Category Archives: SUSTAINABLE LIFE + DESIGN

REFLECT, REJOICE, RENEW

2009 White House Christmas Tree - Associated Press Photo
After lofty plans to post each day about the last decade – and the next, my computer slipped from my hands last Tuesday morning and crashed (literally) to the floor and shattered. Later that afternoon, my Blackberry decided to follow suit.  My deduction was that it was time to take a much needed sabbatical from all things electronic. A week later, everything and everyone seems to have survived without me. The world is still spinning, I am no further behind than I was last Tuesday, and I have had a week to “Reflect, Rejoice and Renew.” So, here we are, a few days later and making a fresh start. Thank you to Kathy Kemp and al.com for this lovely article. And, thank you again to everyone who makes this a wonderful project each and every day…  

Florence-based designer’s skirt creation completes Obamas’ Christmas tree, By Kathy Kemp — The Birmingham News December 22, 2009, 5:30AM

Alabama Chanin, the Florence-based couture fashion design house, has sewn another bead into its weighty crown.

The company created the stenciled, beaded blue and white tree skirt that completes the official White House Christmas tree, on display in the Blue Room through December. Alabama Chanin founder Natalie Chanin attended the recent unveiling — her latest stop in a series of high-profile appearances.

“We were honored to be asked to do this,” says Chanin, who was a Top-10 finalist for the coveted DFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize, presented last month in New York City. Vogue magazine featured her in a full-page color spread in November, and she was also the subject of a Birmingham News profile. In The News’ story, Chanin couldn’t talk about the tree skirt because the White House had yet to unveil the tree. But now the entire world can see it — in pictures, at least, or in a tour of the nation’s home.

Twenty-two Alabama Chanin artisans, mostly local northwest Alabama seamstresses, spent three weeks sewing and constructing the tree skirt, which measures 14 feet in diameter and weighs about 28 pounds. The skirt features 13 large panels representing the original 13 colonies, and holds about two kilos of Chanin’s white satin bugle beads, all sewn by hand. It is made of Chanin’s signature fabric, 100 percent organic cotton jersey, in the colors, as requested by the White House, of white, peacock blue, Navy blue and storm blue piping. “We painted the entire piece with our Maggie stencil, then used quilting, reverse applique and reverse applique with beading on different sections,” Chanin explains. (She teaches her techniques in her “Alabama Stitch Book,” available at www.alabamachanin.com.)
Chanin, like other artists the White House invited to create decorative pieces for the tree, paid for the materials, labor and shipping of her own work. Chanin is already taking orders for custom tree skirts for the 2010 holiday season (contact steven@alabamachanin.com for details).

The 2009 White House tree, a Douglas fir from Shepherdstown, W.V., stands 18.5 feet tall, reaching all the way to the ceiling. Each year, the Blue Room tree is the same height, because the power source is on the ceiling.

“Reflect, Rejoice, Renew” is the theme for President Obama and his family’s first White House Christmas. Reflecting the national desire to conserve and recycle, the tree is lit with environmentally sound LED lights and decorated with bows and more than 650 ornaments from previous generations.
Chanin’s work fits nicely with this year’s theme. She uses local artisans, rather than shipping production overseas. She’s long been known for using organic products and recycling materials. Every scrap left over from her clothing creations is used for something else. In fact, she had piles of jersey strips baled and used them to make a sofa for the Alabama Chanin office.
At the White House this month, more than 50,000 people are expected to see the tree — and its skirt — while attending parties and other functions. When the tree comes down, Chanin’s skirt, along with the tree ornaments, will be archived with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
© 2009 al.com. All rights reserved.

WASTE NOT WANT NOT

For me, this past decade was about learning to use the resources that I had readily available. My goal for the next decade will be about digging deeper to fully understand all of the resources that I have and then to use those resources wisely and wildly.

It is my wish that we will use all of our gifts to enrich our lives this & every season of the year and upcoming decade:

Make the fabric above – “Waste Not Want Not” – by printing your left-over bubble wrap using a textile airbrush paint.

Simply lay out your fabric on a clean work table and apply paint lightly to the bubbly side of bubble wrap with any sort of sponge or brush.  Print onto fabric by pressing the painted side of the bubble wrap gently to your fabric. Repeat as desired.

We used a taupe color paint (mixing white with tiny amounts of yellow and black) on a white fabric; however any color will work.

Let your printed fabric dry thoroughly and do not wash for at least three weeks to allow curing. This resource can be used for paper, wood or any other surface that you might choose to decorate.

Wash bubble wrap after use and store for using over and over and over again.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END (OR GIFTS + GIVING)

As the year slides towards its close, I know that it is the time of year that we all get tired of Gift Guides.

