10,000th comment prize 1

Anir said this is what she wanted for her prize (for having posted the 10,000th comment). Becky was our other winner, still waiting on a definitive answer from her. Anir wrote:

One thing I’ve been thinking about is buttonholes and how so many times they are too small for the buttons that they are meant for on RTW, but I think Kathleen you have talked about that. Still I wonder if fabric shrinkage is part of the culprit.

Yep, this is one of my favorite things to rag on about (this is probably better but see both) and you’re right, it is owing to shrinkage. If it is at all possible, you should have your items garment washed before applying button holes. Oh heck, I’ll save you a click:

In the case of garments that are washed before they’re shipped, you have to do things differently. In the normal course of making a product, you usually sew the whole thing and then you wash it, then you inspect it, then you pack it up and send it off. But not if your stuff is garment washed and you’re using buttonholes. No no. You want to wash the garments before you put on any buttonholes (is buttonholes one word or two?). Have you ever owned a garment in which the buttonholes later got too tight? Well, that’s because the thing shrank and they put on the buttonholes before they pre-shrank the garment. You don’t want buttonholes to shrink. Plus, they get wonky in the wash and you don’t want them to look wonky before they get to the customer. Not to say that you want them to look wonky after the customer has it either, that’s why you do the buttonholes last. They won’t get wonky if they don’t shrink. If the garment is pre-shrunk, problem solved. I notice stuff like this on DEs stuff all the time. It’s one of the things I look for.

The second portion of Anir’s wish list is:

Another topic I’ve thought about is working in rural areas with displaced workers who have factory and/or other sewing skills but maybe to do short runs–push–of pieces with lots of handwork like Project Alabama. Or even start something like Project Alabama with pieces that have more machine work. I like the embellishment emphasis though but I’m not tied to that in a topic to be discussed.

Hmm. I -actually, not even me- can only deliver half of this order. That would be the report that Katy Robinson (blog) wrote that I’ve been looking for an excuse to publish (that would be now). That’ll be pasted in to follow. Also, Project Alabama has evolved; the principal divorced herself from the project and is doing her own line.

In regards to using a small group of displaced workers, I haven’t had much luck with that. I’ve had lousy luck in fact. Usually there’s a head person who is socially motivated to get them work. Good guy. Nice guy. Unfortunately, head guy doesn’t know much themselves -and seems to be tragically disinterested in learning!- and they’re just so sure that somebody like me (or you) is going to run roughshod over the stitchers and abuse them that you can’t get any useful interface or interaction going with the people who are actually doing the work. Head guy claims they can do typically “everything” (interject quality quality quality ad nauseum) but if one pokes about with direct inquiries as to experience or equipment, that becomes entirely too threatening and the whole deal falls apart because the assumption is that I/me/we can only be big profit mongers with no interest in the well being of people who put our products together. And I thought DEs were paranoid? Too bad. I can’t refer anyone to anyone if they can’t answer basic questions with too many layers and hoops to jump through. I’m all in favor of it though, I’m just not sure how to go about it.

At any rate, here’s Katy’s report on her weekend spent attending workshops at Alabama Chanin. Oh, for those who don’t know, Natalie Chanin, who started Project Alabama, is no longer associated with the project. I’ve heard the new owner is producing everything in India. Anyway, Natalie started a new project called Alabama Chanin.
The first weekend in March I had the privilege of traveling to Florence, Muscle Shoals, and Tuscumbia, Alabama to attend a workshop. Natalie Chanin, formerly of Project Alabama and currently of Alabama Chanin, held the weekend workshop. Future workshop locations and dates are listed here. There were actually two workshops, one for cooking and one for sewing. Workshop participants either cooked traditional Southern food with Angie Mosier, or worked on a stitching project from the Alabama Stitch Book.

Natalie is full of stories and advice and was more than willing to share them. The majority of the Alabama Chanin items are made using a reverse-applique technique that is described here on the Alabama Chanin website and in the Alabama Stitch book.

According to Natalie, clothing is not made for women. It frustrates her that hems are constantly falling out. At the same time, she’s been known to say, “It’s not Rocket Science, it’s a tee shirt.”

