Over the past months, we have been exploring heirlooms through ongoing Journal posts. Our intention is to look at the things we hold dear and examine how we find meaning in our personal heirlooms and mementos – even if those things don’t necessarily have great monetary value. The Heirloom series is meant to celebrate things that last and the things that we assign meaning to in our lives. This week, we look at the process of creating something with intention – the act of making something designed to last and assigning a meaning to that object from its inception. Our friend and Journal contributor Sara shares stories of her late father-in-law, told from the perspective of some of his children: A few months ago, my family suffered a loss with the passing of my father-in-law, who we all called Mike. It was a heartbreaking time but, as is often the case, the painful loss provided the opportunity to share memories, spend time together, grieve, and heal. The ironic part of the rituals surrounding a death – the preparations, family gatherings, storytelling – is that you constantly look at one another and think: He would have loved to be here… He would have loved this. My husband, Kory, has six siblings. They rarely see one another. We don’t live terribly close to most of them and, though we might have great intentions of visiting one another (or at least calling more often), inevitably life happens. Days and weeks and months and seasons pass with only brief “hellos”, the occasional text message, or the rare visit. When Mike passed away, we all found ourselves in the same room, thrust upon one another in the middle of life. We were brothers and sisters, spouses and children, nieces and mothers and aunts and uncles – together with one terrible agenda settling in over the room. But, as happens, there are things that must be done, plans to be made, decisions to ponder, meals to cook, and logistics to navigate. You begin the tricky balance of working, grieving, and healing. Your loss is personal and it is also communal. Continue reading
Our Alabama Chanin Candles, with a seasonal Grapefruit + Watercress scent, are the newest addition to Home + Table. Hand-poured in Mississippi, the soy candles feature our floral Magdalena pattern and a graphic Diamond design, inspired by vintage glassware that I’ve collected over the years.
Once you burn your candle, clean the 6 oz. votive with boiling water, and reuse it to hold odds-and-ends, as a salt canister—or my favorite—a tumbler for juice, wine, or cocktails.
Do you remember your first day of school? I don’t remember the actual day, but I do have photos of myself, standing outside my first grade classroom, smiling, wearing a plaid dress and knee socks. I do remember my children’s first school days—the nervous excitement they showed and the bittersweet pride I felt at witnessing this important milestone. While I don’t take those moments for granted, there was never a doubt that those moments would come. It’s common now to see Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram light up with school photos that document every moment of our children’s educational lives. A few months ago, I received an email from an old friend that provided some much-needed perspective.
The email offered a link to a Ted Talk by a woman named Shabana Basij-Rasikh, co-founder of SOLA—Afghanistan’s first all-girl boarding school. The word “sola” means “peace” in the Pashto language, but it is also an acronym for School of Leadership, Afghanistan. Shabana was 6 years old when the Taliban took over Afghanistan and made it illegal for girls to go to school. So, for five years, her family dressed her as a boy and sent her to a secret school to learn. Even at this young age, she understood the risks that she—and her parents—were undertaking. She would walk for 30 minutes, even an hour, to schools. The locations would move, and she would walk different paths each day; sometimes class would take place in the morning and other times in the afternoon.
Not quite terra cotta red; not exactly pinkish; not really coral, but really red.
Pinkish: an adjective meaning somewhat pink.
Coral: also an adjective meaning a reddish yellow; light yellowish red; pinkish yellow.
On a recent outing scavenging local thrift and antique stores, I stumbled upon a set of children’s encyclopedias, titled Childcraft: The How and Why Library. Although an incomplete collection, the books were in good shape and decently priced so I happily acquired the lot. (I am a known collector—hoarder, lover, gatherer—of books.)
While modern encyclopedias have existed for around three centuries, the first set aimed at children (aptly titled the Children’s Encyclopaedia) appeared in the early 1900s. The Childcraft books were first published in the 1930s, with updated versions produced throughout subsequent decades. The editions I found were copyrighted 1976, and I was particularly intrigued by the volume titled Make and Do, which is full of simple, kid-friendly crafts, including sewing projects aimed to make learning (and doing) fun.
Here at Alabama Chanin, we continue to be drawn to the distinct and historical Dust-to-Digital catalog. Dust-to-Digital is a unique recording company that serves to combine rare recordings with historical images and descriptive texts, resulting in cultural artifacts. We have previously written about several of their collections that resonate so well with our brand. We believe in preserving traditions, and Dust-to-Digital truly speaks to that with their historically rich albums.
