and her lively prints for years. Seeing the evolution of many of these prints into complete fabric collections made me curious to see what one would look like worked in our Alabama Chanin style. Little Folks had all the elements I was interested in incorporating into an Alabama Chanin design: simple forms, intricate detail, and repeating geometric patterns. This elemental approach focused on the essence of her design, evident in the laser-cut stencils.
We have been working with indigo-dyed cotton jersey for years now. Between Father Andrew and Goods of Conscience in New York City and Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville, Tennessee, there has never been a need for us to start our own indigo vat. And in the quantities we dye, it’s better to leave it to the experts. However, there has always been this little part of me that covets an indigo bath and I dream of one in our studio for “play.”
Since we set about exploring indigo this week, it seemed a perfect time to also explore recipes for a vat (which Father Andrew says is “very much like making beer”). While investigating recipes, I remembered a text message I received last fall from friends A.J. Mason and Jeff Moerchen about an indigo vat they created in the woods of upstate New York. Here they share the story of their vat:
While cleaning up for our recent Garage Sale (stay tuned for another coming towards the end of February), I found a bag of our Cotton Jersey Pulls cut into 4” lengths. Most likely, these were prepared for button loops, but no one in the studio can remember exactly why they were prepared and cut.
It’s the time of the year when the shape of a heart makes its prolific comeback (although with a six-year-old girl at home, the heart shape is a pretty common part of daily life). Graphic symbols often carry with them deep histories (and controversies) over where the shape emerged. This simple shape is no different. Apparently it is found in cave paintings dating as far back as 10,000 B.C.E.
Some believe that the shape was a simplification of the silhouette of the human heart; others believe that it was a sign used for a now-extinct plant called silphium, which was used as a form of birth-control—therefore becoming the sign of love. Still others believe that the inverted heart symbolized the hanging scrotum —perhaps a stretch of the (over-active) imagination.
Wherever your beliefs land, it can’t be denied that the heart is possibly the most (over?) used symbol of our time. But then, why should that stop us?
Here is our version of the heart in stencil form:
Check back this week as we elaborate on all things love (and heart shaped), from Dr. Ruth to DIY Kits, and little girls’ valentines (to themselves). “I love you. I love you. I love you,” she murmured as she gazed in the mirror.
Should we all find such self-love in these next two weeks… and for the rest of our lives.
You know how we at Alabama Chanin feel about open sourcing. We offer our techniques and the information necessary to recreate our products, should you decide that you want to do-it-yourself. After three books, countless DIY Kits, and an amazing array of workshops, we have learned some important things: people will take your ideas and run with them; what you put into the world will come back to you in ways that you never imagined; the world is a creative place; and you never know what people are capable of until you give them the tools and the opportunity to create.
That being said, I think we’ve found a kindred spirit in the musician, Beck. While listening to one of my podcast staples, All Things Considered, I caught an interview where he described his newest album – an album that he, himself, hasn’t actually recorded. Song Reader (published by, awesome, McSweeney’s) is a set of 20 songs that Beck has released only in sheet music format. His hope is that other musicians will take the material and record their own versions. After releasing so many solo albums, he said that crowdsourcing his music seemed like a way to make the process less lonely.
From All Things Considered: “When you write a song and make a recording and put out a record, it’s kind of [like] sending a message in a bottle,” Beck says. “You don’t really get a lot of feedback. This is a way of sending that song out, and you just get literally thousands of bottles sent back to you.”
There are plenty of artists that have taken up this artistic challenge. You can hear many of them at Beck’s Song Reader website. Maybe, you’ll find your own inspiration there.
To hear the entire interview and some of the songs that have been recorded, listen to the All Things Considered segment here.
With the publication of our Alabama Studio Book Series, we open sourced our beloved techniques that these living arts might be preserved for future generations. One of the things that we learned along the way is that people who are dedicated to one particular area of craft can also become converts to another area. The art of working with your hands seems to span all disciplines.
We have customers who are woodworkers, potters, scrapbookers, knitters, and crocheters. Particularly, knitters seem to find themselves at home making Alabama Chanin pieces. Perhaps loop-by-loop finds familiarity with our stitch-by-stitch method. Knitters Melanie Falick (my editor) and Mason-Dixon’s Kay Gardiner are now hand-sewing enthusiasts in the Alabama Chanin style.