Category Archives: BEAUTIFUL LIFE

DOC DAILEY & MAGNOLIA DEVIL

The musical legacy of our community is rather incredible; you don’t have to look hard or far to find a wealth of talent in the Shoals. Dive bars, back porches, and BBQs are all likely places for impromptu jam sessions. If you were living here during the 60’s or 70’s you probably have a story about the Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett, Paul Simon, Cher, Lynyrd Skynyrd, or any number of the musicians that recorded at FAME Studios or Muscle Shoals Sound (shown in the photo above at 3614 Jackson Highway in Muscle Shoals, Alabama).

In the 1940’s, you may have heard Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, DJ-ing on the Muscle Shoals radio station, WLAY. Phillips has credited the station as inspiration and influence on his later work.

This once legendary music scene has experienced resurgence recently with artists like Bettye LaVette, the Black Keys (see video below), Band of Horses, and Alicia Keys traveling to the Shoals to produce, record, and work. And while we love that our great history, amazing engineers, and studios are attracting big names, it is our local musicians that we adore – the hometown heroes that are pursuing their dreams and doing what they love, all while dealing with the daily grind. We will begin highlighting some of the incredible local bands and musicians that call the Shoals home, starting with the very near and dear Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil.

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FASHION AS CRAFT

It’s no secret that there seems to be a disconnect between the worlds of fashion and craft. The terms, themselves, can be a bit polarizing despite their incredible commonality.

Alabama Chanin is no stranger to straddling that line between the two; to us, craft and fashion definitely go hand-in-hand. On a recent weekend, I spent some time catching up on a pile of magazines and some of the images I found make me think that the larger fashion world is beginning to see the commonalities, too.

Keep an eye out as you peruse your favorite fashion publications. You might be surprised at what you find. The images above from the September issues of W and Vogue (yes, it sometimes takes us a while to get through them) made us smile; craft and fashion, moving together at last.

P.S.: For those of you who joined us or followed online during MAKESHIFT: SHIFTING THOUGHTS ON DESIGN, FASHION, COMMUNITY, CRAFT & DIY, a series of events and talks during NY Design Week, you probably know how strongly we feel about bridging the gap between DIY, design, and high-fashion.  We hope that our efforts may be paying off. While we can never know for certain what is sparking this monumental shift in philosophy, I can’t help but feel that all of us are helping to pave the way. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

 

GIVING THANKS

Those of you who are frequent visitors to our blog may have read about the incredible Tom Hendrix and his beautiful tribute to his great-grandmother, The Wichahpi Commemorative Wall (known around here as simply, The Wall). Tom not only built an incredible monument for his great-grandmother, but he also took the time to tell her story in his book, If the Legends Fade. All proceeds from his book benefit his great-grandmother’s people, the Yuchi Nation.

All of us here at Alabama Chanin spent some days in the last months in a cotton field, picking our organic cotton. The work is difficult, repetitive, and, at the same time beautiful in that it brings out a meditative state. Though I was hot and tired in the field, I felt a stillness much like what I’ve experienced at The Wall.  While cotton is much lighter than stone, I think I understand Tom’s mission in a way I never did before. Slowing down and being conscious of your actions can be a way to honor the past. So often we are swept up in modern convenience that it is almost impossible to appreciate the struggles our ancestors endured.

Tom, his vision, and his actions constantly inspire me. I hope that, like each stone that he places on The Wall, our work is part of something larger. I hope that our efforts create beautiful and sustainable things, while honoring those that came before us.

Many years ago, a Yuchi woman inspired Mr. Hendrix to begin this wall, saying, “One step at a time, one stone at a time. Lay a stone for every step she made…We shall pass this earth. Only the stones will remain.”

Like our ancestors, we, too, shall pass this earth. What will we leave behind?

May we each spend some time today pondering what we are thankful for and what we want to leave behind.

Giving thanks for all of you…
From all of us @ Alabama Chanin

DESKTOP OF THE MONTH: NOVEMBER

For November, we’re featuring the Couching technique as our Desktop of the Month. Couching lends substantial weight and warmth to any garment. The final days of October brought quite a chill to Alabama, perfect weather for my favorite couched coat. I love pulling out my coats for the first time of the season; a sure-fire signal fall has arrived and the holidays are just around the corner.

