A CAKE FOR GEORGIA GILMORE

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Today, in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. week, we turn the spotlight to one of the unsung heroes (or heroines, rather) of the Civil Rights Movement: Georgia Gilmore.

Georgia (whom we have written about before) lived and worked in Montgomery, Alabama, and was a true servant to the cause of the movement. Georgia was a big lady with a big personality—frankly put, she didn’t take any bull from anybody. She worked as a midwife, as well as a cook at the National Lunch Company. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to leave her seat on a bus in December of 1955, a group of black ministers and community leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)—and initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the Association often held secret meetings around the city. As soon as Georgia heard of Rosa Parks’ arrest on the radio, she joined the MIA, determined to aid the effort in any way she could.

Outspoken and feisty, Georgia let her disapproval of the discriminatory bus drivers be known—an action that got her fired from her job at the cafeteria. When that happened, Dr. King and other leaders helped her set up a restaurant in her home kitchen. Georgia was well-known around town for her fried chicken, pork chops, and stuffed bell peppers and often served these and other dishes to Dr. King and fellow supporters of the boycott. She even hosted secret MIA meetings there in her kitchen.

Georgia’s love (and talent) for cooking and her passion for equality and change led her to start a club with a few of her friends, named “The Club from Nowhere.” The ladies in the club, most of them maids and cooks, sold homemade pies and cakes (and even Georgia’s chicken dinners) to supporters of the movement in order to raise money for the boycott. The Club from Nowhere often set up shop in beauty parlors, Laundromats, and on street corners in downtown Montgomery. Both black and white supporters of the boycott were able to contribute anonymously. The Club from Nowhere used the money they collected to buy gas and station wagons, which were used to transport people to and from work during the boycott. Georgia always said that the money came “from nowhere.”

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THE HISTORY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY

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It was over 50 years ago when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the march on Washington D.C. It was a moment that changed America, and the world. But, the line was almost excluded from the speech. One of King’s aides encouraged him not to use the line, stating it was cliché and that he had used it too many times already. After receiving several conflicting suggestions the night before the march, King put the final touches on the speech in solitude in his hotel room.

There was an array of speakers at the march that day, and he was sixteenth in line. The podium was crowded with microphones and speakers, and when he approached the platform he heard a voice from behind shout “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin.” It was gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who had heard King refer to his dream on a previous occasion. She prompted him again. King then launched into his speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, looking over the National Mall. He delivered his message more like a sermon, laying his prepared notes to the side, letting spontaneity and emotion preside. The utopian-like speech was not just about what was going on in the world that day in time, it was about what was going on in the world every day. We have come a long way as a nation, but we still have a long way to go. In fact, there were decades of struggle and complications involved to get the observance Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday passed into federal law.

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY

photo courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

This week on the Journal we are dedicating a series of posts to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his philosophy, and legacy. Today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, is the only federal holiday also recognized as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” So, throughout your day, in the spirit of King’s Beloved Community, take time to recognize the needs of those around you. Even the smallest gesture can make a big impact. We are encouraging our staff to leave a little early this afternoon to complete a service project of their choice that gives back to our community.

As Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’

*You can learn more about Dr. King and his philosophy and teachings at The King Center’s website.

Photo of the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

ROSANNE CASH AND THE SOUTHERN CONNECTION: A PLAYLIST

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Musician, author, and dear friend Rosanne Cash was born in Tennessee to a family soon to become Southern music royalty, but has lived for over 20 years in New York City. Still, her Southern heritage played and continues to play a role in shaping who she is as an artist, a traveler, and a citizen of the world. She deeply explores her relationship with the South and with Southern culture in her newest album, The River and the Thread. Listening to these songs, you hear a songwriter investigating how where she came from helped shape who she is today. The tracks are heartfelt, touching, and, by turns, rocking.

A sweet friend to Alabama Chanin, Rosanne curated a playlist for us that includes some of her favorite songs from and about the South. These songs capture the sometimes-elusive nature of our homeland and the people we call family. I’ve been cooking and dancing (and, yes, singing) to these tracks for a week…

Come sing along.
xoNatalie

Photo of Rosanne courtesy of Clay Patrick McBride.

FIRST MONDAYS

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In the tradition of old-time quilting and sewing circles, join us at The Factory the first Monday of each month to sew and socialize. Spend the morning working on your latest project in the company of fellow sewers, while sharing inspiration, encouragement, fellowship, and maybe even a bit of light-hearted gossip. (It is speculated that the phrase “chew the rag” originated from the gossiping that took place while ladies worked together in a sewing circle.)

