Tag Archives: Community



If there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that there is joy and power in making in a group setting. We’ve witnessed this in a multitude of workshops, Makeshift events, and also in our informal First and Third Mondays and Thursday night Sip + Sew events here at The Factory. Many of us have outside sewing circles or knitting groups we belong to, and it’s the opportunity for growing conversations that make those experiences most meaningful.

One of our educational goals at Alabama Chanin has always been to increase opportunities for these conversations to flourish.

So, with that in mind we introduce our new Host a Party programming through The School of Making.

Organize a group of 6 or more friends, colleagues, or acquaintances and provide a location and refreshments. You and your group will choose one garment style—with difficulty levels ranging from beginner to advanced. You will all be working on the same garment style, but each group member can choose their own size, fabric color, and stencil design.

As host, you will receive your kit for free, in exchange for providing sewing instructions and hospitality. Each of your guests will receive the selected kit at 20% off the original price.

Meet once a week, once a month, or as often as you and your group would like, provide good light, beverages, good conversation, and start sewing. You will be the leader and teacher to the Alabama Chanin sewing techniques. Our Studio Style book series can be your guide, and we’ll provide some handouts on basic techniques that will help you along the way.

Provide tools, needles, scissors, or show your sewing group which tools you love the most.

Some tips we’ve found for the best sewing parties:

Consider seating carefully. If you have a large table that can accommodate your entire party, this is the ideal setup. You can also set up smaller groups or tables around a single room—but you should ideally have a surface to spread out your sewing pieces and hold your sewing tools and notions. And, of course the best conversations are had around one big table.

Good lighting makes all the difference in the world.

If you plan to spend an entire afternoon or evening stitching together, keep snacks on hand—but not messy ones. Think grapes or cheese and crackers rather than chips and salsa…

Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes, take everything apart, and start again. No one is grading your efforts and one imperfection won’t ruin your garment.

Host a sewing party by contacting us here: workshops@alabamachanin.com

And learn more on how Host a Party works, including kit options, here.




Atlanta-based chef Anne Quatrano is perhaps the most visible figure in the area’s farm-to-table movement. She and her husband and fellow chef Clifford Harrison are longtime proponents of sustainability and make concerted efforts to use locally grown seasonal and organic products—much of which comes from their own family farm. They own and operate three established restaurants—Bacchanalia, Little Bacch, and Floataway Café, run Star Provisions deli and market, and have very recently opened W.H. Stiles Fish Camp, a casual seafood spot in the Ponce City Market’s food hall.

Star Provisions is a carefully curated, visually inspiring shop and pantry where patrons can have access to the same tools and ingredients as professional chefs. They accomplish what we attempt to do in our own Studio Style DIY shop—provide high quality materials to those who might otherwise not have access to those items. Anne and Clifford have effectively opened their restaurant’s pantry and walk-in cooler for patrons to shop. It has a bakery, a wine cellar, a butcher and seafood counter, a cheesemonger, and a section for cookbooks, specialty goods, tableware, penny candy—and even dog treats.


As part of our continued inquiry into the creative process, I was interested in how someone could manage so many undertakings and manage a family farm and come up with fresh ideas for new restaurants. Fellow Atlanta chef Steven Satterfield said of Anne, “Ann was a pioneer in Atlanta. Her focus has always been on sourcing the best ingredients first, and local, seasonal ingredients have always been important to her.” I want to know what inspires such a pioneer—and what continues to keep that sort of passion stoked. We forwarded Anne a list of 34 questions about her thoughts on how she creates, stays motivated, and encourages her own creativity—and asked her to answer 5-10 of her choice. Her responses follow and reveal what sparks her curiosity and what she might have done instead of becoming a chef (though we’re so glad she stuck with her original plan).

Alabama Chanin: Do you have any creative rituals?

Anne Quatrano: Not really – I love an iced tea and a stack of magazines on Sundays.

AC: What makes you curious?

AQ: Mostly nature and its elements…wild vegetation, bird’s nests, the paths of bees, my dogs’ habits, anatomy of a hog…

AC: What do you daydream about?

AQ: The beach


AC: Do you have processes or tricks to spur creativity?

AQ: Driving

AC: Do you have to be in a certain mood in order to create?

AQ: No, but I am more creative when calm.

AC: Nature or nurture? Do you imagine creativity is part of human nature or must it be learned?

AQ: Human nature – the discipline to achieve is learned.

AC: What parts of your work seem the “heaviest” and the “lightest”?

AQ: Heaviest is always economically motivated. Lightest is typically the relationship of flavors, textures and form.

