THE QUILTS OF GEE’S BEND

THE QUILT'S OF GEE'S BEND - Photo by Robert Rausch
In anticipation of our upcoming event at Grocery on Home, I’ve been going through The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, by William Arnett, Alvia Wardlaw, Jane Livingston, and John Beardsley again this week. It’s only serving to make me really excited. The book is rich with history and filled with gorgeous photographs of hand-stitched quilts and the stories of the women who made them. The mini-autobiographies of each quilt maker provide snapshots of life in Gee’s Bend. Each entry is written in the seamstress’s own words, like this opening paragraph in Helen McCloud’s story:

“I was born down in Clifton, out from Annemanie. My mother was Della Mae Bridges. We worked in the fields, raised cotton and stuff. Kind of rough. My daddy was a big farmer-cotton, corn, rice, peanuts, squashes, cucumbers, beans, oats. And, Lord, we had to get out there and pick them. Jesus, I hated that, but if you didn’t, you get tore up. Watermelons, too. Two hundred pounds of cotton wasn’t nothing for me to pick. My daddy was so mean to us.”

The Quilts of Gee's Bend. Photo by Robert Rausch
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PURPLE.

Amethyst, aubergine and lavender; lilac, mauve or mulberry; orchid, perse, plum, and violet. All of these beautiful words for one color, and yet, purple has never been one of my favorite shades. While I haven’t had any adverse experiences with the color purple (it is, after all, one of my favorite books— ever), it is just not a color that I have used often as a designer. (Although, I have enjoyed Purple Fashion since my days as a stylist.)

Perhaps it was those purple flavored hippie years in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or maybe a sensitive palate as a Supertaster for colors, but I have a hard time finding shades of the color to adore.

However, I note that there have recently been more and more requests to make items for friends, fans, and family in purple.  Yesterday as I sat down for my morning reading, I was a bit perplexed to come across this article from Forbes titled “NASCAR Green is Really Purple.”

Purple, in this case means the merging of right and left, red and blue, Republican and Democrat for a common cause.  It seems that everywhere I turn today, people are finding ways to reach other people IN SPITE of politics.  Purple.

This past weekend, en route to the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, I listened to podcasts from The Civil Conversations Project— ideas and tools for healing our fractured civic spaces—from On Being. These talks of extremes between sides and WITHIN sides sprung to mind as I read through the Forbes article.  Purple.

Can it be that we are finding ways to get along and that this color, which has never been my favorite, might be where we start conversations in this country? The world? With no screaming?  No threats?

Community, conversation, and relationships are at the heart and soul of Alabama Chanin. In the end, I’ve come to realize that purple truly is a beautiful color. Don’t you think?

Look for Grape colored fabrics coming soon…
xoNatalie

DIY: SISTER SHIRTS

In the style of “old-school” Alabama Chanin – and perfect for holiday gifts – make our Sister Shirts using mirror-image or mix-and-match sections of your favorite t-shirts. Follow the instructions for our Printed T-shirt Corset on page 155 of Alabama Stitch Book to complete the project.

From the project introduction:

Follow the instructions as given but prepare pattern pieces for two printed T-shirt corsets. Instead of using one of the T-shirts for the whole corset, mix and match by swapping out, for example the center front panel from one of the t-shirts into the center panel of the other. Do the same with the back panels. Ultimately, you will create two shirts that are nearly alike except for the transposed panels.

In the corset tops above, we traded out the Center Back and Middle Front pattern pieces. Leave edges raw and seams floating.

Done.

TASIA’S TABLE

Tasia Malakasis, owner of local fromagerie Belle Chevre, is a dear friend of Alabama Chanin. She, like so many Southern women, has never met a stranger and can spend an afternoon discussing recipes, bourbon, and the weather, with genuine ease and enthusiasm. Her big heart and zeal for life are not easily contained and show through in so many recipes in her new cookbook, Tasia’s Table.

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LUBBOCK, TEXAS

I’ve heard Lubbock called the cotton capital of the United States, if not the world, by a handful of people in the industry. Flying into Lubbock, I saw farmland that continued as far as the eye could see.  Once I landed, those fields became stretches of white that reached out to the horizon.

Today, thanks to Kelly Pepper and the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, I visit these fields first-hand, along with a cotton breeding facility and test nurseries. For the first time, I will meet some of the farmers who grow our organic cotton face-to-face.

