Category Archives: THE HEART

MADE BY HAND, CLOSE TO THE HEART

MADE BY HEART

Heirlooms aren’t created overnight, and it’s the time that goes into embellishing and constructing an artisanal garment that gives life to its one-of-a-kind beauty. Join me, Natalie Chanin, for my new online Craftsy class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and enjoy the process of creating a timeless piece of clothing.

In our first lesson, we’ll look at an assortment of our beautiful hand-embroidered swatches and discuss a vast array of embellishment options for the included Vogue coat pattern. Then, together, we’ll practice a variety of hand sewing techniques to make your coat come together seamlessly. Working with cotton jersey, we’ll cut out, mark, and prepare the pattern pieces for embellishment, using techniques to minimize fabric distortion. Now we are ready to embellish. We’ll create a stencil using the included PDF stencil pattern, and paint designs onto your fabric. After that, I’ll walk you through a multitude of techniques for appliqué and reverse appliqué. We’ll also explore how to sew bugle, chop, seed beads, and sequins onto your garment, and combine beads with embroidery stitches. In our final lessons, we’ll talk through constructing the coat, plus learn finishing details such as adding topstitching, ribbing, and more. Enroll in Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and mix and match hand sewing and embellishment techniques, creating a stylish garment that will be treasured forever.

Though my mother once gave me a gorgeous Elna sewing machine, my initial forays into sewing were consistently shaky. Yet, the memories of my grandmothers sewing and creating had long ago taken root deep within my consciousness; these memories eventually bore fruit when I set out , at eighteen years old, for a life away from home to study fashion and design, live abroad, and gain valuable experience as a stylist and designer. When I eventually returned to the ranch-style house my grandfather built in rural Alabama, it was to start Alabama Chanin, my lifestyle clothing and design brand. Alabama Chanin maintains and celebrates the traditions and materials of my grandparents, creating garments by hand, using sustainable practices, and exclusively featuring hand and small lot-dyed organic cotton and recycled materials from local artisans. I look forward to sharing the unique Alabama Chanin process with you in my new Craftsy class.

CRAFTSY-IN-THE-STUDIOMy class was filmed at the Alabama Chanin studio in Florence, Alabama, but you can join me for these lessons from anywhere in the world. Just like the skills you’ll learn, my class is yours to keep—you can watch it whenever and however many times you like. Plus, the Craftsy classroom lets you pose questions, so that your classmates and I can get back to you with answers. You can also use Craftsy’s video notes to mark and return to important techniques easily, plus you can utilize the thirty-second repeat feature to loop a technique without taking your hands off your sewing. My class has a wealth of information that I know you will enjoy, but if for any reason you aren’t satisfied, you can receive your money back with no questions asked.

Sign up for Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and learn a collection of enduring sewing techniques for unique garments with invaluable appeal. All supply bundles are discounted on our website, here.

P.S.: Photo of Maggie, Stella, and Natalie by Joe Baran.

 

LES BLANK (A LOVE LETTER)

LES BLANK (A LOVE LETTER)I’ve written a couple of times about what happens when your heroes and heroines become friends. For me, it brings about a feeling of connection to the ever-expanding universe; all things are possible.  A girl from the countryside in Alabama can dine with royalty (in all its meanings).  The picture above is proof.

When I look at this picture, I laughingly think of The Death of Roy Batty in Blade Runner:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain….”

However, those moments will not be lost. Knowing and dining with Les Blank gives me a connection to the stories and tiny details of human nature that make me a bigger, and better, person.

His contribution to the genre of documentary film is exceptional; his contribution to my life is priceless.  His clear vision of humanity (like that of The Kitchen Sisters)  helped mold the designer, story lover, and human being I am today.

