Natalie Chanin Releases Alabama Studio Sewing + Design (And We’re Giving It Away!)

Natalie Chanin releases the third book in her sewing trilogy.

It’s no secret we have a thing for Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin here on EcoSalon.

An entrepreneur, designer, author, lecturer and strong businesswoman who went back to her roots in Florence, Alabama to stimulate local economy (as well as her own quest for a little life/work fulfillment), Natalie is a one-woman rocket ship of sustainable goodness.

In her third book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, we get to pick up on the “conversations and techniques begun with the Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style.” With each book lending itself to the other as to the workings and lifestyle of the Alabama Chanin woman, readers of all three books will now have the tools to make anything they’ve ever seen on the Alabama Chanin site – minus the in-house Depression Era stitchers.

We caught up with Natalie this past week to tell us more about her new DIY masterpiece. Speaking of that book, did we mention that we’re also giving a copy away? It’s no lie. Just leave a comment at the bottom of this story and you are entered to win!

How is Alabama Studio Sewing + Design different from the Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style?

Alabama Studio Sewing + Design is really the culmination of what was originally seen as a trilogy.  Each book builds on the other, but also stands on its own.  However, this book is more about the actual “fashion” of what we do… more intricate, more sophisticated, more patterns, more techniques…

With the compilation of the three books, you should be able to recreate any fabric and technique that we have ever designed at Alabama Chanin.

Talk about the importance of sharing “techniques that were once understood as essential survival skills?” Have we as a society lost touch with the importance of using our hands to create?

There is much talk at the moment about how being able to “do” or “make” for ourselves also makes us HAPPY.  I believe that this is a huge leap in understanding human behavior and a missing piece in our role as human beings today.  How simple: develop the capacity to do for yourself (in whatever small way) AND build neural pathways to happiness. I think back to my grandmother’s ever-moving hands and her pride in doing for her family and it makes me sigh… “Yes, I understand.”

I see the open-sourcing you offer in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design working for Alabama Chanin in two ways: 1., It gives people the opportunity to own Alabama Chanin by making and 2., it gives people an appreciation for what you do as a designer. Am I right?

The original thought in writing the books was to empower people to be able to make our garments.

I wrote in the introduction: “I have been asked many times why I choose to write books and, in the process, open-source (that is, freely share) instructions for making Alabama Chanin’s couture collections. The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. It is based on my belief that good design should be available to all and my desire to build a company that is sustainable in all of its practices. By sharing our skills in these books, I hope to shed light on not only how we can preserve precious natural resources but also how we can preserve and protect techniques that were once understood as essential survival skills.

 While Alabama Chanin dresses, skirts, tops, and coats have been beautifully featured in countless magazines and newspapers, and on television shows and websites, they have also been criticized for being “elitist,” and “inaccessible” because of their price. Truth be told, our clothing is extremely expensive. This is because it is made from domestic, organic, custom-dyed cotton jersey that is cut, painted, sewn, and embellished by hand in America by skilled artisans. And while we sell our collection to some of the most upscale stores and clients, we run our business in the most down-to-earth, simple way imaginable. In the beginning, we worked from a three-bedroom, brick, ranch-style house in rural Alabama, a home that my grandfather built. Today we work from a reclaimed textile factory built in the 1980s—when manufacturing was booming in the South. Our studio—which we call The Factory—has become a busy hub, where we concentrate on building a zero-waste company. Our employees earn a living wage, and while none of us is getting rich, at least in terms of our bank accounts, we are, indeed, rich in spirit, belief, passion, and friendship. “Elitist” is the antithesis of how the company works and who I am as a designer, entrepreneur, and citizen.”

 The piece I think you initially understood – better than I – is that the books have ALSO given a broader range of people an appreciation of the work we are doing. Thank you.

Do you see the DIY movement getting stronger? Is this maybe an entire generation of women ready to use their hands again to create their own clothing and be a little more self-sufficient?

I do see DIY as a very quickly growing movement – or should I say, a “remembering” of where we come from. And I find it very inspiring to see people – young and old, man and woman – searching for their voices in this conversation and using these tools as a form of sustainability – both cultural and physical. My interest in this conversation is to help find the intersection of DIY, Craft, Fashion and Design (all with capital letters).

Image: Abrams Books

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