OVERDRESSED

OVERDRESSED

Last month we wrote about Slow Design, specifically in contrast to Fast Fashion, as the death toll from a collapsed garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh rose by the hour, reaching 1,127. During the three weeks the tragedy made headlines, NPR’s “Fresh Air” broadcast an interview with Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, where Cline and Terry Gross discussed Overdressed and how the Dhaka tragedy has affected global consciousness of the Fast Fashion issue. The interview ushered us to (finally) read Cline’s book, and we’re glad we did.

Overdressed is often compared to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma for its social influence, and is a book we feel is a necessary read for anyone wanting to better understand the negative impact Fast Fashion has on our environment, our humanity, and our personal carbon footprint.

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LOUISA AND THE BEAR

LOUISA AND THE BEAR

Louisa Murray is the face of one of our favorite local bands, The Bear. She shares the stage with her husband, Nathan Pitts, each of them writing and performing their own respective songs, and the two are backed by a talented band. Their newest album, Overseas Then Under was produced by local indie label, Single Lock Records, co-founded by Ben Tanner, who plays keyboards for The Bear, as well as for Alabama Shakes.

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DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

It is generally understood that taking a shower uses less water than taking a bath. Even so, I must admit to enjoying a good soak occasionally. Either way, my bathing routine can be one of my favorite parts of the day (at least on days when I have time for more than a cat bath). Sometimes, I’ll bring my iPod and speakers into the bathroom to supply a soundtrack for my rituals of teeth brushing, face washing, and a nice scrub. Other days, my mind is busy and I get right down to business solving the world’s problems (I wish) or thinking of the perfect thing that I should have said in a conversation, after the fact. But, most of the time, it provides me with a quiet moment to myself. I recently stayed at a hotel that had the most luxurious vanity table with mirrors that showed way too much, a comfortable chair, and all the things you need to “get ready.” I swore that I was going to create this at home and, as I write this, am plotting an update.

I live in a 1950’s era home with tile floors that seem to stay cold in winter and summer, so a good bath mat is essential to this feeling of luxury. I admit to letting past bath mats get threadbare and unattractive. Many-a-time I’ve just tossed down an old towel when I couldn’t find the bath mat (or it is covered in what was left of the dog’s bath). Neither is an ideal substitute for the real thing.

Last summer, I built an outdoor shower (which definitely works better for dog baths) and I have to say, a bath mat is equally important outdoors and indoors. Below are instructions on how to make your own Alabama Chanin bath mat from our cotton jersey fabric. It’s super soft, easy to wash, absorbent, and will protect you from cold tiles or rough wood—plus, what a great way to use scraps. I’m thinking of a larger one so that the dog might even have his own.

DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

And now that the weather has warmed and the sun is out, I can use my much loved outdoor shower. The new deck is a source of great happiness for me, and the shower is something of a dream come true.

SUPPLIES

Aluminum Crochet Hook. (We used Boye Size K/2-6.50MM)
Approximately 2 yards of 100% organic cotton jersey fabric
Olfa rotary cutter
Olfa cutting mat
18” transparent ruler

 

To begin, you will need approximately 2 yards of our cotton jersey fabric. Use your rotary cutter and cutting supplies to cut strips of fabric about 1/2” wide. Take the ends of these strips and pull the ends tightly. Once you have about 240 yards of pulls, tie them end to end to make one long piece. We used a square knot (right over left, then left over right) to join the ends of each pull together.

These pulls were made specifically for this project and are not as thick as our cotton jersey pulls, which are cut into approximately 1″ to 1 1/2″ strips. If you choose to experiment by using our cotton jersey pulls, keep in mind your bath mat will be thicker and require fewer pulls.

To start, chain 55 (or until you reach 22 inches), then turn and double-crochet in the 3rd stitch from the end.

For row 1, double-crochet in each stitch until the end. Turn

For row 2, chain 2 and then double-crochet in each stitch until the end; turn.

Repeat approximately 27 times, or until your piece is 16” tall.

