REFLECT, REJOICE, RENEW

2009 White House Christmas Tree - Associated Press Photo
After lofty plans to post each day about the last decade – and the next, my computer slipped from my hands last Tuesday morning and crashed (literally) to the floor and shattered. Later that afternoon, my Blackberry decided to follow suit.  My deduction was that it was time to take a much needed sabbatical from all things electronic. A week later, everything and everyone seems to have survived without me. The world is still spinning, I am no further behind than I was last Tuesday, and I have had a week to “Reflect, Rejoice and Renew.” So, here we are, a few days later and making a fresh start. Thank you to Kathy Kemp and al.com for this lovely article. And, thank you again to everyone who makes this a wonderful project each and every day…

Florence-based designer’s skirt creation completes Obamas’ Christmas tree, By Kathy Kemp — The Birmingham News December 22, 2009, 5:30AM

Alabama Chanin, the Florence-based couture fashion design house, has sewn another bead into its weighty crown.

The company created the stenciled, beaded blue and white tree skirt that completes the official White House Christmas tree, on display in the Blue Room through December. Alabama Chanin founder Natalie Chanin attended the recent unveiling — her latest stop in a series of high-profile appearances.

“We were honored to be asked to do this,” says Chanin, who was a Top-10 finalist for the coveted DFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize, presented last month in New York City. Vogue magazine featured her in a full-page color spread in November, and she was also the subject of a Birmingham News profile. In The News’ story, Chanin couldn’t talk about the tree skirt because the White House had yet to unveil the tree. But now the entire world can see it — in pictures, at least, or in a tour of the nation’s home.

Twenty-two Alabama Chanin artisans, mostly local northwest Alabama seamstresses, spent three weeks sewing and constructing the tree skirt, which measures 14 feet in diameter and weighs about 28 pounds. The skirt features 13 large panels representing the original 13 colonies, and holds about two kilos of Chanin’s white satin bugle beads, all sewn by hand. It is made of Chanin’s signature fabric, 100 percent organic cotton jersey, in the colors, as requested by the White House, of white, peacock blue, Navy blue and storm blue piping. “We painted the entire piece with our Maggie stencil, then used quilting, reverse applique and reverse applique with beading on different sections,” Chanin explains. (She teaches her techniques in her “Alabama Stitch Book,” available at www.alabamachanin.com.)
Chanin, like other artists the White House invited to create decorative pieces for the tree, paid for the materials, labor and shipping of her own work. Chanin is already taking orders for custom tree skirts for the 2010 holiday season (contact steven@alabamachanin.com for details).

The 2009 White House tree, a Douglas fir from Shepherdstown, W.V., stands 18.5 feet tall, reaching all the way to the ceiling. Each year, the Blue Room tree is the same height, because the power source is on the ceiling.

“Reflect, Rejoice, Renew” is the theme for President Obama and his family’s first White House Christmas. Reflecting the national desire to conserve and recycle, the tree is lit with environmentally sound LED lights and decorated with bows and more than 650 ornaments from previous generations.
Chanin’s work fits nicely with this year’s theme. She uses local artisans, rather than shipping production overseas. She’s long been known for using organic products and recycling materials. Every scrap left over from her clothing creations is used for something else. In fact, she had piles of jersey strips baled and used them to make a sofa for the Alabama Chanin office.
At the White House this month, more than 50,000 people are expected to see the tree — and its skirt — while attending parties and other functions. When the tree comes down, Chanin’s skirt, along with the tree ornaments, will be archived with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
© 2009 al.com. All rights reserved.

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