While helping the participants select their materials, Natalie shared stories of her experiences and offered advice. She spoke of how the textile industry is one of the biggest polluters. Cotton is sometimes called “white gold” because it requires 1/3 pound of pesticides for one tee shirt. She also talks about the process for picking cotton. A defoliant is sprayed on the plant, which kills the plant and makes it easier to pick. She mentioned that cotton comes in 9 colors naturally.

Alabama Chanin fibers come from Texas—so they are grown to sewn in the US. They are knit in North Carolina, and dyed in Mississippi. Alabama Chanin also works with Domsey’s in Brooklyn to get old tee shirts that are separated by color, then over-dyed in Mississippi.

For, me the most enjoyable part of the workshop was hearing all the participants’ stories as we stitched. We all had different reasons for attending the workshop and it is always encouraging for me to be surrounded by creative souls.
Shown is a photo of Katy’s completed project.

Get New Posts by Email


  1. Kelli says:

    Love the write up. And what an excellent project this is. Not only is it using locally produced fabrics, but we are celebrating American folk artists. Fantastic!

  2. Anir says:

    Thanks Kathleen, and Katy

    That was quick. Boy, win something here and you get service, service, service.

    I knew the Natalie had pulled out of Project Alabama sometime back, but didn’t know why. I will have to contact to her sometime.

    In any case, y’all are the best.

  3. Shellie Greer says:

    Nice Post! It touched my heart, as I am an Alabama Native. Born and raised, baby. Now I’m enduring the 110 degree weather in Las Vegas. Woooo!

  4. harmony says:

    One correction… the 1/3 pound of pesticide used on a t-shirt is an out dated (and often quoted) statistic. For an in depth look at the facts visit Coral Rose’s blog. It is a 5 part series but this link will get you to the one that addresses the 1/3 pound.

  5. Yvonne says:

    I am not sure if I agree that you need to send out your garments for washing to prevent buttonholes from shrinking. I think that any decent buttonholer and good quality woven interfacing would provide enough substance so that the holes do not shrink or shift. In some cases, I see buttonholes getting larger rather than smaller if not properly made. For both woven or knit garments.

    I do see a need to test all your fabrics for shrinkage. Should you buy fabric that is preshrunk and if it has a high shrink rate, why not prewash the fabric on the roll ?. Your processing costs will be much lower this way rather than washing the completed garment .In my 20 years in the business, I have never seen shrinking buttonholes as a problem.

  6. Kathleen says:

    I am not sure if I agree that you need to send out your garments for washing to prevent buttonholes from shrinking

    I didn’t say you need to send your garments out for washing TO prevent buttonholes from shrinking. I said:

    In the case of garments that are washed before they’re shipped, you have to do things differently.

    Iow, if one is producing a garment that WILL be washed before it’s shipped aka “garment washing”. Designers use this as a design effect, to soften the look of a garment. It’s very commonly used in jeans, shirts, and other sportswear.

    My point is/was, IF your garment will be garment washed before you ship to stores, do the buttonholes AFTER it comes back from the laundry, not before.

    Also, I would LOVE to know where DEs can send rolls of yardage to be prewashed!!! You don’t know how long I/we’ve been looking for someone who does this. If anyone reading this knows who does this work, please let us know. Thanks!

  7. J C Sprowls says:

    Have you tried dye houses? One company I’m using in NC to dye (the knitter is down the street) has agreed to also pre-wash goods from outside. It took some talking; but, I’m getting it.

    The same minimums apply, though (e.g. 100-150 lbs per colorway). They’re charging me .85 per dry lb, which is the same price they’re charging to pre-wash the goods they’re dyeing for me, too.

    The first shipment of goods from this facility is slated to arrive in about 1 1/2 weeks.

    RE: garment washing. Would ‘specialty finishing’ or something similar help make that more clear?

  8. Carol in Denver says:

    JC always has great comments & info — and a light bulb came on in my head. What special equipment would be needed to set up a business specializing in prewashing rolls of fabric? For example, would it be different than a hotel or hospital laundry? Isn’t this a market niche for somebody who is hands/on mechanically inclined? A way to get a revenue stream going in short order? Where would be the best geographic location for such a business — NYC area? LA area? Maybe because shipping of processed goods is involved anyway, the launderers could be located practically anywhere as long as the maufacturer agrees to absorb shipping costs both ways. There must be many hundreds of underutilized industrial park/company incubators available in various places in the U.S.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.