We chose to leave the tails of the ties exposed, both for the look and the texture of the finished bath mat. Feel free to tuck them in if you prefer a cleaner look. Our bath mat measures 22” x 16”, but you can tailor your own to fit the size of your bathroom. You will simply need to adjust the length of your cotton jersey pulls to meet your needs.

DIY ORGANIC COTTON BATH MAT

Use your bath mat inside, or out. Repeated washings and use will just make the mat softer…

 

 

ALABAMA SOUR COCKTAIL

ALABAMA SOUR COCKTAIL

A couple months ago, we launched a line of cocktail napkins made with our 100% organic cotton jersey and printed with the Alabama Chanin logo. We also shared a new favorite cocktail: our version of a Maiden’s Blush. Friend Brooks Reitz of the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. sent us some of his small batch grenadine, which set off a quiet frenzy of cocktail experiments and creations around the studio. We work hard, and we like our rewards.

Our latest grenadine-inspired libation is the Alabama Sour (with a Sunrise flare). It’s a twist on the classic New York Sour Bon Appetít shared in April 2013. The classic recipe calls for an ounce of red wine floated atop the whiskey sour. We opted for Brooks’ sweet, yet tart, pomegranate-based grenadine instead of wine. Grenadine is denser than whiskey, causing it to settle on the bottom of the glass, hence the vibrant red, sunrise effect. Over ice, it’s a perfect early-summer evening quaff. We love it.

ALABAMA SOUR COCKTAIL

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193 SOUND

193 SOUND

We’ve written about our friend Phillip March Jones on our journal before – we carry his newest publication, Points of Departure, in our online store. Institute 193 in Lexington, Kentucky, is his gallery, a music venue, and multi-faceted publisher, which recently released a compilation of recordings from artists who have performed in the space. Phillip joins us as a contributor to the journal, with an introduction to 193 SOUND.

Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing. 193 SOUND is a collection of musical sounds: continuous, regular, and in this case, site-specific vibrations that tell the story of our small space, Institute 193, in Lexington, Kentucky. This compilation records the artists, performers, musicians, and general sound-makers who have emitted, transmitted, and radiated their own SOUNDS from within our walls and that now travel into your range of hearing.

Institute 193, a project I began in October 2009, is a non-profit contemporary art space and publisher that collaborates with artists, musicians, and writers to document the cultural production of the modern South. We produce exhibitions, books, and records with the goal of unearthing significant ideas from the region and sharing them with the world. Institute 193 engages and directs, steering and shaping projects into reality without sanitizing the vision of the artist.

193 SOUND - Photo by Tom Eblen

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GERTRUDE STEIN + TENDER BUTTONS

TENDER BUTTONS

“A Carafe, that is a blind glass. 

A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a simple hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.”

This is how Gertrude Stein begins her Cubist experiment in verse. Tender Buttons, Objects has been called a masterpiece, a failure, confusing, nonsense, and a beautiful collage. It has been supposed a practical joke, too obscure to have real meaning, or too meaningful to describe (the last presumably said by an unenthusiastic poetry student).

TENDER BUTTONS

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DIY MACHINE MANUFACTURING (IN ALABAMA)

DIY MANUFACTURING IN ALABAMA

We have written before about the rich manufacturing and textile history present in our community. The Shoals area and surrounding communities were working fabric and textile materials beginning in the late 1800’s. Those earlier years were often unkind to the mill workers and their families who worked long hours, lived in factory-owned apartments, and shopped in factory-owned stores. But, as the Industrial Revolution gave way to reform, textile manufacturing stayed in our community and flourished. Eventually, it was something that we in The Shoals were known for, as we were often called the “T-Shirt Capital of the World.”

