Thursday, March 5, 2015

Love What You Make: A Day at Alabama Chanin

This was my wonderful and surprising Christmas gift from my husband: a little workshop with Natalie Chanin

He presented it to me so creatively, by making a Wonka Bar wrapper (wrapped around a Lindt Sea Salt bar) and giving me a 'golden ticket' with the exact wording of the Golden Ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...right down to presenting the 'golden ticket' at the factory gates at 10:00.....

Which I did, quite happily, back in February.  (Thank you, Husband!)

The shop is simple, homespun and inspiring. 

These ponchos are gorgeously detailed and the construction is so simple.  I liked them when I saw photos in one of Natalie Chanin's books, but now I plan to make one for sure because in person I thought they were great.  I'd wear these with jeans in autumn. I am thinking of tonal leaves on mine--in forest green.

Headbands! I made a few of these this Christmas for friends.

Handling the garments and inspecting them was such a treat. I had a hard time photographing them, though, with a finicky lens.  I have ideas, though: the "Alabama Fur" look is actually one I really like (surprise!), and I found myself drawn to a long skirt with a row of thick beading a couple of inches from the bottom.  I needed another hour or two to truly dive into these pieces! I ran totally out of time and did not get to dive into the swatch books, alas.  

The workspace was lovely. Our workshop was full, and basically covered the physics of sewing.  It was not new to me, but there were many beginners in the workshop.  Hearing Natalie speak was fun, particularly her encouragement to forgo perfectionism, and the notion of a garment as a document. She was lovely and perfectly down-to-earth, exactly like a neighbor you'd invite over for tea every week (without worrying about the condition of your hair or your house).

 The project I chose was a scarf, but we not only got the makings of the scarf, but also a sweet little paper-back Moleskine journal, a pencil for note-taking, and a canvas bag that has now become my portable sewing bag--I had been stealing my children's tote bags for this purpose (the children thank you, Natalie!).  The instructions are not included, so if you aren't sure how to construct an item, you will need to track down the book that features the project.

Then it was time for lunch and conversation.  The cafe made me feel quite at home--rough planked tables, mismatched chairs...I know this aesthetic. 

And we could shop. The table is covered with various stencil samples which were gorgeous in person!

Of course I made purchases!  Workshop attendees got a percentage off (yay!), so I loaded up on navy and forest green jersey, gorgeous blue bugle beads, and a delicious bundle of scraps in hues of cream and natural and pale pink.   

My husband and children took the afternoon factory tour with me, which was fascinating. I am so glad we did that because we got to peek at the stenciling area. 

My summary is that Alabama Chanin is all that it is cracked up to me: a generous, socially-responsible business, an artistic oasis, a funky cafe, and a wellspring of both inspiration and organic cotton fabric.  My impression of the staff was positive--the women I met who work there seemed to regard their work with pleasure, heart and enthusiasm. I loved that!

 Natalie Chanin is doing a good work in this world.  


  1. how exciting! I love the look of the clothes.... so expensive- but you get what you pay for

    1. Yes! They are gorgeous and so beautifully constructed! The price is why I sew my own....well, plus it is just so much creative fun. :)

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