SKIRT STEAK

SKIRT STEAK

Perhaps we too often think of women in the kitchen as just that: women (moms, wives) in the home kitchen, baking cookies and making dinner for their families. Whether this is because the “Chef” title has been dominated for so many years by men, or if it’s because we – those of us in the dining room, far away from the heat and toil of the galley – simply don’t think about how many, if any, women are actually preparing our meal, is up for debate (though it’s probably a little of both). Thank you to Charlotte Druckman for bridging an important industry conversation to us laymen and laywomen. There are not enough women in professional kitchens. Druckman’s cerebral, meticulously researched work, Skirt Steak highlights some of the problems and how (some) of this is changing today.

Women are the minority in most professional kitchens, often the only female on a crew of many. Professional cooking is a difficult, physical job with long hours, weekends and holidays dedicated to work in a very hot environment. It’s more than a job. It’s a lifestyle. As in many professions, women have to make choices between work and family. Societal demands and family responsibilities sometimes curtail how a woman can CHOOSE to do her job. Additionally, women are often subject to sexual harassment, intimidation, and unfair standards—and at times these situations go unobserved and unchecked in the late night environment that surrounds this industry.

SKIRT-STEAK-SPREADW

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ALABAMA CHANIN BASICS

ALABAMA CHANIN BASICS

We recently started a conversation on Real Women and fashion with Sara’s post “Too Fat For Fashion,” and your response has been lively, evocative and challenging. As we prepared to launch an extended ready-to-wear Basics section on our Alabama Chanin website, we found ourselves thinking more carefully about how our pieces fit different shapes, how they can be adjusted and streamlined for individual figures, and how many of our pieces flatter many body types.

Start with the material. By using 100% organic cotton jersey, we have given our collection a head start on both comfort and individualized fit. Jersey, by nature, has a generous stretch, but also memory. One member on our Alabama Chanin team loves the Alabama Corset because when she hangs it up after wearing she can still see the silhouette of her body in the fabric. It makes her feel as though the top was made especially for her.

ALABAMA CHANIN BASICS - HALTER TOP

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DIY MANUFACTURING

DIY MANUFACTURING

As a small business with an artisan-based production system, we are aware that Alabama Chanin is unique in the way that we create our products. We would not exist without the skill and hard work of our artisans. Our cottage industry-style method of production is a subject of interest at many trunk shows, workshops, and forums. We are proud of what we have accomplished as a company and proud that we have been able to keep our manufacturing local. We are also excited to see a trend emerging among other small companies: DIY Manufacturing.

We recently learned about the work of Amor Muñoz in a New York Times article. Muñoz creates a specialized form of electronic textile and seeks her workforce by pedaling down the streets of Mexico City shouting through a megaphone. She has created a “maquiladora,” or factory that pays workers roughly the same as American minimum wage – well over the average rate of pay in Mexico. “It’s about community,” Ms. Muñoz said. “I’m interested in sharing the experience of art.” She wants to create art, but she wants to improve the rate of compensation for workers. This strategy runs counteractive to government agents’ strategy of keeping wages low to make Mexico competitive with China when manufacturing contracts are being signed.

AMOR MUNOZ - IMAGE FROM THE NY TIMES Continue reading

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CHANGE THE PEN AND CHANGE THE INK

CHANGE THE PEN AND CHANGE THE INK

CHANGE THE PEN AND CHANGE THE INK

MAP AS GIFT (3)

“Change the pen and change the ink. Change the way you talk and think.” – #37 of 50:  a love letter to change came in the mail from our friend, builder, and artist A.J. Mason.

P.S.: The quote is part of a lyric from “Changing World” from the New Multitudes recordings by Jay Farrar and Jim James in celebration of Woody Guthrie’s100th birthday.

 

DIY COUCHING CORD

ANNA'S GARDEN + COUCHING WITH COTTON JERSEY PULLSCouching is another age-old technique that we employ over, and over again as a design practice at Alabama Chanin.

When embellishing, we often use cotton jersey pulls as appliqué to give weight and a sculptural quality to our crafted garments and home goods.

From page 110 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:

“At Alabama Chanin, we use the term couching to describe a form of appliqué in which cotton jersey ropes are appliquéd to a base fabric with a parallel whipstitch, following a design stenciled on the fabric.”

As one of our advanced techniques, couching requires a steady hand and thoughtful eye to hold the fabric into position as you sew. ANNA'S GARDEN + COUCHING CORD Continue reading

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SISTER SCHUBERT AND THE YEAST ROLL

SISTER SCHUBERT AND THE YEAST ROLL

Yeast Rolls can be such a source of Southern pride that even the best cooks shy away from these elusive delicacies.  My grandmother made the best yeast rolls in the county, maybe this entire country. Although, I suspect that half of Lauderdale County would say that their grandmother made the best. (Perhaps you feel the same). The truth is that there are just about as many recipes as there are grandmothers.

A Google search reveals recipes with shortening, recipes with lard, and recipes with butter.  This alone can bring chefs to heated debate over glasses of wine and/or cocktails.  I once asked John Currence, “Butter or lard?” He answered, “For what?” Some believe “half-and-half” works best (and I’m not talking about cream).

Boil the milk, add eggs, don’t use eggs, Carnation Milk makes an appearance in one recipe I have… one thing they all say is “serve hot.” (My grandmother served often.)

Last week, I had the pleasure of eating yeast rolls from the queen herself, Sister Schubert. One of our great local schools, Riverhill, hosted a luncheon with Sister and one of our great local chefs, Betty Sims.

