review: Alabama Studio Style

Happy Weekend folks!

Since hearing what my grandma has to say about this throwaway fashion culture we live in (read it here), I’ve been thinking long and hard about my own wardrobe. I’ve always admired people who take the time to make their own clothes – ever since a school-friend of mine designed and created her own prom dress at the age of sixteen. I’ve wanted to learn the art of dressmaking for a while now, and so I was really happy when my mum bought me Alabama Studio Style; the second book by Natalie Chanin – aka the founder of the sustainable fashion label, Alabama Chanin.


Natalie grew up in Florence, Alabama, in a community “where a framed print purchased at the local furniture store was called art”. Despite this, she went on to study environmental design at university, before moving to New York to work in the fashion industry. While this may sound like a dream come true to many girls, Natalie says in her book that her experiences disenchanted her with the mainstream fashion world.

“I saw the squalor of an industry that was built on toxic waste and human suffering,” she writes.

Natalie’s turning point came in 2000, when she experimented cutting up an old t-shirt and stitching it back together by hand. This small act of spontaneous creativity led to her moving back home to Florence to join a community of stitchers and quilters. They started to make unique t-shirts and other items of clothing, and Alabama Chanin was born.

In her introduction, Natalie mentions the term ‘Slow Design’, which is a sustainable design movement inspired by the Slow Food Movement. Natalie defines this movement as “building a product and a company on handcraft, commitment to community, and respect for the environment”. Natalie and her team are committed to using environmentally-friendly materials – they only ever use either organically-grown cotton-jersey or recycled cotton t-shirts in their creations. Handcraft, community, sustainability: three ideas that we at the Beautiful Home Company also strongly believe in.


I won’t spoil the rest of the book for you, but I for one am looking forward to getting started making my own clothes. Alabama Studio Style includes a pattern for a Camisole Dress, which can also be used for four variations on the basic design. There is plenty of information and guidance about materials and tools, stitches and seams, as well as projects to undertake. These are not limited to clothing – I am in love with the stitched furniture tutorials, which involve making holes in the wood and ‘stitching’ them with cotton jersey. Emphasising the wonderful link between handicraft and community, Natalie even includes recipes for gatherings. Cupcakes anyone?

For more information about Alabama Chanin, visit their website: or the blog:



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