I am so sad to write that my friend, and hero, is very ill with a protracted cancer.  The City of Berkeley, California declared January 22nd the official Les Blank Day and wrote this:

“With a soft spoken demeanor, an eye for beauty, an insightful mind and great enthusiasm, Les Blank has captured the essence of aspects of American culture,” and “through his respectful, quiet presence, and non-didactic style created films that allow his subjects to reveal their true selves in a unique way.”

Well deserved.  The world is a better place because of Les Blank, visionary wayfarer.

P.S.: Photo above with Les and Alice Waters from April 2008 at The Edible Schoolyard (where Les first filmed and then cleaned everyone’s plate).

THE HEART: BECKY BURNS PHILLIPS

These days, you don’t think twice about hearing a woman’s voice on the radio. There are surely female deejays or journalists on your local station. NPR broadcasts the voices and stories of women like The Kitchen Sisters or Terry Gross among others. Alabama Chanin favorite, Elizabeth Cook has her own show, “Apron Strings,” on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country. But, once upon a time, it wasn’t so common to hear a female voice over the airwaves. For those in the Shoals area, Becky Burns Phillips was one of those first voices to be broadcast.

In 1942, Rebecca “Becky” Burns Phillips met her future husband, Sam Phillips, while they were both working at WLAY radio station in Sheffield, Alabama. They were both in high school. She, 17, had a radio segment with her sister where they played music and sang; he was a 19-year old radio announcer who was on his way to making rock and roll history. The Kitchen Sisters, in an article honoring Becky, quoted Sam as saying, “I fell in love with Becky’s voice even before I met her.”  Becky described her first encounter with Sam to journalist Peter Guralnick: “He had just come in out of the rain. His hair was windblown and full of raindrops. He wore sandals and a smile unlike any I had ever seen. He sat down on the piano bench and began to talk to me. I told my family that night that I had met the man I wanted to marry.”

The two were married in 1943. Sam worked feverishly to establish Memphis Recording Service and, later, Sun Records. It is said that, during that time, he suffered two nervous breakdowns – which Becky gracefully helped him through. Becky and Sam had two sons, Jerry and Knox, but motherhood never took away her desire to work in radio.

Sam proudly spoke about how Becky’s talent inspired him to co-found WHER: 1000 Beautiful Watts, referred to as “The First All-Girl Radio Show in the Nation.” He would say that he wanted women, wanted his wife to have a chance that no one had ever given them before – and he co-founded WHER with the money he made from selling Elvis Presley’s contract. He would say, “Becky was the best I ever heard.”

Her son Knox remembered that, at the time of WHER’s conception, women weren’t even allowed to attend the Columbia School of Broadcasting. “But, because of my mother,” he said, “when Sam started the station (WHER) he made it all female: all female air talent, all female executives and sales staff,” he told The Commercial Appeal.

At WHER, Becky was able to shine – writing scripts, organizing segments, managing the station, and presenting in her own beautiful way. She was in charge of approving each record that was played. Though her husband was a rock and roll legend, there were no rocking records at WHER. And there were NEVER to be any curse words allowed over the airwaves. Over the years, she hosted a number of radio shows and carefully curated every day’s segments. Becky told the Kitchen Sisters, “I played music to work by – all the beautiful music like Jackie Gleason and Doris Day, and I gave household hints.”

Phillips broadcast on the radio for over 40 years, until the mid-1980’s, always with her distinctive sign-off: “A smile on your face puts a smile in your voice.”

Mrs. Phillips died in September of 2012 at the age of 87.

Becky Burns Phillips carefully preserved WHER’s record library for well over 40 years. Many of those recordings can be heard on the Peabody Award winning segment by the Kitchen Sisters, “Lost and Found Sound: 1000 Beautiful Watts.”

Listen to Becky Phillips talk about her husband, Sam, and WHER Radio for the TV Segment, “The Lives They Lived” here:

There were few like her, a true pioneer in her field. Her fearlessness and her devotion to her family and her profession are inspirational. We are proud to be part of a community that fostered a woman like Becky Phillips, a pioneer in spirit and part of the heart and soul of Alabama Chanin.

