Postcard from the Edge
Three Tourist-y Things

The All of It


I'll just begin by saying Alabama Chanin is a magical place.


It's not just being surrounded by the sample garments everywhere (seriously . . . it was like my Pinterest board had come to life right in front of me).  It's not just the bins of fabric scraps in every corner.  It's not just the perfectly designed work spaces or the charming quilts on the walls or the chairs (oh, the chairs. . . ) or the button jars.


It's really kind of . . . the All of It.

Even time moves differently there.  Speeded up in a sort of fiber-y warp speed thing.  (I know that sounds kind of crazy, but every day we were shocked by how quickly time passed.)


The 3-day workshop was perfectly paced.  There were classes on technique and construction and embroidery, mixed in with open studio time and one-on-one instruction, mixed in with a behind-the-scenes tour of The Factory, and - of course - a chance to meet Natalie Chanin and hear her speak about the history of the company and her own path.

The first day, we had several hours to make our decision about what we wanted to make as part of the workshop.  (An Alabama Chanin School of Making kit of our choice was included in the price of admission.)  When I first saw the hours attributed to this particular task on our schedule, I kind of rolled my eyes.

Because how hard would THAT be?

I mean . . . I've ordered kits online before.  I am already very familiar with the various styles of kits available.  I traveled to Alabama with something already in mind.

Let me just say . . . HA!

I ended up needing Every. Single. Moment. of the allotted time to make my choice!  Turns out . . . that having access to all the sample garments to try on . . . and color swatches to play with . . . and stencil swatches to pore over . . . and embellishment and embroidery options to consider . . . just complicate the process.  So. Many. Decisions.

In the end, I chose to make the wrap dress.  In black with a grape under-layer.  With the Magdalena stencil.  With some beading.

But don't be looking for a progress shot quite yet.  Because I didn't even begin to work on it.  Instead, I worked with a sample swatch to try out different stitching, beading, and appliqué techniques that I might want to use (kind of like a knitting swatch).  With a project as big and involved as this wrap dress will be, I want to make some decisions before I even get started.  And that sample swatch was the perfect thing!


Another really great thing about the workshop is that the instructors tailored their teaching to the things we wanted to learn, individually.  Once I saw the crocheted snap covers that are standard for Alabama Chanin garments, I wanted to learn how to do them for my coat.

My.  Are they ever fiddly!  (Because tiniest of crochet needles.  And thread.)


The first one I tried took about 2 hours.  (And lots of swearing, but I was quiet about it.)  It turned out quite wonky (because tension was a big issue for me), but it'll work.  


The next one only took about 45 minutes (and significantly less swearing) -- and it was much neater.  Only 4 snaps to go now.  And then I can finish my coat.

Our instructors were wonderful.  Patient.  Generous.  Incredibly skilled.  They always showed us the "Alabama Chanin Way" (because they have Standards), but also encouraged us to go our own way and do our own thing when making our garments.  I very much appreciated their attitude and relaxed approach to Making.


Making this trip to Alabama turned out even better than I had imagined or hoped!  It was such a pleasure to meet the other women in the workshop (and what a varied bunch they were!), to experience Alabama Chanin up-close-and-personal, to meet Natalie Chanin herself, and to just . . . live among those incredible garments for a few days.


It was just . . . inspiring.  The All of It!


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This looks even more amazing than I had imagined! I love their style of teaching - showing you the AC way, but also encouraging you to find your way. Those crocheted snaps look fiddly and frustrating, but also so worthwhile. I really look forward to seeing the process as you work on your sample swatch !


I didn't hear you swear even once!! :)
It was truly a wonderful & inspiring experience.


Sounds so amazing! I love the whole concept of hand stitching. Back in my quilting days I only hand stitched never used a machine except once for a queen size quilt. Loved just sitting and stitching my squares.


My eyes are watering with joy (perhaps a little envy) over your AC experience. Your choice of garment sounds perfect for you and, no matter how long it takes you to complete, every stitch will be full of memories and joy at what you've accomplished.


All I can say is wow, wow, wow! And I don't even stitch! So glad you had such a fantabulous experience!


Sounds like it was perfect for you, I'm so glad!


Your time at AC sounds challenging and rewarding—great combination!


Jealous!! This sounds like an extraordinary experience. And the wrap dress! Believe that will be perfect for you. Glad it was so awesome.


Thanks for taking us along on your wonderful trip to Alabama Chanin country...drool, drool. You had a magical time and we look forward to seeing your project materialize. My niece a Christian indicated interest in AC...I'm not sure she can thread a needle...we'll see!
Stitch on!


It sounds incredible! And, even though I have not succumbed to the Alabama Chanin bug, I love seeing you share the process and techniques.


Wow - it looks and sounds amazing! (ditto all that Carole said - y'all are tempting me!)


Wow. Just wow. How incredible! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful bit of Alabama Chanin with all of us. You are beyond inspiring, but those snap covers. I can't even. XOXO

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