We hope you have a cold-weather favorite you reach for year after year. Or, if it’s time to start working on a new favorite, you might consider making your own coat and embellishing with the Couching technique. The Alabama Chanin version of the technique is featured on page 110 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and shows several variations to work using beads or cotton yarn with a parallel whipstitch.

This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background, is now available to download from our Resource Downloads.

xoNatalie


NEW WEBSITE

We often hear that you have to see an Alabama Chanin garment in person to really appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship that goes into every piece. We sincerely believe that our upcoming website is the next best thing.

As our brand continues to grow, and our interests and projects become more diverse, we rely more and more on AlabamaChanin.com as a way to showcase our endeavors, share our experiences, and interact with a community that is constantly expanding.

This is a place to share our life at the Factory, or at least a sampling of it: Weekend workshops, DIY craft, custom couture garments, cotton farming, upcycling developments, Thursday potlucks, visiting artists, and the list goes on. We wanted a site that would reflect all of the things that we are – and all of the things that you, our customers, are. We wanted a meeting place that is both welcoming and engaging and, of course, easy to use, because we know first-hand that when you have so much going on in one place, things can be a little difficult to navigate.

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THE QUILTS OF GEE’S BEND

THE QUILT'S OF GEE'S BEND - Photo by Robert Rausch
In anticipation of our upcoming event at Grocery on Home, I’ve been going through The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, by William Arnett, Alvia Wardlaw, Jane Livingston, and John Beardsley again this week. It’s only serving to make me really excited. The book is rich with history and filled with gorgeous photographs of hand-stitched quilts and the stories of the women who made them. The mini-autobiographies of each quilt maker provide snapshots of life in Gee’s Bend. Each entry is written in the seamstress’s own words, like this opening paragraph in Helen McCloud’s story:

“I was born down in Clifton, out from Annemanie. My mother was Della Mae Bridges. We worked in the fields, raised cotton and stuff. Kind of rough. My daddy was a big farmer-cotton, corn, rice, peanuts, squashes, cucumbers, beans, oats. And, Lord, we had to get out there and pick them. Jesus, I hated that, but if you didn’t, you get tore up. Watermelons, too. Two hundred pounds of cotton wasn’t nothing for me to pick. My daddy was so mean to us.”

The Quilts of Gee's Bend. Photo by Robert Rausch
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ADVANCED STYLE

There’s a cluster of Polaroids in our production office that never fail to captivate our visitors, and even though they’ve been there for the better part of a decade we still find ourselves staring. They’re so beautiful. It’s hard to look away.

Those Polaroids are from our first fashion show— 8 years ago—a cast of women assembled by the amazing Jennifer Venditti of JV8, Inc. Jennifer, a director and pioneer of selecting models whose beauty is far from typical, introduced us to a group of ladies whose poise, confidence, and style were unmistakable.

Mimi Weddell was among this incredible ensemble, a vibrant actress and New York fashion icon. She was most known for her lifetime obsession with hats. We love that her words are the introduction to Ari Seth Cohen’s book, a celebration of personal style at any age, Advanced Style:

“I can’t imagine going without a hat. The only romantic thing left in life is a hat.”

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A RECIPE FOR BBQed DRESSES

Alabama Chanin, Florence, Alabama, in collaboration with Drew Robinson, Jim ‘N Nick’s, Birmingham, Alabama

Ingredients

64 yards 100% organic cotton jersey, colors white and nude
47 spools Button Craft thread
112 yards embroidery floss
1 pound white glass beads
9 garment patterns
4 stencil designs
1 quart textile paint
24 talented embroidery artisans
27 needles
Embroidery scissors, both large and small
8 sticks hickory
Kindling
Matches
Patience

Construct garments by combining the first 10 ingredients, adding love and care. Once constructed with love and care, smoke embroidered dresses with hickory. This is the wood most commonly used for barbecue in our part of Alabama because it is the most plentiful. As luck would have it, burned hickory produces a subtle flavor and color in pork and dresses, respectively.

It made sense to us to use the same wood to smoke our homegrown garments (well, as much sense as it could make to smoke a dress, anyway).  Like a pig, dresses require a low temperature and lots of finesse.

Once you get the fire going, smoke your dresses at a temperature close to 170 degrees for about 18 hours.

Serves the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, 2012.