The Cotton State

Did you know that Alabama is the “cotton state”?  Well, I didn’t.   How fitting that just a few weeks back I was fortunate enough to meet another one of my “sewing celebrities”, Natalie Chanin from the lovely state of Alabama.  Not only is she from Alabama, but she makes her living by selling goods made from organic cotton, some grown, right there in Alabama!


Natalie Chanin is the owner and creator of Alabama Chanin.  She is amazing.  Let’s face it though, every single “sewing celebrity” that I have met, is AMAZING!  I know you have heard it from me time and time again- but it is so true.  Miss Natalie grew her business, by using a cottage industry style of production in which she employs members from her community that she refers to as “stitchers”.


My “kit” for the Bloomers Swing Skirt was all ready for me to get started.

I am always so amazed at how accessible these artisans are to people such as myself.  Miss Natalie, held a one day workshop in Berkelely, California at the Edible Schoolyard.  Natalie is a lovely silver-haired lady and a little on the shy side (she even told us this).  She is witty, sharp and has the most hilarious stories to tell regarding a certain unnamed friend of hers (sworn to secrecy).  I was able to take a few pictures of her, but she asked us so nicely to not post any of them because she says, she always “looks awful in them”.

This is a picture that I did not take.

This is a picture that I did not take. Click on the photo to see its source. This is a great photo of Natalie!

Before any of us at this particular workshop even started stitching, Natalie told us the importance of thread.  I never really sat back and thought about thread, I mean, I know that it holds our garments and quilts together, but beyond that I have always found it a nuisance.  My dogs enjoy eating it, it tangles and it attaches itself to me to be found at a later more embarrassing moment.  I track it all over the house from my sewing room.  My whole family from time to time is even covered in it!


The tables were set with sweet peas and sewing supplies! Yes it was heaven!

Natalie’s perspective on thread, is a whole lot different and nicer than mine!  She told us that we need to only take an arm’s length of the thread, thread the needle and gently stroke the thread, smoothing it out and talking nicely to it.  YES!  I did say talk to your thread.  NICELY.  This hopefully will counteract any kind of unwanted knotting during your sewing process.  You do want to double knot the end of your thread though, for this particular kind of “Natalie Chanin” sewing.  All sewing is done by hand.

Here you can see the decorative stitching with button thread and the centers of the stencils snipped away.

Here you can see the decorative stitching with button thread and the centers of the stencils snipped away.

Here is what I have so far.  This particular “swing skirt” has 4 panels.  The kit comes with all 4 panels of the softest organic cotton jersey already cut out and stenciled.  The assembly, decorative stitching and stencil trimmed centers are for you to do!


  This is one of the “styles” she uses on some of her garments.  When you get to the end of one of your skirt panels, it looks like hair has developed all over it!  In a nifty way though!

I have 2 panels nearly completed.


As you can see there is so much texture and depth added to these garments.  Once all 4 panels are completed, I will hand sew them all together and add an elastic waist band.  Yes, it is ALL hand sewn.  I really love the fact that it is all hand sewn.  When I am finished this skirt will be priceless to me.  If you were to purchase a completed skirt such as this one or some other garment from Alabama Chanin, you could expect to pay anywhere from 300 dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the extent of embroidery and beading.   Amazing isn’t it?

Signing off for now, the boys and I are headed to the Maker Faire over the weekend!

Have a great weekend!

9 thoughts on “The Cotton State

  1. Lucky you! I have been wanting to take one of Natalie’s workshops for a while now — and I even live in Alabama! The county I live in is still somewhat rural in parts so it is not unusual to see cotton fields in full bloom during part of the year. The best part is when people make their children go out in them in their Santa hats and take their Christmas pictures in the 90+ degree summer heat 🙂

    Cotton also makes me think of the stories my grandmother tells about her childhood growing up the daughter of a poor single mother of 10 in post-depression rural Alabama. Needless to say, she knows her way around the cotton field and I was always enchanted as a child hearing her tell about her “adventures.”

    Thanks for sharing your experience and giving me reason to pause and reflect — your skirt is going to be awesome!


    • Hi Katrina! I don’t know why I was thinking that you lived in the D.C. area. Weird, huh? You really must get to one of her workshops! She would love you, you probably have so much in common. I have never been to Alabama, I would love to do one of her studio weekends and see her whole process! Thanks you so much for your lovely post! You really “painted” a pretty picture for me!
      Have a great day! T

    • You would love it. I have her books too, they seemed overwhelming to me, because there is just so much going on, beads, sequins, stenciling, thread….. but seeing the whole thing in person really makes the end product seem attainable. Even if this skirt does take me forever to finish. I think I have 4 quilts that I am currently working on and 3 garments….. ahhhhhhh
      xoxo to you!

  2. Pingback: Sewing Thread « Tex-info

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