Author Archives: Alabama



September comes as a bit of a relief this year, as it brings more routine, less travel, and a few moments to relax. While I’ve enjoyed my unforgettable summer with Maggie (especially our cross-country train trip), most parents will agree that there’s just the slightest feeling of liberation when your child goes back to school (albeit a few tears—how can she already be in 4th grade?). Our fundraising Friends of the Café Dinner with Rob McDaniel sold out quickly and Billy Reid’s Shindig was a beautiful success. One sad realization as September arrives: We must say farewell to our beloved tomato sandwiches until next year.

Here are a few things going on this month:

September 2 – National Grits for Breakfast Day. Many of us enjoy grits for breakfast on many a morning. The Factory Café serves Anson Mills Coarse Yellow Grits for brunch each Saturday. Come out and join us this month as we launch our “adult beverage” program for brunch, lunch, and upcoming events.

You might also want to experiment with grits for dinner and use this recipe for shrimp and grits from Chef Chris Hastings of the Hot and Hot Fish Club.

September 7 – Labor Day. Labor Day is annually held on the first Monday of September. Alabama Chanin will be closed for this day as our staff takes some well-deserved time off from their labors. Enjoy!

September 11 – National Day of Remembrance. Everyone alive on September 11, 2001 remembers their own personal experience of that day. Breathe, reflect, remember.

September 13 – National Grandparents Day. Since I’m also now a grandparent, we’re going to celebrate with Sunday lunch on the back porch. I’m looking forward to squeezing my little Stella Ruth.

September 18-19 – Patagonia’s Worn Wear Repair Truck @ The Factory. The Worn Wear truck will be making a stop here as part of its fall tour. Bring your well loved and worn garments (of any brand) for a free repair by the Patagonia team. We will offer meals at The Factory Café on both days and have on hand a DIY Alabama Chanin mending station.

September 21 – International Peace Day. Breathe deeply and send positive energy into a world that certainly needs it.

September 23 – Autumnal Equinox. Welcome Autumn and the big, bright Harvest Moon. Celebrate the changing of the seasons and take time to think about what this moment once meant to farming communities. If weather permits, light a fire, find a glass of cider, and celebrate the changing of the seasons.

As part of my cross-country trip I found lots of time to be still, clear my mind, and, (gasp) stitch. Hopefully we can all find some time to do more of that with September’s Swatch of the Month—couching in our Medium Polka Dot stencil.

For detailed instructions and photos, please consult Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

Purchase a membership to 2015’s Swatch of the Month Club here.


Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Backing layer fabric – Dove
Couching layer fabric – Dove
Stencil – Medium Polka Dot
Treatment – Couching
Textile paint – Pearl Slate
Button Craft thread – Slate #26

This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background or smartphone screensaver, is available for download from our Resources page.

Purchase a membership to the Swatch of the Month Club at any point in the year and receive all prior month’s swatches together in one bundle, with an entire year’s worth of supplies and notions.

Visit our Journal for ongoing Swatch of the Month samples, photographs, and projects.



Early on in the life of Alabama Chanin, Natalie had the opportunity to visit the Ventura, California offices of Patagonia. That visit, along with a copy of founder Yvon Chouinard’s manifesto, Let My People Go Surfing, opened all of our eyes to the fact that it is possible to create a healthy workplace, make products responsibly, produce things that are meant to last, and still stay in business. (Or, at any rate, that is certainly our goal…) Patagonia’s The Footprint Chronicles shows the origins of Patagonia products and materials. Their supply chain is completely transparent, and directly inspired Alabama Chanin to document and publish our own supply chain.

Another Patagonia program that we’ve loved is Worn Wear, which documents stories of garments used, reused, repaired, and recycled. (You can read stories of individuals and their garments at the Worn Wear blog.) The Worn Wear program helps garment owners maintain their gear for as long as possible through product care and repair services. It also provides an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments that are beyond repair.


