TEXTILES OF SCOTLAND: HARRIS TWEED

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I have done a bit of traveling and it has been my lifelong habit to observe local fashion trends – what crosses regional boundaries or doesn’t, what I predict will be a passing fad, and what has become a mainstay. In the last couple of years, it has become evident that tweed is reappearing in a big way all across the globe. Years ago, it was considered by many to be an old man’s fabric, representative of a stuffy, moneyed culture. It is refreshing to see that contemporary designers and connoisseurs have adopted tweed and added modern styling touches. Tweed is timeless. And today, certain varieties of tweed are still hand woven by individual artisans in their own homes; a skill that is reminiscent of our own artisans.

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Tweed was first crafted in Scotland and Ireland in the 1700s; a coarse cloth woven from virgin wool, it is naturally wind and water resistant and well suited for the local farmers working in damp, cold climates. In fact, surplus cloth was often traded among farmers and workmen – becoming a form of currency in the Scottish Isles; it was not uncommon for islanders to pay rent in tweed blankets or bolts of cloth. There are a remarkable number of types and classifications of tweed. There are clan tartan tweeds, which are used to identify members of a specific family, and estate tweeds, which were used to denote people who lived and worked on an individual estate. Some tweeds are named for the type of sheep who produced their wool (like Cheviot or Shetland); others denote their region of origin (Donegal or Saxony). There are also brand names of tweed – such as Pendleton Woolen Mills and Harris Tweed (the latter being one of the most well-known).

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BOOK GIVEAWAY: HANDMADE GATHERINGS

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A few weeks ago, we wrote a review of Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English (and also picked Ashley’s brain for her best tips on communal entertaining).

As The Factory continues to grow and host events, we openly welcome her simple approaches to creating an experience through collective, potluck meals. Now, we want to share those inspirations and insights with one of our lucky readers.

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THE FATHER OF THE BLUES + HANDY FEST

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“Where the Tennessee River, like a silver snake, winds her way through the red clay hills of Alabama, sits high on these hills my hometown, Florence.”
–W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues

We have written many times of our community’s rich musical legacy. The Shoals has a very notable place in modern music history; but, that history reaches much further back than many realize. William Christopher “W.C.” Handy was born and raised here in Florence in the late 19th century. Discovering a love of music at a young age, he took up the cornet and participated in acapella vocal lessons while attending grammar school. Later, after receiving his degree from the Teachers Agricultural and Mechanical College in Huntsville, Alabama, he became a teacher and briefly worked in a piping company before ultimately pursuing music as his true passion. His contributions in shaping the blues were influenced by the African-American musical folk traditions he experienced during his travels across the South, with “Memphis Blues” marking the beginning of his musical career.

For over 30 years, The Shoals community has hosted the W.C. Handy Music Festival. “Handy Fest,” as the locals call it, provides a few moments of unrivaled fun – in the middle of what can be a long, hot summer. Many of us anticipate the event all year and even the most confirmed homebodies spend multiple evenings out and about, listening to live music, visiting with friends, and exploring the community during festival week.

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THE FACTORY | THIS WEEK 7.21.2014 – 7.25.2014

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“Savor the ritual of the table. Mealtime is a time for empathy and generosity, a time to nourish and communicate.”
—Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food

Here is what we have going on at The Factory this week, Monday, July 21 – Friday, July 25:

STORE
Enjoy our newly updated retail space, view our bridal collection in the expanded storefront, and visit our new DIY section in the workshop area, where you can discuss your projects with our Studio Style DIY team.

Also, don’t forget our Summer Reading (+ More) promotion continues this week. Browse our collection of favorite books and summer essentials at a discounted price, available in-store and online for a limited time.

Store Hours
Monday – Thursday, 9:00am – 5:00pm

TOURS
Stop by any weekday at 2:00pm for a guided tour of our space, including The Factory, the Alabama Chanin production and design studio, and Building 14.

CAFÉ
The “Friends of the Café” Piggy Bank dinner featuring chef Vivian Howard is this Friday, July 25, beginning at 6:30pm. Join us for an evening of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and music—all benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Café Hours
Monday – Thursday, 11:00am – 3:00pm
*Lunch service begins at 11:00am, but coffee and snacks are available all day.

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JULY PLAYLIST 2014: DOC DAILEY

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Doc Dailey is a longtime friend of Alabama Chanin and a talented musician making music right here in our community. He and his band mates weave together music that has a universal appeal, with the distinct flavor of Muscle Shoals. Below, he shares some of his favorite summertime pastimes and songs.

