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.
This stuffed bunny rabbit is Alabama Chanin’s version of the old-time childhood favorite, the sock monkey. My grandmother used to make sock monkeys for all the children in our family. Each one she made took its own personality and looked different from the others. Our DIY Bunny Rabbit doll is an easy project to complete, and is a perfect handmade gift for the little ones this holiday. And each time you make this project, your bunny will take on its own unique personality, much like the well-loved sock monkeys from my childhood.
Get creative with your bunny rabbit – you can customize the fabric colors and embroidery floss, change his face to reflect any mood, or even turn him into another woodland creature. (One of our studio team members recently made a little stuffed bear by altering our pattern a bit.)
All of the instructions for this bunny, along with the pattern, are available in Alabama Stitch Book. The pattern is also available for download on our Resources page.
The Bolero is a popular item for those of us in Alabama, as spring and fall temperatures (and in some years, mid-winter) can swing from 50 degrees to 80 degrees in the course of one day. It is an easy piece to toss into your bag on the way out the door and an effortless way to accessorize your look in any weather.
We shared the pattern for this garment in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, with four variations of how it might be constructed: sleeveless, with cap sleeves, short sleeves, and long, fluted sleeves. It can be completed quickly, regardless of your chosen style, and requires only 1 yard of fabric or so. Imagine our surprise, and disappointment, when some readers reported that their Boleros weren’t coming together as expected, that the pattern was a little bit off. Errata déjà vu.
This past February, Alabama Chanin partnered with the team at Craftsy, an online community of makers who offer projects, craft ideas, and courses on dozens of topics. Our online class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, has provided us with a new way to interact with our fellow makers and has given us the opportunity to share just a few of the techniques that we teach in our Workshops.
We have talked before about the concept of online learning and how the Internet is making education opportunities that were once expensive and inconvenient cheaper and more accessible. Enrolling in online courses takes geography out of the equation. It is no longer essential to sit in a physical classroom with other participants. You don’t have to plan your life around when classes are scheduled. Online classes, like our Craftsy course, allow you the opportunity to learn the same stitches and techniques as someone on the other side of the country, or the world.
I am a child of the 1960s…no way around it. And, while denim has been around since 1860’s-era France, the decades of the 60’s and 70’s jump to my mind when I think of this fabric. That era also makes me think of all the controversy around the American Flag and its use as a symbol on both sides of divisive matters like segregation, the Vietnam War, and other social issues. Images of Abbie Hoffman, clad in his American Flag button-up shirt, alongside flags made entirely of cut-up old blue jeans come to mind. Like I said, a child of the 60’s.
We recently received a comment, referring us to the United States Flag Code, suggesting that our American Flag Quilt doesn’t adhere strictly to the advisory rules. I want it to be clear that I love my home and our flag—that symbol of home. The Alabama Chanin representation of the American flag is made by stitching together disparate pieces to create a beautiful, larger whole. We take care with every small scrap of fabric, embroidering each stenciled piece so that when inspected up close, you can see the detail involved; each small piece painted with a different stencil; stitched using a different technique; each technique modified to highlight the possible variations; all somehow fitting together…much like our country.
Earlier this year, we featured artist, friend, and collaborator, Anna Maria Horner. As that week came to a close, we were inspired by Anna Maria’s elaborate needlepoint projects and decided we would experiment with more involved embroidery techniques ourselves. For our first project, the Embroidered Flowers T-shirt, we mixed traditional embroidery stitch work with retro patterns using modern silhouettes. We adapted a vintage McCall’s pattern for the floral embroidery design and used the Alabama Chanin T-shirt pattern as the base. The result was relatively simple to complete.
For this project, our Garden Geometry Skirt, inspired by Anna Maria’s pattern of the same name (and available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook), we adapted our Swing Skirt, creating intricate embroidery designs on a larger scale. In her book, Anna Maria writes, “this is by far the most straightforward approach I have made toward the traditional way of creating a crewel design.” As she also mentions, the pattern lends itself to enlargement and experimentation. The result is a colorful expression of our experimentation. Make your own Garden Geometry Skirt using fabric and thread colors that suit your personal style. There are stitch and pattern diagrams available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook that can help direct your design.
The process of writing a book is involved. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Each draft gets written and edited, reviewed, passed from hand to hand, rewritten, reedited, and re-reviewed until – after many (many) drafts – you finally arrive at a finished product. It’s a shiny new representation of years of hard work. And in a best case scenario—like a perfect dinner party— it looks effortless.
Each author wants her books to be perfect, especially considering the blood, sweat, and tears that go into every word. You haven’t just written the pages, you have rewritten, proofed (see photo below), had projects produced, reproduced, pages designed, and then redesigned again. It’s all part of the glorious process of eliminating errors, removing comma splices, making things pretty, laying a foundation, and inspiring a person to want to hold your book, to open it and, in the end, find it perfect.
On the heels of MAKESHIFT 2013, we are inspired and invigorated by the conversations around design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY that took place last week during New York Design Week. We hope that you have followed our explorations throughout the events this year and have used our discussions to begin conversations of your own. We are even more convinced about the importance of making, sharing, and finding common ground, and look forward to expanding the conversations about design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY over the coming months.
One thing that resonates from those talks last week, are the concepts of collaboration and skill sharing. As we continue to open source our ideas, our Alabama Chanin 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).
On Sunday, as part of MAKESHIFT 2013, we co-hosted a Chair Workshop, modeled after the MAKESHIFT 2012 workshop, Crafting Design, sponsored by Partners and Spade. This year we teamed up with Build It Green!NYC (BIG!NYC) and Krrb and invited an array of makers to join us for an afternoon of collaboration, innovation, and chair re-design. While our event at The Standard focused on conversation (though there was plenty of making going on as well), the chair event has evolved into a make-centered occasion where a community of designers work both independently and together through skill sharing and mutual encouragement.
The event was held at BIG!NYC’s restore facility in Brooklyn – a warehouse filled with doors, fireplace mantels, sinks, mirrors, tiles and a number of other goods, much of it vintage and antique, acquired through donations and offered at low prices for those looking to save money (and the landfill) in home renovations. Or in the case of friend Kerry Diamond (of Cherry Bombe Magazine) and her chef/partner Robert Newton, the interior of their third and most recent restaurant, Nightingale 9, was designed with salvage bought from BIG!NYC.
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.