Coffee, tea, and light breakfast will be available for purchase from The Factory Café. Please bring your own fabric and sewing notions. If you would like to purchase supplies from our Studio Style DIY area, a special 10% in-store discount will be offered to participants during First Mondays.

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2014 STENCIL OF THE YEAR: CHECK

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When Alabama Chanin was founded, part of our initial mission was to create modern garments using age-old techniques, like hand sewing and quilting. Though we have continually grown, we still believe in celebrating the “living arts” and community-building traditions like quilting circles. As Alabama Chanin has expanded, our goals have also matured and expanded and we are happily developing our scope and physical size – though we continue to embrace that first set of ideals.

The past year has seen a growth and expansion that I could never have imagined those many years ago. We opened a flagship store and café in our Factory home and we are preparing to launch our machine-made line, A. Chanin. When I was beginning my efforts to produce those first t-shirts, I was told repeatedly that it was not possible to produce responsibly sourced, machine-made garments in the United States. Time after time, I heard that this kind of item would never make a profit. And, yet, we persevered.

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UPCOMING WORKSHOPS + EVENTS

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First Mondays @ The Factory

Join us the first Monday of every month in our new expanded studio space. Spend your morning working on your latest project in the company of fellow sewers. Share inspiration, encouragement, and coffee from The Factory Café.

February 3, 2014, 8:30 am – 11:30 am
March 3, 2014, 8:30 am – 11:30 am
April 7, 2014, 8:30 am – 11:30 am
May 5, 2014, 8:30 am – 11:30 am

Find more information about participating in First Mondays here.

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SUN YOUNG PARK (+ ILLUSTRATIONS FOR A BOOK)

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Sun Young Park, a freelance illustrator living in New York, is an integral part of the Alabama Chanin team. If you own Alabama Studio Sewing + Design or have ever browsed our Studio Style DIY Custom DIY Guide, then you’ve seen the beautiful sketches of our garments, illustrated by Sun. I met Sun several years ago by accident through a mutual friend, which resulted in an impromptu breakfast at The Breslin, April Bloomfield’s restaurant at the ACE Hotel in New York City. I was immediately taken by her enthusiasm and had been looking for a new illustrator for my books. Our chance meeting was good fortune.

Sun creates illustrations for a variety of projects, including April Bloomfield’s new book, A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, and Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing. We love Sun’s illustrations, doodles, and drawings and recently were able to chat with her about her beginnings in illustration, inspirations, artistic process, and desire to create.

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PINTEREST INSPIRATION

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Over the past few years, social media has become an integral part of many businesses, including Alabama Chanin. It is a way for us to share our ideas, designs, and inspirations with you. Pinterest is a great platform for inspiration and collaboration. Thousands of images are shared daily on the site, creating a beautiful and useful medium for those looking for inspiration.

Recently, we discovered hundreds of Alabama Chanin-inspired Pinterest boards, curated by you – our followers, fans, and friends. Browsing your boards was like taking a journey through the history of this company. From past collections, to Studio Style DIY, and even creations of your own design, you have created something that is encouraging to all of us here at the Alabama Chanin studio. Knowing that we can serve as a source of inspiration for you to create, dream, design, and learn motivates us to continue sending inspiration your way.

Be on the lookout for a new Collection, recipes from The Factory Café, the machine-sewn line A. Chanin, new DIY projects, special in-store offers, and a new Bridal Collection to be shared on our Pinterest boards soon.

*Stay connected (and inspired) by following us on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

ROSANNE CASH: THE RIVER AND THE THREAD

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Alabama Chanin friend and inspiration, Rosanne Cash, has lived in New York for over 20 years, but her link to the South remains deep and undeniable. Her mother, Vivian Liberto, was born in Texas and her father, Johnny Cash, was an Arkansas native. Rosanne was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised for much of her life in California. As a young woman, she also spent time living in Los Angeles, Nashville, London, among other stops on the road. Though she did not grow up in the South, her connection to the region is profound, largely because of what the South meant to her family and how that shaped her growth. It is this connection to the South and the region’s physical, musical, and emotional landscape that she explores in her newest record, The River and the Thread.

Rosanne found herself traveling southward frequently when Arkansas State University began restoring her father’s childhood home in Dyess, Arkansas. Knowing how much her father would have loved the project, Rosanne agreed to participate – which initiated a series of visits. As she traveled, she began to reconnect with the Southern sense of place, so essential to her family identity. She, along with husband and longtime collaborator, John Leventhal, began to shape and create an entire series of songs, all about the South. Rosanne said, “I started going back to where I was born and these songs started arriving in me. My heart got expanded to the South, to the people I had known, to the people I met… We started finding these stories, these great stories, and melodies that went with these experiences.”

THE RIVER AND THE THREAD - ROSANNE CASH

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