Category Archives: TRAVEL + OTHER NEWS

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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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.

OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI

Our BBQed dresses have been carefully hung along side the stunning photographs of Landon Nordeman and the smell of barbeque fills the room. We are en route to a weekend of storytelling and out-of-this-world food (and spirits).

 

Join us tonight in Oxford, Mississippi, for Punch, Pictures, and ‘Cue Couture, as part of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s 15th Annual Symposium, Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmasters, Places, Smoke, and Sauce.

The Powerhouse
13 South 14th Street, Oxford, Mississippi 38655

Opening reception:
October 18th from 4:00pm – 6:00pm
(The reception is free and open to the public and will feature the cocktail stylings of Greg Best from Holeman & Finch Public House in Atlanta, Georgia.)

Show runs through November 2, 2012 from 9:00am – 5:00pm each day.

Thank you to the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Melissa Hall, and John T. Edge for the inspiration and hard work that helped make this exhibition possible.

1006 Van Buren Avenue
Oxford, Mississippi

Thursday, October 18th: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Friday, October 19th - 20th: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday, October 20th - 20th: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday, October 21st: 9:00am – 2:00pm

For more information, contact: office@alabamachanin.com or Amelia Presents: +1.901.355.0311.

BBQED DRESSES

BBQ, Barbeque, Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Q.  However you spell it, we are awash in this delicious madness here in North Alabama.  Mention barbeque 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.

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ALABAMA CHANIN AND BILLY REID COTTON PICKING PARTY + FIELD DAY

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

NYC TO NASHVILLE

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.

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PEAS + SUCH

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.

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A PLEA FOR COTTON

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.

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EcoSalon: NATALIE CHANIN ON WORKING HER OWN ORGANIC COTTON FIELD

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.

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