This week, we highlight the Finnish design company, Marimekko. As a long-standing leader in the fashion and design worlds, Marimekko has created timeless and colorful prints for over 60 years. I’ve followed the company from my days at NC State University and, as a designer, I have deep admiration and respect for Armi Ratia, the founder who created an empire by seeking beauty through design.
After World War II, Armi Ratia, a one-time weaver who was trained in industrial design, took interest in fabric printing; she wanted to bring happiness and color to distraught, post-war Finland. Working with full-time designers and buying from freelance artists, she began printing designs on fabrics that we now identify with an era, a culture, and a lifestyle.
This year, as we celebrate Real Women and what they mean in our lives, we thought it essential to include the perspectives of both men and women. So, beginning today, we will be offering stories, thoughts, and remembrances from men of the great women in their lives.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, one of my favorite things to do was go to dinner at the Sam-Pan Chinese restaurant with my mom and my aunt Carlynn “Snoonie” Calhoun. They would order wine and Egg Foo Young and Chop Suey, and I would tear into the wonton soup and the pepper steak, and on a good night I’d be able to get a Shirley Temple if I played my cards right. They would spend hours there, telling their same old stories, sometimes ragging on the idiots in their lives (who they still seemed to have a deep affection for), but mostly telling stories about the menagerie that made up their circle of friends from 1950s Central Florida: two girlfriends who came out as gay in the 1960s and carried switchblades to handle anybody who didn’t like it, their friend in the iron lung (whom Snoonie liked to take to the Steak & Ale with her, mostly just to see peoples’ reactions), and many other characters who could easily have been created by Elmore Leonard.
After listening to them for awhile, I would spend the rest of my time running up and down the sidewalk outside the restaurant – sometimes over to the pond in a park across the street to catch frogs, sometimes ogling the toys at the Toy King. But, eventually I’d find myself in Snoonie’s car listening to her country music tapes. I’d often fall asleep there and finally get woken up and sleepily ride home with my mom.
It’s those evenings I think of when I think what a friendship should be. Listening to them enjoy each other’s company, never getting tired of the same old stories and arguments, never just saying what the other wanted to hear. That’s my model for how friends should interact and what a real friend should be.
Snoonie’s gone now. She and my mom are just two of the strong women who seemed to have filled up my life growing up – self-sufficient women who didn’t take shit off of anybody, but in the most amusing ways. It’s hard for me to single one woman out. But it’s those nights outside the Sam-Pan that I learned my respect and awe of women. I wish I could drive by there right now and take a run up the sidewalk.
Newsletter #3 highlights our textile design collaboration with Anna Maria Horner, nine new shades of Natural Dye Organic Cotton Jersey, and upcoming workshops and events all over the country.
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xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
This month’s Desktop of the Month celebrates the arrival of spring. Variations of reds and pinks highlight our Daisy stencil, creating a strong contrast against the Natural colored background.
Taken from our new Collection, the Daisy appliqué features red variegated embroidery floss sewn with a whipstitch. We use this technique on our A-line Dress and a variety of jackets and coats to add a colorful depth to our collection.
This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background, is now available to download from our Resource Downloads.
Husband and wife team Lance and April Ledbetter are protecting the sounds of our past with their highly acclaimed label, Dust-to-Digital. Founded by Lance a little over a decade ago, Dust-to-Digital is home to a growing catalogue of important cultural works from the United States and around the globe. I’ve been viewing their line-up for a few years and am constantly impressed by the amount of material and depth each release includes. The types of recordings they release are unlike most on the market. It’s really audio conservation in its finest form. I was lucky enough to meet them both last fall during our trip to Atlanta, when we both attended the Lonnie Holly show at the High Museum. Afterward, they attended our event with the Gee’s Bend Quilters at Grocery on Home.
Within the first few minutes of their arrival at the event, I barraged them with questions: “Can we carry your work? Can we do a blog post? Would you want to trade?”
The answer came back, “Yes.”
All of us at Alabama Chanin are so proud and honored to be able to introduce and begin to explore the work of Dust-to-Digital and to sell these treasured collectors’ items on our website.
As most of our readers know, we have a deep love and admiration for our friend – and collaborator – Anna Maria Horner. She is an artist, fluent in more than one creative medium. She not only creates bold and unique fabrics, some of which we have adapted into Alabama Chanin garments, but she also designs kitchen and paper goods, writes, works as the spokesperson for Janome, and keeps up with her beautiful family, all while pregnant with baby #7.
As I read through my new copy of Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook, I was moved by her descriptions of family and creativity and how being surrounded by the beautiful handmade things they made influenced her life path. While my parents weren’t as prolifically artistic as Anna Maria’s, the stories of her grandmothers and their sewing resonate with me strongly.
Our latest Alabama Chanin Collection features two original pieces – The Swing Coat and Layered Dolman Coat – and several classic patterns like the Alabama A-line dress and Long Skirt developed in new colorways and patterns.
Last summer we collaborated with friend and talent Anna Maria Horner on the Little Flowers stencil, which you’ll find on our Little Flowers Swing Coat and Little Flowers Dolman Coat. The Swing Coat, essentially a shorter version of our Long Coat, is fitted through the bodice with a gentle flare at the waist. Made in 100% organic lightweight cotton jersey, the Swing Coat measures 32” from the shoulder and shows off the simple beauty of backstitch reverse appliqué.
I first saw Tilleke Schwarz’s work in an exhibition called Pricked: Extreme Embroidery at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York. The needlework was displayed proudly as contemporary art by extraordinary female artists. Boundaries were pushed as textile art was made. Friend, Maira Kalman, also had work on view.
Tilleke’s work resonated with me with its elaborate technique and profound artistic statement. At the time, her first book Mark Making (2007) had quickly sold out, so when her self-published second book, New Potatoes, came out a few years later I readily ordered 10 copies.
Leslie Williamson’s beautiful first book, Handcrafted Modern, captures several homes and interiors of some of the mid-twentieth century’s most loved architects and designers. The photos and essays blew us away and left us wanting for more. With a little more support for her Kickstarter campaign, we just might get to see her second book, Handcrafted Modern Europe, come to be.
This month’s Desktop of the Month features our Spiral embroidery technique from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Due to its textural quality, I think the Spiral is one of the most beautiful techniques that we use here at Alabama Chanin. Those that wear garments embellished with this simple (but time consuming) embroidery treatment often remark that perfect strangers ask to touch their garments. While you can’t touch this image, it gives you a perfect illustration of what it might be like to touch and be touched.
A high-resolution photograph for use as your computer desktop background is now available as a download in our Resource Downloads section.
Come back this Thursday for our DIY Spiral Embroidered Coffee Cozies (although I wish it was for my DIY Spirals Couch).