Tag Archives: Workshops

ALABAMA CHANIN - 2019 WORKSHOP SCHEDULE - 1

NEW WORKSHOPS FOR 2019

We’re nearly halfway through the year, and the rest of our workshops for 2018 are filling up quickly. We recently hosted our largest Three-Day Workshop—with 20 guests—and the popularity of our workshops continues to grow.

We normally wait until later in the year to announce upcoming workshops, but we have already set dates through part of 2019 and wanted to give you as much time as possible to plan your trip to The Factory. Whether you’re a sewing novice or a seasoned pro, The School of Making has something for you.

Intro to Hand-Sewing Workshop

Dates:
March 15, 2019
August 16, 2019

The Intro to Hand-Sewing Workshop is the perfect introduction to sewing, and it makes a great gift for a loved one (or yourself). During this workshop, you’ll learn the physics of sewing, reverse appliqué, and an overview of garment construction and other techniques from The School of Making. Work with our team to create a hand-sewn project from a selection of our most popular kits. Join us in The Factory Café for lunch immediately following the workshop and stay for a free, guided tour of our design and production studios as well as our Building 14 production facility.

Three-Day Workshop

Dates:
May 16, 2019 – May 18, 2019
November 7, 2019 – November 9, 2019

Our popular Three-Day Workshop opens the studio doors at The Factory in Florence, Alabama, and allows participants to work with The School of Making team, a selection of our most loved DIY garment patterns, and our extensive DIY stencil library. Participants create a customized hand-sewn garment or project of their choice from The School of Making Book Series and newer styles from the Build a Wardrobe program. We offer a range of options that can be tailored to any skill level. The three-day schedule also includes a Swampette tour of the Shoals music scene, history of Alabama Chanin, and a studio tour.

Classic Studio Week

Date:
June 3, 2019 – June 7, 2019

This week-long event invites participants into The School of Making’s expanded studio for a total immersion into our philosophies, methods, materials, and products. Participants will experiment with several different techniques in hand sewing and will be guided through each step in the process of creating a garment from The School of Making. Techniques include design basics and the physics of sewing, stencil design and creation, airbrush and stenciling of garments, fit and basic pattern alterations, discussion, and critique. This Monday-through-Friday event includes yoga sessions, time for sight-seeing, and some delicious, locally sourced meals with optional time Saturday for any last-minute studio time, packing up, and purchases.

Keep an eye on the Journal for information about upcoming away workshops with The School of Making team, and check the Events calendar for added programming throughout the year.

ALABAMA CHANIN - 2019 WORKSHOP SCHEDULE - 2

P.S.: The Shoals is an area rich in history with many unique destinations to experience during your stay. We encourage you to plan an extra day or two to get out and explore. There are also a number of points of interest within a day’s drive if you want to see more of Alabama while you’re here.

ALABAMA CHANIN - CATHEAD Q + A - 1

CATHEAD DISTILLERY + A COCKTAIL WORKSHOP @ 116

Cathead Distillery has been on our radar for many years. They sponsored one our very first Friends of the Café dinners with Vivian Howard in 2014, and we made a hand-sewn banner for them to use at special events. This spring, we’re partnering with them and Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. for a special Cocktail Workshop on April 13th, as part of The Gathering—our annual community picnic.

We spoke with the team at Cathead to get an idea of why and how the company began, and the importance of Southern arts and humanities in their approach to doing business. Cheers.

ALABAMA CHANIN - CATHEAD Q + A - 2

The state of Mississippi was the last state in America to repeal prohibition, waiting until 1966 to make alcohol officially legal. Just over 100 years after alcohol was outlawed, longtime college friends Austin Evans and Richard Patrick founded Cathead Vodka in Jackson, Mississippi. While they are recognized for their passion for distilling, they are also known for their love of live music and Southern culture. When Evans and Patrick created Cathead Distillery, they did not just build a brand of liquor—they built a lifestyle brand.

The Cathead as a form of art supposedly originated with Blues musicians—specifically musician and folk artist James “Son” Thomas, who sculpted cat heads from clay.

AC: Can you explain the name of your company? How does it reflect what you do and who you are? What is a cathead?

CV: The term “Cathead” is a compliment in Mississippi, first coined back in the day by blues musicians as a nod to artists they respected. Mississippi artists and musicians went on to use “Catheads” in many forms of folk art, as a way to pay the rent and share their legacies.

Mississippi is the proud state where blues music began, a genre that has deeply influenced all forms of American music. We work hard to bring honor to the meaning of Cathead through our philanthropic support of live music and artisans alike. Cathead means friendship and respect.

AC: Craft cocktail culture has become the norm in many bars and restaurants across America. How important is that development to Cathead Vodka? And do you see or anticipate cocktail culture becoming too elaborate—more about performance or complexity and less about quality?

CV: The craft cocktail norm, as you say, has been very influential in building our brand. As mixologists, bar and restaurant owners take more pride in what they serve their guests—where it comes from, how it’s made, etc.

I think, or at least would like to think, that a quality-made cocktail will always win in the long haul vs. a trend someone made and thinks is cool but does nothing for the drink itself.

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AC: Your product has extended beyond the classic vodka and into some flavored vodkas and other liquors. How do you select what products to develop next?

Our master distiller Philip Ladner is always coming up with new things, but hopefully, we’re done with flavored vodkas. We have two successful flavors in Honeysuckle and Pecan vodka, but we are actively working on aged juice that’s pretty exciting.

AC: Location is a huge part of who we are at Alabama Chanin. How do your location and your community play into your product and your business model?

