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Natalie Chanin Interviews BurdaStyle / Alabama Studio Style Contest Winner


We began the Alabama Studio Style blog tour with the launch of the Alabama Studio Style Inspiration Challenge over at BurdaStyle. We conclude with Natalie Chanin's interview with the grand-prize winner of the contest, Gina Sekelsky.

Inspired by Natalie's work, Gina created the amazing skirt shown here. Here's Gina's description: 

This is a simple A-line skirt, cut on the bias, from two layers of cotton knit: a putty color over black. I freehand painted a favorite quotation on the skirt, then used the techniques in Alabama Stitch Book for the reverse applique. I love to combine my handlettering with garment design—an experiment in embracing imperfection (especially when I sneezed on the skirt moments before taking the photos. Did you hear me screaming?).

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” --Howard Thurman

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest and the blog tour. Here's the interview:

Natalie: Gina, I love how seamlessly you incorporated your work with words and font styles into the piece that reflects our work at Alabama Chanin.  While the techniques are (in a way) simple, the final piece is very rich and complex.  I also enjoyed the story on your blog about how you ran out of thread and switched colors and then decided to switch back again.  What were you thinking about when you started the project?

Gina: Last fall I spent a Saturday with a very dear friend cutting out some sewing projects to work on in the future.  We both love sewing, and like to have a stockpile of projects ready to roll.  I guess that’s our version of a quilting bee–pinning, cutting, asking advice of each other.  I’d been wanting to combine my lettering with your reverse appliqué techniques for awhile, and was planning to try it on one of the skirts I cut out that day, but felt compelled to wait until the “right” words came along.  I spend a little too much time dwelling on why I’ve been given my specific set of gifts, and how I can use those gifts thoughtfully.  Dr. Thurman’s idea that being passionate, being alive is the best way to honor life really speaks to me.  I also think about how much time I have to create (aren’t we all pressed for time?), and I really want the things I make to be worthy of the time given to them. 

Natalie: I, too, am a great lover of fonts and words.  When did you start paying attention to them?

Gina: I like to credit Mrs. Larson, my 5th-grade teacher.  I was a bit of a chatterbox in elementary school, and the punishment for talking out of turn was to write out our spelling words fifty times each.  I probably had that punishment just about every week!  I got bored with just writing the words as a list, so I used to draw outlines on the page and fill them in with the words–flowers, peace signs, typical 70s motifs. 

I grew up in a small  town in the Midwest and thought I had to choose a career with a name–teacher, doctor, lawyer.  When I moved to Minneapolis after college, I met my husband, Peter (an architect), and he introduced me to the design disciplines.  I spent some time studying architecture and interior design, but couldn’t find my groove.  When we decided to get married, I hand-lettered our wedding invitation.  Since then, I’ve put my hand lettering on just about anything that will stand still: walls, furniture, and a whole lot of paper [visit Gina's etsy shop here].  I am constantly inspired by other artists, and am so thankful that I can continue to generate ideas and create my art.

Natalie: My daughter LOVES rubberstamps and I would love to make some of her drawings into stamps.  Do you have any suggestions about how to do this?

Gina: Technology makes this so easy!  Black and white artwork translates the best, so you’re better off choosing art that doesn’t have shading or gray areas.  I use a wonderful company in nearby Iowa for my traditional red rubber stamps called  It is simply a matter of choosing from the many sizes available, scanning your artwork, and uploading it to their site.  I would be happy to help you!

Natalie: I really like your blog and especially adore this project:  42 Things About Me.  I wish that I had done something like this my whole life.  I feel like I know you through your writings but would you mind sharing 10 things that you think we should know about you that don’t come across in your blog?


1.    I can’t answer a question without dishing up an anecdote on the side.

2.    My nickname at home is “the kitty.”  I label all my handmade clothes with “meow.”

3.    I am a morning person.

4.    I am thankful for every day I get to do this work I love.

5.    I hope I can keep doing it for a lot longer.

6.    “I invent nothing; I rediscover.”  Auguste Rodin

7.    I like ordinary days the best, when we’re holding hands around the dinner table and saying grace together.

8.    I feel content when my cupboards are full and the laundry is put away.

9.    Tomorrow I will think of ten different things I wish I’d written.

10. I am lucky to have had mentors.  I wonder how many people consider you a mentor?  (I do.)

Natalie: Is there something in particular that you would like to work on at our Weekend Workshop?

Gina: Have you heard of the book Style Statement?  It is a series of questions to help give your life some focus.  On the Fashion page, you’re asked to complete the following statement:  “If money were no object I would go out today and shop for…”  I remember quite clearly that I wrote “Alabama Chanin fall coat.” (Perhaps #11 above should be, “My eyes are bigger than my stomach.”)  Should I choose something small that would allow me to relax and enjoy others’ company?  Should I start a big project I can finish later?  Should I let someone else choose?  Do you have any favorites that were made at a Weekend Workshop?

Natalie: Everyone’s eyes are always bigger than their stomachs at our studio…the pitfall of the job– smile.  No worries, we will figure it out when you get there! Is there anything new coming up that we should know about?

Gina:I love sharing what I’ve learned.  I’ve taught handwriting locally, and have been working on a class for all the friends I’ve made online–actually two classes, one for those who want to improve their handwriting and one for those who want to embellish their handwriting.

Natalie: Thanks for sharing Gina. I'm looking forward to meeting you in Alabama!


Kata Golda's Workshops in New York Start This Friday!

Mark your calendars! Starting this Friday, March 18, Kata Golda, author of Kata Golda's Hand-Stitched Felt, will be  in New York City to teach workshops, sign books, and give felt craft demos. Here's the complete schedule!