I Belong to this Band: 85 Years of Sacred Harp Recordings is a moving glimpse into the history of Sacred Harp singing and its deep Southern ties. Compiled by Matt Hinton and Lance Ledbetter, this CD features 30 recordings as varied as the earliest recordings of the genre from the 1920s, 30s and 40s. It also includes a pleasant mix of home recordings made by small groups of singers in the 1950s as well as contemporary recordings of all-day singings.
I’ve never met Roderick Kiracofe, but, I’ve known about his quilt collection for a long time. I believe that I heard his name shortly after I returned to Alabama over a decade ago. In those early days, I was working with quilters to create the garments that would make up my first collections. My neighbors supported my interest in quilts and quilting, happy that I was embracing a skill so highly valued in the community. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for me to open my door in the morning and find a bag of quilts left by an anonymous soul. They were often “garbage quilts”, as they are called around here—quilts that had seen better days. Many were shedding handpicked cotton through feed-sack fabric, worn so thin that the strings left couldn’t contain the internal batting. They were quilts that had been used to cover animals or as seat padding for an old car. But someone knew that I would see their value and appreciate their history.
Without fail, the arrival of autumn marks the season of all things pumpkin. From pumpkin bread, to pumpkin scented candles, to my daughter Maggie’s annual visit to The Pumpkin Patch, the pumpkin is an essential part of the seasonal change. Just ask any coffee shop employee who hears the cry for Pumpkin Spice Latte dozens (or hundreds) of times each day. In celebration of Halloween and in the spirit of the autumn season, we thought we would re-share our tribute to all things pumpkin. We have also added links to pumpkin carving tutorials and seasonal recipes.
Pumpkins are a form of squash, native to North America. Over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in America each year. This fruit (and, because it develops from a flower, it is technically a fruit and not a vegetable) is the most common symbol of the fall season and Halloween. Pumpkins are present in our literary and popular culture, making appearances in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, and Cinderella.
The act of carving pumpkins dates back thousands of years to the Celtic festival of Samuin, or Samhain. This festival marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of harvest and it was used as a time to honor the dead. Some believed that this was the night when the separation between the worlds of the living and the dead was the thinnest, making it easier to communicate with those on the “other side.” Celts who sought to ward off evil spirits would often light great bonfires to dissuade unfriendly visitors. As Christianity spread, the fires became more contained and were placed inside large gourds or turnips. Families would carve the fruits and vegetables, placing them in their windows and hoping to deter the otherworldly from entering their homes.
Today we introduce our newest Alabama Chanin silhouettes like our Marie Pencil Skirt and Garter Dress which have a flattering and feminine shape, alongside our Peasant Top and Factory Dress which offer a more relaxed fit.
Classics styles, like our Corset and Long Fitted Skirt, are combined with new stencil designs like ‘Aurora,’ ‘Marie,’ and ‘New Leaves.’ Other classic designs like our ‘Daisy’ and ‘Magdalena’ remain. Choose from neutral shades, or a burst of Really Red—one of our newest colors. Look for new designs, colors, and an updated website over the coming weeks…
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
And, thank you to K.P. and Katy McNeill, Erin Dailey, and Lisa and Jimmy Lenz—they all know how to dream big (and work hard to get there).
If you haven’t heard this piece yet, you can listen online here.
REVIVING A SOUTHERN INDUSTRY, FROM COTTON FIELD TO CLOTHING RACK
National Public Radio, October 10, 2014
You’ve probably heard of “farm to table,” but how about “field to garment”? In Alabama, acclaimed fashion houses Alabama Chanin and Billy Reid have a new line of organic cotton clothing made from their own cotton field.
It’s not just an experiment in keeping production local; it’s an attempt to revive the long tradition of apparel-making in the Deep South. North Alabama was once a hub for textile manufacturing, with readily available cotton and access to cheap labor. But the industry all but disappeared after NAFTA became law, as operations moved overseas.
Now, Sue Hanback is again working a sewing machine in a cavernous building that was once part of the biggest cut-and-sew operation in Florence, Ala.
“I’m gonna five-thread this shirt,” she explains, stitching cuffs onto an organic-cotton sweatshirt.
Hanback was last laid off in 2006 when this was a T-shirt factory. Her husband worked in the dye house. She’s been a seamstress all her life.
“Ever since I was 18 years old,” Hanback says. “So that was like, 48 years.”