Author Archives: Alabama

POSTCARDS FROM AFAR

ALABAMA CHANIN – POSTCARDS FROM AFAR

When I was a little girl, I started a postcard collection. Postcards were then—and are now—a low cost memento of a trip (and a low stakes investment for a parent to make on a souvenir). I don’t remember how old I was when I started accumulating these paper treasures, nor can I identify the first postcard that found its way into the old shoebox that housed the collection. As any collector knows, there is often no clear rhyme or reason behind why something appeals to us. It sometimes requires years of study for a true collector able to identify trends and collecting tendencies. After a half of a century of amassing them, I have begun to understand that the postcards were my first connections to travel and to experiencing the world.

I can look through the shoebox and clearly see that early postcards reflected my grandparents’ trips to Florida—to visit a rogue branch of our family that left north Alabama for parts unknown. The photos were of places and attractions that felt exotic to a child. Finally, I made my first trip to the Florida panhandle and Panama City—what today we call the “Redneck Rivera”—when I was 5 years old. After an overnight drive with my mother and a group of her friends, I awoke as we neared our destination and declared, “It snowed!” because the beaches were so white. A collection of 1960s style post cards document that trip: Goofy Golf and images of white sand and turquoise blue waters.

A few years later, my cousins moved to Texas and my grandparents’ adventures expanded. I received postcards from Hot Springs, Arkansas, the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial in Dallas, Texas, and all the stops in between. My Aunt Elaine took a job as a teacher with the Armed Forces and set off for the Azores, and my collection grew further. I remember clearly sitting down across from her with a spinning globe between us, searching for the tiny archipelago of islands off the coast of Portugal. From there Elaine began to send a series of postcards that documented every stop of her travels. As my collection continued to multiply, friends and family members would purchase postcards for me from every place they went. Sent and delivered from around the world, these small rectangles of paper most likely created in me a need to travel and see as much as I could in my life.

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JULY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

ALABAMA CHANIN – JULY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

Summer is now officially in full swing. As adults, we rarely get to indulge in a full-scale month of vacation—as our children often do. But, in July I like to take a few extra days to enjoy summer with my family and friends. Maggie absolutely loves July (and July 4th festivities are some of her favorites) and her excitement is contagious. So I am preparing for a month or so of fireworks and sparklers, cookouts, swimming pools, cocktails, and beaches.

My garden is producing peppers and (the beloved Alabama) tomatoes. The summer is just such a challenge: How many tomato sandwiches can one person eat?

Here is what some of my July looks like. I’m leaving room for improvisation:

July 4 – Independence Day and my neighborhood’s epic parade and potluck.

July 6 – National Fried Chicken Day. I’m headed to Nashville; hello Hot Chicken.

July 20 – On this day, back in 1969, Neil Armstrong took man’s first steps on the moon. Maggie and I are headed to San Francisco on the California Zephyr for our upcoming events @ Heath Ceramics.

July 24 – Opening Party at the Boiler Room @ Heath Ceramics in San Francisco. Come out to celebrate our new collaboration with Heath Ceramics. If you can’t make it to the party, the show will run through August 23rd.

July 25 – National Hot Fudge Sundae Day. If you are in The Shoals, a trip to Trowbridge’s is definitely in order.

July 26 – One-Day Sewing Workshop @ San Francisco, CA

July 30 – Makeshift Conversation @ Heath Ceramics. Cathy and I will be lead a conversation around design, craft, and fashion—followed by an interactive workshop. Reserve your (free) spot for the talk in advance here. And purchase your ticket to the workshop here, where we will be designing, creating, and making a DIY Tote Kit.

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NEWSLETTER #30

NEWSLETTER-#30This month, we introduce a new layout for our Newsletter. The new design clearly distinguishes Alabama Chanin, The School of Making, and The Factory—making it easier to find the information that is most important to you.

Join our mailing list to receive our monthly newsletter and keep up with our latest news, events, and stories featured on our Journal.

Update your mailing subscription to include the newsletter here.  Please note that you can update at any time, and choose to opt in (or out of) certain mailings.

xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

ON DESIGN: WILLIAM MORRIS + ARTS AND CRAFTS

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGN: WILLIAM MORRIS + ARTS AND CRAFTS

Last fall, as an extension of our Makeshift initiative, we began a new series of events and conversations called On Design. The series explores art, design, makers, relationships, and the elevation of craft. Our conversation in January explored William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Here are some of Natalie’s thoughts from the presentation. Feel free to share your own thoughts and join the conversation.

From Natalie:

When I started the company that Alabama Chanin has become today, I had a vision for what I wanted to accomplish. At the time, I wouldn’t have identified that vision as a business model—but as the company expanded, I understood that I wanted to design and grow the business in a sustainable way. In a world of fast fashion, mass production, and machines, I wanted to design slowly and thoughtfully. I also wanted to promote skills that seemed to be vanishing, particularly hand-sewing skills—like those used by quilters.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGN: WILLIAM MORRIS + ARTS AND CRAFTS

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: BEADED FACETS COAT

ALABAMA CHANIN – FROM THE ARCHIVES: BEADED FACETS COAT

This week, we take another look at the lives our clothes have led and the memories forever linked with them. For some reason, we associate memories with objects—or in this case, clothing. Every time I look inside, I think that my closet is, in a small way, some sort of prism through which I see the world.