3 – 5pm | Book signing & Felt Craft Demo | Kate's Paperie (Soho)

Kata Golda's charming handmade photo albums have been popular at Kate's for many years. Join Kata Golda at Kate's Paperie in Soho as she demonstrates how to make projects from her book Kata Golda's Hand-stitched Felt, including felt photo pockets and cute little finger puppets that nest in their own roll-up bed, which doubles as their carrying case. Kata Golda's felt craft DIY kits, her book, and bags of hand-dyed felt scraps will also be on sale.

72 Spring Street; New York, NY 10012 (between Crosby & Lafayette Streets),  (212) 941-9816

COST: Free. No registration required.



2 – 4pm | Handmade Crafternoon | New York Public Library (Manhattan)

Crafty librarian Jessica Pigza and Crafternoon author Maura Madden welcome Kata Golda to NYPL's Handmade Crafternoon, where she'll share her process of making some of the sweetest felt creations to ever roam the earth. Learn how to make one of the finger puppets from her book!

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (Room 227) , 11 West 40th St.; New York, NY 10018-2788, (917) 275-6975

COST: Free. No registration required.

 SUNDAY MARCH 21, 2010

11 a.m. – 1 p.m. | Felt Craft Demo | Books of Wonder (Brooklyn)

Join us for some lunchtime stitching with author Kata Golda, who will demonstrate kid-friendly felt craft projects from her book Kata Golda's Hand-stitched Felt.

Books of Wonder, 18 West 18th Street; New York, NY 10011, (212) 989-3270

COST: Free. No registration required.



4 – 8 p.m. | Craft Night at Etsy Labs | Etsy Studios (Brooklyn)

Kata Golda returns to Etsy for her second felt craft workshop at Etsy Labs. This time she'll show you how to make one of her popular (and extremely charming) finger puppets. Drop in anytime between 4–8 p.m. Instruction will be given throughout the night as participants arrive, so don't worry if you swing by after work at 6 — you won't be missing out on the demo.

Etsy Studios, 55 Washington St., Suite 512 (5th floor); Brooklyn, NY 11201,(718) 855-7955

COST: Free; RSVP here.


Sunday March 14th @ Spacecraft Brooklyn - Alabama Chanin Bandana Workshop + Down Home Get Down! 


4-6pm. Workshop: Natalie Chanin, celebrated fashion designer, CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, artist, and crafter, will be teaching a workshop on her Southern-inspired applique techniques using sustainable and earth-friendly materials. Cost is $100 and includes a signed copy of her new book ALABAMA STUDIO STYLE and all the materials and instruction to complete the bandana kit, plus gift bags courtesy of BurdaStyle.

RSVP: for questions or to reserve your spot. Space is limited!

6-9pm. FREE After Party: Don't miss this very special opportunity to meet Natalie and purchase a signed copy of her new book, ALABAMA STUDIO STYLE, if you can't make it to the workshop. Enjoy free beer, wine, and treats,  as well as live music from Free Advice (partytime bluegrass by way the McKibben Lofts!) and blues man-about-town Ernie Vega (aka: Lester Hawkins, Jelly Roll Robertson). Oh, and it’s Pi Day! So expect some delicious pie! Feel free to bring a pie to share as well!



Alabama Studio Style Blog Tour

Natalie Chanin's Alabama Studio Style blog tour begins today. Here is the schedule:

Feb. 9:  Inspiration Contest Launch

Feb 12:  Fan Love 

Feb 15:  Eco-Luxe Story

Feb 17:  Projects and Palettes

Feb 18:

Feb 24:  Sourcing Sustainability

Feb 25:  Review/ Q&A

Feb 26:  Launching Your Own Line

March 1:  Quilts That Tell a Story

March 3:  Design Process

March 5:  Sweet Home Alabama

March 8: Review

March 9:  How-To Tuesday

March 10: Running an Eco-Business

March 11: Review/ Q&A

March 11:  Craft Night Preview

March 15:  Review/ Q&A

March 17: Modern Women's Wear

March 18: Show and Tell

March 19: Review/ Q&A

March 22:  Special Post

Leave a comment on this post by noon on March 22, 2010--about the book, the tour, or something you're making--and earn a chance to win the STC Craft book of your choice. Three winners will be chosen at random and contacted after the noon deadline on March 22. (We will add you to our e-mailing list if you leave a comment unless you tell us that you do not want to be added. Thanks.)

P.S. I reopened yesterday's box and here is a photo of the contents. Isn't it amazing to think that this pile of fabric, thread, and beads will become the Spiral Applique & Beaded Camisole Dress (except my base fabric  is black instead of green)!


Alabama Stitch Book Swing Skirt Finished, Alabama Studio Style Camisole Dress to Begin


 At the beginning of the new year I posted about my resolution to craft for at least 10 minutes a day and about one of my first projects of the year-- the Beaded-Applique Swing Skirt from Alabama Stitch Book. Well, I managed to work on it for at least 10 minutes a day for most of January and then to finish it, I think I worked on it for about 10 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, I don't have anyone around to take a photo of me wearing it and my attempts at photographing the whole skirt as a still life were disappointing (to put it midly), so to show you that I finished and as a placeholder, here is a detail. I'll post a pretty photo of the whole skirt as soon as I have one.

I put some pressure on myself to finish the skirt because last week the kit for the Spiral Applique & Beaded Camisole Dress from Alabama Studio Style arrived and I really wanted to start it but felt compelled to finish the skirt first. In fact, when the box arrived I opened it and carefully pulled out the fabric, thread, and beads, then put everything back inside. I placed the beautifully stenciled box where I could see it, so it would continue to inspire me to focus on the skirt. Now I just need to get all of my work done today so I can reopen the box and start working on the dress tonight. Photo of the contents of the box to come soon (I hope).