I’ve kept a journal, or some type of notebook, on and off since I was fifteen years old. My current journal is full of messages, reminders, sketches, and sweet notes and drawings I’ve collected from Maggie over the past few weeks—which, since Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, includes a lot of heart-shaped and heart-adorned things.
I first started making these covers for well-worn (and well-loved) books. Soon, most of my binders, notebooks, and journals had covers, as well. Each time I retire a journal to my shelves, I slip a new one into my hand-sewn cover.
February’s Swatch of the Month illustrates a variation on Alabama Chanin’s basic reverse appliqué technique in our Anna’s Garden design. With a membership in our Swatch of the Month Club, you can try out a different technique each month. You may purchase a Swatch of the Month membership at any point in the year and will receive all swatches from previous months. Follow along on the Journal as we demonstrate some of our most popular embroidery and embellishment techniques.
This photograph shows the second installment of the year: outside reverse appliqué. View January’s swatch—basic reverse appliqué—here. (This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background, is available for download from our Resources page.) Outside reverse appliqué is very similar to basic reverse appliqué. The only difference between the two techniques is that outside appliqué does not leave any textile paint on the fabric.
Each Swatch of the Month kit comes ready-to-sew with all of the notions needed to complete the project. Just provide your own needles, pins, and scissors (or purchase an Essential Sewing Kit from our online store). Techniques and instruction can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
When Alabama Chanin was founded, part of our initial mission was to create modern garments using age-old techniques, like hand sewing and quilting. Though we have continually grown, we still believe in celebrating the “living arts” and community-building traditions like quilting circles. As Alabama Chanin has expanded, our goals have also matured and expanded and we are happily developing our scope and physical size – though we continue to embrace that first set of ideals.
The past year has seen a growth and expansion that I could never have imagined those many years ago. We opened a flagship store and café in our Factory home and we are preparing to launch our machine-made line, A. Chanin. When I was beginning my efforts to produce those first t-shirts, I was told repeatedly that it was not possible to produce responsibly sourced, machine-made garments in the United States. Time after time, I heard that this kind of item would never make a profit. And, yet, we persevered.
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.
Pumpkin carving has a deep-rooted history in American culture. As a child, my family always used the butcher knife/three-triangles-and-a-mouth method. Today, there are specialized carving tools available from a range of sources. Martha Stewart, a lover of all things Halloween, has brought pumpkin carving to a new level, offering creative designs and techniques. Meanwhile, Maggie’s dad, Butch, looks for the strangest pumpkins available and stacks them in towering sculptures before Halloween, and then plants rows and rows of the leftover seeds in his garden after the holiday.
We use stencils in many of our designs. Most often employed as a pattern to follow when adding elaborate embroidery, beading, and appliqué, we also love the simplicity of a stenciled pattern on a basic silhouette.
This DIY Stencil T-shirt focuses on the simple beauty that emerges when you combine just the right pattern, stencil, and colors. The techniques used are easy for both the beginning and the advanced sewer to master. This design is our classic T-shirt Top. Here we used the sleeveless version, but you could use any sleeve length, depending on your personal style and taste.
Our finished Alabama Chanin garments, made from 100% organic cotton jersey, are beautiful when worn as unembellished Basics; however, through the years, most of our designs have highlighted the incredible number of stencil patterns in our growing library. These stencils are the cornerstone of both our design process and our business model.
From page 10 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:
We use stencils as tools to transfer decorative patterns onto projects like dresses, skirts, and pillows. The stenciled patterns are then used by our artisans as guides for positioning embroidery and beading. Because the stencils so effectively guide the design, our artisans don’t need to work in our studio. Rather, they can work independently as individual business owners when and where they want, scheduling their work time as they like.
Abbie’s Flower All-over Stencil
A “Fat Eighth” is a term well known to many quilters and practiced crafters. For those of you who have never seen or used them, Fat Eighths are bundles of 1/8 yard cuts of fabric often used by quilters to make patchwork patterns. This technique allows makers to create a varied, often colorful quilt that features an array of techniques, shapes, and patterns.
We began offering basic Fat Eighths and Stenciled Fat Eighths in our DIY Store when we learned just how many uses our Studio Book readers were finding for scraps and small pieces of fabric. These fabric squares have uses that stretch far beyond quilting. Readers have related using them as appliqué pieces, shared stories of using the squares to patch holes in well-loved garments, and even reported using scraps as gift wrap. We designed a Quilt of the Month that featured Stenciled Fat Eighths, which was simple, colorful, quite beautiful, and a quick project for both beginning and advanced stitchers.
We have added new options to our selection of Stenciled Fat Eighths: Paisley and Anna’s Garden stenciled squares. In combination with our popular Facets pattern, these options should allow you greater artistic freedom when designing your projects. All Fat Eighths are 9” x 20” and are cut from our 100% organic medium weight cotton jersey. Your stencil selection will be sprayed on each fabric square using our Cream colored textile paint. The bundle contains 25 squares and you can choose from Color Card 1 or 2, or purchase both.
Visit our website for more information on our Stenciled Fat Eighths here.
We learn our first real poem around the age of 2 — the ABC Song. Soon, we graduate to nursery rhymes, then rhymes for jumping rope. By the time we reach junior high and high school we’re reading Epic Poems, like The Odyssey, and reciting Shakespeare in Iambic Pentameter—well sometimes. Songs can be poems set to rhythm. If we’re lucky, perhaps someone has written a love poem or a song—or two—for us.
Poems are rhythmic—they have patterns, beats, stanzas, couplets, and verses. They have been instrumental at critical moments in our history. Witness:
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.