Recently, the always-inspiring Southern Foodways Alliance symposium, held in Oxford, Mississippi, sponsored a rollicking debate on an intensely dividing subject: Which is better: Pie or Cake? While my love for a good cake has been well documented, some of the arguments for pie, eloquently spoken by Kat Kinsman from CNN’s Eatocracy, spurred me to take another look at the versatile dish. Devoted pie makers everywhere may relate to her statement that, if you are ‘crafting’ a pie crust:
“…it’s most likely because, at some point in your life, someone thought well enough of you to stand beside you at a counter and gift the muscle memory from her hands to yours. Your mother, your aunt, your grandmother, or – heaven forfend – your mother-in-law decided it was time to truly assume you into the sisterhood. She guided your fingers as they worked the flour into the fat, flicked in the water, and kneaded it all to the proper mass.”
The holidays offer a unique opportunity for each of us to spend a little bit of time and energy creating for those we love. If you are a maker, you may innately understand the value of a handmade gift. Creating presents an avenue for you to express your love and admiration in the most personal of ways. Receiving a handmade gift often feels like an honor; you are touched to know that someone cared enough to spend time creating something specifically for you.
We at Alabama Chanin believe that the act of making can move beyond craft, into another space that includes design and fashion – without losing the personal elements of creating something by hand. Our Handmade Holiday collection is one way to embody this philosophy – embracing craft, style, fashion, and tradition. You can choose to make elaborate garments or home décor, or you can opt for a sentimental favorite, like this handmade holiday stocking. Holidays are the centerpieces of so many of our memories. Hand customizing something as traditional as a holiday stocking can elevate something that might otherwise be overlooked to high art.
If you visit our studio here in Alabama, you will arrive to find that we are housed in a sturdy, industrial-style, metal building which we call “The Factory.” Our community was, for generations, home to textile mills that employed an incredible number of area residents. This industrial building where we work and spend hours of our lives has seen thousands of workers pass through the doors over the years; it has heard the hum of machines running and the voices and laughter of employees passing the day away. This building is part of Alabama Chanin’s history, but, more importantly, it is part of our community’s history—a symbol of economic boom, hard times, and community rebuilding.
Mary Adams studied art, not fashion, in college, but eventually chose fabric, specifically, the dress as her medium of choice. Her first storefront in New York City was in the Lower East Side, on the corner of Ludlow and Stanton in the early 1980’s, when that area of the city was cheap and dirty and home to artists, writers, musicians, actors, and designers. In her book, The Party Dress Book, Adams shares a glimpse of New York at that time and how the city and its creative inhabitants influenced her work – the brightly colored, twirling dresses she and her friends would wear to nightclubs and parties. Adams worked in an influential time and place for fashion history and her work continues to resonate. Her stories of inspiration introduce how-to instruction on specific dressmaking and embellishment techniques for designing and constructing the best looking dress at any party, anywhere.
The Party Dress Book inspired us to adapt one of our favorite, featured projects into an Alabama Chanin piece, Mary Adams-style.
As part of our Handmade Holiday 2013 selection, we are offering limited edition Holiday DIY Kits. Look for brand new items, some favorites from the past, and special, holiday picks. Alabama Chanin believes that holiday gifts mean more when they are handmade.
This DIY Onesie + Baby Blanket Kit is a two-item option normally only offered for our One-Day Workshops. The smaller scale of each item means that experienced sewers will quickly have a completed gift, ready for wrapping; beginning sewers can learn, practice embroidery techniques on a smaller canvas, and expectant parents (and/or grandparents) can spend (at least a little) time making for baby.
I met photographer Rinne Allen years ago, through mutual friend Angie Mosier, and have adored her ever since. Her work inspires me over and over again as it is always stunning and captures intimate aspects of life that many overlook.
Over the years, our Journal has developed a growing community of readers. What began as an occasional post about the progress of my garden or a favorite book has become a six-year,1,000 post chronicle of everything from DIY projects and recipes to important conversations on sustainable design and fashion. The Journal is our platform to connect with and learn from our readers. Our always-growing readership allows us to write about an expanding range of topics and explore new people and places; this provides constant inspiration and education for us.
Recently, we added a new option to our mailing list subscription: DAILY JOURNAL. By signing up, you will receive daily Journal posts, sent directly to your inbox. Join our mailing list to receive our Daily Journal, or update your subscription to include it here.
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
In 1939, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein met a 19-year-old girl named Eveline Kalke, whom he nicknamed “Marie,” at a state fair is Wisconsin. The two married in 1943, and settled into their daily lives in Milwaukee where Eugene worked as a baker. Unlike most bakers, Eugene spent his free time composing poems on the subjects of love, nature, reincarnation and time travel. He made fantastical paintings of unknown universes, ceramic vases pieced together from dozens of hand-sculpted leaves, towers and thrones fashioned from chicken bones, concrete masks, and perhaps most importantly, elaborately-staged photographs of his wife and muse, Marie.
Belle Adair. Photo: Ashton Lance
Name: Matthew Green
Band: Belle Adair
Instrument(s) you play: Guitar and bass
Place of Birth/Hometown: Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Presently residing: Tuscumbia, Alabama
Before Alabama Chanin existed in its current form, before the Journal, the Studio Books, the DIY Kits, even the website, we were a very small company. When I began working to create these garments, I was doing the majority of the making myself. That meant buying t-shirts from thrift stores around the community (or anywhere I could find them), washing them, dyeing them, cutting them up, painting them, and sewing them back together again—all of this from my home/makeshift production office. It was thrilling and exhilarating and exhausting and I learned so much about designing (and running a business) by trial and error. Eventually, staff was hired and our production office moved out of my home and into The Factory; however, those early efforts were a daily experiment.
The first men’s t-shirts were a bit different from those we make today. We had no real patterns for the men’s shirts and each shirt was designed, cut, and sewn based entirely on the style of the t-shirt itself. We were in the beginning stages of developing different seams, stretchable stitches, and elaborate embroideries, so the garments were experiments in non-traditional translations of classic sewing techniques and pared down versions of some of the Alabama Chanin garments you might see today.
The “Pig Shirt” in the photo above is one of my very early garments. It is made from a recycled tee, which was hand dyed (in the bathtub) and the pocket removed. The fabric for the reverse appliqué was taken from a different recycled (printed) t-shirt and everything was sewn together with a straight stitch. The aesthetic was meant to be a tribute to traditional stitch work and the colors and the style served to highlight the stitches themselves. This project is a tribute to our roots, a reflection upon where Alabama Chanin grew from and how those early years helped form the company we are today.
When you select a recycled t-shirt for this, or any, project pay close attention to the quality of the cotton. Look for shirts that are soft and smooth to the touch and don’t ball or “pill” easily. Thicker shirts are less prone to tearing or wearing out quickly. Always make sure that you wash any recycled t-shirt before using it. This ensures a clean surface, but also reduces any chance of shrinking. If you are working with red t-shirts, wash them two or three times to prevent the color from bleeding and avoid mixing red with light colors.