As seasons change and the holiday rush begins in full force, Christmas carols seem to appear earlier and earlier each year. Once upon a time, Thanksgiving was considered the unofficial date when radio stations began to play holiday music. This year, I heard my first Christmas carol when picking up Halloween candy at the grocery store.
But, regardless of whether you love or avoid holiday music, many of the seasonal songs have been around for hundreds of years. Some have social or political messages and many have a colorful history.
December’s Desktop of the Month highlights an elaborate modification of a traditional embroidery technique, negative reverse appliqué.
Negative reverse appliqué looks much like traditional appliqué, but is worked slightly differently. Here, we stencil the top layer of fabric, then place it on top of the backing fabric. We then use a straight stitch to attach the top layer of fabric to the bottom layer, and cut away the top layer of fabric, leaving a 1/4” sliver of top-layer fabric beyond the stitching line.
It’s hard to believe that this month is almost over. There is so much to be thankful for – and so much to look forward to.
Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season.
P.S. Follow the Alabama Chanin Factory Café on Instagram for daily deliciousness.
Windows, New York, New York
We asked contributor Phillip March Jones to share the process and inspiration behind his daily photo project, Pictures Take You Places.
Seeing is everything. But it takes practice.
Modern Antiquity, Atlanta, Georgia
La Plage, Trouville, France
For the past couple of years I have been traveling almost constantly for various projects in the United States and abroad. As a result, I am often away from the studio and distracted from the kind of intense focus required and afforded therein. These circumstances have led me to rethink my artistic practice and even the way I interact with the world. The newfound freedom of a portable studio has forced me to develop exercises to keep my eye and mind focused and has led to several new bodies of work, including the creation of a daily photo project titled Pictures Take You Places.
Musician and Alabama Chanin friend Jake Fussell grew up in Columbus, Georgia, and was exposed to traditional roots music while accompanying his father, folklorist and writer Fred Fussell, on numerous documentary fieldwork trips throughout the South. Through these journeys, Jake became a guitar student of the late Georgia blueswoman, Precious Bryant, and honed his skills playing with local string bands.
I was introduced to Jake and his music years ago by Butch, Maggie’s dad. A late night conversation was followed with a mixed CD, and since then Jake’s music has been in constant rotation on the Alabama Chanin studio playlists. His sound captures a unique aspect of the Southern voice and history – so much so that Jake played my one and only fashion show in New York in 2005.
Jake currently serves as bandleader of The Yalobushwackers, the house band for Thacker Mountain Radio, Oxford, Mississippi’s weekly live-audience literary radio program. In recent years, he has appeared on Prairie Home Companion, toured, and recorded as sideman for several musical acts, most notably as guitarist for Memphis gospel singer Reverend John Wilkins. Jake is also working with our friends at Dust-to-Digital to curate an anthology of Mississippi blues and gospel field recordings made by noted folklorist William R. Ferris.
We are devout believers in Dust-to-Digital, April and Lance Ledbetter’s acclaimed record label. Their first release, Goodbye, Babylon, is a testament to the Dust-to-Digital mission of archiving, producing, and reproducing high-quality, cultural artifacts.
Lance spent several years researching and compiling the collection of 135 rare gospel songs, dating from 1902 to 1960, and 25 sermons, dating from 1926 to 1941. The stories and songs included in Goodbye, Babylon are filled with Southern and religious folklore. The collection is archived on six CDs, and features recordings from below the Mason-Dixon Line – everything from string bands and gospel quartets to sacred harp choirs and shouting preachers. You might recognize some of the artists, but most of the recordings are obscure treasures.
November’s Desktop of the Month demonstrates that tone-on-tone designs—where both the front and back appliqué layers are the same or similar colors—allow the stencil to subtly take center stage.
The Magdalena stencil is shown in black-on-black backstitch reverse appliqué. Both the textile paint and the embroidery floss are black as well, but light hitting the surface of the two fabrics reveals the elegant stencil detail.
The photograph above shows one of many options you can select when creating your own Handmade Holiday DIY item or Custom DIY Kit. View the Handmade Holiday section of our website for special, limited-time DIY options.
This hi-resolution photograph, for use as your computer desktop background, is now available to download from our Resources page.
OUR DESIGN CHOICES
Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Backing layer – Black
Top layer –Black
Stencil – Magdalena
Treatment – Backstitch reverse appliqué
Textile paint – Black
Embroidery floss – Black
Knots – Inside
For nearly 25 years, Mike Goodlett has lived and worked in a house near Wilmore, Kentucky, that originally belonged his grandparents. Over the years, he has embellished the house’s interior and even its structure with artwork of his own creation in a sort of visual call and response. Paper flowers bloom from cracks in the ceiling. Doorframes and windows are adorned with carvings. Delicate ballpoint pen-webs emanate from the electric outlets. Accessible only by an overgrown and narrow road, the house and studio are mostly hidden from view.
“We are happy when we are growing.”
- William Butler Yeats
The Factory has been home to the Alabama Chanin design and production studio since 2008 and over the years has hosted workshops, events, and dinners. The space is filled with books, music, and the hum of making. Now, we are expanding The Factory to include a full-service café, serve as Workshop headquarters, and house the Alabama Chanin store.