MAXINE PAYNE: THREE FOR A DIME

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Lance and Evelyn Massengill

In 2008, Maxine Payne, an Arkansas-based artist, self-published a book of photographs titled Making Pictures: Three For A Dime. She catalogued the work of the Massengill family who worked from 1937 to 1941 as itinerant photographers in rural Arkansas documenting farmers, young couples, babies, and anyone else who had a few minutes and an extra dime to spend. The Massengills’ photos provided candid snapshots of the rural South just before the Second World War. Through her efforts, Maxine Payne has given new life to these old photographs by coordinating exhibitions and projects, including a forthcoming book by the Atlanta-based publisher Dust-to-Digital and a collaboration with Alabama Chanin on our new collection. We asked Maxine to describe her connection to the Massengill family and her involvement with Three For A Dime:6UP-GRID

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INTRODUCING THE NEW COLLECTION

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We are very proud to announce the launch of the new Alabama Chanin collection. Here at the studio, we have all been busy over the past months preparing for this endeavor—from a collaboration with artist Maxine Payne (more from the story behind our inspiration and Maxine tomorrow…), to perfecting organic cotton fabric and colors, designing and producing garments pattern-by-pattern, swatch-by-swatch, creating and hand sewing sample garments, organizing photo shoots, and finally, preparing for this launch today.

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Lots of work, time, and love go into every piece of a new collection. Each of our fabrics and garments are designed to last a lifetime: some pieces intended as heirlooms, others seamlessly integrated into everyday wardrobes.

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In addition to the collection, you will notice several updates to our website—including the “soft launch” of the machine-sewn A. Chanin line, organic cotton socks from our collaboration with Little River Sock Mill, and a brand new feature: the Alabama Chanin lookbook (more on that tomorrow, as well).

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The new collection features several designs, including our Magdalena, Daisy, Scallops, and Whispering Rose patterns worked in a variety of techniques and a selection of colors including: Natural, Navy, Black, Lime, Natural Blue Grey, and Nude. Our Basics and A. Chanin line are also available in these new collection colors.

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Highlights of our process, the story behind the collaboration, new designs, and new fabric colors will be coming soon. Stay tuned…

Browse our new look here.

SONGS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: A PLAYLIST

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The Civil Rights Movement gained national attention in the early 1960s. The many protests, marches, and stands for equality were sustained by freedom songs and music from musicians-turned-activists. The setbacks, hardships, failures, and successes of the movement for racial equality can be told through song.

We curated a playlist highlighting some of the songs that delivered powerful messages during that time period, namely “We Shall Overcome,” an old African American hymn that gained popularity in the 1950s. The song became the unofficial anthem of the movement, bringing strength, support, and hope to activists—during protest marches, in the face of violence, and in jail cells.

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DIY MLK CORSET

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“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

In continuing our celebration this week of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his philosophy and teachings, we sought to create something sustainable that could share this hopeful message that stemmed from the American Civil Rights Movement.

I have always found this quote inspiring, and have applied its message in my own life time and time again: reminding myself each day that it is just about showing up and doing what you can do—today. It seems appropriate, in this new year of new beginnings, to create a reminder (and testament) to this continued commitment to moving forward. Step by step.

Make this corset by following the instructions from page 144 of Alabama Stitch Book. (The pattern is included on the pattern sheet at the back of the book.) We made our version with medium-weight organic cotton jersey fabric, but it could easily be made using recycled t-shirts, as well. This technique can also be used to embellish other patterns or existing garments with scooped necklines.

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A CAKE FOR GEORGIA GILMORE

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Today, in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. week, we turn the spotlight to one of the unsung heroes (or heroines, rather) of the Civil Rights Movement: Georgia Gilmore.

Georgia (whom we have written about before) lived and worked in Montgomery, Alabama, and was a true servant to the cause of the movement. Georgia was a big lady with a big personality—frankly put, she didn’t take any bull from anybody. She worked as a midwife, as well as a cook at the National Lunch Company. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to leave her seat on a bus in December of 1955, a group of black ministers and community leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)—and initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the Association often held secret meetings around the city. As soon as Georgia heard of Rosa Parks’ arrest on the radio, she joined the MIA, determined to aid the effort in any way she could.

Outspoken and feisty, Georgia let her disapproval of the discriminatory bus drivers be known—an action that got her fired from her job at the cafeteria. When that happened, Dr. King and other leaders helped her set up a restaurant in her home kitchen. Georgia was well-known around town for her fried chicken, pork chops, and stuffed bell peppers and often served these and other dishes to Dr. King and fellow supporters of the boycott. She even hosted secret MIA meetings there in her kitchen.

