THE HEART: TERRY WYLIE – PART 1

Most of you who follow this blog know that when I returned to Alabama over 11 years ago, I didn’t have a grand plan to build the company that is now Alabama Chanin. Any plans I may have had seemed to fall away into something far larger than I ever anticipated. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in such a position and I readily admit that, at times, I was incredibly overwhelmed. However, as the initial “project” morphed into a business, I learned how to run it on the fly – one day at a time. I have often said that I am not a quick learner, but I finally realized that my community has such a wealth of knowledge as to the workings of cotton AND manufacturing. These two things had been part of the vernacular of this community for a century. So while it took time for me to understand, I finally realized I just needed to “go to the well” to draw upon that information. Here in Florence, Alabama, that “well” was Terry Wylie.

 

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LONG SKIRT (+ VARIATIONS)

I am so excited about the launch of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. The book includes some of our very best garment patterns to-date and I can’t wait to see how the stencils, patterns, and designs work their way into DIY projects.

The long skirt pattern that is included the book has become my staple go-to skirt for everyday living and night life for almost a year now. I have variation in black with embroidery and several basic versions in pink, ochre, and a beautiful turquoise color that we tie-dyed in the washing machine by just letting the dye bath sit unattended for a few hours.

I have loved these pieces from spring to summer and through the fall and into winter, because I can wear my sturdy stockings underneath on the coldest days and with socks and my new Billy Reid boots every other day. Continue reading

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GET YOUR GRAVY (+ MAKE BROAD BEANS)

Get yours online and join the Southern Foodways Alliance that you can have this kind of deliciousness mailed to your door (with a side of grated tomato):

 

Slow-Roasted Broad Beans by Sheila and Matt Neal of Neal’s Deli, Carrboro, NC
- from pages 8-9 of Gravy #42

WE THINK OF OUR PASTRAMI PLATE AS A MODERN MEAT-AND-TWO, built around our house-smoked pastrami and a couple of side dishes from the deli case. Broad beans, also known as Roma beans, are one of our favorite sides at the deli. We serve this dish every year when they are plentiful. (We cook most of our sides with vegetables procured from nearby farmers.) They make a great plate with our pastrami and creamy coleslaw. This is a great entertainment dish: It’s economical, it feeds a crowd without too much work for the cook, and it tastes better if made a day ahead.

INGREDIENTS

2 5 lbs. broad beans (also called Roma beans), rinsed and stemmed
5 cup peeled and thinly sliced garlic
2 cups diced yellow onion
2 medium-sized tomatoes, grated*
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
5 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 bay leaves
1 cup water
5 cup extra-virgin olive oil

PROCEDURE

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Gently and thoroughly combine all the above ingredients in a roasting pan. Place parchment paper directly onto the beans. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Cook until the beans are tender, stirring well every 15 minutes for about an hour and 15 minutes. Keeps well for 3 days.

* This is a great trick we try and share with everyone. The easiest way to “peel” tomatoes is to grate them. Cut the tomato in half, and with your fingers remove as many seeds as you can. Place the cut side of the tomato down on the coarse holes of a box grater. Run the tomato back and forth until all the flesh is grated and you are left with the skin. Discard the skin.

 

A CHAT WITH MICHIEL SCHWARZ

In follow-up to our blog post on Sustainism this morning, Alabama Chanin (AC) held a Facebook chat today with Michiel Schwarz (MS) to explore his manifesto – created with Joost Elffers titled Sustainism Is the New Modernism: A Cultural Manifesto for the Sustainist Era. The text below recaps the questions and answers that surfaced during our hour-long chat.

Like our Facebook page and join our mailing list to take part in future conversations – and feel free to keep this conversation going in the comments section of this post:

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SUSTAINISM 2012

I had the opportunity to meet Michiel Schwarz last September when I spoke at the Hello Etsy conference in Berlin.   His purpose at the conference was to present his concept and book: Sustainism: A Cultural Manifesto for the Sustainist Era.

The New York Times did a fantastic review of the book – calling out its good points and problem areas. Alice Rawsthorn writes that the book is more an exercise in branding and that today’s “designers are already well aware of the principles outlined in the book, most of which have been analyzed in greater depth elsewhere. “ Very true, but although the book was originally created for designers, I see it more as a place for non-designers to find tangible manifesto points that they can easily process and assimilate into daily life. Truth be told, we human beings need things simplified for us sometimes and I think that the tidy graphics might just find a voice on office walls and farmers’ market pamphlets. At least I believe that it is worth a conversation.

In his talk in Berlin, Michiel admits that the book is “naively optimistic,” in that it doesn’t address the real issues that we need to overcome: climate change, “social inequalities, and the degradation of nature.”  However, he says, “We believe that it is important to shift from the negative to the positive,” and mentions a conference talk given by William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle, where McDonough decries the focus that is always placed on what we are NOT supposed to do.