AC: When did you start playing music?

DD: Some of my earliest memories are of singing along to the radio and old 8-tracks; so, in a way, I’ve been playing around with music since I was a toddler. I started playing the saxophone in 5th grade and picked up the guitar and started writing songs in my teens.

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DIY INDIGO CAMISOLE TANK

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Based on feedback that we have received from some of our DIY customers, we are now offering supplementary instructions in each of our DIY Kits. Each kit will be shipped with an insert that includes basic instructions, including how to “love your thread,” directions on completing basic stitches, simple construction tips, and how to add rib binding to your item. We hope that this will help make completing your DIY project easy and stress-free. As always, complete instructions for projects can be found in the Alabama Studio Book series.

We have recently been highlighting natural dyes and Alabama Chanin’s new dye house, run by our head seamstress, Diane. This project highlights the beautiful new shades of indigo that are emerging from our dye vats, shown here on one of our most popular silhouettes – the Camisole Tank. The tank can be adapted to fit almost any body type and its simple design is well suited for most stencils and embroidery techniques.

The tank is form fitting and features feminine back and necklines. It measures approximately 25” from the shoulder.

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IN PROCESS: OUR NATURAL DYE HOUSE

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The process of starting our own dye house began with an exploration into the materials and methods that involve the chemistry of dyeing. That exploration began with indigo.

In its natural form, indigo is a tropical, leafy shrub and a member of the legume family, and a version of the plant is native to our own Alabama climate. The wide range of blue shades that this ancient plant can produce as a dye has made it one of the most popular (and successful) dye plants throughout history (and present day).

Alabama Chanin has experimented with indigo and other natural dyes for years, and recently set up two dye vats in-house, that we can better produce our classic Indigo colors here at The Factory. Diane, our head seamstress (and now head dye master), is overseeing the project with the assistance of Maggie, one of our studio team members. The vats were set up with the help of Zee Boudreaux — a friend we met during our time at Penland — who has spent time studying indigo and other natural dyes.

Zee worked here in our studio with Diane and Maggie during our beginning phase and generously answered a few questions for us about indigo and his experiences with natural dyeing.

AC: How did you first become involved with natural dyes?

ZB: In 1995, I was traveling and met a weaver/dyer who introduced me to textiles; she wasn’t using natural dyes, but my established environmental awareness and love for traditional processes led me to look for a natural dye class. I found natural dyer Cheryl Kolander and attended one of her workshops. I even apprenticed with Cheryl after the workshop. Seeing natural color come out of the dye pot for the first time was all it took to lead me down this path.

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THE FACTORY | THIS WEEK 7.14.2014 – 7.18.2014

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The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read. –Abraham Lincoln

Here is what we have going on this week, Monday, July 14 – Friday, July 18:

STORE
Beginning Monday, we will highlight some of our favorite books and other summer essentials as part of our Summer Reading (+ More) promotion. Enjoy discounts for a limited time in-store and online.

Store Hours
Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm

TOURS
Stop by any weekday at 2:00pm for a guided tour of our space, including The Factory, the Alabama Chanin production and design studio, and Building 14.

CAFÉ
Join us in the café this week and enjoy recipes from this month’s featured chef, Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer. Her recipe for Blueberry BBQ Chicken Flatbread has become a new favorite, as well as our own house made, locally-sourced BLT (this week’s tasty special).
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THREE FOR A DIME: BEN SOLLEE

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In collaboration with Maxine Payne and contributor Phillip March Jones, Alabama Chanin has invited a number of artists, writers, musicians, chefs, and creatives to offer up their own interpretation of the Massengill photographs in a series of posts for our Journal.  The posts give voice to the images of the sometimes anonymous figures that appear in the photographs. On the heels of John T. Edge’s essay, “My Life in Mobile Homes”, and Blair Hobbs’ poems, “Train-Track Hopscotch” and “Sweetheart”, musician Ben Sollee was inspired to compose a song in response to the “Three for a Dime” photographs.

From Ben:

We all have our chosen mentors: people who we look up to that influence us, for better or worse. They are cool-handed and know how to order drinks. From them, we learn things that are often too uncomfortable to learn from our parents. This song is dedicated to the language they speak.

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MADE IN THE SOUTH AWARDS

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Garden & Gun magazine, in partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design, has launched their fifth annual Made in the South Awards.

The awards are split into five categories: Food, Drink, Style + Design, Outdoors, and Home.

Entries for Southern-made products are being accepted through August 1, 2014.

Natalie will be judging the Style + Design category. Stay tuned for more information soon… (and good luck).