THE HEART: PLANTING WITH BILLY REID AND OUR FRIEND, JIMMY

Yesterday, a well awaited package was delivered to the Factory: organic, or “black” cottonseed, as I’ve learned it is called. In our effort to grow organic cotton, we’ve taken a step-by-step approach. We started with the seed, and now we move on to the land. We are learning as we go, and taking every experience to heart.

The search for seed began and taught us some of the important facts of organic cotton and cottonseed. Organizations like Textile Exchange and Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative lent their support and gave us direction in our search for non-GMO, non-treated cottonseed. In our conversation with Lynda Grose at Sustainable Cotton Project, Lynda shared her thoughts on organic, sustainable textiles, and the importance of knowing and working with your local farmers.

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DIY THURSDAY: FAYTHE LEVINE

DIY THURS FAYTHE LEVINE
Thanks to everyone who came out for our Visiting Artist Series with Faythe Levine. It proved to be a fantastic evening of crafting, conversation, and Old-Fashioneds.

In addition to the interactive crafting that ensued, Faythe held a seminar where she lectured on ‘Craftivism’, her work and travels (examples include urban camping in Detroit and a boathouse community on the Mississippi River), and how to build your business. The audience consisted of spinners, musicians, teachers, artists, gardeners, knitters, quilters, and makers of all kinds. The open conversation allowed everyone in the group to share their successes, ideas, struggles, and journeys both inside and outside of the creative “industry.”

DIY THURS FAYTHE LEVINE
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HIGHER GROUNDS

As our world continues to evolve and expand, sometimes the origins of things, the details and processes seem to get lost. I’m always curious about where things come from, the story, the people, and the hands that go into each thing that we consume. It seems that wherever you may be, there is someone that can provide you with what you need, locally.

In 2006 the owners of Higher Grounds Coffee Roasters, located in a small town called Leeds, Alabama, gave Natalie a bag of their freshly roasted, fair-trade, organic coffee beans. Since that day, Higher Grounds has been a staple here at Alabama Chanin, something that we look forward to enjoying each morning.  When we received that first bag of coffee, it seemed that local coffee roasters in the South were few and far between. Fast forward six years and it seems that everywhere you look there are new and exciting things happening in the coffee world.

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D.I.T.

What does D.I.Y. mean to you?

I posed this question to Cathy Davidson, one of the world’s most important thinkers on education and the workplace in the 21st century. Her new book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, is a must-read for educators, parents, and students. “I’m not sure I believe in D.I.Y. anything,” she wrote.

Every self is connected to every other, and, even when we think we are “doing it ourselves,” we are summoning the memories, gestures, and hopes of so much and so many gone before. Instead, I like to think about peer learning and community learning, where we all work together toward some goal, filling in one another’s vacancies and blind spots as others fill in ours. This doesn’t mean there aren’t mentors, but only that the position and status of the mentor aren’t fixed.  The person who intends to learn, finds herself the teacher–and vice versa. That’s what D.I.Y. learning means to me, in school and lifelong, the surprise of never knowing where you will learn, where you will teach, or even where the boundaries between those two might lie.

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THE HEART: 12 FOR LIFE

Thanks to Ari Weinzweig at Zingerman’s, I have been working on a “Vision of Greatness” for Alabama Chanin over the last few months (well, closer to a year to be more exact).  However, over the last few weeks, I feel that I made real progress and worked out a growth chart and mission statement that is a good fit for both me and for our staff (more on that soon).  Part of our Alabama Chanin growth mission includes committing ourselves to education on all levels and to finding even more ways to give back to our community.

Last month, we found a company – just around the corner from our own factory – who is doing just that.

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THE JULIAN

I’ve been trying my hand at making the perfect Old-Fashioned Cocktail for our Visiting Artist Series tomorrow evening, and my friend Angie Mosier suggested that I try The Julian, Julian Van Winkle’s version of the Old Fashioned. Created by Sean Brock at HUSK in Charleston, South Carolina, the drink highlights the – now famous – bourbon founded by Julian Van Winkle’s grandfather, “Pappy” Van Winkle. Pappy started his family business in the 1870’s and was the creator of their original wheated bourbon recipes that are still used and aged today.

The Old-Fashioned happens to be Faythe Levine’s drink of choice, so I thought – what better time to showcase my new-found knowledge on homemade bitters and use the Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon so graciously sent to us by Julian at the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.

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BLUE HIGHWAYS

Excerpt from *blue highways*
– William Least Heat Moon –

(Lovingly translated to typewriter by my friend Jeff)

“I drove onto the Natchez Trace Parkway, a two lane running from Natchez to near Nashville, which follows a five hundred mile trail first opened by buffalo and Indians. Chickasaws called it the Peace Path. In 1810 th Trace was the main route for Ohio Valley traders who rather than fight the Mississippi currents, sold their flatboats for scrap in Natchez and walked home on the Trace. The poor sometimes traveled by a method called *ride and tie* two men would buy a mule, one would ride until noon, then tie the animal to a tree and walk until his partner behind him caught up on the jack that evening. By mid-century, steamboats made the arduous and dangerous trek unnecessary, and the Trace disappeared in the trees. Continue reading

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WEAVING WITHOUT A LOOM

In anticipation of our Visiting Artist Series with Faythe Levine, I’ve been reading through a weaving book that was re-discovered on our newly organized book shelves.

Weaving Without a Loom is the kind of book that summarizes a ‘living art’ that has periodically made appearances in stages of my life. (Sewing has had a constant presence.) Perhaps for others it’s knitting, pottery, or any combination of craft. I remember weaving with yarn and Popsicle sticks in elementary school- just as Maggie is doing now. I remember such joy when I completed my first crochet purse one summer vacation. We purchased a large floor loom last year with the intention of weaving rag rugs; however, the loom has yet to be warped and this has proven to be an intimidating task for me. (Anyone want to come and warp it for us?)

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THE HEART: ORGANIC COTTON Q&A WITH LYNDA GROSE

Last week, as we started to learn about organic cottonseed, we discovered that there are significant challenges associated with seed supply. Our conversation began with industry leaders, as we had our fair share of questions. This week we continue our discussion on the process of growing organic cotton in an interview with Lynda Grose.

Lynda has been involved with sustainable fashion and textiles since 1995 when she co-founded ESPRIT’s ecollection, which was the first ecologically responsible clothing line developed by a major corporation. Lynda currently serves as assistant professor in CCA’s Fashion Design Program and works with the Sustainable Cotton Project in California, and many more businesses and non-profits.

Lynda Grose, an inspired activist and friend for years – a part of the heart and soul of Alabama Chanin. Continue reading

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