Terry Wylie’s family founded Tee Jay’s Manufacturing Co. here in Florence in 1976, and in doing so became the foundation for a local industry. Whole families were known to work together, producing t-shirts and cotton products. Typical of our community, the company and the employees were loyal to one another. It was common for an employee to stay at Tee Jays for decades. Our Production Manager, Steven, worked for the Wylie family for years – for a time, working in the same building where Alabama Chanin is currently housed. It was this way until the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Tee Jays and other local manufacturers eventually shuttered all domestic manufacturing. It was an undeniably tough hit for a community that had “worked” cotton for most of its existence. Some of those who hand stitch for us once worked in mills and lost their jobs when plants here in Alabama closed and moved to cheaper locations. This move left our building, once a thriving manufacturing center, an empty shell, as you can see from the picture above. Machines like the ones below were moved elsewhere, and the resounding hum of our once busy manufacturing community was silenced.

DIY MANUFACTURING IN ALABAMA

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INDIGO FLAG QUILT

INDIGO FLAG QUILT - photograph by Robert Rausch

I am a child of the 1960s…no way around it. And, while denim has been around since 1860’s-era France, the decades of the 60’s and 70’s jump to my mind when I think of this fabric. That era also makes me think of all the controversy around the American Flag and its use as a symbol on both sides of divisive matters like segregation, the Vietnam War, and other social issues. Images of Abbie Hoffman, clad in his American Flag button-up shirt, alongside flags made entirely of cut-up old blue jeans come to mind. Like I said, a child of the 60’s.

We recently received a comment, referring us to the United States Flag Code, suggesting that our American Flag Quilt doesn’t adhere strictly to the advisory rules. I want it to be clear that I love my home and our flag—that symbol of home. The Alabama Chanin representation of the American flag is made by stitching together disparate pieces to create a beautiful, larger whole. We take care with every small scrap of fabric, embroidering each stenciled piece so that when inspected up close, you can see the detail involved; each small piece painted with a different stencil; stitched using a different technique; each technique modified to highlight the possible variations; all somehow fitting together…much like our country.

INDIGO FLAG QUILT - photograph by Robert Rausch

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SOUTHERN CHEFS/SOUTHERN LIVING

SOUTHERN CHEFS/SOUTHERN LIVING

I’ve been a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance for years. I plan to be at the 16th Annual Symposium this coming October, if I can get a ticket soon enough (last year’s event sold out in minutes). The Symposium (as it’s loosely called) is wonderful simply in the fact that you spend the series of days learning, dining, and drinking among such an amazing group of individuals working to preserve the South’s culture and history through food. Last year, Alabama Chanin designed BBQ-inspired dresses for the 15th annual Symposium. This year, we have new plans in the works.  As I’ve written over and over again, what I love most about the SFA is their commitment to documentation and preservation of the present, the who’s who, if you will, in Southern kitchens (across the nation) today.

In the February 2013 issue of Southern Living, an article featured a handful of chefs from Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and of course, Alabama, who are preserving southern cuisine in new and reimagined ways that reflect the changing landscape and demographics of the contemporary South.

SOUTHERN CHEFS/SOUTHERN LIVING

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NATURALLY COLORED COTTON AND SALLY FOX

NATURAL COTTON COLORS SALLY FOX

Here is a bit of information that may surprise you: not all cotton is white cotton. If you are like me, you may not have always known that natural cotton comes in plenty of hues. In fact, there were originally shades of cotton that ranged from many tones of brown, to dark green, to brown, black, red, and blue. These varieties of cotton were widely used by Native American peoples and, occasionally, slaves were allowed to grow small plots of colored cotton because plantation owners considered it worthless. Colored cotton became obscure because farmers and manufacturers believed it too difficult to work with due to its short staple length, which makes the cotton problematic to spin. As a result, the varieties of colored cotton have dwindled. The Central Institute for Cotton Research in India has cultivated 6,000 varieties of cotton, only 40 of which are colored.

The white cotton we primarily see now was created by planting mono-crop, or only one variety of cotton. This type of cotton requires more pesticides than other varieties and the dyeing of this cotton is a massive cause of land and water pollution (not to mention its human impact). According to the ECO360 Trust, nearly 20% of all industrial water pollution results from textile dyeing and production methods. They have discovered at least 72 toxic chemicals that are present in our water system purely due to textile dyeing.

NATURAL COTTON COLORS SALLY FOX

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