When you are raised in a community with a large farming population, the seasons take on a deeper meaning than a simple change in temperature. It is true that for agriculture, to everything there is a season –every vegetable has a growing season, every time of the year has beautiful moments and challenges to overcome. For most families tied to the land – much like the earliest humans – the sky is a clock and a calendar; the sun’s path across the sky, the length of each day, the location of sunrise and sunset – these things are actual signs of things to come and preparations that must be made. So, the upcoming Autumn Equinox will be a time of reflection upon the year’s successes and failures and a moment of celebration of the harvest cycle.
There are two equinoxes each year – one in March and the second in September. Technically, these are the days when the sun shines directly upon the Earth’s equator and the length of the day and the night is roughly equal. The Autumn equinox symbolically marks the beginning of autumn and the end of summer. From this moment, temperatures typically drop and the days begin to get shorter than the evenings. The sun begins its shift toward the south and the birds and butterflies follow it in their migrations. For us, September and October mean that it’s time for broccoli, greens, root vegetables, and apples. It also means that summer crops should have been stored and put up for the coming winter.
Some months back, a bowl of tea towels became a permanent installation on my kitchen table. We use them as napkins for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and just about every moment in between.
I found one in the car yesterday that had served as an impromptu placemat for one of my daughter, Maggie’s fruit pops. I also used them as burp cloths and bibs when she was younger.
Purchase a set here, a DIY kit here, or make some yourself using the simple instructions from Alabama Stitch Book. There are colors and styles to match any kitchen. If you are like me, you will find endless uses for them.
From Alabama Stitch Book:
“Tea towels were originally handmade lined cloths specifically designed for English ladies to use to dry their teapots and cups after washing them. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and textile manufacturing, machine-made versions of these towels became readily available, and consequently they became a more “disposable” item. However, women like my grandmothers still chose to make their own. I have inherited some of their tea towels, which they made from flour sacks they cut into rectangles, embroidered, and beautifully finished on the edges. My grandmothers used these towels in bread baskets, as tray linters, and as little gifts for friends and neighbors. One of my grandfathers used one of these towels as his napkin at just about every meal of his married life.”
With the introduction of the Firefox Book Series on Monday, we began our two week discussion of modern homesteading.
Modern homesteading sounds like an oxymoron; I prefer to think of it as a simple lifestyle adapted to contemporary times. Technology has made leaps and bounds since the 1970s when the Firefox series was written. We do and make things differently now, but often times seek the very same outcome. We have traded in the act (art) of “making” in order to, well, “make” our lives easier. On Monday, we shared an article on Facebook that further discusses (criticizes?) the modern DIY movement.
Apple Butter, like most food, is a good example of this shift from making a product in the traditional way to producing in a more convenient manner. Apple Butter was a staple in my home growing up and my daughter has a new-found love of the spread.
I live in a small house. By big city standards (and the Small House Movement), my 1800 square feet might be considered huge. But, by the standards of my community our home is relatively small. Regardless of the size, my home is perfect for me and my daughter, Maggie, the occasional evening babysitting for my new granddaughter, and a rotating cast of overnight guests.
However, earlier this year, where it once seemed the perfect size, my little house began to seem small. It felt that we were bursting at the seams; my life felt disorganized and it seemed I could never keep up with the constant tasks of washing clothes, feeding our (75 pound and growing) poodle, and the endless dishes to be washed. So, I started cleaning house. This process is still going on today and is executed with the ”William Morris Test”: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
In 1972, I gave my father a first edition of The Foxfire Book as a Christmas present. It came from the local bookstore on Court Street in downtown Florence, where now the Billy Reid store serves as a fashion anchor for our little town. It was common in those days for us kids to be dropped off “downtown” and picked up hours later after we had eaten Trowbridge’s ice cream and spent our hard saved allowances on all sorts of treasures.
I remember that holiday season clearly. Perhaps it was the first year I was allowed to shop by on my own? I would have just turned 11 – laughing, whispering, and scheming with my best friend Wendy. Standing in the old Anderson’s Bookland that afternoon, The Foxfire Book leapt out at me and seemed the perfect gift for my father who loved country life, all things Native American, and working with wood.
Olivia has been knotting away in the studio today.
We make our Knotted Necklaces from 100% organic cotton jersey fabric scraps and accessorize as a necklace, belt, or headband.
Featured in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
While part of our Alabama Chanin crew is working in New York, our cotton continues to grow in Trinity, Alabama.
Thank you to the Wall Street Journal for including me for their “In My Kitchen” series. “Crafty Cook Natalie Chanin” by Charlotte Druckman (who was a pleasure to work with).
Here you have the full interview (with a small disclaimer) and the recipes for the full menu we cooked that day:
“I GOT MY NICKNAME from biscuits,” said Natalie “Alabama” Chanin, the force behind the handcrafted clothing and housewares company Alabama Chanin, based in Florence, Ala. She earned the moniker a dozen years ago after baking her signature buttery discs for a group of hungry strangers while on vacation in Venezuela. “They called it ‘pan de Alabama’ [Alabama bread] and they’d call me that, too,” she said. That same generous spirit is one of the defining principles of her business practice—she recently introduced a line of table linens at a more accessible price point than the rest of her wares, and she makes it a point to employ local seamstresses and pay them a living wage.
We are in the city this week for trunk shows, New York Fashion Week, appointments, and, it seems, a constant moving from one side of the city to the other.
However, today we think not first of the week’s events, but of eleven years ago; a day that will always be remembered.
It feels surreal to be back in New York during this time. It feels more surreal to have been here during that time. Life continues for some of us, but not in the same way.
Here are some glimpses of our time here, in the big, beautiful Apple. In memoriam.
As a company, we are in very different places this week: New York during the height of fashion week, and Alabama during the height of cotton season.
In celebration, we take a break from our regularly scheduled blog programming to share stories from each place. Check back for updates from the city and the field.