As the Patagonia team puts it, the biggest step we can take to reduce our impact is to do more with what we have. Repeated laundering, ironing, and drying can shorten a garment’s life, just as much as wearing them—so they offer tips for cleaning and care to extend the garment’s life cycle. But, if a garment gets excessively worn, Patagonia urges owners not to toss it, but instead repair it—or send it to them for repair. You can find easy-to-read repair guides on their website. Or, you can ship an item back to Patagonia to be repaired. The company employs 45 full-time repair technicians at their service center in Reno, Nevada. It’s the largest repair facility in North America—completing about 30,000 repairs per year.

Garments that are not salvageable can be returned to Patagonia (postage paid) to be recycled into new fiber, or repurposed. Since 2005, they have taken back over 82 tons of clothing for recycling. Our collaboration with Patagonia used just these cast-offs to create scarves from repurposed material.


Patagonia’s Worn Wear Repair Truck is currently on its fall tour (and upcoming stops can be tracked here). The truck and the Patagonia repair crew will be at The Factory for a special two-day event. On Friday, September 18 from 9:00am – 5:00pm and Saturday, September 19 from 10:00am – 4:00pm, we invite you to bring your well worn, well loved garments—of any brand—to be repaired for free by the Patagonia team. As they say, “If it’s broke, we fix it.”

We will offer regular lunch service at The Factory Café on Friday and a brunch taco stand with other sweet and savory items on Saturday. Alabama Chanin’s School of Making will sponsor a DIY mending station with thread and cotton jersey fabric scraps. Patagonia will also have DIY garments that if you can fix, you can take them home. Click here for more information on the event or visit the Worn Wear site for information on Patagonia.


*All images Courtesy of Patagonia



We are now reaching the end of summer, but there’s still time for the beach, pool, and (for those of us with no shame) even yard sprinklers. For the grown ups, it’s a season for what I call “boat drinks”—fruity concoctions filled with rum and other exotic liqueurs—that make you feel relaxed, like you are floating away. Boat drinks—aka tiki drinks—are fantastic for parties because they are playful, but they can be dangerous, especially when the weather is hot. Their sweetness quenches thirst, but also disguises the liquor inside. Too much tiki may equal a headache the next day, if you’re not careful. Jesse Goldstein guides you through all things tiki here. We invite you to try a few, or have a party to test them all out. Still, unless you have an extra day of vacation to recuperate, try not to drift too far away from shore. From Jesse:

I used to think of tiki drinks only as sweet, brightly colored cocktails with paper umbrellas. You know, the kind you would find on cruise ships and poolside bars at resorts? Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about what really makes a tiki drink, the crazy history that brought them to life, and how to create my own. As a result, I’ve realized how wrong I was to oversimplify or brush off tiki drinks as unrefined.

To tell the story of tiki drinks, you have to start the tale all the way back in the days of Prohibition, when there was a constitutional ban on selling, producing, importing, and transporting alcoholic beverages. Prior to Prohibition, rum was not that popular here in states—where people more often reached for gin, whiskey and bourbon. And though Prohibition closed the domestic distilleries making most of those spirits, that ban did not apply to our neighboring countries, whose distilleries increased their production to keep up with this new demand. Those Americans who chose to keep drinking had to obtain spirits that were produced illegally and smuggled in from other countries. “Rum runners” introduced the country to a wave of delicious rums from the Caribbean, and the taste for rum was established.

But you need more than just rum to create a tiki drink. You need the mix of Polynesian kitsch and fresh flavor combinations. For that, we have to thank a man named Raymond Beaumont Gantt, more commonly known under the pseudonym Don Beach. He was quite the world traveler and lover of tropical culture. He settled in California with suitcases full of souvenirs from his travels to the islands and a dream of opening a restaurant that brought together creative rum drinks and foods loosely based on Polynesian, Hawaiian, and Cantonese cuisines. This dream became a reality in 1934 when he opened “Don the Beachcomber” in Hollywood, California. The concept was a success and soon others followed his lead, opening new tiki concepts like Trader Vic’s.

