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.
In the style of “old-school” Alabama Chanin – and perfect for holiday gifts – make our Sister Shirts using mirror-image or mix-and-match sections of your favorite t-shirts. Follow the instructions for our Printed T-shirt Corset on page 155 of Alabama Stitch Book to complete the project.
From the project introduction:
Follow the instructions as given but prepare pattern pieces for two printed T-shirt corsets. Instead of using one of the T-shirts for the whole corset, mix and match by swapping out, for example the center front panel from one of the t-shirts into the center panel of the other. Do the same with the back panels. Ultimately, you will create two shirts that are nearly alike except for the transposed panels.
In the corset tops above, we traded out the Center Back and Middle Front pattern pieces. Leave edges raw and seams floating.
Today, for DIY Thursday, we are featuring a Guy Laroche pattern from Vogue Designer Patterns constructed in the Alabama Chanin style. I never had the chance to meet Guy Laroche, nor have I met the house’s current artistic director, Marcel Marongiu, but I admire their focus on impeccable tailoring. Laroche’s collections once featured billowing empire line dresses; the pattern that we chose to adapt combines the flowing nature of those garments with their famous tailoring skills.
Because this garment was dressier than some of our other Vogue Pattern adaptations, we only made a basic version. We think it is spectacular without embellishment. However, it would be gorgeous with some beading around the neckline or the hem. Either way, this dress is perfect for any upcoming holiday parties.
Creativebug.com is a subscription service and just in time for the holidays has Gift Subscriptions available starting at $24.99 for a month. I love this as a gift for my crafting friends as there are so many great classes available for the holiday season.
“Appliqué is beautiful way to add texture, pattern and color to a project. Natalie uses applique to stunning effect in her Alabama Chanin collection, and in this workshop, she’ll share with you her basic technique. She’ll also show examples of how using different stitches and thread result in dramatically different finished looks.”
Our camisole dress is shown in Apple (double-layer) with Anna’s Garden appliqué in Natural placed around the bottom of the dress . The appliqué is sewn with a whipstitch with a single layer of Cream #256 Button Craft thread. We used Red #128 Button Craft thread for construction of the dress and also for the Cretan stitch along the binding. Seams are felled on the wrong side (inside of the garment).
Continuing our conversation around design, craft and fashion, this week we present a Tracy Reese pattern from Vogue Designer Patterns for DIY Thursday. In all my years as a designer, I have not had the chance to meet Tracy, although I have been familiar with her work since the launch of her collection in the mid-1990s. At that time, I was working as a stylist in Europe and spent much of my time in boutiques, reading fashion magazines, and working with clients.
In an effort to understand Tracy Reese’s philosophy, we reached out to her press office for information and received a note stating that they could “not provide any information at this time.” However, this is what I found on the CFDA website:
“Detroit native Tracy Reese is a graduate of Parsons School of Design. Reese apprenticed under designer Martin Sitbon and worked as design director for Women’s Portfolios at Perry Ellis before launching her eponymous collection in 1996. The collection blends the ultra-feminine and nostalgic with modern polish. plenty by Tracy Reese, was introduced in 1998, after a trip to India provided endless inspiration. A joyful color palette, art-inspired prints and playful details are seen on essentials with a bohemian spirit. With flagships in Manhattan and Tokyo, the Tracy Reese and plenty brands have expanded to include footwear, handbags and home goods.”
Martine Stibon remains one of my all-time favorite designers and I used those pieces often during my days as a stylist. I do love the dress that emerged using our organic cotton jersey fabrics with Tracy Reece’s pattern.
In January, we began a conversation about the intersection of Fashion, Craft, and DIY. That dialogue started with our friends at Vena Cava and progressed to our Makeshift events, and continues with adapting patterns from designers like Anna Sui and Donna Karan (one of my personal favorites that I wear often). This week we extend the conversation with a collaboration and pattern from textile designer Anna Maria Horner.
Below are instructions for Alabama Chanin’s basic version of Anna Maria’s dress pattern in Light Golden and Goldenrod, the newest colors in our hand-dyed, cotton jersey fabric collection. These fabric colors, like our Indigo and Coral, are hand-dyed in Nashville, Tennessee, using the osage orange wood and myrobalan fruit in varying amounts to create variation in shades.
“Basic sewing skills can transform a plain t-shirt into one of your favorite go-to wardrobe pieces. The random ruffle t-shirt uses a simple appliqué technique that’s quick and easy, yet true to the Alabama Chanin style.”
Shown here our T-Shirt Top with Cap sleeves is appliquéd with five ½ inch vertical rows cut across grain of random ruffles. This t-shirt is a single layer of light-weight Silt with the ruffles in light-weight Black. The t-shirt is constructed with Slate thread, using a straight stitch along the sleeves and side construction and a Cretan stitch for the binding. The ruffles are sewn with black thread.