EcoSalon: NATALIE CHANIN ON WORKING HER OWN ORGANIC COTTON FIELD

Thanks to Amy DuFault and EcoSalon for sharing the story of our cotton on their blog today:

Last week, the Alabama Chanin team, along with friends Lisa and Jimmy, took to the organic cotton field we share with the team from Billy Reid. With rubber boots, loppers, and gloves in hand, we were there helping our organic cotton bolls survive after a long summer of drought and heat followed by excessive rain and weed growth.

We walked the rows, hoed, chopped, and pulled until the sun and heat forced us out of the field. Hard to imagine the days in Alabama heat where people were not allowed out of the field. Makes me think about how things were, how things are, and how things will be.

Nine of us barely made a dent in the work that needs to be done. As we documented the day with black and white images, it looked so romantic and felt like a moment from a Willa Cather novel. But the reality behind the black and white is a sordid, ugly history. I can’t pretend that I didn’t think about those that did this work because they had no choice. But I live TODAY and I WANT to grow organic cotton in the state of Alabama TODAY.

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ALABAMA SARONG

Perhaps the most unique piece in our Denim + Carmine Collection is the sarong. This multi-functional piece measures 36” long by 72” wide and is designed for a variety of body types. Made to be fluid and adaptable, the material wraps around the waist and ties at the side.

Our sarongs can be worn for a variety of occasions: add it to your workday wardrobe, wear to work in the garden, or toss in your vacation bag. The sarong is available as a basic, and in two stenciled versions: Full Stencil Sarong and Alabama Chanin Sarong.

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THE HEART: COTTON UPDATE + JIMMY AND LISA

Wednesday morning, Alabama Chanin closed its doors for half the day and made a trip out to the cotton field to visit (and weed with) Lisa and her husband, “friend” Jimmy (as he jokingly refers to himself). Jimmy and Lisa have been the determined and loving caretakers of our cotton these last months. Living near what we understand to be the FIRST privately owned organic cotton field in North Alabama (if not the entire state), they stop by each day to keep a watchful eye on our crop and monitor its progress.

Jimmy grew up less than a mile from the site of the field. His strong determination and easygoing personality, paired with a true farmer’s work ethic, have made him invaluable to the establishment of our field.  Recently retired, and a friend of K.P. and Katy McNeill of Billy Reid, Jimmy was interested in finding a way to occupy his newly acquired free time. He offered to plow, plant, and cultivate the cotton field. He and K.P. have spent many weekends in Trinity this summer, discussing and working the land. Having chopped and picked cotton growing up, Jimmy expressed (with some disdain) he did not want a role in those later processes. He knew better.

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DIY YARN BALL BASKETS

Crocheting was one of my first creative outlets, once I felt the distinct urge to make. When I had a crochet hook in hand, making hats, scarves, bags, whatever I might need, the process came to me like second nature.  Often, I couldn’t find patterns to fit what I needed so I ended up making them myself, using trial and error. When Natalie asked me to review the book, So Pretty! Crochet!, I was hesitant; I felt like I had already seen them all. For me, crochet books rarely used the right kind of yarn, they were at times overly wordy, the photos weren’t always helpful, the patterns were sometimes hard to read, etc. As you can tell, I’m a harsh critic when it comes to this type of book.

However, as I scanned through the pages of So Pretty! Crochet, I felt inspired. We adapted a pattern from this book to make the nesting bowls found on page 115. Instead of using the cotton yarn they suggest, we made our own yarn out of ½ inch strips of the organic cotton jersey fabric that we use to make our yarn balls. The bowls seemed a unique use for our scrap materials. The instructions in the book are easy to follow and exact, when using yarn. Our sizing is slightly different because we used cotton jersey rope rather than cotton yarn, but it doesn’t cause much of a problem. I used the size crochet hook they suggested, but you may want to experiment to see which size hook works best for you.


