“It is no secret that I feel a commitment to my community; it is equally evident the role that growing up in Florence, Alabama, had on my development as a designer. Textiles – the growing, picking, spinning, knitting, cutting, and sewing – were a part of the vernacular of small southern towns from the late 1800s until the signing of NAFTA. My community has been no different.” – Natalie Chanin, an essay titled The Heart: A History of Textiles + Community on the Alabama Chanin Journal, March 2012
Founded in 2019 as a 501(c)(3), Project Threadways records, studies, and explores the history of textiles. The organization utilizes Alabama Chanin’s experience, founder Natalie’s vision, and a partnership with and funding from the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area (MSNHA) to record oral histories, expand an ongoing exhibition, offer community programming, and plan annual symposiums among many more exciting endeavors.
“Wilson Dam”, date unknown, courtesy of UNA Archives and Special Collections
The mission of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area (MSHNA) is to preserve, protect, and promote the cultural heritage resources of the Muscle Shoals region, which is our community in northwest Alabama. Project Threadways’ partnership with the MSNHA focuses on river heritage.
”With an approximate length of 652 miles and a watershed covering roughly 41,000 square miles in seven states, the Tennessee River is one of the most significant river systems in the U.S. It flows southwest out of Knoxville, Tennessee, and crosses into Alabama to travel west before turning north across the Mississippi state line and emptying into the Ohio River in Kentucky. The Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area encompasses the 80-mile stretch of river from Brown’s Ferry in Limestone County to Waterloo in Lauderdale County, known as the Muscle Shoals region for its shallow water (shoals) rich in mussels and other shellfish.” From Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area
“Gardner Waring Knitting Mill”, 1935, courtesy of UNA Archives and Special Collections
In Sweetwater: The Story of East Florence 1818-1940, local historian William Lindsay McDonald wrote, “Florence was established as a river town because of its strategic location at the foot of the Muscle Shoals. Soon, however, because of its abundance of water and numerous falling streams it became a cotton mill town.”
We know that our community has a similar textile story to many places across the globe, and the theme of the 2021 Project Threadways Symposium—“Textiles Across Time and Place: Examining a complicated past to create a more sustainable future”—places this story of our northwest Alabama community into a broader context by providing a timeline of textile history in the United States.
This overview discusses the indigenous people who inhabited this area and the fibers they grew through the cotton economy of the antebellum south leading up to the Reconstruction era, sharecropping, and tenant farming. It also maps out the geography from the northeast corridor down through our region of the south, highlighting the once-thriving textile cities and towns.
Visit the Project Threadways website to register for the virtual event on Friday, April 16th, and Saturday, April 17th, and also find the details below.
More About The Symposium
Symposium speakers will focus on the geography of textiles, material culture, sustainable fashion, and clothing of the enslaved. The list of speakers includes Carrie Barske-Crawford, Jessamyn Hatcher and Thuy Linh Tu, Dana Thomas, Katie Randall, Kate Knowles, and Julius Tillery.
The virtual event will include a tour of The Factory—Alabama Chanin’s production and manufacturing facility, engaging lectures and talks, a making workshop with The School of Making, and inspiring conversation. A variety of ticket tiers are available: VIP, General Admission, and Pay as You Wish (recommended $35).
This event is in partnership with the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, and Alabama Chanin. The event and exhibition is supported through funding provided by the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area.
All ticket sales will go to 501(c)(3) certified Project Threadways.
For details and more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This ticket gives you access to all events Friday, April 16th and Saturday, April 17th. Your virtual experience includes a tour of The Factory—Alabama Chanin’s production and manufacturing facility, a making workshop with The School of Making, a virtual cocktail hour and discussion, inspiring and engaging conversation, and access to all lectures and talks after the event. VIP guests will also receive a quarterly newsletter, Threadways, with exclusive textile stories and project updates, and access to two virtual discussions over the course of 2021.
This ticket gives you access to all events on Saturday, April 17th. Your virtual experience includes a virtual cocktail hour and discussion, inspiring and engaging conversation, and access to all lectures and talks after the event.
Pay as you Wish
Cost: You Choose (Recommended $35)
Pay as you wish and receive access to either the morning or afternoon session on Saturday, April 17th.
Choose to add Friday’s making workshop to your General Admission ticket.
Please note all times are CST.
2:00pm – 2:15pm Symposium Welcome + Introductions
2:15pm – 3:00pm Virtual Tour of The Factory
3:00pm – 4:00pm Virtual Making Workshop
4:00pm – 4:45pm The Future of Threadways with Natalie Chanin and Carrie Barske-Crawford + Virtual Cocktail Hour Discussion
4:45pm – 5:00pm Closing Remarks
Each presentation will last approximately 30 minutes with a 30 minute Q&A to follow.
8:00am – 8:15am Symposium Welcome + Introduction
8:15am – 9:15am Material Culture Across Time from Carrie Barske-Crawford
9:20am – 10:20am The Geography of Textiles with Katie Randall, Jessamyn Hatcher, Thuy Linh Tu
10:25am – 11:25am The Future of Fashion with Dana Thomas
11:30am – 12:30pm Break
12:30pm – 12:40pm Opening Remarks
12:40pm – 1:40pm An Expanded Oral History with Katie Randall
1:45pm – 2:45pm Enslaved People and Fast Fashion with Katie Knowles
3:00pm – 4:00pm Black Cotton with Julius Tillery
4:00pm – 5:00pm Virtual Cocktail Hour Discussion
Lead image: Left: “Detail of organic cotton fiber at Hill Spinning”, 2013 by Rinne Allen; right: “Scene on Muscle Shoals Canal”, date unknown, courtesy of UNA Archives and Special Collections