SISTER SCHUBERT AND THE YEAST ROLL
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LIGHTWEIGHT COLOR CARD

LIGHTWEIGHT COLOR CARD

Now, you can keep all 25 of our 100% organic lightweight cotton jersey colors at your fingertips with our Lightweight Organic Cotton Color Card.

Whether you’re selecting colors for a new Alabama Chanin garment or making plans for your next DIY Kit, add our newest color card to your collection for easy reference when making design choices.

For a complete set of Alabama Chanin Color Cards, try our Color Card Sampler – ideal for mixing-and-matching fabric, thread, beads, and other sewing notions.

Learn more about our lightweight cotton jersey here.

 

FROM SARA: BILL CUNNINGHAM (POST FASHION WEEK)

BILL CUNNINGHAM - SCENE FROM THE MOVIE "BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK"I don’t want to overstate the obvious, but most of you would know that I am neither a New Yorker nor a fashion expert. While I enjoy style and design and I’m somewhat awed by the city, it’s clear to any observer that I’m native to neither. But, there’s something about Bill Cunningham that makes me feel comfortable with both. He lives and roams in the intimidating worlds of fashion and Manhattan, but manages to do so in an unpretentious way.

This weekend I re-watched the feature-length documentary Bill Cunningham New York, which profiles this prolific photographer and wise fashion observer and, once again, this eighty-something gentleman captured all my heart. Sometimes, as a fashion outsider, I imagine that NY style begins and ends on the runway. Bill Cunningham is a firm believer that this notion is not true. “The best fashion show is definitely on the street – always has been, always will be,” he assures us. His “On the Street,” column in the New York Times is a collage of on-trend people, items, movements, and real-time style progressions. In the film, Harold Koda, Curator of the Costume Institute/Metropolitan Museum of Art, explains that Bill attempts to “tease out trends in terms of the reality of how people dress.” Cunningham himself demurs, “I don’t decide anything. I let the street speak to ME.”

BILL CUNNINGHAM FOR THE NY TIMES

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MADE BY HAND, CLOSE TO THE HEART

MADE BY HEART

Heirlooms aren’t created overnight, and it’s the time that goes into embellishing and constructing an artisanal garment that gives life to its one-of-a-kind beauty. Join me, Natalie Chanin, for my new online Craftsy class, Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and enjoy the process of creating a timeless piece of clothing.

In our first lesson, we’ll look at an assortment of our beautiful hand-embroidered swatches and discuss a vast array of embellishment options for the included Vogue coat pattern. Then, together, we’ll practice a variety of hand sewing techniques to make your coat come together seamlessly. Working with cotton jersey, we’ll cut out, mark, and prepare the pattern pieces for embellishment, using techniques to minimize fabric distortion. Now we are ready to embellish. We’ll create a stencil using the included PDF stencil pattern, and paint designs onto your fabric. After that, I’ll walk you through a multitude of techniques for appliqué and reverse appliqué. We’ll also explore how to sew bugle, chop, seed beads, and sequins onto your garment, and combine beads with embroidery stitches. In our final lessons, we’ll talk through constructing the coat, plus learn finishing details such as adding topstitching, ribbing, and more. Enroll in Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and mix and match hand sewing and embellishment techniques, creating a stylish garment that will be treasured forever.

Though my mother once gave me a gorgeous Elna sewing machine, my initial forays into sewing were consistently shaky. Yet, the memories of my grandmothers sewing and creating had long ago taken root deep within my consciousness; these memories eventually bore fruit when I set out , at eighteen years old, for a life away from home to study fashion and design, live abroad, and gain valuable experience as a stylist and designer. When I eventually returned to the ranch-style house my grandfather built in rural Alabama, it was to start Alabama Chanin, my lifestyle clothing and design brand. Alabama Chanin maintains and celebrates the traditions and materials of my grandparents, creating garments by hand, using sustainable practices, and exclusively featuring hand and small lot-dyed organic cotton and recycled materials from local artisans. I look forward to sharing the unique Alabama Chanin process with you in my new Craftsy class.

CRAFTSY-IN-THE-STUDIOMy class was filmed at the Alabama Chanin studio in Florence, Alabama, but you can join me for these lessons from anywhere in the world. Just like the skills you’ll learn, my class is yours to keep—you can watch it whenever and however many times you like. Plus, the Craftsy classroom lets you pose questions, so that your classmates and I can get back to you with answers. You can also use Craftsy’s video notes to mark and return to important techniques easily, plus you can utilize the thirty-second repeat feature to loop a technique without taking your hands off your sewing. My class has a wealth of information that I know you will enjoy, but if for any reason you aren’t satisfied, you can receive your money back with no questions asked.

Sign up for Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric: Stenciling, Appliqué, Beading, and Embroidery, and learn a collection of enduring sewing techniques for unique garments with invaluable appeal. All supply bundles are discounted on our website, here.

P.S.: Photo of Maggie, Stella, and Natalie by Joe Baran.

 

A DRESS OF HEARTS

A DRESS OF HEARTS

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I live in a house where hearts can be the overriding theme for weeks on end.  I find them tucked under plates, randomly lying on the floor, taped to my bedroom door, and, yes, the most beautiful little heart-shaped lips that kiss my face all-over.  You haven’t truly lived a Valentine’s Day until you live it with a six-year-old-girl.  Forget Hallmark (the modern day creator of Valentine’s Day), the sweetness in-and-around our home makes this hallowed institution look like a 1980’s punk gathering in a dead-end alley.

So, when in Rome… You need a dress to celebrate this favorite of all six-year-old holidays in its crowning glory – hence, A Dress of Hearts.

A DRESS OF HEARTS

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