This year, we are seeing not only the end of the year but of the decade. This has been a really BIG year for all of us here at Alabama Chanin – and an even BIGGER decade. (My Ten Year Anniversary of living, working and loving Alabama will be coming up next year.)

For whatever reason, it seems that the “changing-of-the-decades” have always brought important and beautiful changes into my life. So, I would like to take these last days before the holidays (and the last weeks of the year) to look back – and a little forward.

Bear with me over the next weeks…

Back to Gifts & Giving (this one last time – well, maybe):

If you just can’t figure out what to do for a special person in your life this holiday season, consider a donation to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.

As some of you will remember, my father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma last year. He is, gratefully, in remission now – thanks to great medicine and research – and amazingly recovered from his stroke as a side effect to the chemotherapy. Thank you again to everyone who has been there with us… thank you to those who brought strength, understanding, kindness, patience and, sometimes, just cookies.

This could be the best gift of the year:

Leukemia Lymphoma Society

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Make a Wish Foundation

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Update of two more great organizations (thanks Sara):

Cure Search

American Cancer Society

*Photo of Ms. Jessie’s Vegetable Soup – also a great gift.   Recipe can be found on page 95 of Alabama Stitch Book.  This picture was originally taken for “The Kitchen Project” – perhaps  coming to our archives section one day.

HALF BROKE

HALF BROKE HORSES - JEANNETTE WALLSI just finished Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls and am awed.

It has – rightfully – been compared to Out of Africa and West with the Night. While I respect her first book – The Glass Castle – this new book will become an American classic. Kudos to Jeannette. Enjoy while looking at photos from In The American West by Richard Avedon

CHANEL DOES COUNTRY – REALLY.

Okay a small fashion moment this morning, please.  Can we just ponder for a second?

It is a moment courtesy of Garance Dore – my new heroine.

You have to seriously love a girl who writes this about herself:  

“Seriously though, there’s always this side to me that ends up utterly unorganized, that can’t get its act together to be the perfectly manicured creature of light that I would sometimes like to be.”

I have been feeling a bit like that off and on for the last month.   I dream to have a tea (or other beverage) with Garance and Scott.

I would like to interview and photograph the two of them…

I have thought so often about a post that Scott did in August called “So What Do We Think About This?”

The quote below has really stuck with me. In my constant berating of myself because extra weight that came with having Maggie at 44, I shy away from cameras and photos like most other women. Perhaps this should be reconsidered:  

“When I am shooting on the street older women and larger size women often say “no” to my request to shoot them. Actually, much more than any other category of people I shoot. I think they have a real suspicion about how the image will be used. I also think there continues to be a growing disconnect between the fashion community and “average” women in general.”

BUT back to today, nobody captured the mood of the Chanel like Garance. Please go read her post and look at her photos.

Karl Lagerfeld does country with Lily Allen singing. Really? I am not sure why this shocks me so…

Please tell me what you think.

Garance sees a time coming soon when fashion shows will be like rock concerts.

Are The Songbirds singing?

*Photo Garance Dore

SETTING THE TABLE

Partners & Spade, Manhattan

“Setting the Table,” from Maria @ Bureau of Friends:

Have you ever noticed that most of the real action at conferences takes place in the lounges and walkways outside of the Main Halls and presentation rooms? There is absolutely a place and time for sit-and-listen audiences and there’s nothing like a compelling speaker to move and enlighten us, but what might we do better to nourish real connections between people who gather around shared goals or values?

In our first few weeks together as the Bureau, we talked much about how difficult it can be to decide in which efforts we should involve ourselves, as speakers or partcipants. There are so many worthy conferences and community programs out there. We decided, that in addition to getting more strategic about how we respond to invitations, we’d proactively develop our own opportunities to engage talented and conscientious people.

Our first attempt was a collaborative event at HEATH and our next, is an up-coming conversation-in-the-round with Partners & Spade—the storefront and think tank for Andy Spade (co-founder/previous owner of Kate Spade and Jack Spade) and Anthony Sperduti (Andy’s creative partner).The evening at Partners & Spade, will build on the success of the Bureau’s experience at HEATH by continuing a forward-thinking conversation in the form of a traditional sewing circle. We are already at capacity for the Partners & Spade event, but I promise we’ll post about it later.

While these initial events revolve around a collaborative project inspired by charter members of the Bureau, Natalie Chanin (Alabama Chanin) and Cathy Bailey (HEATH Ceramics), our work at the Bureau will evolve to reflect other ideas and efforts of those who wish to deploy the hearts, minds and muscle of the Bureau.

In our media drenched, social networking maxed, Twitter-pated lives how else might we hear from and engage with others in a way that might lead to action—or at the very least, connect us to each other in more satisfying ways?