CV: Being a southern brand is everything to us. We have no immediate plans to extend our footprint out of the South. More specifically, we are proud to be from Mississippi. There’s a certain stigma being from Mississippi, and we try and change that one pour at a time.

AC: You encourage consumers to “support live music” right on your bottle. Why is that? Is there a connection between music and your brand or your product?

CV: Blues music started in Mississippi—an important piece of our American DNA and simply the roots of modern day music that has influenced pop, jazz, rock & roll, hip-hop and basically everything. By all means possible, we align ourselves with foundations who support live music, genuine arts, and southern culture.

We donate $1 for every bottle of Cathead sold to a music arts or blues foundation in the states we currently have distribution. We partner with organizations like Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Southern Foodways Alliance, Music Maker Relief Foundation, North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, Magic City Blues Society, and New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation.

AC: You founded the Cathead Jam, a music festival in Jackson, Mississippi. When and how did you come up with this idea? And how is it a reflection of your brand?

CV: Again, it goes back to our love of music and the support we try and give to live music. That, and we just want to throw a fun party and have a good time. We always knew we wanted to have different music-type events at our distillery and—moving into a bigger location two years ago—we were able to create the Cathead Jam.

AC: What is the most important thing (if any) that being based in the South or, even more specifically, in Jackson, Mississippi, brings to your products and to your way of doing business?

CV: We are proud of our Southern roots and strive to change the way people may view the South or, more specifically, Mississippi in a negative light. Southern culture and influence mean the world to us and we hope we are changing some views one libation at a time.

Find recipes for a Cucumber Limeade and Blood Orange Pomegranate cocktail with Cathead Vodka on the Journal.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TRANS-PECOS FESTIVAL + A WORKSHOP

TRANS-PECOS FESTIVAL + A WORKSHOP

Marfa, Texas, has fascinated the American imagination since we saw James Dean cross our wide movie screens in 1956’s Giant. It can seem both stubbornly Texan and confoundingly trendy at times, but it actually holds a great deal of magic for those willing to make the journey. Liz Lambert’s El Cosmico is a campground wonderland of brightly colored vintage campers, teepees, yurts, and lots of open spaces. Marfa can bring out your nomadic spirit if you embrace the intentional lack of wi-fi and communal kitchens and fire pits. And the darkness. After the sun sets, Marfa is one of the darkest places you may ever experience, making the stars brighter, in turn.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TRANS-PECOS FESTIVAL + A WORKSHOP 1

Natalie will be visiting for the 12th Annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love at El Cosmico from September 28 – October 1. The festival includes music from a number of talented artists (including Tift Merritt, Wilco, and Jenny Lewis), lots of community dining, a wide variety of workshops, and an epic sandlot baseball game. Natalie will be hosting a workshop on Stenciling, Hand Sewing, and Creative Process on Friday, and there are also workshops hosted by friends and fellow travelers Rinne Allen and the Kitchen Sisters. For more information on the festival, tickets, lodging information, and all other necessities, visit the El Cosmico website.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

2016: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Some years fly by and others seem to drag on forever; 2016 kept us at a steady pace at Alabama Chanin. We have been able to focus on refining our methods and more deeply developing our different avenues of work—from the design team to workshops to collections and collaborations. It is possible that 2017 could be a year of major transition across our country, so before life gets more hectic, we would like to look back and appreciate what we accomplished in the past year.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We added an important member to our design team, Erin Reitz, who brings a fresh point of view and is helping us expand our way of thinking about design. In addition to her work as a designer, Erin and her business partner Kerry Speake own The Commons, a Charleston-based shop selling American-made home goods. Through The Commons, the two developed their own line of tableware called The Shelter Collection. We partnered with their team to create The Shelter Collection @ Alabama Chanin and we think it works perfectly alongside our collaborative collection with Heath Ceramics.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

In May, we launched Collection #30. Our ongoing partnership with Nest helped us understand how to best integrate our machine-made garments into our larger collection, and we folded our basics, essentials, machine-made, and handmade garments together into one cohesive group. The collection featured Coral, Maize, and Pink color stories, highlighted Art Nouveau-style floral embroideries, and included an expanded selection of our popular new knitwear pieces. We also introduced new garments, including updated tunics, jackets, and pants. Our collection of home goods also expanded, with new selections in canvas and more machine-sewn kitchen textiles.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

As part of The School of Making, last year we launched the Host a Party program that offered our DIY customers the opportunity to organize their own sewing parties for friends and family. The positive feedback we received allowed us to expand our offerings for the upcoming year. In 2016, we also began our Build a Wardrobe subscription service, which released four new garment patterns to participants—one each quarter. The program’s goal is to help to makers expand their handmade, sustainable wardrobes based on each individual’s personal style. This coming year, Build a Wardrobe features the Factory Dress, Car Coat, Wrap Dress, and Drawstring Pant/Skirt; subscribers can join at any point in the year.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We also launched a collaboration with Spoonflower—a North Carolina-based web company that allows individuals to design, print, and sell their own fabrics—that allowed us to create custom Alabama Chanin organic cotton jersey. The first run of our limited-edition, pre-printed fabric sold out almost immediately, but look for more printed offerings to cycle in and out.

