In 2016, Natalie wrote the following on the Alabama Chanin Journal, ”In my design training, we never really spoke directly about the cultural impact of the things (products) we were making. In my memory, conversations tended more towards how the culture impacted us as designers. I learned to make dresses and thought about the manufacturing process that follows good design, but it took me years to understand that the process of manufacturing has its own culture, its own language, its own trajectory that was completely separate from me as designer.”

The Bitter Southerner shared more in an interview between Natalie and writer Kristi York Wooten. The few years prior to this conversation between Natalie and Kristi, Alabama Chanin hosted a series of workshops and conversations seeking to understand how the act of making brings together the worlds of fashion, craft, design, and DIY to better change communities, fittingly called Makeshift. Through conversations (and asking lots of questions) with scholars, designers, and makers, the dialogue became a scholarly study in material culture that transformed into a project—Project Threadways. The work never stopped and in 2019, Alabama Chanin hosted the inaugural Project Threadways symposium at their headquarters in Florence. Leading up the symposium, Alabama Chanin worked with some incredible organizations and people—too many to name here (thank you all). A partnership was formed with the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi to collection oral histories, analyze and publish data, and stage events that serve as centers for conversations. And Nest, a nonprofit organization working to build a better a handworker economy, helped developed a survey for textile workers.

With funding from a grant provided by MSNHA, an exhibition was developed and displayed in our community and the MSNHA team began conducting oral histories with textile workers. The histories, exhibition, and conversations were shared the 2019 symposium.

Following the spring symposium, Project Threadways was officially founded as a nonprofit. The organization utilizes Makeshift’s conversations, Alabama Chanin’s experience, and Natalie’s vision through academic partnerships and programing where we are able to study and record a deep history of textiles and share our findings with the public.

Which brings us to today. Project Threadways now has its own home on the web. We are humbled and honored to continue to bring this project to life and share it with you.

If you are new to our project and organization, visit here to learn about its mission, vision, and values.

Join us in November for our second annual symposium.

Support Threadways and our good work.

If you worked in the textile industry, take our survey.

And look ahead as we share our findings.

Explore Project

Originally published on the Project Threadways blog.

Please note the symposium has been rescheduled from April to November due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Please contact with questions regarding your tickets.


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