As soldiers returned home from WWII, they longed for the flavors of the South Pacific. The entire nation soon developed a romanticized obsession with the tropics, thanks in part to films and music of the day. Trader Vic’s and others opened locations around the country to fill that demand, each trying to outdo the next with elaborate Polynesian structures, décor, and even fake lightning and rainstorms. The competition between these bars was so fierce that unique, top-secret recipes were often written in code to avoid poaching from competitors. Some of these historic recipes are highlighted in Beachbum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean, where mysterious sounding ingredients like “Don’s Spices #4” actually refers to cinnamon simple syrup.

But by the mid 1960s, Americans were stunned by the horrors of Vietnam and no longer romanticized wartime images; the idea of pretending to spend your evenings in far away beaches no longer held the mystique it once did. Tiki culture slowly fell out of favor and most tiki bars closed their doors.

Thankfully there’s a resurgence in tiki demand, due in part to the inventive success of bars like Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago and Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles. People are rediscovering the lively world of tiki drinks and seeking them out wherever they go. Of course, traveling to Chicago just to go to a bar doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for most of us, so we’re left to make these cocktails at home. Those of us with the desire to DIY must ask the question “what makes a drink a tiki drink?” A tiki drink is best represented through multiple layers of flavors achieved in three basic categories of ingredients: booze, fruit, and spice.

Though admittedly not all tiki drinks are made with rum, many are. And many of those drinks are not only made with rum, but multiple types of rum. There are recipes that call for two, three, and sometimes even four different rums. Others might use a combination of gin and rum or cognac and liqueurs. The use of more than one spirit helps establish the foundation of flavor in most tiki drinks. It also means that they are often quite potent.

The second essential tiki element is fruit. Tiki drinks are best when made with fresh fruit juices. Obviously many of these are tropical in nature like citrus, pineapple, passion fruit, guava, coconut, and mango. As with the spirits, many recipes require multiple juices for a single cocktail, helping to mask that dangerous potency from all the booze.

But I think the true key to tiki drinks comes in the form the third element, which we’ll call spice. Be it ginger, cinnamon syrup, freshly-grated nutmeg, a dash of bitters, or even a couple drops of almond extract, unique spice combinations were part of how individual tiki bars could differentiate their cocktails from competitors. This addition of spice is an instantly recognizable element in many tiki drinks today.


Tiki at Home

If you’re looking to create your own tiki drinks, you should start by collecting a few different types of rums. Of course not every tiki drink is made with rum, but if you have good rums you can make a variety of delicious cocktails. Purchase high quality versions of white, dark, spiced, and even flavored rums. Look for rums from Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Barbados, and the Virgin Islands. Next, you might want to invest in some of the more unique ingredients like falernum, pimento dram, and orgeat. Falernum is available as both a spirit and a non-alcoholic syrup and is flavored with almond, ginger, nutmeg, and lime. Pimento dram is an allspice liqueur that adds a distinctive flavor to classic tiki drinks like the Voodoo Grog. Orgeat is an almond-flavored syrup that you can buy online, if not at your local liquor store. It’s worth the purchase, as there are literally dozens of classic tiki drinks that call for this ingredient.

Next, you’ll want to do a little prep in the way of syrups. Three of my favorites are a demerara simple syrup made with equal parts demerara sugar and water, a cinnamon syrup, and a passion fruit syrup. I’ve been able to find frozen passion fruit puree in Latin markets and add it to a simple syrup. To make cinnamon syrup, boil a cup of water with a few broken cinnamon sticks. Add a cup of sugar, stir until dissolved and let it sit overnight before straining.

Finally, go get some fresh fruit and juice it. Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit are a great place to start. Fresh pineapple juice requires an electric juicer, so it’s entirely forgivable if you choose to purchase it instead.