I’ll have a glimpse of the hard work that (as we have learned first-hand) goes into cotton’s growth and development. I will walk through the entire process, from the field to the gins and the warehouses where it is cleaned and stored, before it travels east to the Carolinas to be spun, knit, dyed, and finally sent to our factory in Florence.

I will listen and watch and then take this information back to Alabama so we can improve our field for next year’s crop. (Yes. Next year.)

All of us at Alabama Chanin are so grateful to Kelly Pepper and the entire Texas cooperative for paving the way for the future of Alabama organic cotton.

-Erin

#ACorganic

NOTHING HAPPENS (OR HOOKED ON HANDWORK)

My first sewing project was a “picture” of a flower that I made when I was about seven. I chose green and purple ribbon for the stem and petals, respectively, and a white button for the bloom’s center, which I attached to a square of quilted light blue Swiss dot fabric – aka the sky – with long, sloppy stitches.

It’s not a masterpiece by any means, with its loose stitches, unfinished edges. But precision is supposed to be beside the point when you’re a kid learning a new skill; the fun lies in the creative process, not necessarily the finished product.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had a rather hard time remembering this. I’m more than a little neurotic, and a bit obsessed with perfection, whatever that means. My natural inclination to create with abandon is at permanent odds with my OCD-driven desire for unsullied excellence, and it’s not always pleasant.

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ADVANCED STYLE

There’s a cluster of Polaroids in our production office that never fail to captivate our visitors, and even though they’ve been there for the better part of a decade we still find ourselves staring. They’re so beautiful. It’s hard to look away.

Those Polaroids are from our first fashion show— 8 years ago—a cast of women assembled by the amazing Jennifer Venditti of JV8, Inc. Jennifer, a director and pioneer of selecting models whose beauty is far from typical, introduced us to a group of ladies whose poise, confidence, and style were unmistakable.

Mimi Weddell was among this incredible ensemble, a vibrant actress and New York fashion icon. She was most known for her lifetime obsession with hats. We love that her words are the introduction to Ari Seth Cohen’s book, a celebration of personal style at any age, Advanced Style:

“I can’t imagine going without a hat. The only romantic thing left in life is a hat.”

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A RECIPE FOR BBQed DRESSES

Alabama Chanin, Florence, Alabama, in collaboration with Drew Robinson, Jim ‘N Nick’s, Birmingham, Alabama

Ingredients

64 yards 100% organic cotton jersey, colors white and nude
47 spools Button Craft thread
112 yards embroidery floss
1 pound white glass beads
9 garment patterns
4 stencil designs
1 quart textile paint
24 talented embroidery artisans
27 needles
Embroidery scissors, both large and small
8 sticks hickory
Kindling
Matches
Patience

Construct garments by combining the first 10 ingredients, adding love and care. Once constructed with love and care, smoke embroidered dresses with hickory. This is the wood most commonly used for barbecue in our part of Alabama because it is the most plentiful. As luck would have it, burned hickory produces a subtle flavor and color in pork and dresses, respectively.

It made sense to us to use the same wood to smoke our homegrown garments (well, as much sense as it could make to smoke a dress, anyway).  Like a pig, dresses require a low temperature and lots of finesse.

Once you get the fire going, smoke your dresses at a temperature close to 170 degrees for about 18 hours.

Serves the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, 2012.

OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI

Our BBQed dresses have been carefully hung along side the stunning photographs of Landon Nordeman and the smell of barbeque fills the room. We are en route to a weekend of storytelling and out-of-this-world food (and spirits).

 

Join us tonight in Oxford, Mississippi, for Punch, Pictures, and ‘Cue Couture, as part of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s 15th Annual Symposium, Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmasters, Places, Smoke, and Sauce.

The Powerhouse
13 South 14th Street, Oxford, Mississippi 38655

Opening reception:
October 18th from 4:00pm – 6:00pm
(The reception is free and open to the public and will feature the cocktail stylings of Greg Best from Holeman & Finch Public House in Atlanta, Georgia.)

Show runs through November 2, 2012 from 9:00am – 5:00pm each day.

Thank you to the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Melissa Hall, and John T. Edge for the inspiration and hard work that helped make this exhibition possible.

1006 Van Buren Avenue
Oxford, Mississippi

Thursday, October 18th: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Friday, October 19th - 20th: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday, October 20th - 20th: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday, October 21st: 9:00am – 2:00pm

For more information, contact: office@alabamachanin.com or Amelia Presents: +1.901.355.0311.