P.S.: I never met Becky Phillips.  After moving back home in 2000, I was “busy.” Building a business and sorting through my own life, closed me off to some of the great treasures (and families) of my own community. My loss.  Resolution: take time to work less and belong more.  xoNatalie

*Photo above found on The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee

PEACE: THE BIOGRAPHY OF A SYMBOL

In 2008, to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the peace symbol, National Geographic published Peace: the Biography of a Symbol, by Ken Kolsbun with Michael S. Sweeney.

The book documents the symbol, from its creation in 1958, through its usage in the folk scene of the 1960s, its very visible presence in the 1970s at Woodstock, Vietnam war protests, and in the artwork of Peter Max, until today, with its wide use in commerce and as a cultural icon.

National Geographic has a moving photo gallery of the peace symbol that you can view here, starting with the gorgeous photo of Arlo Guthrie below by Bettman/CORBIS.

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MAKE THINGS (AND FLY)

Next week we return to our regularly scheduled programming:

Monday – Beautiful Life: Things, stories, and people that inspire us.
Tuesday – Sustainable Life + Design: Good, good, and more good.
Wednesday – In the Kitchen: Food, of course, recipes and cookbooks, and occasional garden updates. And a cocktail (or three).
Thursday – DIY + Sewing: Do-It-Yourself, Design, Craft, or what ever you would like to call it.
Friday – The Heart, Travel + Other News, or, anything we find fascinating: Stories about our studio, interviews with our team, where we have been, where we are going, what people are talking about, and, sometimes, cotton.

(Disclaimer: Natalie reserves the right to mix it all up from time-to-time.)

We also have some new categories on our mailing list. Take a minute to join or to simply update your preferences, email address, or information. Tell us how much you want. We really want to know. Look for a monthly newsletter, coming soon, and a weekly update, coming later.

In the meantime, make things (and fly),
xo and Happy New Year from all of us @ Alabama Chanin

P.S.: Film about Chabott Engineering by Henrik Hansen

THE (NEW) HOLIDAY LUXURY

THE NEW HOLIDAY LUXURY

In a world of mass-production and over-harvested resources, I find it a delight and a luxury to come across a responsibly crafted product, especially around the holiday season.  Unsurprisingly, living, producing, and creating sustainably has become a skillful artistry, and sustainable craftsmanship and process is quickly on its way to being the ultimate in luxury production.

It has been extremely encouraging for me to see the Slow Design movement taking root around us. One may see such artistry in the culinary world, as so many chefs joyfully curate the finest, locally raised ingredients with which to design.  From olives in Georgia, to Alabama milk, I find hope and inspiration all around me.

And it truly is a luxury, one that I hope may become more common than not, that each of us will know the source and quality of their food.  The openness regarding the source and quality of sustainable dining holds both the chef and the diner accountable, allowing both parties to take pride in their choices.

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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

THE HEART: MADE IN AMERICA

This week our Alabama Chanin fitted dress was included (ON SALE!) for the Chris Brown curated Made Collection titled “EXPLORE  AMERICA.” If you aren’t yet familiar with the Made collection, it is worth the time to create an account and browse their site.  The company, started by Dave Schiff, Scott Prindle, and John Kieselhorst is a self-titled “movement” with an amazing mission.

The company and their simple (fantastic) idea was recently covered by the New York Times:

“The old ‘Buy American’ is get something lousy and pay more,” said Mr. Schiff, 45. Now “it’s a premium product.” All of this touches on what brand changers Partners & Spade called the “Rebranding of America.”  Alex Williams in the New York Times writes:  “Style bloggers were among the early adopters. “ ‘Made in U.S.A.’ has gone through a rebranding of sorts,” said Michael Williams, whose popular men’s style blog, A Continuous Lean, has become an online clubhouse for devotees of American-made heritage labels like Red Wing Shoes and Filson.”

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