As part of our expanded workshop offerings, Alabama Chanin hosted its first workshop abroad, at Chateau Dumas in Auty, France. In addition to our sewing curriculum, we were able to explore ornate interiors and architecture, shop at unique markets, and experience woad dyeing for the first time. The weeklong event was picturesque, and we hope to be able to offer another similar event soon.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

The Friends of the Café Dinner series continued to expand with dinners co-hosted by Sean Brock, Adam Evans, Rodney Scott, and Frank Stitt. The 2017 season has already been announced.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Recognizing that our team is a top priority, we continued to invest in our staff this year through special staff development programs and updated policies that encourage everyone to have a work-life balance. We use Zingerman’s and Patagonia as examples to create a company culture that is conducive, not only to our employees but to the community and environment. From documenting our processes to ensuring that our information is open source and accessible company-wide, we work to preserve the stories, methods, and history of the company while making way for new ideas and improved ways of doing.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

There is so much in store for Alabama Chanin in 2017. We hope that—if you have not already—you will sign up for our mailing list and newsletter and follow along on social media for updates. Wishing all of you a safe New Year, filled with love, care, hope, and empathy.

P.S. – The grids shown here are a gallery of the promotional postcards our team made for The Factory and images of various events and programs over the course of the year. What a great year—and so much to look forward to in 2017.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

ALABAMA CHANIN - BLACKBERRY FARM + FARMSTEAD CATALOG

BLACKBERRY FARM + FARMSTEAD CATALOG

Thank you to Mary Celeste Beall and the Blackberry Farm team for including our hand-dyed Indigo Quilts in this year’s Farmstead Catalog. In addition to our quilts, the catalog includes holiday gift items from Blackberry Farm to stock your pantry (Pickled Ramps and Farm Jams are a favorite) and decorate your home. View the catalog online here.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BLACKBERRY FARM + FARMSTEAD CATALOG

If you are looking for an unforgettable holiday gift, Natalie’s Classic Weekend Sewing Workshop at Blackberry Farm takes place from January 27 – 29, 2017. You’ll spend the weekend with Natalie, receiving sewing instruction and creating a custom hand-sewn garment. The weekend showcases Natalie’s sewing lessons and storytelling, but also the hospitality of Blackberry Farm—incredible meals, beautiful settings, and wonderful company.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BLACKBERRY FARM + FARMSTEAD CATALOG

From the Blackberry Farm website, “It’s our joy to share the hospitality that makes it feel like home.” Treat yourself or a loved one.

WORKSHOP ABROAD: CHATEAU DUMAS

Several years ago, Alabama Chanin hosted our first Weekend Away Workshop in Taos, New Mexico. Around that time, I had recently visited Taos with a friend and when I returned home I found myself thinking about it constantly. I knew I wanted to share that same feeling I had there with others. I dreamt of creating a space where people could relax, feel inspired, dream, learn, and have their own adventures. I only hope that those who joined us on that first Weekend Away left with just a bit of that sense of magic I first felt.

Our second Weekend Away Workshop was at Blackberry Farm – one of my favorite spots for relaxation, food, and fellowship. Any trip to the Smoky Mountains allows me to breathe deeply and inspiration almost certainly follows. And while the terrain of Taos and Blackberry Farm certainly differ, the sunsets are magical no matter where you are standing. (The sunrises are even better.)

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MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS @ BLACKBERRY FARM

I have extolled the virtues of Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, many times. It’s a place of calm, and deliciousness, and of fellowship. The land and the people create a singular sense of place that is joyous and memorable. There really is no place in the world that feels quite like the Smoky Mountains—as artists and musicians have tried to express for hundreds of years.

After the very first Weekend Workshop at Blackberry Farm, I promised myself that I would continue the event for years to come. I am honored that the farm will be hosting our second (now annual) Classic Sewing Weekend, June 26 – 28.

As part of that event, we are also offering our first workshop specially tailored for mothers (or any special mentor) and daughters: Alabama Chanin’s Mother/Daughter One-Day Sewing Retreat. Over the years, we have delighted in watching mothers and daughters and families work together around sewing tables at our workshops. We have been lucky to see multiple generations of women collaborate on a simple swatch or a custom wedding gown.

ALABAMA CHANIN – MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS @ BLACKBERRY FARM

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ZINGERMAN’S @ THE FACTORY

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig and his business partner Paul Saginaw opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Today, that institution has evolved into a collection of food specialty businesses (known as the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, or ZCoB) that includes a bakery, mail order operation, a coffee company, candy manufacturer, a barbeque restaurant, creamery, and a catering and event planning service. The decision to build new, independent businesses (instead of franchising the deli) proved to be an sustainable strategy for operating a business, an effective approach for establishing growth opportunities for employees, and a way to ultimately give back to their Ann Arbor community.

In March 2015, we are delighted to be hosting Ari and our friends from Zingerman’s here at The Factory in Florence. I’ve long been an admirer and student of Ari’s work, teachings, and books. (And as an introduction to Ari, you might want to check out this interview with him on our Journal.) His philosophies and approaches to running a business have helped me and the Alabama Chanin family create a better work environment here at The Factory. Our staff studied Ari’s latest book, Managing Ourselves, as part of a workplace enrichment program, and we each wrote visions of how we want to take ownership of our individual roles, while benefiting the team and helping the company grow as a whole.

ZINGERMAN'S @ THE FACTORY

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THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

Alabama Chanin as a concept and a company began as a DIY enterprise. I made the first garments by hand, to fit my own body. Our entire business model was created because I couldn’t find manufacturing for the sort of garment I wanted to make—and so, we created our own manufacturing system, one stitch at a time.

Because those first garments were made from recycled t-shirts, many of our customers took the concept and re-imagined it for themselves, making their own patterns and clothing. Others felt that—with just a little help—they could create something similar, something that was their own. Almost accidentally, our garments were stirring in others the desire to make. Slowly, and as the internet became more robust, sewers formed groups on the internet to share their Alabama Chanin-style garments and swap ideas. This was the beginning of a more formal DIY presence in our company.

