Thursday, May 28, 2015
On Building Beauty or My Friend, Natalie
A million years ago (2010) I first wrote a review on Natalie Chanin's then new book, Studio Style, and today I have the pleasure again of digging into her latest work, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, to share my insights. What has me feeling like the luckiest girl though, is that the process of this sharing involved having a custom garment made and photographed on moi. Oh the work. It is so hard. I suffer.
I said then, a million years ago, and I say now, that my friend Natalie does not design clothing, she also builds it. He process of creating the imagery on her organic cottons is like nothing else, and it remains like nothing else, despite her so selflessly and so inspirationally teaching her process to the world. What comes out of her heart, and her studio is a stand alone collection of art, in the sea of disposable, anonymous sameness rampant in the fashion world. All of her 3 prior books string together the complete story of her unique process of embellishment and construction, down to every last detail. What is particularly special is how her books offer such a sense of place, that absorbing the skills taught within them is that much more crystallized. And you finish the reading having experienced her process as much as you have read about it.
If I could succinctly characterize this new book, it is that it graciously gives that extra mile of instruction that I would assume was never possible to do in a book. Instructing garment sewing from a book is tricky. But Natalie does it in a way that investigates the basics (and also every combination of altering those basics) with just the right amount of detail and technique to make it informative, but also with just the right attitude and encouragement to make it approachable. And just like her first three books, it is a stand alone compendium on style while being a reverent guide to the handmade.
When it came time to choose a garment to have made, I just pointed to the amazing princess seamed long sleeve tee on page 51 made from indigo-dyed cotton and said THAT. I feel beautiful in it. But I also feel so very comfortable. Thousands of stitches made by a pair of talented, hardworking hands simply feels different than anything else you will ever wear.
This post was meant to be published a full week ago, and in my hurried, frantic schedule of getting the doors to Craft South open, I failed to complete it on schedule. I texted Natalie to apologize, and her reply was such a comfort: "Nothing is ever late in our world".
Thank you, Natalie. Thank you for your patience with your own process (and with me). You remain an inspiration, a friend, and a source of hope in the way that our world works. This book is the icing on the cake for your fans, and I am personally grateful that you took the time to make it.