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.
I want to thank each of you: our customers, our friends, our fellow travelers (Jennifer Venditti – here’s looking at you, sister), who have shared stories with us at our workshops, sought us out at events and trunk shows, crafted with us, sung with us, even held our hands (across the internet) as we launched a new website.
You have helped our company to grow and expand our horizons–with new products and many new employees (more on them in the coming months). Your dedication to Alabama Chanin is part of what makes our company different.
For Alabama Chanin, the real story of 2012 has been the exploration of how craft intersects with fashion. With our collaborators, we moved forward with this conversation in a big way through the publication of our third book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, in March of 2012. The dialogue created inspired Makeshift 2012: Shifting Thoughts on Design, Fashion, Craft, and DIY. This series of events allowed us to explore the idea that makers, users, crafters, designers, and manufacturers are much more connected than initially thought. We had discussions, both big and small, on how each discipline can expand its way of thinking, making, and doing and find an intersection – a place where each community respects and honors one another and moves forward. Of course, Makeshift 2012 was only a beginning of a deeper conversation, but one that we see growing. We want collaboration to become the norm, not a far-fetched ideal or a flash in the pan publicity stunt. This past year was simply a jumping-off point and I’m excited to see (and facilitate) this movement finding its way into all disciplines.
We sought to expand these ideas by teaching some of our own techniques and adaptations on Creativebug.com and in the last weeks of December filmed a class for Craftsy.com (which will launch in a few short weeks). This gives Alabama Chanin yet another avenue to provide content and instruction to those who want to make their own garments as we continue to find ways to merge design, fashion, and craft. As with all of our books, these courses can be used in accordance with our other open-sourced materials and ideas and adapted for use with other projects, materials, and disciplines.
This was a year of collaboration and blending of ideas. We were proud to introduce another in our line of collaborations – two textile pattern designs called “Little Flowers” and “Little Folk,” by our friend and talented designer, Anna Maria Horner. You will see more of these patterns in 2013.
One of the more popular avenues that we used to explore this focus on fashion and craft’s sisterhood was the adaptation of Vogue patterns made available by other designers and using Alabama Chanin techniques. By using readily available patterns, we were able to create our own versions of some of our favorite designers’ clothing, like Vena Cava and Donna Karan. What better demonstration of how fashion and craft can collide?
After twenty-something years, I was able to return to Penland School of Crafts – this time as an instructor. Years ago, I was accepted at Penland as a studio assistant and the experience has stayed with me ever since. Two weeks in this amazing place, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, felt a bit like a homecoming and allowed me the opportunity to teach (take part in) a two-week course called, “Explorations in Hand Sewing.”
My time there was transformative and allowed me space and peace to be still. The food was delicious, the yoga was inspiring and has stuck with me (Maggie is now becoming quite the expert in the Sun Salutation, which she demonstrates to all guests at our home), and the fellowship revitalized my spirit. I hope to experience Penland again, and again, and again. Perhaps next time I will be the student?
Possibly the most difficult and most meaningful journey that Alabama Chanin undertook this year was that of learning about and growing organic cotton. Early this year we began to research, in earnest, what it would mean to grow our own organic cotton. We knew that it would be no easy task, so with help from experts like Lynda Grose and the people at Textile Exchange, we began to educate ourselves and determine if it would even be possible to undertake growing organic cotton in modern-day Alabama.
The difficult task of sourcing our cottonseed was made possible with the help of Kelly from the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative. We partnered with another local fashion company, Billy Reid and with the help of K.P. and Katy McNeill, found the perfect land and the perfect people to oversee our crops: Jimmy and Lisa. Lisa (the Poet Laureate of Cotton) and her updates from the field kept our spirits from sinking when it seemed that all may be lost. They nurtured our struggling cotton from drought to flood, from planting, to chopping and pulling weeds, to, finally, picking.
This year’s Cotton Picking Party was a celebration of what has been accomplished and what we HOPE continues into the future. A plate (and bale) FULL of gratitude to Nick Pihakis and the whole Jim ‘N Nick’s crew for support, food, picking, BBQ-ed Dresses, and so much. A special plate of gratitude goes to Drew Robinson for good humor, kind emails, and inspiration. At the same time, Angie Mosier provided constant friendship, contagious excitement for life, and a luxurious room in Oxford, Mississippi at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium when I had no place to lay my head.
Lastly, we introduced a new collection, a new website, and a new journal format – all at the same time. (Add to this Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook and you will find A LOT of content.) Perhaps this was madness on our part, but we wanted to create a truly new experience for our customers and friends. We hope that it is now easier and pleasing to explore, that you find new things you want to invest in, new DIY Kits that you want to make, and new resources that you can draw from as you create your own life. Share with us what you loved (and, of course, what you didn’t love). We really want to know.
Again, we thank you for your continued support, your kind words and emails, your hugs, and your loyalty. We have survived (and thrived) for another year because YOU have supported us along the way. As we say to our thread as we “love” it, we wish you happiness, good fortune, health, peace, and prosperity (in whatever form that means for you).
xo Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
P.S.: A BUG HUG to Rinne Allen for letting us use the beautiful pictures of our cotton picking day (more on these pictures coming soon), and to all the photographers who have helped to document this last decade.