These things were happening at the same time as I began writing our first Studio Book, Alabama Stitch Book. Writing that book helped me crystallize my thoughts on making, open sourcing, and education. It was, in essence, me putting voice to what was important about sharing ideas and creating a community of makers. Throughout the writing process—and as the company grew and evolved over the years—I returned again and again to the idea of keeping the living arts alive. It’s the belief that survival skills for food, clothing, and shelter, are important arts that we live with every single day. And these arts—often considered secondary arts—are equally (and perhaps more) important as the “primary” arts of painting and sculpture.

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THE HISTORY OF WORKSHOPS (+ NEW GROUP RATES)

Quite a few years ago, I loaded up the car with scissors, needles, and an array of other sewing supplies and took a trip with a group of friends and fellow stitchers to a women’s prison facility (at their invitation, of course). My friend Kyes had organized this meeting in the hopes of developing a program within our Alabama Prison system for training life and job skills. The scissors wound up staying in the car for security reasons, but the experience was life changing. The intent of the day was to show these women—on their way out of prison and back into the “real” world—how to hand stitch and work together. We wanted to help them see that they could make something beautiful with their own two hands and, at the same time, perhaps challenge all of our preconceived notions about our neighbors and the world at large. It’s fair to say that I walked away from that day and the experience a different person. At that point, I’d begun to realize that education was going to be an important element in the life of my company. I wanted to help others understand how essential “living arts” are—and what it would mean if we lost connection to those skills and our shared history.

Slowly, Alabama Chanin added stitching workshops to our traveling trunk shows. We scheduled intimate one-off events that were as much about storytelling as they were stitching (as Blair Hobbs famously exemplified with her “granny panties” story years ago). We were creating a community through making. It was happening. And so we committed to this enterprise of creating communities for makers, of building workshops both here at The Factory and across the globe. Alabama Chanin and our customers have become part of one another’s lives in ways I never imagined; we’ve made lifelong friends, helped create wedding gowns, hosted classrooms of college students, and traveled across the country. I’ve met some of my personal heroes through sharing ideas on making and sustainability.

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FASHION BY HAND + ANNA MARIA HORNER

Friend, inspiration, and collaborator Anna Maria Horner has been featured on our Journal several times. She is a multi-talented woman fluent in more than one creative medium, from her imaginative books and fabric design to fine art. Natalie and Anna Maria’s friendship has only continued to grow as they connect over everything from food and family, to sewing and gardening.

Since we last featured Anna Maria on our Journal, she has added child number seven to her large and happy home. She, her husband Jeff, and their children (aged 1 to 22) live on two acres of land in Nashville, Tennessee. Anna Maria’s ability to balance her life as a mother and entrepreneur is truly remarkable.

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Having collaborated with Anna Maria on garment design (and creation the textile patterns Little Flowers and Little Folks), we are excited to work with her once again during an upcoming weekend workshop in Nashville: “Fashion by Hand” with Anna Maria Horner and Natalie Chanin.

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WEEKEND WORKSHOP @ BLACKBERRY FARM

It’s been too long since I visited Blackberry Farm AND since Alabama Chanin has held a Weekend Away Workshop (the last Weekend Away was in Taos, New Mexico in 2012). My last trip to the farm was a few years ago for Taste of the South (an auction benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance) and I am looking forward to returning this June. It’s the ideal summertime trip: a refreshing, rejuvenating weekend retreat to the foothills of the Appalachians.

To get in the spirit, we kicked off our Chef Series at The Factory Café this month, featuring Blackberry Farm and Chef Joseph Lenn. The special menu at The Factory Café runs through the end of the month and includes recipes from The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm cookbook. Nothing beats Chef Joseph’s cuisine, which can be experienced firsthand at The Barn.

Join us this summer for Alabama Chanin’s Weekend Away Workshop, which includes incredible meals prepared onsite amid beautiful settings.

We provide all of the materials necessary to complete a custom do-it-yourself garment, chosen by the participant ahead of time. Work with me and the Alabama Chanin team, and immerse yourself in the Alabama Chanin philosophy.  The workshop is a place to learn and practice stitching techniques, tips, and tricks while enjoying craft and community, Blackberry Farm cuisine, laughter, and fellowship.

See you there,

xo Natalie

DIY CHAIR WORKSHOP @ SOUTHERN MAKERS, MONTGOMERY, AL

In early May, we will be traveling to Montgomery, Alabama, to participate in the second annual Southern Makers event. Southern Makers is a one-day affair that celebrates innovation and creativity of all types in Alabama. From panel discussions and artist talks, to cooking demonstrations and workshops, Southern Makers highlights some of the top talent working throughout the Southeast.

This year, Alabama Chanin will be hosting a DIY Chair Workshop. This workshop offers guests the opportunity to work with Natalie and her team to repurpose a selection of gently used chairs using fabric, paint, stencils, and an assortment of tools. Guests will choose a chair to repurpose on a first come, first served basis. An assortment of tools and materials will be available for use; however, you are welcome to bring your own chair and materials.

SOUTHERN-MAKERS-CHAIR-WORKSHOP-GRID

This workshop models itself after Alabama Chanin’s Makeshift workshop series: Crafting Design, featured in the New York Times. Also, the Woven Farm Chairs project found in our first book, Alabama Studio Style, repairs old chairs using cotton-jersey pulls made from fabric scraps. The workshop will cover a range of topics including craft, design, and DIY.

Saturday, May 3, 2014 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm

The Union Station Train Shed (Downtown)
300 Water Street
Montgomery, AL 36104

For more information, contact: workshops(at)alabamachanin.com, or call: +1.256.760.1090.

