WHEN TO GO: Designer Natalie Chanin hosts weekend workshops at her Florence, Alabama, studio throughout the year. But during the August 16–18 session, the local farmers’ markets over- flow with a bounty of summer produce, making Chanin’s family-style meals—included in the $1,125 admission fee—nearly as sumptuous as the clothes you’ll create.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Aspiring and experienced stitchers spend the weekend working with Chanin and her staff to sew a garment from the designer’s famous line of handmade couture. Chanin’s intricately appliquéd dresses, tanks, and corsets all get their start in a former T-shirt factory in Florence, her hometown. “We make to order,” Chanin says. “What that means is we have all the materials to make these beautiful things here.” Enjoy access to a selection of the factory’s patterns, thread, and embroidery flosses, and a rainbow-hued library of organic cotton. Make that dress or jacket you’ve always coveted, learn a new technique, or try sewing for the first time under the tutelage of masters. The idea emerged from the same open-source ethos that inspired Chanin’s three books. Workshops are so popular that many attendees return three or four times.
TYPICAL DAY: Stitchers gather Friday evening to select projects and sip cocktails. On Saturday morning, everybody sits down and starts to sew. “Then we just eat and drink and tell stories and laugh,” Chanin says. “It’s like a big old sisterhood for the rest of the weekend.” (Don’t worry, gents: The workshop is open to everyone.) Saturday lunch and Sunday brunch are served around big factory tables. Menus change according to seasonal availability and the chef, but expect satisfying fare like bread pudding or meat loaf from Florence’s mom-and-pop butcher shop. Spend your spare time visiting the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Alabama or strolling downtown’s North Court Street, home of Billy Reid’s flagship store and the retro Trowbridge’s Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop. Leave with a finished project and a deeper appreciation for the value of sewing in our busy world. “It’s about being able to be a self-sufficient human being,” Chanin says. “But beyond that, there’s a joy, a happiness that it brings to people that surprises them.”
GETTING THERE: Florence is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Nashville, Birmingham, and Memphis. alabamachanin.com