AC: Have you ever censored your imagination or creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone? If so, how?

AQ: Sometimes with hired graphic designers or individuals helping with projects—but most of the time the collaboration is just as rewarding and often better.

AC: If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?

AQ: I would draw homes and public spaces…architecture.

AC: Do you critique your own work?

AQ: Yes – more than anyone else.

AC: Has rejection ever affected your creative process?

AQ: No

AC: What last made you think, “I wish I had thought of that!”?

AQ: Everything…


P.S.: Purchase tickets to our Friends of the Café Dinner with chef Anne Quatrano on October 24th and have the chance to experience her food firsthand.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee Photography



The design world is filled with innovators making products that can impact the human experience for good or for ill. The idea of designing and making with positive, spirited intention is growing far beyond its early influencers like Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio or the now defunct Architecture for Humanity—inspired by Mockbee’s project. Today, AIGA—one of the oldest and largest professional design organizations—has an entire program dedicated to Design for Good. Design leader John Bielenberg created the innovative and influential Project M that is always generating creative solutions to real design challenges. (See Project M’s Pie Lab in Greensboro, Alabama, for an example.)

One of our earliest “social” collaborations was with an organization called Goods of Conscience, whom we worked with on some of our first indigo dyeing experiments. This was quite a few years ago, when design and social change were words that weren’t often used together. It was one of the early examples in the textile industry we encountered that proved the two ideas could exist together and elevate one another.

All design has social impact, but good design focuses on people as fundamental to the products they make. Designers have a remarkable ability to influence how we communicate and with whom, what we think about, what is relevant, and how social and economic power balances might be restructured. When designing for the good, effective ideas, methods, and products can better a society and humanity. Nest, the non-profit organization we’ve partnered with through The School of Making, has fostered successful initiatives by building deep relationships with the global makers with whom they partner—collaboratively building sustainable solutions to the greatest needs within communities where artisan craft stands to create positive, long-lasting change.


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Bon Appétit’s October issue hit the stands this past week and featured a big Alabama party—complete with a campfire, Lodge Castiron, and whiskey. Read the full story of our ‘Alabama Getaway’ and find the recipes online here.

A HUGE thank you is in order to all the chefs, makers, artists, and friends who drove (and flew) many miles to be a part of the day.

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The roster of thank yous, in no particular order: Butch Anthony; Andrew Knowlton, Alexander Grossman, Alex Pollak, Carla Music, Annabel Mehran, and the entire Bon Appétit crew; Melany Robinson and the Polished Pig Media team; Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic of Heath Ceramics; Nick Pihakis; Nicholas Pihakis; Jim N’ Nicks Bar-B-Q; Brooks Reitz of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.; Erin Connelly of The CommonsRinne Allen, Lee Smith, and family; Angie Mosier; Jeff Mosier; John Henry Toney; Will Harris of White Oak Pastures; chef Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse Restaurant; Jason Wilson, Brad Wilson, and David Carn of Back Forty Beer Co.; Bob Gay of Papa’s Nubbin’s; Trey and Will Sims of Wickles Pickles.


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(Behind-the-scenes) images courtesy of Rinne Allen



Just two hours north of The Shoals lies Nashville, Tennessee—also known as “Music City”. Travelers visiting The Factory often fly into larger nearby airports (like Nashville or Birmingham) and make the drive to Florence. Lately, perhaps in part due to the eponymous television show, Nashville has blossomed as a tourist friendly city—one that we recommend for all of our visitors with a little extra time to explore.

The city of Nashville was founded as Fort Nashborough around 1780 and is actually older than the state of Tennessee. During the Civil War, Nashville was captured early on by the Union army —who used it as a depot; this ultimately helped solidify the city’s infrastructure and ensured it would survive the war largely intact, unlike most other large Southern cities.

In 1925, a local insurance company founded a radio station in Nashville—calling it WSM, for “We Shield Millions”. Disc jockey George Hay produced a barn dance style show called “The Grand Ole Opry”, which was listened to by those in Nashville and in surrounding towns and communities. Musicians began traveling to the city in hopes of being heard on this treasured radio show. The Opry, still staged live every week, is America’s longest-running radio show.

For those with a love for music history, Nashville has no shortage of must-see stops. Visit the newly opened Johnny Cash Museum or Hatch Show Print, a historic letterpress shop that produced—and still produces—some of the most famous concert posters of all time. (Look for more information on Hatch soon.) Nearby is The Country Music Hall of Fame, which takes up an entire city block and presents artifacts like rhinestone costumes, guitars, and memorabilia from musicians of all generations. Also part of the Hall of Fame is RCA Studio B, where thousands of famous country and rock and roll songs have been recorded. Elvis alone recorded over 250 songs at Studio B.