There will also be a Market Place Bazaar at this year’s event, featuring wares and goods from talented southern artisans and chefs (including an Alabama Chanin Pop-Up Shop). Stay tuned…

 

Q+A WITH HEATHER ROSS

I’ve known Heather Ross for almost five years now. We first met in New York, at a show celebrating our collection based on the work of famed Alabama photographer Charles Moore.  Heather arrived with my editor, Melanie, and I was bowled over by her beauty AND her spirit. When Alabama Studio Style launched back in 2010, the book went on a wonderful (digital) Blog Tour with a stop by Heather’s blog. The interview that ensued is one of my favorites to date.

Heather Ross is almost universally beloved in the sewing and craft communities. Her designs are whimsical and totally unlike any other options on the bookshelf. She excels when designing and illustrating for textiles and paper, with lines of fabric and stationery; she has also illustrated children’s books and has even worked on a line of surfboards for young girls. She has published a range of books, from the highly popular Weekend Sewing to a children’s book called Crafty Chloe.

HEATHER ROSS PRINTS

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A CHATTANOOGA WHISKEY COCKTAIL

In anticipation of tomorrow evening’s opening exhibit of our BBQ’ed Dresses Collection at Warehouse Row in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we mixed up a celebratory cocktail. Our friend Brooks Reitz of the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. sent us a few more bottles of his Small Batch Tonic for the event, and the Chattanooga Whiskey Co. is providing the booze, so we mixed the two together, plus a touch of lemonade for sweetness, and found ourselves in a dreamy barbeque state of mind.

A CHATTANOOGA WHISKEY COCKTAIL

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CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

Charleston, South Carolina has its own style of “Southern-ness” that almost can’t be defined. And although it has been years (almost two decades) since I have been there, I definitely recognize Charleston when I see, hear, or smell it. Charlestonians sound like no other group of Southerners: “Chawlstun,” they say with their long middle vowels – a round, musical sound I love.

As a traveler at heart, no matter where I go, my list of things to do and see is always longer than my stay. The Tom Waits song, “Take The Long Way Home, comes to mind when I visit a new (or “old” new) place. And from afar, Charleston feels like a place where you can (should) get sidetracked, get lost, and then slowly find your way back home. The city is leading the game when it comes to delicious food (think Sean Brock, whose last meal on earth would be a sous vide roast chicken, Mike Latta, or Craig Diehl) and cocktails, like our favorite, Brooks Reitz of Jack Rudy. Our friends (and partners in cotton), Billy Reid, have a store there. All in all, it seems a deliciously sinful place to settle into for a week. I know I will never check off my entire to-do list, but perhaps Maggie and I will make it out to Bowen’s Island and spend an afternoon at the Halsey Museum.

CHARLESTON, SC - photo by Olivia Rae James

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STUDIO WEEK

On the heels of MAKESHIFT 2013, we are inspired and invigorated by the conversations around design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY that took place last week during New York Design Week. We hope that you have followed our explorations throughout the events this year and have used our discussions to begin conversations of your own. We are even more convinced about the importance of making, sharing, and finding common ground, and look forward to expanding the conversations about design, fashion, food, craft, and DIY over the coming months.

One thing that resonates from those talks last week, are the concepts of collaboration and skill sharing.  As we continue to open source our ideas, our Alabama Chanin workshops will continue to grow. These events—like MAKESHIFT—have become an intimate, extraordinary way for us to connect with fellow makers, designers, and like-minded creators across the country (and the world).

STUDIO WEEK

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MAKESHIFT 2013: CHAIR WORKSHOP

On Sunday, as part of MAKESHIFT 2013, we co-hosted a Chair Workshop, modeled after the MAKESHIFT 2012 workshop, Crafting Design, sponsored by Partners and Spade. This year we teamed up with Build It Green!NYC (BIG!NYC) and Krrb and invited an array of makers to join us for an afternoon of collaboration, innovation, and chair re-design. While our event at The Standard focused on conversation (though there was plenty of making going on as well), the chair event has evolved into a make-centered occasion where a community of designers work both independently and together through skill sharing and mutual encouragement.

The event was held at BIG!NYC’s restore facility in Brooklyn – a warehouse filled with doors, fireplace mantels, sinks, mirrors, tiles and a number of other goods, much of it vintage and antique, acquired through donations and offered at low prices for those looking to save money (and the landfill) in home renovations. Or in the case of friend Kerry Diamond (of Cherry Bombe Magazine) and her chef/partner Robert Newton, the interior of their third and most recent restaurant, Nightingale 9, was designed with salvage bought from BIG!NYC.

CHAIR WORKSHOP

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2012: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

It’s the time of year when most of us start to look back at the past year to take stock and plan for the next. As a company, Alabama Chanin is no different. With a lot of help from our friends, we’ve brought the year to a (BIG) close with our first online Garage Sale.

This online event seems indicative of what an amazing year (decade) it has been. We were, quite honestly, bowled over by the outreach of support, excitement, and, well, love for what we do at Alabama Chanin.  (We will be doing it again soon. Check our events page for updates and/or join our mailing list to stay in touch.)

Looking back on the whole year, it’s staggering to see just how many projects we’ve tackled, people we’ve met, and journeys we’ve taken – all infused with the same love that we experienced during our Garage Sale. Honestly, I can hardly believe that so many things happened all in one twelve-month span. It’s been 12 (REALLY) good ones.

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NOTHING HAPPENS (OR HOOKED ON HANDWORK)

My first sewing project was a “picture” of a flower that I made when I was about seven. I chose green and purple ribbon for the stem and petals, respectively, and a white button for the bloom’s center, which I attached to a square of quilted light blue Swiss dot fabric – aka the sky – with long, sloppy stitches.

