BBQ, Barbeque, Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Q. However you spell it, we are awash in this delicious madness here in North Alabama. Mention barbecue and you will have an instant conversation starter: “Mustard based sauce!” “Are you kidding me? No way! Ketchup!” “What! Please don’t tell me you are putting mayonnaise on that meat?” These are the ingredients that can bring men and women alike to heated discussion. We have spent the last few weeks preparing for an exhibition celebrating the Southern Foodways Alliance’s 15th Annual Symposium, entitled Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmasters, Places, Smoke, and Sauce.
Tomorrow, we will meet at the cotton field with friends, colleagues, family, and community to harvest our cotton. This harvest marks an exciting moment for us in our efforts to grow a sustainable and chemical-free crop.
We intended this project as our “test field”. It has allowed us to learn more about the beautiful white fiber, the hardships of farming, and the difference organic makes. Uncertain of whether or not the Alabama soil and climate would be suitable for our cottonseed varieties, the bolls are evidence of a successful yield. We are currently waiting for staple length test results to see if the fibers can be spun into yarn, which will then be knit into jersey fabric. Continue reading
During the peak of New York Fashion Week, we played host to numerous events, presenting the pieces of our newest collection at meetings and trunk shows all across Manhattan. We had the joy of meeting with customers to showcase our latest pieces and help them design one-of-a-kind garments of their own.
Thanks to the generosity of a few dear friends, new and old, we could not have asked for a better show.
Thank you to the Wall Street Journal for including me for their “In My Kitchen” series. “Crafty Cook Natalie Chanin” by Charlotte Druckman (who was a pleasure to work with).
Here you have the full interview (with a small disclaimer) and the recipes for the full menu we cooked that day:
“I GOT MY NICKNAME from biscuits,” said Natalie “Alabama” Chanin, the force behind the handcrafted clothing and housewares company Alabama Chanin, based in Florence, Ala. She earned the moniker a dozen years ago after baking her signature buttery discs for a group of hungry strangers while on vacation in Venezuela. “They called it ‘pan de Alabama’ [Alabama bread] and they’d call me that, too,” she said. That same generous spirit is one of the defining principles of her business practice—she recently introduced a line of table linens at a more accessible price point than the rest of her wares, and she makes it a point to employ local seamstresses and pay them a living wage.
If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve read about the rollercoaster that has been our first exposure to cotton farming. Having survived the terrible drought, the cotton has been carried through the summer by equal parts rainfall and sunshine. Right now, the bolls are looking healthy, but so are the weeds. Following the organic guidelines, we did not use any chemicals to eradicate the weeds. Lisa and “friend” Jimmy have done the leg, and arm, and back work.
Last Wednesday, the Alabama Chanin staff, along with Lisa and Jimmy, made a trip to weed the field. We arrived to a daunting 6 1/2 acres of beautifully forming cotton alongside big, ugly weeds. The next few weeks are crucial to a successful harvest of the first ever organic cotton crop in North Alabama (that is, since the invention of pesticides and genetically modified seeds). Our plants need ample light, air circulation, and nutrients from the soil to continue to develop and open. We were overjoyed when Lisa sent images on Saturday morning of the first bolls that have opened. But some of the weeds have still got to go. If this crop is to see a successful harvest, it’s going to need more help to survive and thrive.
Thanks to Amy DuFault and EcoSalon for sharing the story of our cotton on their blog today:
Last week, the Alabama Chanin team, along with friends Lisa and Jimmy, took to the organic cotton field we share with the team from Billy Reid. With rubber boots, loppers, and gloves in hand, we were there helping our organic cotton bolls survive after a long summer of drought and heat followed by excessive rain and weed growth.
We walked the rows, hoed, chopped, and pulled until the sun and heat forced us out of the field. Hard to imagine the days in Alabama heat where people were not allowed out of the field. Makes me think about how things were, how things are, and how things will be.
Nine of us barely made a dent in the work that needs to be done. As we documented the day with black and white images, it looked so romantic and felt like a moment from a Willa Cather novel. But the reality behind the black and white is a sordid, ugly history. I can’t pretend that I didn’t think about those that did this work because they had no choice. But I live TODAY and I WANT to grow organic cotton in the state of Alabama TODAY.
At the close of September, we will be hosting a one-day retreat at the beautiful Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Join us Saturday, September 29, 2012, for a day full of crafting, laughter, story-telling, and relaxation as we create DIY projects in Alabama Chanin style.
The Hermitage Hotel opened its doors in September 1910 as Nashville’s first million-dollar hotel. Named after Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage estate, the grounds are rich with history and the building is filled with Southern heritage. The hotel, with rooms once advertised as “fireproof, noise-proof, and dustproof, $2.00 and up,” is now one of the top retreats in the state of Tennessee, has been awarded the AAA Five Diamond Award eight years in a row and the Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Award five years in a row.
Our newest pieces from Alabama Chanin arrive today in the form of Indigo and Carmine—mixed to complement classic pieces from our Denim collection. From the Alabama Chanin Sarong to the Fitted Cotton Blazer, these garments are designed for everyday wear. The 100% organic cotton pieces featured in Indigo and Carmine can take you from the office to a night out-without a wardrobe change.
Once home to Tee Jays Manufacturing Co., the industrial park where our studio – which we call ‘The Factory’- is located, is also home to many other manufacturers and distributors. Often it has been written that our community collapsed under the weight of NAFTA and the departing textile industry; however, that simply isn’t true. There are many strong companies that still find their homes here in this park on the edge of Florence and one, especially relevant to the upcoming 4th of July celebrations, is TNT Fireworks.
As Independence Day approaches, TNT’s Tommy Glasco took time from his busy schedule to talk about the company and their work. Founded in the late 1950s by Charles Anderson, TNT evolved from a former company called Alabama Sparkler. Anderson, founder of a successful book and magazine business, was seeking to sell seasonal products as a way of expanding his business. Fireworks were a successful fit. Over the years, TNT has become the largest distributor of consumer fireworks in the nation, possibly the world; however, they continue to maintain strong local roots.
Here’s our trailer for Creativebug.
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