“We hear over and over again that we need to reduce everything to zero, that we need to reduce emissions to zero, zero this, zero that. In this way, we are making the future on the things that we don’t want. We need a future on the things that we DO want. That’s why it was so important for us to name where that future is.”

Michiel’s point is that, “we are moving into a new cultural era,” and that hopefully the manifesto of Sustainism will give us symbols to describe the move from modernism to sustainism.

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SARA: ON BEAUTY

As Alabama Chanin has grown, part of the beauty of this growth has been my ability to watch our employees and families spread their wings, grow, and find their voices. A few months back, June started to use her voice to tell our stories through her own experiences. Today, Sara Martin makes that same leap and stretches her voice. As I wrote about Sara a few weeks back, she was like a child when she first showed up at my studio. What a treasure to see her make this leap from child to beautiful woman. A hearty Alabama Chanin welcome to Sara’s voice on this blog… xoNatalie

I’ve never been conventionally beautiful. I’ve always known this. I’m just a little bit shorter, a little rounder than the pretty girls; I’ve always laughed a little louder, been a bit more vulgar and less delicate than a southern woman is expected to be. Like most young girls, I struggled with trying to figure out what it meant – this difference. And I tried to negotiate my way through what was expected of me and what I expected of myself.

In the not-so-distant past, tattoos were considered unattractive; to many, they still are. Tattoos have long been the domain of sailors, bikers, outlaws and prisoners. So, how do we reconcile this type of art with femininity? Is it possible to love the skin that we live in and still change it?

Most women I know use some sort of enhancement to make them feel better about what they see as imperfections. Many dye their hair – or buy someone else’s hair to improve upon what they naturally have. We’ve been known to wear high heels to make us taller and Spanx to make us thinner. Some women look to plastic surgery, Botox, face creams and bronzers to enhance the figures and faces they were born with. For me, the process of learning to love myself meant getting underneath my own skin.

I got my first tattoo right out of high school. I found that I liked the way that it made me feel about myself. I got another, and then another. Most of them were easily hidden – something I kept for myself or revealed only to people that really knew me. As I slowly gathered these pieces I discovered that, even in moments of intense self-loathing, I had something about myself that I loved. I chose this about myself. I may not have loved what my thighs looked like, but this I was proud of. I did this.

Now, as an adult, I’ve finally come to terms with who I am on the inside. I like my loud laugh and my off-color jokes. I’m learning more and more to love who I am outside, too. But, I still struggle with some things, as most women do. These days, I view my insecurities as mountains or undiscovered continents – somewhere to conquer and plant a flag. My arms are my latest Mount Everest. I’m learning to love them, but on my own terms and one tract of skin at a time.

I’m still a work in progress. I’m painting my masterpiece, one bit of ink at a time.
- Sara

P.S.: Sara’s Reverse Applique Alabama tattoo (Note the Angie’s Fall Pattern)  by Adam “The Kid”, at Kustom Thrills in Nashville, Tennessee, + photo thanks to Gina R. Binkley.

BITTERS

A month ago I was totally intimidated and scared of bitters, what they were, and how to use them. A recent encounter changed that.

It all began with a cocktail drink at Patois in New Orleans.  The beautiful drink menu started off with a lovely champagne cocktail that was something like this: Champagne, Cointreau, Orange Bitters and a twist of orange.  Sounds simple right?

I turn to Nathalie and Brett and ask, “What exactly IS Orange Bitters?” I am not the biggest fan of orange-infused anything and I wanted to be SURE to make the best of the most delicious cocktail that evening. Drew explained that bitters are essentially any fruit or spice marinated in 100% Pure Grain Alcohol. Nathalie added, “You can make it yourself.”

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ECOSALON FRIDAY: BOARD BY BOARD

Check out my post this week on EcoSalon.
xoNatalie

Board By Board:

This is a conversation that played out in my head countless times this last week:

“I need to sit down and write the EcoSalon post.”
“The laundry really needs to get done.”
“I NEED to sit down and write the EcoSalon post.”
“Maybe, I should go weed the garden.”
“I NEED to SIT DOWN NOW and write the EcoSalon post.”
“There is that bird pecking around in the yard, I could go stare at it for a while.”

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JUNE’S SPRING

From page 10 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:

“Stenciling is a cornerstone of both our design process and our business model. We use stencils as tools to transfer decorative patterns onto projects like dresses, skirts, and pillows. The stenciled patterns are then used by our artisans as guides for positioning embroidery and beading. Because the stencils so effectively guide the design, our artisans don’t need to work in our studio. Rather, they can work independently as individual business owners when and where they want, scheduling their work time as they like.

Over the years, we have worked with more than four hundred different stencil designs.”

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