It’s not a masterpiece by any means, with its loose stitches, unfinished edges. But precision is supposed to be beside the point when you’re a kid learning a new skill; the fun lies in the creative process, not necessarily the finished product.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had a rather hard time remembering this. I’m more than a little neurotic, and a bit obsessed with perfection, whatever that means. My natural inclination to create with abandon is at permanent odds with my OCD-driven desire for unsullied excellence, and it’s not always pleasant.

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BASILICA HUDSON WORKSHOP

We will host our first One-Day Retreat of the fall season in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley on Sunday, September 16th. Our day will be spent in a restored nineteenth century factory and will feature local food from Barbara Goldstein of Blima’s.

We were able to talk to friend Melissa Auf der Maur from Basilica to find out a little more about the history of the space, future plans for the center, and where to spend the rest of our weekend in the Hudson Valley.

Below we share what learned – which includes lessons on historic preservation and roof gardens.

xoNatalie

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REPORT FROM PENLAND: TUESDAY 7/17/12

As the first week at Penland progressed to week two, the piles of books on our studio meeting table (and the individual studio tables) have grown substantially. We have spoken of so many things and explored SO many ideas.  Here are a few of the volumes that have made their way into our conversations:

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(PROGRESS) REPORT FROM PENLAND – 7/16/12, MONDAY

Just when I think that it can’t get any better, it does. A weekend in the mountains was what I needed and it’s the first time in ages that I meet Monday morning feeling rested, relaxed (beyond measure), and balanced. The highlight of my weekend was certainly a swim in the North Toe River: icy cold waters, a gentle rain, friends, a series of rapids, warmer pools of water carved into the rocks. I often forget how MUCH I NEED to be outside.

While I swam, my studio continued their adventures in stenciling and sewing.

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REPORT FROM PENLAND: FRIDAY 7/13/12

It’s been raining every day here at Penland—such a change from the dry, dying fields of North Alabama over the last weeks. Like a miracle, it rained on our cotton field, too (more to come on that next week). My father reports that we did get 3 inches of rain at my house and I love how he called it a “good rain.” “Long and slow,” he drawls. I know what he means. It has been the same here at Penland, but I have a pair of rubber boots and, thanks to a Spruce Pine store, a camping poncho. And the mountains here just feel like they are particularly beautiful in the rain… I believe that they call them the “Smoky Mountains” for a reason. Continue reading

REPORT FROM PENLAND: THURSDAY 7/12/12 (PORTRAITS)

I was about 22 years old when I entered my first design studio. I felt like a baby. I had rarely taken an art class in school.  When I say rarely, I mean there had been a few special days of art in grade school – nothing particularly formal, and certainly nothing recent. At that time, I didn’t think that I KNEW how to make. In that moment, those grade school classes and the lessons of my grandmothers in living arts didn’t seem to matter; I was scared of the entire process and frozen. The freedom that seemed to stretch before me was too much for my young mind to handle.  As a young adult, my best friend was a budding artist. I remember her beautiful drawings so clearly and I began to think that that art was fascinating, but something that OTHER people did. Prints of Pinkie and The Blue Boy in gold foil frames, purchased at the local furniture store, were the only “art” that hung in our home.

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REPORT FROM PENLAND: TUESDAY 7/10/12

Even when I land in one of the most beautiful (peaceful) places on Earth, it takes me time to settle in, to relax, and to feel like I belong. Regardless, there is already a sort of “hum” in the studio, as my friend Cathy Bailey might say.  You can “hear” thoughts coming together, the whisper of thread through fabric, and hands moving, all mingled with an underlying buzz that permeates the Penland campus.

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DIY RANDOM RUFFLE T-SHIRT – AT CREATIVEBUG

Check out our classes at Creativebug.com and make this Random Ruffle T-shirt:

From the Creativebug Website:

“Basic sewing skills can transform a plain t-shirt into one of your favorite go-to wardrobe pieces. The random ruffle t-shirt uses a simple appliqué technique that’s quick and easy, yet true to the Alabama Chanin style.”

Shown here our T-Shirt Top with Cap sleeves is appliquéd with five ½ inch vertical rows cut across grain of random ruffles. This t-shirt is a single layer of light-weight Silt with the ruffles in light-weight Black. The t-shirt is constructed with Slate thread, using a straight stitch along the sleeves and side construction and a Cretan stitch for the binding. The ruffles are sewn with black thread.

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REVERSE APPLIQUE RUNNER SUPPLY LIST

From the Creativebug Website:

“Reverse applique is the signature look of Natalie’s designs at Alabama Chanin. Natalie demystifies the process in this workshop, showing you how to add depth and texture to a cotton table runner. The technique is worked on two layers of fabric, with the top layer stenciled and then stitched to the backing layer. Once stitched in place, parts of the top layer are cut away to expose the color below for a satisfying final reveal.”

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CREATIVEBUG.COM

Beginning Tuesday, our video workshops will be available on Creativebug.com.

Subscribe to Creativebug to view.

THANK YOU to the Creativebug film crew, it was such a great experience to have them in our studio…
xoNatalie

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN TUESDAY: ALABAMA CHANIN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

As Alabama Chanin has grown and evolved, we have built a business model that I strongly believe in. Many of you have been with us from the beginning, and many of you have found us along the way. On a daily basis, we receive a bounty of emails, phone calls, and letters. Here we have compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions. Included are the mission and some history of Alabama Chanin. We invite you to explore, share, and of course let us know if there is something that we missed.