Georgia’s love (and talent) for cooking and her passion for equality and change led her to start a club with a few of her friends, named “The Club from Nowhere.” The ladies in the club, most of them maids and cooks, sold homemade pies and cakes (and even Georgia’s chicken dinners) to supporters of the movement in order to raise money for the boycott. The Club from Nowhere often set up shop in beauty parlors, Laundromats, and on street corners in downtown Montgomery. Both black and white supporters of the boycott were able to contribute anonymously. The Club from Nowhere used the money they collected to buy gas and station wagons, which were used to transport people to and from work during the boycott. Georgia always said that the money came “from nowhere.”

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THE HISTORY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY

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It was over 50 years ago when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the march on Washington D.C. It was a moment that changed America, and the world. But, the line was almost excluded from the speech. One of King’s aides encouraged him not to use the line, stating it was cliché and that he had used it too many times already. After receiving several conflicting suggestions the night before the march, King put the final touches on the speech in solitude in his hotel room.

There was an array of speakers at the march that day, and he was sixteenth in line. The podium was crowded with microphones and speakers, and when he approached the platform he heard a voice from behind shout “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin.” It was gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who had heard King refer to his dream on a previous occasion. She prompted him again. King then launched into his speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, looking over the National Mall. He delivered his message more like a sermon, laying his prepared notes to the side, letting spontaneity and emotion preside. The utopian-like speech was not just about what was going on in the world that day in time, it was about what was going on in the world every day. We have come a long way as a nation, but we still have a long way to go. In fact, there were decades of struggle and complications involved to get the observance Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday passed into federal law.

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY

photo courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

This week on the Journal we are dedicating a series of posts to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his philosophy, and legacy. Today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, is the only federal holiday also recognized as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” So, throughout your day, in the spirit of King’s Beloved Community, take time to recognize the needs of those around you. Even the smallest gesture can make a big impact. We are encouraging our staff to leave a little early this afternoon to complete a service project of their choice that gives back to our community.

As Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’

*You can learn more about Dr. King and his philosophy and teachings at The King Center’s website.

Photo of the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

ROSANNE CASH AND THE SOUTHERN CONNECTION: A PLAYLIST

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Musician, author, and dear friend Rosanne Cash was born in Tennessee to a family soon to become Southern music royalty, but has lived for over 20 years in New York City. Still, her Southern heritage played and continues to play a role in shaping who she is as an artist, a traveler, and a citizen of the world. She deeply explores her relationship with the South and with Southern culture in her newest album, The River and the Thread. Listening to these songs, you hear a songwriter investigating how where she came from helped shape who she is today. The tracks are heartfelt, touching, and, by turns, rocking.

A sweet friend to Alabama Chanin, Rosanne curated a playlist for us that includes some of her favorite songs from and about the South. These songs capture the sometimes-elusive nature of our homeland and the people we call family. I’ve been cooking and dancing (and, yes, singing) to these tracks for a week…

Come sing along.
xoNatalie

Photo of Rosanne courtesy of Clay Patrick McBride.

FIRST MONDAYS

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In the tradition of old-time quilting and sewing circles, join us at The Factory the first Monday of each month to sew and socialize. Spend the morning working on your latest project in the company of fellow sewers, while sharing inspiration, encouragement, fellowship, and maybe even a bit of light-hearted gossip. (It is speculated that the phrase “chew the rag” originated from the gossiping that took place while ladies worked together in a sewing circle.)

Coffee, tea, and light breakfast will be available for purchase from The Factory Café. Please bring your own fabric and sewing notions. If you would like to purchase supplies from our Studio Style DIY area, a special 10% in-store discount will be offered to participants during First Mondays.

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2014 STENCIL OF THE YEAR: CHECK

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When Alabama Chanin was founded, part of our initial mission was to create modern garments using age-old techniques, like hand sewing and quilting. Though we have continually grown, we still believe in celebrating the “living arts” and community-building traditions like quilting circles. As Alabama Chanin has expanded, our goals have also matured and expanded and we are happily developing our scope and physical size – though we continue to embrace that first set of ideals.

The past year has seen a growth and expansion that I could never have imagined those many years ago. We opened a flagship store and café in our Factory home and we are preparing to launch our machine-made line, A. Chanin. When I was beginning my efforts to produce those first t-shirts, I was told repeatedly that it was not possible to produce responsibly sourced, machine-made garments in the United States. Time after time, I heard that this kind of item would never make a profit. And, yet, we persevered.

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