Project Alabama Garment #17821
Built in September 2005
Pattern:  A-359 Long Coat
Stencil: Facets
Fabric: 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Outer layer color: Sapphire
Backing layer color: Black
Thread: Navy
Beads: Black bugle and chop
Sequins: Gun Metal
Seams: Inside felled
Knots: Inside
Size: Medium
Owner: Natalie Chanin

The Beaded Facets Coat was originally created for the Project Alabama Spring/Summer 2006 Collection, as you can see in the picture above left. It was presented in the first and only runway show we ever produced (thank you Gail Dizon, Jennifer Venditti, Lori Goldstein, Jake Xerxes Fussell, Ruby Jane, and to UPS—who sponsored the show). I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that show made the cover of Women’s Wear Daily the next morning. I had to look three times to realize that it was actually the cover and not from the interior of the magazine. There were eventually 14 of these coats produced in both the Amber and Sapphire colorways shown above for Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Jeffrey Atlanta, and a few special clients.

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MERCHANT & MILLS: THE FACTORY DRESS PATTERN

ALABAMA CHANIN – MERCHANT & MILLS: THE FACTORY DRESS PATTERN

In January, we added to our ongoing Makeshift series, adapting available garment patterns using Alabama Chanin techniques with a Merchant & Mills pattern for the Shirt Dress. This month, we’ve created another Merchant & Mills garment in our own style—an Alabama Chanin version of the Factory Dress (love the name). This piece is shown here without embellishment to highlight the simple design, but you can choose to utilize any of the techniques from our previous posts or our Swatch of the Month Club to embellish your project

Keep in mind that Merchant & Mills is a UK-based design house and that UK sizes differ a bit from US numbered sizes. Their website has clear size charts that can help you select the right pattern size for your body. Also note that their patterns are priced in pounds, not US dollars, and you should take into account shipping costs when shopping. Alternatively, there are quite a few stockists in the US with ready links available here.

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WHITE BARBEQUE SAUCE

ALABAMA CHANIN – WHITE BARBEQUE SAUCE

Barbeque lovers are often staunch proponents and defenders of their favorite preparation, favorite meat, and favorite sauce—or lack thereof. Just as there is an entire range of styles of barbeque (everything from pulled pork with slaw to smoked chicken to a plate of burnt ends), there is a whole spectrum of barbeque sauces. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of sugary red sauces; but as an Alabama native, I must wholeheartedly profess my love of our native white barbeque sauce.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with this particular variety of sauce, as it is a North Alabama specialty. But, it is a staple of almost every barbeque restaurant in the area and has found its way to our tables and local grocery store shelves. White sauce is a tangy condiment made of mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper. While that might sound a little odd to the uninitiated, those in the know are evangelists for the stuff.

While white barbeque sauce has been served in the area for years, local lore suggests that Bob Gibson of the legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, invented it in 1925. Bob worked for the L & N Railroad Company, but would host barbeques on the weekends, smoking meat over a hickory pit in his backyard. Eventually, his food became so popular that he quit his job at the railroad and opened a proper restaurant.

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INSPIRATION: ONE-OF-A-KIND INDIGO

ALABAMA CHANIN – ONE OF A KIND

Indigo – electric, deep, light, or tropical

Indigo can be bright, violet-blue, midnight blue.

Electric indigo represents the sixth chakra—the Anja—that includes the third eye.

It is the color of intuition and self-awareness.

Today, the New Leaves stencil + layers of indigo of the Indigo Shell Top made me think of this:

A creation of Miya Ando: a representation of the bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico.

Phosphorescent leaves floating on a pond, lighting up the night with a dreamy, radiant blue glow.

More one-of-a-kind Indigo pieces have been added to our current Collection.

 

TRAVEL: THE NATCHEZ TRACE

ALABAMA CHANIN – TRAVEL: NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY

Those traveling to The Shoals often ask for the best routes into and out of the area. I’m not sure what your definition of “best” may be, but I personally love to travel visually interesting routes, when time allows. For those that have the time and inclination for a scenic drive, I always recommend taking part of the journey on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile historical path that travels from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, and connects the Cumberland and Mississippi rivers.  It follows a geologic ridgeline that prehistoric animals followed in search of new grazing land and water sources. The Trace connected tribal homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations. Native travelers used the same pathways repeatedly, creating natural sunken sections in the ground.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TRAVEL: THE NATCHEZ TRACE

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FOURTH OF JULY LOVE

ALABAMA CHANIN – FOURTH OF JULY LOVE

We love you all. We love the Fourth of July. We love our staff. We love for our staff to spend time with their families. In celebration of Independence Day this year, The Factory Store and Café, the Alabama Chanin offices, and our production studios will be closed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 3-5, 2015. Some of our staff will celebrate by spending time on the Tennessee River and barbecuing with family and friends. Maggie and I will be eagerly awaiting fireworks and participating in our yearly neighborhood parade.

Here are some ideas on how to get ready for the weekend festivities:
Get started on a DIY Flag Quilt
Decorate 4th of July napkins
Sip a Strawberry Rosemary Prosecco Cocktail
Make (and share) a cobbler
Dress your best in one of our Made in the USA
garments (we’re sporting Indigo this summer…) 

Happy Birthday America (coming soon).
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin