On Saturday, I spent the day assisting Natalie in her day long Alabama Chanin workshop at Heath Ceramics in San Francisco. Where do I even begin. The space at Heath is amazing. If you haven't had a chance to make it over there yet, it is a must-see. Heath is a Bay Area icon and have been manufacturing their stoneware for over 50 years in the Bay Area, specifically Sausalito, and have now expanded production to San Francisco.
When you walk into Heath SF, look left, you will see the Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk. The first thing I did early Saturday morning, was grab a cappuccino. Running through the center of the building are the the new, gigantic kilns. This warms my heart to see production at this scale in the US as it gives me hope that maybe one day, our production may be larger, or at least more professional. And also, the fact that their production has grown to this size means indicated that they have demand for their product, which must mean that more people are valuing products made in the US, and absorbing the cost of such products. Possibly, smaller homes, with more conscious materials to make them. Maybe? Using simple form in their design, so the pieces have a classic look, less likely to go out of style, less need in the future to remodel. Hopefully.
I walked into the kitchen which is located in the Heath store and Natalie was baking biscuits - from flour grown in the South. Grabbing a warm biscuit, I headed upstairs to begin preparing for our guests. The workshop took place in the private studio of the owners of Heath and their product manager. What that means to those of us obsessed with shape, form, and process, is that this space was filled with light and samples of what they were currently tinkering with.
As the stitchers arrived, and received their kits consisting of everything from table linens to corset tops, everyone settled in to hear Natalie speak about how Alabama Chanin pieces are made and then they dove in and began to stitch. I don't think I will ever tire of seeing a table full of people stitching together.
One of the topics that came up during the day was if Natalie was going to design more patterns. You know makers, we can never get enough. Though really, making patterns for a wide audience to be able to follow and understand, rather than for her production studio, is quite time consuming. Natalie made a really great point in her discussion. Given the current options of patterns, fabric colors, jersey weights, stencil options, paint options, applique / reverse applique options, and embroidery options, there are nearly infinite possibilities within the Alabama Chanin line. Plus, Natalie has been writing a DIY feature for her blog which is very inspiring. She takes a commercial pattern and Chanin-fies it. Chanin-izes it? Either way, she takes a commercial pattern, cuts it out of jersey, which she added they treat as a woven, sews it be hand, adds the hand-felled seams, and it looks beautiful and unique. This option is perfectly viable for anyone who would like a slightly different style, sleeve, or shape. It's another realm to explore possibilities.
A week or so ago, I wrote about a new Alabama Chanin dress I made while in Minnesota. Here is another new dress. Both dresses use the same AC pattern, the dress pattern from book 3. Both dresses I dyed with indigo. And both, I think, are nearly night and day in style. Now the major modification I did was add sleeves to this edition. I am still new at drafting sleeves, so bare with me.
Guys. Can you be easy on me? It has been a huge stretch for me to model for the things that I make. But I feel like, being that I am encouraging making, and not being a perfectionist (spoken from a true perfectionist at heart), that it is important for me to sometimes model the garments that I am making. Then, there's the fact, that I ran to work this morning at 8am, no makeup, um, no bra, and felt like this blog post needed to be made today! All I can add is a great big smiley face! :D
So back to making for a moment, we still have the Alabama Chanin DIY Trunk Show at Verb. Between being able to try on all the sizes of the samples, and thumbing through the fabric swatches, we've been helping and watching customers design the most amazing kits. We are happy to help you do the same! I hope you can make a bit of time to come by and check out these beautiful pieces.
As I slip back into my jeans and sweatshirt, and head back to the dyeing studio, I wish you all a great rest of your day!