When making tiki drinks, I prefer to use crushed ice, as it has more surface area to help cool and dilute the boozy recipes. If you have a Sonic Drive-In near you, they’ll usually sell you a bag of their ice (really!)—it’s perfect for tiki drinks.

Now, on to the cocktails! I offer a few classics, alongside several of my own invention, created to inspire you to get behind the (tiki) bar and play!


Mai Tai
1 oz dark Jamaican rum
1 oz light Puerto Rican rum
1 oz fresh lime juice
½ oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao (or homemade curaçao)
¼ oz orgeat syrup
½ oz demerara syrup (equal parts demerara sugar and water)
Fresh mint and lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice, if needed. Garnish with a sprig of mint and lime wheel.

1 oz gold rum
1 oz dark Jamaican rum
1 oz overproof rum
¾ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz white grapefruit juice
½ oz falernum
¼ oz cinnamon syrup
1 barspoon grenadine
Dash Angostura bitters
Fresh mint for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice if needed. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

La Playa Royale
2 oz silver tequila
1 oz white rum
1 ½ oz fresh orange juice
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz cinnamon syrup
½ oz orgeat
Cinnamon stick and strip of orange zest for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Wrap the strip of orange peel inside the glass, pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice, if needed. Garnish with cinnamon stick.


Sailor Bait
1 oz apricot brandy
1 oz dry gin
1 oz gold rum
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz mango nectar
½ oz orgeat
2 dashes angostura bitters
Wedge of lime
Lemon wheel and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice, if needed. Squeeze the wedge of lime into the drink and garnish with lemon wheel and cherry.

Coral Reef
2 oz gold rum
1 oz white rum
1 oz melon liqueur
¼ oz pimento dram
¾ oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh orange juice
Orange slice and orchid for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice if needed. Garnish with slice of orange and an orchid blossom if you have one on hand.

Tidal Pool
1 oz Mount Gay Barbados rum
1 oz white rum
1 oz blue curaçao
2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
½ oz falernum
Freshly grated nutmeg
Pineapple wedge and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients except nutmeg and garnish and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice, if needed. Grate nutmeg on top and garnish with pineapple wedge and cherry.

Passion Poison
1 oz white rum
1 oz gold rum
2 oz passion fruit syrup
1 oz fresh lime juice
¼ oz crème de cassis
1 oz black spiced rum
Lime wedge and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients except black spiced rum and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice if needed. Float black spiced rum on top and garnish with lime wedge and cherry.



The Factory @ Alabama Chanin is looking for an experienced front-of-house café associate to join our Factory Café team. Customer service experience in either café or retail settings is required, as well as an attention to detail and love of food. This person will act as a brand ambassador for all things Alabama Chanin and will represent the tenets of the slow design and slow food movement to our guests visiting from near and far. Duties include food prep and service, customer interaction, inventory and day-to-day café operations.

Please apply in person at 462 Lane Drive, Florence from 9:00am – 4:00pm daily.

Visit our Careers page for up-to-date job postings.

*Alabama Chanin is an equal-opportunity employer and does not discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability or genetic information.



My initial introduction to up-and-coming Alabama chef Rob McDaniel came through my son, Zach. Years ago, Zach was traveling home from a Doo-Nanny celebration and stopped for brunch at a restaurant along Lake Martin in south Alabama. The unimposing atmosphere and spectacular meal he found at the SpringHouse restaurant had him hooked. He raved for weeks about his meal—and said that he wanted to return there someday to work and study with the executive chef, Rob. (And about a year later, he did.) Since that time, Chef Rob has become a friend to both our immediate family and to the Alabama Chanin family. In fact, we hosted a One-Day Workshop at Springhouse a few years ago.