We sincerely appreciate every email, query, and compliment that comes our way; we look forward to continuing the conversation. While our FAQs is not meant to replace old-fashioned interaction we hope it gives anyone interested the opportunity to learn more about our company, just as we hope for opportunities to learn more about all of you.

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THE HEART: BETTER JOYS

I feel so honored and happy to introduce Jessamyn Hatcher as a new contributor to this blog (soon we will add a face to the name). Jessamyn has been a source of inspiration for me as I continue to learn how to frame the work that is so easy for me to DO, but so difficult for me to EXPLAIN in words. My conversations with Jessamyn have taken place across several states, drinks, emails, and phone calls. I am so excited to expand upon those in-depth conversations here with you—beginning today. Please show a big, hearty, and embracing welcome to Jessamyn—our newest contributor and a part of the growing heart and soul of Alabama Chanin. Continue reading

A ROUND BUSINESS MODEL

While working on some press and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages this last month, I came across some texts that date back across the decade of Alabama Chanin. In reading and going over some of these texts, I thought it would be a good series to share on our Sustainable Design Tuesdays. Here is one of those texts about building a round company:

My goal with building designs – as I have built my company – is to make a sphere.  I strive to create a well-rounded, (w)holistic company that revolves around a central theme: sustainability of culture, environment, and community.

It has been over a decade since I started working on the company that Alabama Chanin has become today and I am often asked how I had the foresight to start a company based on the principles of sustainability and Slow Design. To this comment, I laughingly reply that I never intended to start a sustainable design company; I simply stumbled into it like the fool falling off the cliff. When I cut up those first t-shirts, I was doing something that I felt driven to do. I didn’t think of those garments as the basis of a business; they were simply pieces of clothing I wanted to wear and, perhaps more importantly, make. However, when I look back today, it all feels like a seamless and directed adventure into the realms of becoming a sustainable designer and manufacturer.

I am often invited to speak about this process and our resulting business model, as it has developed into an unusual one. However, truth be told, I have simply taken inspiration for our model from farmers and strive to build a zero waste company where the results of one production process become the fuel for another.

Our primary work is the business of designing and making clothing. And whether a dress calls for recycled t-shirts or locally grown, certified organic cotton, the designing and making of that product spurs our model. It was developed not by intention, but through process.

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WEEKEND AWAY: MABEL DODGE LUHAN HOUSE

From what I’ve gathered, Taos is a Magical Place. Natalie made a trip there not so long ago and came home breathless with tales of beauty and enlightenment. She was especially enthralled with the story of Mabel Dodge Luhan and the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.

Her experience inspired a new series of workshops called Weekend Away.

Natalie wrote in the introduction to this series:

I had the opportunity to visit Taos not so very long ago and, as much as I was looking forward to the trip, nothing could have prepared me for the experience. In a word: incredible. My stay at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, my time in Taos, the breath-taking mountain backdrop, all left me feeling rested, energized, inspired.

I have always felt that our workshops have a sort of healing property and, while we love hosting weekend workshops in our home @The Factory, we also feel that it is beneficial to visit the “homes” of others for an extended stay. We are beginning to seek destinations that nourish the soul and calm the mind. Taos seems the perfect place to begin.”

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AMY’S WEDDING DRESS

A 12 hour road trip brought Amy and her mother to our weekend workshop @ the Factory last summer.

A weekend with new friends (our design team included), a rack of sample sizes, and our fabric archives were the beginning of one truly magical garment (actually, two).

120 hours, at least ten times as many stitches, and 5 ounces of glass beads later…

Amy said “I do.”

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PENLAND, NORTH CAROLINA

I just arrived back from a whirlwind trip to  Penland School of Crafts.

It is a remarkable, inspiring, and beautiful place. I found that here was something for each moment of the day and the time went by much too quickly.  Maggie insists that we are going back next year.  Indeed, we will.

In our few days, I found a place to sit,

to dream,

to breathe,

and lots of doors to open.

I will be teaching a two-week class there next summer on “Experiments in Hand-Sewing: A Study on Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.”

Class registration opens in January 2012.

EUCALYPTUS, LAVENDER, TRANQUILITY

In the autumn of last year, I was contacted by a New York University professor from the Liberal Studies department named Jessamyn Hatcher.  She had gotten my email address from our mutual friend Sally Singer and wanted to know if we would be willing to discuss a field trip that she was planning with her 30+ students from the Dean’s Circle, a University Scholars program.

Her email explained that the “theme for the 2010-2011 Dean’s Circle and Colloquium is ‘The Price of Fashion: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Global Garment Trade.’ The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire occurred on March 25, 1911, in what is now the Brown building.  146 people, most of who were between the ages of 16 and 21, died while manufacturing women’s blouses. Next year will mark its 100th anniversary, and we will use the anniversary as an occasion to explore issues surrounding the world garment trade, from mass production in sweatshops to the runways of the world’s fashion capitols to the ‘slow design’ movement.”

While I was fascinated by Jessamyn’s inquiry, in the first moment I wondered how a workshop could function with 30+ students in our studio.  My fears were unfounded.

Several weeks ago, the group arrived and the experience was one of wonder, exploration and pleasure.  Following a two day workshop in our studio, the students moved on to Rural Studio in Greensboro, Alabama, to continue their journey.

Jessamyn joked at one point how many of her colleagues had asked, “Why aren’t you going to Paris?”

The lovely thank you notes from the (18 – 20 year-old) students below explains it all.  I hope that the students don’t mind that I have shared their observations about our world.  I am appreciative to look at our work, our staff and our world through fresh eyes.

(And to have found a new friend in Jessamyn!)

