Alabama Chanin, Factory visit

As I sit here, my mind is still spinning from my amazing week in Alabama. I know it will take a while to digest all that I have learned. This past week I was in Florence at the Alabama Chanin Factory, taking their first Patterns and Alterations week-long workshop.

My journey began at what my friend Penny likes to call "O-dark-thirty". The only redeeming quality about leaving so early is the fact that I flew out of my friendly little local Redmond airport. How can people be so kind and smiling at that time in the morning? I don't know, but I have never found a sour soul working there. There are no cattle prod lines, usually only a few people, oftentimes a friend or neighbor, in front of you.  My husband was a dear and drove me; though if you decided to drive yourself parking is only $10 a day, with the seventh day free. It makes my trip always begin on the right foot, flying from this quaint hub.

My layover in Denver was long enough for breakfast. I was delighted to try Farm Fresh Eatery. It was the best airport food I've ever had.....oh, wait, tied with the sushi place in SFO. I was served a veggie omelet with carmelized onions made with free-range eggs, a slice of good seedy toast, and red potatoes with green onions. My meal was so satisfying and delicious, I easily didn't eat until dinner.

I arrived in Huntsville, Alabama, another convenient, small airport, early afternoon. I had just enough time to rent a car and drive straight to Tom Hendrix's Wall. I had visited there on a previous trip. The Wall is truly a magical spot. If you are unfamiliar with it, please read this article from the New York Times. It is a fascinating story.

It was early evening by the time I arrived at The Wall, and I was fortunate to enjoy the serenity of the property on my own. The sound was exactly as I remembered it; leaves rustling gently with the breeze and tiny birds sweetly calling out to one another. I wish I had this recorded to play every single morning, it is that soothing. Tom and his wife arrived just as I was about to depart. He was as vital and engaging as ever. Tom informed me that earlier in the day they had had over a hundred visitors.

I continued on my voyage, enjoying the farmlands and lush vegetation, the occasional kitschy sign. I felt a big grin when I correctly remembered exactly where the Fame Recording building was. I feel an affinity for this place, almost akin to a second home. I arrived at the Marriott Mussel Shoals just in time, as a huge thunder storm began to let loose.  I was happy to call the Marriott home for the week. It is clean, comfortable, has great service, and a pretty view of the river from my balcony. Truth be told, there was little sleep for me. I was just too excited for my workshop to begin.

Monday morning couldn't come fast enough, and I practically floated to the Factory. I first noticed a group of ladies forming in the Cafe area. It was First Mondays @ The Factory. Seeing this group of women made me so happy. They were all gathering together to stitch and share and catch up with each others happenings. I've been wanting to implement a stitching circle here in Bend, and seeing these ladies gives me further incentive to make it happen.

Upon entering the workshop area, there were hugs, smiling faces, and jovial greetings all around for old friends and new. I wasn't sure what to expect for a week of patterns and alterations. I just knew these were areas I knew little about. We all sat down and penned our visions of what we wanted from the coming week. Our hopes, desires, and expectations were all now written down in an organized, concrete plan instead of buzzing around willy-nilly in our brains. What a brilliant way to begin.

I may not have known what to expect in regard to patterns and alterations, but I did know how wonderful the food was at The Factory. I arrived with great expectations in the gastronomy arena and was not disappointed! Every part of every day was a treat; fresh roasted Factory coffee with organic cream, tea (hot, plain or sweet), crushed ice for beverages, breakfast to die for, and lunches to tantalize the tastebuds and satisfy the soul. The use of organic, local ingredients and the expert preparation of meals brought everything to the peak of perfection. Check out their daily menu for a sample of their fare. Natalie's son, Zach, is an amazing chef. He not only brought us wonderful meals, but prepared afternoon sweets and snacks that fed our bodies and nourished our working minds.

Fresh squeezed orange juice, cheesy grits, potato pancakes, and picture framed eggs. 

The week whizzed by all too quickly for my liking. Oh, we had sufficient time for all of our lessons and learning; but I could have stayed for a month and still not wanted to leave! The Factory is filled with art and inspiration every which way you turn: The Alabama Chanin team exudes Southern hospitality with their kind, helpful attention.

We took our measurements and created our slopers. These are customized patterns, specific to your own body measurements. From these master patterns, or slopers, we were taught a myriad of ways to alter and change things up to our liking. We could narrow down to a pencil skirt or flair out to a full-on circle skirt and everything in between. I learned to make and set sleeves, change up necklines, add and subtract length and width in varying ways to create a variety of silhouettes. I could feel myself become comfortable with patterns and alterations where I never had been before.

I learned what changes I should make when using a non Alabama Chanin pattern, yet still utilizing cotton jersey and the Alabama Chanin hand stitching methods. I also made a pattern from scratch of a favorite t-shirt that I did not have a pattern for.

Waistband details of the Marcy Tilton patterned pants made in the Alabama Chanin style. 

Diane has a wealth of knowledge, with 50 years of sewing experience. She is generous, patient, kind, and easy to follow. She was a wonder to work with. I don't know where else you could have gotten so much information in such a relatively short period of time. Amazingly, I feel all the knowledge has sunk in and comfortably available, that's just how excellent an instructor Diane is.

We gathered together with Natalie throughout the days and learned the history of the company, and Natalie went over the physics of sewing and tips and tricks. Even though I've been to previous workshops, I learn something new every time.

This workshop was filled with invaluable information. I feel so grateful that I was able to attend. I feel inspired just from having been at the Factory and by all the women that I met at the workshop. Each and every participant had their own take on what they wanted and needed, and they all brought something new and exciting to the table. I can't wait to see pictures of their finished projects over the next weeks and months.

I'll leave you with a few images of samples made from their New Leaves stencil and others. Enjoy!


  1. Wow Patty, I would have loved that workshop! Just the kind of pattern figuring I would have loved. I'll just have to walk up the block and mine your knowledge now ;) Jen L.

  2. Yes! I thought of you while I was there. Come on down any time. I'd love to get together.

  3. The photo of the waistband helped a lot in constructing Marcy Tilton's pants. Thank you for reminding me about this past blog post; I enjoyed relooking at pictures from your trip. Sigh! It would be nice to visit the factory. Elsie

    1. You're welcome, Elsie. I'm glad it helped. Sigh ~ I'd love to visit again....