We’ve teamed up with the DIY experts of Alabama Chanin to bring you a series of homegrown projects. Over the next six weeks you’ll learn how to make some our favorite Alabama Chanin pieces—from bath mats to totes.
If you are familiar with Southerner Natalie Chanin, designer of Alabama Chanin, you know that her intricate garments are not only beautiful but hand-sewn by Alabama locals. What you might not know is that she offers workshops to teach experienced, and aspirational sewers alike, the same techniques she uses in her own work. This past summer, I had the pleasure of participating in one of those workshops. What I found was not only the sharing of sewing techniques but the sharing of ideas and stories among an eclectic group of women—a high (yet slow) fashion sewing circle. Undeniably, gathering women, all with threads-in-hand, makes for good story-telling, and camaraderie. Maybe you’ll use this series for just that.
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 2014. 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 2014. 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.
If you want to try your hand at indigo dyeing your tote, you can see how some of our friends created their own indigo dye bath. If you want to experiment with other colors, it is easy to find recipes for natural dyeing online. Wherever you live, there is a fruit, vegetable, plant, or flower in season that can be used to create beautiful shades. The Tote Bag is also beautiful in its original Natural color, which allows you freedom to display high contrast appliqués or go for a tone-on-tone color palette.
Stencil or trace the Paisley pattern onto the back of appliqué fabric using your stenciling method of choice. For each appliqué that you want to place on the Tote Bag, you will also cut a slightly larger version of that piece by cutting about 1/8” around the outside of an identically stenciled piece. This will allow you to stitch a double-layered appliqué. Begin by placing your larger appliquéd pieces on each side of the Tote Bag and securing them into place with pins. Once you have your appliqué placed as desired, add the slightly smaller appliqué pieces on top of those first appliqués by removing the pins one piece at a time and re-pinning through the smaller and larger appliqué at one time, fitting the smaller appliqué just inside the borders of each larger appliqué.
Using a whip stitch, secure the smaller appliqué through all layers of the larger appliqué and the bag. This leaves about 1/8” of the larger appliqué visible behind your smaller appliqué.
We covered the handles of our bag with Cotton Jersey Pulls. You can also use Kitchen Twine, but keep in mind that you will need more yardage as they are thinner and will cover less surface area. Securely tack the end of the pull to the inside of the tote bag’s handle, then begin wrapping by making a loop and pulling the end of your cotton jersey pull through the loop to make a knot. Continue making knots to completely cover the straps of the bag. When you reach the end of a pull, tie to the next pull using a square knot and continue wrapping. Once you have wrapped the entire handle, secure the end of the pull to the inside of the tote by tacking the end of the pull to the inside of the tote bag’s handle.