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TO DO

Outline and (most) first drafts for book number three submitted and approved – check.

(Thank you Melanie – celebrate tonight!)

Plan workshops for 2011 – check.

(Spots are filling up fast – reserve one today and join us.)

Holiday gifts made and wrapped – check.

Sign out early, pick Maggie up from school, make gumbo, read, build a fire, watch a movie, bake cookies, nap, cocktail with friends, write a letter, holiday video, family pictures, sit still, sigh…

*Photo from Lisa “Are You Kidding Me” Eisner of the E.B White Chair & Gumbo:

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WORKSHOPS + WALKING CAPE

Thank you to everyone who came to our studio in Florence last weekend to participate in the Weekend Workshop.  What a great group… the stories, fellowship, sewing, and laughter were perfect.

A special thanks to Amy for sharing the sewing of her beautiful wedding dress.  What a special way to start a lifetime of beauty and commitment… and to Sarah – who made the trip from New York.  More about Sarah later this week.

Saturday’s meatloaf was amazing and everyone was clamoring for the recipe which, thanks to Kristy, I have posted below.

We have just posted our Weekend Workshop dates for 2011. Fill your holiday stocking, plan your trip and join us in the studio:

March 4 – 6

June 24 – 26

November 4 – 6

Look for our Berkeley workshop at the Edible Schoolyard soon and congrats to Deborah Kennedy for being the lucky winner of my favorite Walking Cape.

Check back soon for other special offers, visit us this Friday, November 12th from 12 -5 and Saturday the 13th from 10 – 5 for our annual Holiday Open House & Sample Sale.

We have extended hours this year and will also be open Friday November 19th from 12 – 5.  Get there early as everything goes quickly.

And now, Kristy’s Individual Meat Loaves

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PIMENTO CHEESE + TWO HOUR WORKSHOPS

Thank you to everyone who braved the weather and joined us for our Open House, Sample Sale and Earth Day Celebration over the weekend. (And to Butch and Robert Rausch for playing along…) It was lovely to open our studio and the event was so successful that we decided to go ahead and plan for next year… Mark your calendar & plan your trip:

Alabama Chanin
8th Annual Open House & Sample Sale
April 29 & 30, 2011

We have also added Two-Hour Workshops to both our Events and to the Open House next year. The seating is limited for each session so register early. We also have a range of these new Two-Hour Workshops coming soon:

May 1st and 2nd @ Textile Fabrics in Nashville

May 8th @ Barneys in Chicago

May 14th @ Purl Soho in New York City

June 12th @ Warehouse Row in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Contact us for more information.

My son Zach cooked for us at our Open House over the weekend. I asked him to write up his recipe for Pimento Cheese since we had so many folks rave about his special blend. I have always prided myself as a good cook but I believe that Zach has surpassed me.

Lovely when your children do you one-up…

Zach’s Pimento Cheese

3 cups shredded Hoop or Sharp Cheddar Cheese (about one large block)
9-10 squirts of Tabasco (Or as you see fit)
1/4 cup Roasted Red Peppers diced
2 tablespoon Prepared Horseradish
1 1/2 tablespoon Lemon or Lime juice
1/2 cup Aioli or Mayo made with olive oil
Fresh Herbs fine chop (Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley)
Salt n Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and stir vigorously.  If too spicy add another tablespoon of Aioli.  If not spicy enough, add more Tabasco.  You may want to find some of the different styles of Tabasco such as Chipotle or my favorite, the Roasted Garlic style.  Enjoy!!

If you have another great Pimento Cheese recipe, please share it with us in the comments below!

CALIFORNIA TO OREGON (+BACK AGAIN)

California to Oregon and back to Alabama again. The travels, the people, the trees, the forests and the ocean were amazing. But then again, there is no place like home.

Thank you to everyone at RedBird for making us feel at home, the Edible Schoolyard (coming to Alabama soon!) for hosting us, Alice Waters and all the folks at Chez Panisse, Chef Bruce Hill and the great staff at Picco’s, Marci and the whole staff of Powell’s Books for their beautiful exhibition of our Textile Stories Quilts and support of Alabama Studio Style, everyone at Mario’s Portland, JP and all the great students at Pacific Northwest College of Art and Oregon College of Arts and Crafts, Jack and everyone at the ACE Hotel in Portland, our great supporters in Berkeley and Portland and a slew of others who helped along the way and made us laugh…

(Special thanks go out to Sally whose beautiful little purse – filled with goodies – gave Maggie a joy that got us home with smiles and busy little fingers!)

Luckily, nothing stops around here and we are getting ready for all of the great events starting this Thursday for Earth Day 2010 and our Annual Open House and Sample Sale starting on Friday.

Plan to join us!

Natalie

ALABAMA SONG

Our weekend workshop was a beautiful mixture of women from all walks of life. It was wonderful to hear our studio filled with laughter, chatter and, from time to time, the quiet hum of concentrated fingers at work. All of the projects are lovely and I am certain that the participants will be showing off their garments over the course of the next months.

(Keep an eye on the flickr page for new additions: Alabama Stitch Book Group )

Our Sunday morning was enchanted by a serenade of Alabama Song by singer, songwriter, and designer, Allison Moorer. Allison is an amazing woman and I was inspired by her fearless choice to make our 16-Panel Swing Dress with all-over rose reverse applique.

I cannot wait to see her on stage in the piece and feel grateful to have found a new stitching sister so close to home as Nashville is just a hop, a skip and a jump up the Natchez Trace from Florence.

Visit Allison’s website.

Listen to her music, and stay tuned for more on a week in music (thanks to Allison and Traci).

Posted at 5:13 am