The Swatch of the Month for September continues August’s emphasis on texture as it relates to an overall design perspective. Couching has a sculptural quality and it places significant focus on the stencil or design motif it highlights. This stencil, Anna’s Garden, works well with the couching technique, as it has lots of curved shapes and forms.
Traditional couching is a very old embroidery technique in which yarn is laid across a surface fabric and sewn into place (usually with a satin stitch). While we have used cotton yarn in some of our couching designs, we most often substitute our cotton jersey, cut into strips and pulled to make a smaller version of our cotton jersey pulls. These are more substantial and look beautiful on coats, dresses, pillows – and many other pieces.
Couching is simple in concept, but more difficult in execution. It is difficult, if not impossible, to pin the yarn or rope to the base fabric before stitching it down, so you must use your fingers to turn and shape it into place.
James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur Anne Quatrano is enthusiastic about food and community—passions I admire and write about often here on our Journal. Around her home-base of Atlanta, Georgia, she is referred to “Queen Anne” and is the city’s “undisputed Grande dame” of the farm-to-table movement according to The Local Palate. It makes sense; Anne owns and operates six of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants, including: Bacchanalia, Quinones at Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Provisions To Go, Floataway Café, and Abbattoir.
Anne was raised in Connecticut and attended culinary school in California, where she met her husband and business partner, Clifford Harrison. After school, they relocated to the East Coast, but decided to journey to the South in the early 1990s. Anne had family from Georgia, and Atlanta seemed like the perfect Southern city to make their home-base, as it was becoming a cultural and culinary hub at the time. Although they work in Atlanta, they live on Summerland Farm near Cartersville, Georgia, a property that has been owned by Quatrano’s family for five generations. Anne makes the 80-mile roundtrip to commute to Atlanta every day, because she “can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Summerland is where she and Clifford grow and source food, host gatherings, and delve into true Southern hospitality.
Much to our delight, Anne has released a book of recipes celebrating the South, sustainable food, and life on the farm. Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating Southern Hospitality focuses on eating seasonally, and each chapter is associated with a specific month, kicking off with September—perfect timing. I’m looking forward to trying her October cocktail, the Mint Julep. Anne notes that “many people think of the mint julep as a spring or summer drink, associated in particular with the Kentucky Derby. But the brightness of the mint with the warmth of the bourbon is just as appropriate for the fall.”
Passion. It takes passion to make a difference. When you truly want something, you find a way to make it happen, naysayers be damned. In the moments when it seems your project is doomed for failure, you carry on. You learn to ask for help and to count your blessings. Our organic Alabama cotton is a story of passion.
Our company is built on the concepts of sustainability, ethical production, and using American-made and local resources. Organic materials are an integral part of our mission and our goals. Though sourcing organic materials is easier than when we began working over a decade ago, it is still difficult to obtain American-made organic materials in the quantity that we require.
We have a lot to look forward to this fall at Alabama Chanin. Newsletter #20 announces our upcoming Denim collection, launching on September 9th. It will feature permanent and one-of-a-kind indigo dyed items. On October 10th, we invite Nick Pihakis and Drew Robinson of Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Que to The Factory; the café will also feature a monthly menu with recipes from Jim ‘N Nick’s. Visit our Careers page for job opportunities and check our our new calendar of events.
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xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
One Saturday morning in the mid-1930s, Mancey Massengill, a wife and mother of two, saw people having their pictures made in a dime store photo booth in Batesville, Arkansas. According to her son Lance, “she watched close, and got the name off the camera, then wrote to the company and ordered the lens. She got the money for that by taking about two dozen pullets in for sale.” Her husband, Jim, built a box to house the lens and outfitted a trailer to create a mobile photo studio. On weekends, they would set up in little towns across the state and make pictures, three for a dime.
Jim and Mancey Massengill started this family side-business to make ends meet. The country was in the throes of depression and on the verge of entering the Second World War. Work was scarce in rural Arkansas, but the Massengills understood that even in rough times, life continues. Babies are born, children play, couples meet, and we all grow older. Someone needed to be there to capture those moments and that person could perhaps make a living doing it.
A few years later, the Massengill’s sons, Lance and Lawrence, and their wives, Evelyn and Thelma, worked their way into the business. They outfitted their own trailers and made their own pictures, traveling across the state in search of clients. The surviving family diaries and notes from this period attest to a very strong and entrepreneurial work ethic, with little mention of aesthetics or technique. The men and women of both generations describe where they went, what they did, and how much they made with only fleeting mention of life’s details. With few exceptions, the stories are left to be told by the pictures they made.
We are saying good-bye to summer and gearing up for a busy fall season.
