TEA TOWELS

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.

xoNatalie

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.”


APPLE BUTTER

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.

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LITTLE HOUSES

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.

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HOMESTEADING + FOXFIRE

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.

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PEAS + SUCH

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.

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NEW YORK: 9/11 (REMEMBERING)

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.

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DIFFERENT PLACES, SAME MISSION

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.


STORIES FROM THE COTTON FIELD: 8/3/12 – 9/7/12

—–Original Message—–
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2012 8:58 AM
Subject: Re: cotton field photos

I was thinking of you this morning and took a few pictures at the cotton field so you can feel like you are here this morning.  My photos are nothing to these that you have sent, but perhaps you will like to see your cotton babies.  I am so happy you found Kacie. She gave Jimmy a business card before he left the field yesterday and gave him the most beautiful garden stakes that she had made!

I had already left the field because I was exhausted. She was a dynamo and pulled weeds on her knees in that hot humid sticky field. She didn’t seem to want any credit for what she was doing. She farms herself in Tennessee.

I just had to take her photo with my phone because I can’t believe she was there and working so hard.  I really think she is an angel.  I will make a point to go to Huntsville and see her business someday. She will always be a very important part of this little cotton field.  She left her mark on the field and in my heart.

Love,
Lisa

—–Original Message—–
Sent: Sunday, September 02, 2012 3:43 PM
Subject: Organic cotton

Hello,

I am the cotton scout assigned to north Alabama and middle Tennessee for the Boll Weevil Eradication Program (SEBWEF).  I noticed the article in Saturdays edition of Times Daily.  My interest in your cotton field is to simply place a boll weevil trap nearby, and monitor it until mid-November.

Cotton growers in the state of Alabama and the Southeast have spent millions of dollars over the past 20 years to eradicate the boll weevil from our fields.  The eradication has also reduced pesticide use dramatically, and actually saved several million in costs and increased yield.

The only way to guarantee that we do not get a re-infestation is to monitor ALL cotton that is in the eradicated zones.  We receive information from USDA each season to locate each cotton field so that we can accomplish a successful monitoring program.  I do imagine that your cotton was not reported to the local USDA Service center because of its nature, but there is a state (AL) and federal law that the cotton must be monitored.  I can take care of this easily, but there will likely be a small fee assessed by SEBWEF.

Thank you. Continue reading

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