The story of my coming home to Alabama in the year 2000 is one that has been told many times. My journey home started in the spring of 2000 on the corner of 38th Street and 8th Avenue in New York City. It was there that the call to adventure hit me squarely on the head. It was the moment I realized that the hand-embroidered shirts I’d been making were really little more than a quilting stitch. In that moment, I realized that this was something I learned in my childhood and, in the same moment, I understood that I wanted to go back to the community of my childhood in North Alabama. It was clear to me that I wanted to talk to my grandmother and the other ladies like her who had quilted their whole lives; I wanted to make a film about why people made quilts, and I wanted to make a small collection of hand-quilted t-shirts.
Stitch is that film. The digital version you can watch below includes a 4-minute trailer at the beginning and before the 22-minute documentary. The trailer was played at the Hotel Chelsea as that first collection of 200 one-of-a-kind t-shirts was presented during Fashion Week in February of 2001. The film, shot in January of 2001, is now 15 years old and is the result of 35 hours of digital interviews, 4 rolls of Super-8 film, 469 miles in an old blue Chevy pickup truck, 1 prop plane, and a crew of three that rambled around (and above) Lauderdale and Colbert counties in Northwest Alabama. Additionally, there were approximately 10 transatlantic flights from 1999 to 2001, untold hours in editing suites, and as many hours on-and-around a sound board. Not a single person involved in the making of this film got paid.
Watching the trailer and the film today, it’s clear that a key part of my journey home also has to do with this group of friends and neighbors who are now spread across the globe and the heavens. Many of the ladies and gentlemen interviewed by us have since passed away, including my own grandmother. I’m proud that a small part of these beautiful stories—and way of life—are captured in this little film. Every single one of our interviewees said, “Things were different back then; it’s not like it is today.” How true that statement becomes even 15 years later.
The camera operator and cinematographer—and my dear friend—Sissi Farassat has become a world-renowned artist.
Fish Film, who supported me endlessly—and were also dear friends of my heart—has since closed. Operating from 1998 to 2003, Fish Film produced, directed, organized, wrote, and supported an inspiring body of films, television commercials, and music videos.
The period during the making of this film, and just before, were a time of great chaos in my life but also of great creativity, beauty, and joy. I’ll always look back to this as one of the best times of my life.
I’m a better designer today for having worked with all the crew at Fish Film and my dear friend Sissi. Thank you to all the Fish Film founders: John Buche, Christoph Chrudimak, Moritz Freidl, Gammon, Igor Orovac, Oliver Kartak, Florian Kehrer, Jo Molitoris, and Wolfgang Tschofen.
I’m grateful to one and all,
Concept and Direction: Alabama Chanin
Assistant to Director: Jakob Glatz
Camera: Sissi Farassat and Jacob Glatz
Cut: Gerd Berner
Trailer Editor: Martin Matusiak
Original Song “Stitches”: Khan
Sound Mix: Markus Pochinger
Sound Studio: Soundtrack
Creative Direction: Project Alabama
Graphics: Andrea Jirez and Florian Schmeiser
Stock Material: Lloyd Llewellyn
Producer: Josef Bacher
Chief Trouble Maker: Paul Graves
Positive Criticism: Florian Kehrer
Production Assistant: Agatha Whitechapel and Karen Gruber
Executive Producer: Igor Orovac
Natalie, you inspire me so much! You know how much my heritage of sewing, crocheting and home craft mean to me. I am not happy unless I have something to work on. My next project is an Alabama Chanin skirt cut from one of my Rogers Dept. Store 100% cotton dresses. It will be topped with “new leaves” cut from a bundle purchased at a 1st. Monday gathering. A modern day quilting bee!
What a wonderful film. With tears in my eyes I’m remembering my “people”– my grandmother and her mother before. They were just simple farm people but they possessed the gift of quilting. I’ve slept under those quilts all my life and I like to think that their talents passed to me while I slept. I grew up with a love of sewing, quilting and knitting. I know it’s in my blood and I’m grateful.
Thank you so much for making and sharing this film, what a beautiful slice of American history. This makes me miss my Mother and Grandmother and their stories, it also reminds me of the importance of passing these stories down to my children and grandchildren. The people interviewed seemed to have so little monetarily and yet so much of what mattered, love, friendship and laughter! Thank you again for this glimpse into a different time and place.
I’m so glad you’ve shared this moving documentary. Memories of my own roots surfaced that I hadn’t visited for some time. You’ve created an artistic, visual, poignant avenue for past and present to meld, and brought into focus how important something as simple as a stitch, and really what it represents (community, comfort, life’s basics, laughter, sharing, recycling), was and is. Thank you.
Thank you for posting this intimate and telling short film. Relevant and fresh, even today. A time that was simpler and true.
Natalie, this was such an interesting, inspiring and poignant documentary. Thank you so much for sharing! As you may know, this is my all consuming passion and daily activity.
Thank you so much for sharing this film. I especially enjoyed the interviews, so full of history and happy reminiscences! It reminded me of my own dear grandparents and neighbors and the wonderful stories they lovingly shared with me about their pasts. My Papaw used to tell me about his mother, a very resourceful woman, who grew (in south central Kentucky!) her own cotton for batting her completely handstitched quilts. Now that’s “scratch”. I never knew of anyone else here growing cotton, so I just had to try my hand at planting it. Sure enough I reaped a crop of the historic “Nankeen” cotton. What a great (and painful?) “cotton-picking” experience! I have loved hand-stitching and hand embroidery since childhood. Must be in the DNA! Thanks again for a lovely trip down memory lane.
Besides being fascinating, this film brought a tear to my eye. I can see my dear departed relatives from McComb, Mississippi in these faces and hear their voices in the beautiful southern accents. Your film took me back to a place I had not thought of in years. I’m going to show it to my mother who is 83. We are so fortunate to have several quilts handed down from my grandmother and great aunts. Thank you, Natalie!!
Thank you, Natalie, for this beautiful and moving tribute to the women of the south. Though this is not my heritage or memories I felt the love and companionship these ladies remembered. Truly thought provoking!
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Me siento muy conmovida al leerle y ver la película. Me inspiras absolutamente! ♥
Lucrecia, estoy tan contenta de que hayas disfrutado esta publicación.
Speechless. What a gift. Thank you.