Look for a new collection, new DIY collection, more workshops,
another Friends of the Café dinner, and added events at The Factory.
Celebrate the last breath of summer with our August’s End Sale.
Save 20% online and in-store
Midnight, Thursday, August 29th – midnight, Monday, September 1st
Enter code AUGUST2014 at online checkout
Or visit us at Alabama Chanin @ The Factory
462 Lane Drive
Florence, AL 35630
Friday* from 9:00 – 5:00
(*Please note The Factory Store and Café will be closed
on Monday, September 1st to observe Labor Day.)
*Discount excludes all workshops, collaborations, books + music, Swatch of the Month, Starter Sewing Kit, and Heath Ceramics dinnerware.
One of the great joys of my job is the fact that we sometimes get to review books for other authors. Sometimes we order the books from a catalog of new titles and sometimes, the books just arrive like magic in the mail. This was the case last year, when we received a book called Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford. The coloring book—intended for children and adults—was published by Lawrence King and immediately found its way to my pile of books I love. On the inside cover is a quote that reads, “Tumble down the rabbit hole & find yourself in my inky wonderland…” And that is exactly how I felt after browsing just a few pages. Although we have played with permanent markers for years in writing on quilts and garments, looking at page after page of beautiful detailed illustrations, I was overwhelmed by inspiration.
Through some experimentation, we found out that black and white photocopies will transfer onto white and/or natural colored fabric with a hot iron. This made it possible for us to transfer the pattern one-to-one from this or any coloring book, stencil, or black and white design. There are arrays of fabric coloring tools available at local craft stores and more arrive on the market each year. We found that the pastel dye sticks and fabric markers (designed for children) work very well.
A few months ago, I spent a couple of days with friends at Gray Bear Lodge in Hohenwald, Tennessee. While there—in addition to the yoga sessions, sauna time, tub soaks, and hikes—I was treated to a (mini) juice cleanse for a few days. And though I recommend consulting your doctor before embarking on your own juice cleanses, I must say that I walked away from the experience feeling healthy and refreshed.
I returned from my trip, bought a juicer the next day, and it has changed my life. Diann from Gray Bear walked me through the juicing regimen which always seemed a bit complicated and demanding for me. She taught me to: simplify, use ingredients that I like, experiment with combinations, and taste as I go to come up with an array of variations. “Plus,” she says, “once you have the raw ingredients on hand (and the juicer out and running) make enough for a few days.” While that might not be as good as juicing and drinking right away, this is real life, right?
After a few weeks, I also discovered that these fresh fruit and vegetable juices also lend themselves to delicious cocktails. (However, it should be noted that fresh juice cocktails don’t maintain all of the health benefits of fresh juice alone.) During Vivian Howard’s recent dinner at The Factory, we used my juicer to create the Cucumber Ginger Limeade cocktail that opened the evening. Since the dinner, there have been several requests for the recipe. Break out your juicer (but juice—and drink—responsibly).
I have known many storytellers in my life. Some have a natural and unrehearsed style that feels captivating and immediate; some present new or unfamiliar points of view; others are quite deliberate and thoughtful in approach; all of them are enthralling to me. As a storyteller born into a family of storytellers, I find master storyteller Gael Towey both compelling and inspiring. She has a distinct perspective and is skilled at many things: crafting a storyline, discovering and highlighting the unique qualities of her subjects, eliciting a response from the audience, and designing beautiful visual elements. Her work has informed contemporary visual language in a way we can barely imagine.
I was lucky to be among Gael’s subjects as part of her series of short films about artists called “Portraits in Creativity” www.portraitsincreativity.com (and I especially love her piece on friend and heroine Maira Kalman). Each of her portraits uncover the unique qualities of her subjects and reveal Towey’s fascination with the creative process. For over two years, we have been speaking with Gael about her past, her present, and the creative processes, media, and methods she uses to propel her ideas forward.
Gael was raised in New Jersey and was the oldest of six children. She revealed that, as a child, she was mildly dyslexic and almost flunked the second and third grade because she couldn’t spell; she reversed all her consonants and vowel combinations. She was drawn to art and studied it enthusiastically through college. “I loved printmaking and accidentally signed up for a class in typography, and I fell in love with it from the first lecture,” Towey says. “I’d never looked at the design of a letter and had not noticed how beautiful they are.” She switched her major to graphic design and graduated from Boston University, College of Fine Arts. Gael said, “I was extraordinarily lucky. I have met so many young people who don’t know what they want to do, but I always knew. I struggled academically and art was the only thing I was good at… And it’s funny that I wound up working in the publishing business since I had no confidence in my ability to write properly.”
Gael worked on the book, In the Russian Style, with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.