Tag Archives: Sustainable Design

IN PROCESS: OUR NATURAL DYE HOUSE

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The process of starting our own dye house began with an exploration into the materials and methods that involve the chemistry of dyeing. That exploration began with indigo.

In its natural form, indigo is a tropical, leafy shrub and a member of the legume family, and a version of the plant is native to our own Alabama climate. The wide range of blue shades that this ancient plant can produce as a dye has made it one of the most popular (and successful) dye plants throughout history (and present day).

Alabama Chanin has experimented with indigo and other natural dyes for years, and recently set up two dye vats in-house, that we can better produce our classic Indigo colors here at The Factory. Diane, our head seamstress (and now head dye master), is overseeing the project with the assistance of Maggie, one of our studio team members. The vats were set up with the help of Zee Boudreaux — a friend we met during our time at Penland — who has spent time studying indigo and other natural dyes.

Zee worked here in our studio with Diane and Maggie during our beginning phase and generously answered a few questions for us about indigo and his experiences with natural dyeing.

AC: How did you first become involved with natural dyes?

ZB: In 1995, I was traveling and met a weaver/dyer who introduced me to textiles; she wasn’t using natural dyes, but my established environmental awareness and love for traditional processes led me to look for a natural dye class. I found natural dyer Cheryl Kolander and attended one of her workshops. I even apprenticed with Cheryl after the workshop. Seeing natural color come out of the dye pot for the first time was all it took to lead me down this path.

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DIANE’S NATURAL DYE HOUSE

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About four years ago (to my dismay), Diane Hall, our head seamstress and studio directress, turned in her five-year notice. However, as her retirement grows closer, it has become evident to all of us at the studio that we will continue to see her around The Factory after her “official” retirement.

Diane has developed a passion for natural dyeing—in addition to sewing, pattern making, etc. She first encountered natural dyeing with indigo during our workshop at Shakerag in 2012. Her experience there with the renowned dyer Michel Garcia left a lasting impression. Last summer, while our entire company was writing a 10 year vision, Diane wrote that she envisioned a natural dye house here at The Factory and volunteered herself as the head dye master after her retirement.

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After that simple act of writing our vision, the dye house miraculously began to take shape.

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DIY SWATCH WRAP

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Each month, we feature a favorite Alabama Chanin embroidery technique as part of our Swatch of the Month Club. Additionally, we offer suggestions as to how you might put your completed swatches to use. Past month’s project offerings have included the DIY Clutch, DIY Book Covers, and DIY Swatch Pillows. This month – with 6 completed swatches to utilize – we offer instructions on how to construct a Tied Wrap. Our wrap uses our completed swatches from January through June; each reworked using a White/Natural colorway.

SUPPLIES

6 completed Swatch of the Month panels (or 6 – 10” x 16” cotton jersey fabric swatches of your choice)
1 – 20” x 48” rectangle of cotton jersey fabric, for optional backing layer
2 cotton jersey ropes 18” long (see page 8 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design)
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, needles, thread, pins, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, which includes all necessary instructions for completing swatches and Tied Wrap.

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GIFTS FOR DAD

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This is the time of year to celebrate the men in our lives: fathers, husbands, partners, sons, and brothers who have been there through it all, and continue to support us through thick and thin. This year we’ve selected a few favorite Father’s Day gifts which will be discounted from our online store through Friday, June 13.

The Thursday before Father’s Day, we are hosting our inaugural “Friends of the Café” Dinner Series benefiting Alabama Gulf Seafood. The dinner features James Beard award-winning chef (and father) Chris Hastings who will prepare a three-course meal, followed by a book-signing. Buy a ticket for dad (and yourself) and visit us at The Factory in Florence. Be sure to get a copy of Hot and Hot Fish Club).

If you can’t make the trip to Florence, you can always make something special or give something handmade; we have a selection to help celebrate the dad who deserves the best.

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REFASHIONED

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Sass Brown’s ReFashioned: Cutting Edge Clothing From Upcycled Materials, is the second in a series focusing on the eco-fashion movement. Previously, in Eco Fashion, she examined designers and labels (including Alabama Chanin) practicing sustainability in the fashion industry.  In ReFashioned, she features 46 international designers who create using recycled and upcycled textiles. The result is a stunning volume of forward-thinking design that also opens a discussion on the current state of fashion and its many wasteful practices.

Sass is one of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful voices in the eco-fashion movement. She considers herself a fashion activist, writing, “As a designer and writer, I like to tell the stories around our clothes, to help revive our material connection to our clothing.” She says, “It became equally important for me to reveal the hidden price tag of fast fashion, as a means to promote conscious consumerism.”