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AFFOGATO AL CAFFÈ

The warm months in the south are a little extra-warm for us in the studio, so we are always looking for an excuse to cool down- even when having our afternoon coffee.  What better way to cool down your afternoon coffee than with ice cream?

The first time I had an affogato was at a friend’s home during one of her “fancy” dinner parties. She always had a knack for making me feel special, pulling out her best dishes, even when it was just the two of us.

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WAYS TO WEAR OUR ORGANIC COTTON SCARF

WAYS TO WEAR OUR SCARFYesterday morning, as we headed out the door to school, my daughter Maggie asked for a sweater. It feels like summer is quickly fading, and it’s time to break out light sweaters, ponchos, and scarves. Many of you have asked how we at Alabama Chanin wear our Organic Cotton Scarf, so we’ve compiled a few of our favorite looks for you to try. The versatility of this scarf makes it an essential piece for my closet, year-round.

xoNatalie

The variation above is perhaps the most basic way to wear our Organic Cotton Scarf. Simply double the scarf in length, place around your neck, and insert the free ends through the loop. Voila!

WAYS TO WEAR OUR SCARF

To achieve this look, spread the fabric and drape it over your head so that it frames your face, leaving the ends hanging evenly in front of your shoulders. Take one end and place it over the opposite shoulder, allowing it to hang freely down your back. Do the same with the remaining end so that the fabric crosses loosely at your neck. Great for gardening, walks in the sun, or windy nights.

WAYS TO WEAR OUR SCARF

A look fit for evening or day: place the scarf around your neck with ends hanging in front. Allow the scarf to hang longer on the right side. Using your left hand, take the longer side of the fabric and lightly drape it around your right shoulder. Take that same piece around your front and toss it over your left shoulder, leaving the end to hang freely in the back.  This can also be reversed so that the scarf drapes your left shoulder.

WAYS TO WEAR OUR SCARF

This look shows the scarf as a shawl. This is an easy way to achieve coverage when there’s a chill in the air and an easy way to bring together a classic evening outfit. Simply spread the fabric out and wrap around your shoulders. Let the excess hang at your side and flow with the movement of your arms.

WAYS TO WEAR OUR SCARF

Although this style may look more complex, it’s actually easy to achieve and can polish off your look in minutes. Spread the fabric and wrap it around your shoulders as shown above for the shawl.

WAYS TO WEAR OUR SCARFFrom there, take the dangling ends and cross them around your back. Bring them back around to the front and tie on the side of your choosing.

WAYS TO WEAR OUR SCARF

For this wrap, begin as you did with the shawl, spreading and wrapping the fabric around your shoulders. As you begin to tie the excess fabric at chest, do not pull the end all the way through. Leave a loop and pull the fabric tight. This adds a different element to your scarf. Keep in mind, the wrap will fit loosely and may need to be adjusted throughout wear.

 

THE HEART: ARTISAN NATURAL DYEWORKS

Sustainable. Natural. Organic. These are all words that are integral to the Alabama Chanin identity. Our core values compel us to take a holistic approach to our design methods, looking at every aspect, quality, material or person that may play a part in our production process. This way of thinking led us toward using natural dyes on our fabrics. One of the companies that carefully colors our fabrics is Artisan Natural Dyeworks based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Alabama Chanin was originally introduced to the women behind the company by a mutual acquaintance. At the time, the dye company was being run by sisters Alesandra and Sarah. The sisters, both transplants to Nashville, decided to start a business together, but wanted to make sure that it reflected their values, drew from their strengths and interests, and celebrated their deep love for the earth. Though neither sister had any experience with natural dyes (or apparel, or production), they ambitiously decided that establishing a natural dye house would perfectly integrate all of their requirements.

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OLIVIA DRESS

The Olivia Dress is the newest addition to our Indigo + Carmine collection. Designed by (and named for) our Studio Assistant, Olivia, this pull-on dress is hand-stitched and made from our indigo-dyed, organic cotton jersey. Clean lines accentuate the waist and bust line. The right amount of swing in the A-line skirt allows for easy, beautiful movement.

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