Rob is a graduate of Auburn University, and honed his culinary skills at the New England Culinary Institute. He has worked alongside Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club, and with the folks at Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ. As a sous chef, Rob learned to apply his culinary know-how to southern food and its methodology. In 2009, he became executive chef at SpringHouse and began to create his own southern food story. Rob has been named a James Beard award semifinalist twice, and in 2014 SpringHouse was named one of the Best 100 Restaurants in the South by Southern Living magazine.


Be it food or fashion, we share similar views on sustainability, supporting local economies, and the art of taking things slow. We also share a love for the good things happening at the Southern Foodways Alliance. Rob will be creating the menu for our next “Friends of the Café” Piggy Bank Dinner at The Factory on August 27, benefitting the SFA. The dinner is also serving as the kick-off for Billy Reid’s annual Shindig here in the Shoals.

The menu for the evening includes field pea fritters, tomato gazpacho, grilled okra and eggplant, and Chilton county peaches. Needless to say, we are excited to kick off our dinner series once again.

We have had an overwhelming response, and the dinner is at capacity. To be added to the wait list, call +1.256.760.1090. First come, first serve. We will contact you if there is an opening.

For more information, visit our Events page.



Celebrate: v. 1. Publicly acknowledge (a significant or happy day or event) with a social gathering or enjoyable activity.

Independence: n. The fact or state of being free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority.

We hope that you take time this weekend to soak in the sweetness of independence that we’ve been granted and celebrate with friends, family, and your community. Make some treats, share the love.

In observance of Independence Day this year (and to allow the Alabama Chanin team time with their loved ones), The Factory Store and Café, the Alabama Chanin offices, and our production studios will be closed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 3-5, 2015.

xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin



At Alabama Chanin, we believe in living and creating a sustainable life – beginning conversations like MAKESHIFT, contributing in every way we can to the Slow Design movement, growing and reusing existing cotton, whenever possible. In our continuing efforts to become a better company and commit to ecological sustainability, Alabama Chanin now ships UPS packages using carbon neutral shipping.

Carbon neutral means that a person or a company reduces carbon dioxide emissions to counter balance emissions made elsewhere. In the case of our shipping method, UPS calculates the carbon impact each transported Alabama Chanin package has on the environment. Then, on behalf of Alabama Chanin, UPS purchases a carbon offset for an emission reduction project somewhere else in the world, like the Garcia River Forestry in California.

When your next order ships from our studio, know that you are supporting carbon neutral efforts, offsetting your carbon footprint, and helping us to build a sustainable environment for work and life.

One Day Workshop - The Factory


This year we’ve traveled to Los Angeles, Berkeley, Ann Arbor, Charleston, Chattanooga, San Francisco, and Woodstock for our One-Day Workshops. Our last One-Day of the year is this Saturday at The Factory in Florence. It’s not too late to register and spend the day with Natalie and the Alabama Chanin team. Registration closes at noon tomorrow.

Saturday, September, 21 2013
9:00 am – 4:00 pm

The Factory
462 Lane Drive
Florence, AL 35630

Cost includes materials, instruction from the Alabama Chanin team, and locally sourced lunch.

For more information, contact Alabama Chanin: workshops (at) or call Olivia at +1.256.760.1090, M-F 8:00 am – 5:00 pm CST.

P.S.: If you can’t make it for our One-Day, we have a few openings left for our Studio Weekend and Studio Week in November – both at The Factory in Florence. 

*Photo thanks to Rinne Allen




“Craft” might seem like it’s for the amateurs, and “fashion” for the auteurs. Yet we live in an age where creativity and innovation are increasingly found in collaborations between makers and users, crafters and designers, designers and manufacturers, and in the loosening of the boundaries between them. – MAKESHIFT 2012

The MAKESHIFT conversation began last year to discover where and how various creative industries can work together as one. The discussion continued last Thursday evening at The Standard, addressing the intersection of industries on the artisan level, where the interchanges occur, and how we can transform those intersections through innovation and collaboration for the greater good.


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