We highly recommend touring the beautiful Ryman Auditorium, known as the “Mother Church of Country Music.” Originally built as a house of worship, it was home to the Grand Ole Opry until 1974 and now hosts shows for musicians of all genres.


Opry performers were known to sneak out the Ryman’s back doors between sets to have a drink in one of Nashville’s famous honky tonks, located on lower Broadway. Visitors now frequent establishments like Legends Corner and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, which offer modern country alongside throwback country and western. For those interested in the songwriting side of Nashville (and fans of the ABC television show), you might consider a visit to The Bluebird Café, where many songwriting legends were discovered—and continue to visit. But visitors should know that venues like the Bluebird are classic Nashville “listening rooms” —and you will be shushed if you make too much noise.

Nashville is also an important stop for many vinyl enthusiasts, as well. United Record Pressing, operating since 1949, is located downtown and is one of only four remaining vinyl manufacturers in America. Musician Jack White also moved his record label, Third Man Records, from Detroit to Nashville—and they release hundreds of albums and special releases on vinyl. The Blue Room, a venue located inside, is capable of producing a vinyl master recording in real time, direct-to-acetate.

The city is also becoming (rightfully) known as a food destination. One of Nashville’s best-known culinary innovations is “hot chicken”—supposedly created by a scorned woman seeking revenge on a cheating boyfriend. Prince’s Hot Chicken is our preferred stop. There are too many “best” restaurants in town, but among our favorites are: Sean Brock’s Husk, Tandy Wilson’s City House, Tyler Brown’s Capitol Grille (and the adjacent Oak Bar), and Arnold’s Country Kitchen, for a classic meat and three. (Barbeque in and around Nashville can’t be contained in one post—more on that coming soon.)

Travelers who want to explore outside the music attractions, or anyone traveling with the whole family, can visit The Parthenon (originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition), pick up a book (or four) at Ann Patchett’s independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, take in an exhibit at The Frist Center for Visual Arts, explore the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, see a movie at the historic Belcourt Theatre, or watch a Nashville Predators or Tennessee Titans game.

Shop the 12th Avenue South district with our friends at Imogene + WillieCraft South, and, while you are out-and-about, check out all the great designers that are part of the newly formed Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA).


As you can see, a flight to Nashville with a two day stop before heading to The Shoals is highly recommended. Look for more upcoming posts from our Travel series, highlighting some of our favorite cities and attractions—from here to there (and most everywhere in between).

Photos courtesy of: The Grand Ole Opry, Johnny Cash Museum, Hatch Show Print, The Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville Sun Times, Jón Alan Salon, Bon Appétit, Husk, City House, Capitol Grille, Nashville.gov, Parnassus Books, The Frist Center for Visual Arts, Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville.com, The Nashville Predators, and The Tennessee Titans



Patagonia’s Worn Wear truck and team arrived in Alabama and to The Factory yesterday morning. They’ve set up in the parking lot and brought fabrics and machines to repair your existing gear. As a bonus, they’ve also brought a slew of jackets that they’re giving away so we can learn to make our own repairs.


I scored this black down jacket which is shown below before repairs and after.


Of course, we added some Alabama Chanin touches. Lucky bonus: I found this tidily rolled dollar bill in the right pocket of my jacket.

WORN WEAR IN THE HOUSE (4)The Worn Wear team will be at The Factory today from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm (get there early to get your jacket). Zach and our team are cooking up tacos and more to celebrate.

Grab a jacket, a taco and a beer, and join come us…



We are constantly inspired and impressed by our DIY community and what you make and share. We loved sharing your projects as a part of #MeMadeMay and wanted to highlight more of our recent #theschoolofmaking favorites from Instagram.

With the weather (finally) cooling, now is the perfect time to settle in and sew something new. So, choose a pattern, alter it (if needed) with help from Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, cut, stencil, and sew along with our entire DIY community on Instagram. Or, if you’d rather get straight to sewing, choose from one of our DIY kits (or get really creative and design your own).

Photos courtesy of @vicki.knitorious, @tantesophie, @jessica_k_mf, @sojbird, @oldsaltstudios, @lotsaland, and @displaylady.

P.S. Follow us on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

P.P.S. Use our hashtag #theschoolofmaking to share your latest Studio Style DIY project.



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.



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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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.


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