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MAKESHIFT 2014

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MAKESHIFT began three years ago as a conversation about the intersection of the disciplines of design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—and, on a bigger level, using this intersection as an agent of change in the world. Since then, we’ve explored making as individuals, and how making as a group can open conversations and build communities.

For MAKESHIFT 2014, we have once again partnered with Standard Talks in New York to host the conversation, and will cover a range of topics, including raw materials, craft, fashion, global communities, food, and the act of making. 2014 James Beard award-winning chef Ashley Christensen will also participate in the discussion, helping answer the question: What can design learn from food?

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EARTH DAY + RECYCLING

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“Don’t throw anything away. Away is not far from you.”

The quote above hangs in our studio as a reminder that each action we take (no matter how big or small) impacts our environment. Designed by our friend Robert Rausch a few years ago, the simple quote was stamped on an event invite as a means to provoke thought about what people use and, consequently, throw away each day. At Alabama Chanin, we are taking strides to become a zero waste company—where the results of one production process become the fuel for another. It is our continuing goal to maintain a well-rounded, (w)holistic company that revolves around a central theme: sustainability of culture, environment, and community.

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Not only do we reuse and recycle each scrap of fabric, but we also participate in other sustainable and environmental practices on a daily basis. We recycle paper and cardboard, collect and save glass in the café, compost all food waste, repurpose scrap paper, plant trees, and are even starting a garden at The Factory. Waste not, want not.

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SHORT STACK EDITIONS

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Short Stack is a beautiful series of small-format, hand-bound publications that are half cookbook, half food magazine. Each 4 1/2” x 7 1/2” edition is inspired by a single ingredient and written by an array of chefs, cookbook authors, and food writers. To sum it up, Short Stack Editions are a food-lovers’ pocket-sized dream—and are as functional as they are collectible. (Our staff has been poring over the volumes since their arrival at The Factory.)

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THE BEST FOR MOM

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This year, we’ve taken the best of our new collection and Studio Style DIY and put them together for our 2014 Mother’s Day Gift Guide. We have a little bit of everything for everyone, whether you want to make something special or prefer to give something already handmade. Either way, your gift will be one-of-a-kind.

Our collection features contemporary and flattering styles for moms of all ages, and our guide features a selection of garments, discounted for a limited-time: the Panel Tunic, Magdalena Betsy Blazer, and Daisy Long Skirt. The Alabama Vest is a simple accessory and compliments any woman’s wardrobe.

Other gift items include Dust-to-Digital’s book and CD collection, Never a Pal Like Mother and But Mama Always Put Vodka in her Sangria by Julia Reed. These would be perfect when paired with Rosanne Cash’s newest (amazing) album, The River & The Thread.

For those who enjoy making, our newest DIY Kits feature our Stencil of the Year pattern, the Check. Our DIY Check Tied Wrap features Alabama Eyelet beading and casually covers the shoulders. The DIY Check Skirt is the only DIY Kit pattern we currently feature using our Short Fitted Skirt pattern from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

For the mom-to-be, make a DIY Baby Blanket + Onesie from our kit.

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DIY CHAIR WORKSHOP @ SOUTHERN MAKERS, MONTGOMERY, AL

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In early May, we will be traveling to Montgomery, Alabama, to participate in the second annual Southern Makers event. Southern Makers is a one-day affair that celebrates innovation and creativity of all types in Alabama. From panel discussions and artist talks, to cooking demonstrations and workshops, Southern Makers highlights some of the top talent working throughout the Southeast.

This year, Alabama Chanin will be hosting a DIY Chair Workshop. This workshop offers guests the opportunity to work with Natalie and her team to repurpose a selection of gently used chairs using fabric, paint, stencils, and an assortment of tools. Guests will choose a chair to repurpose on a first come, first served basis. An assortment of tools and materials will be available for use; however, you are welcome to bring your own chair and materials.

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This workshop models itself after Alabama Chanin’s Makeshift workshop series: Crafting Design, featured in the New York Times. Also, the Woven Farm Chairs project found in our first book, Alabama Studio Style, repairs old chairs using cotton-jersey pulls made from fabric scraps. The workshop will cover a range of topics including craft, design, and DIY.

Saturday, May 3, 2014 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm

The Union Station Train Shed (Downtown)
300 Water Street
Montgomery, AL 36104

For more information, contact: workshops(at)alabamachanin.com, or call: +1.256.760.1090.

There will also be a Market Place Bazaar at this year’s event, featuring wares and goods from talented southern artisans and chefs (including an Alabama Chanin Pop-Up Shop). Stay tuned…