Last weekend, some of our team traveled down to Montgomery, Alabama for the second annual Southern Makers event. Southern Makers is a one-day experience that celebrates innovation and creativity of all types of makers in Alabama. The day is filled with everything from panel discussions and live music, to cooking demonstrations and workshops. Some of the top talents working in design, architecture, fashion, and food throughout the state are celebrated each year.
Maker booths are organized by region; North, Central, and South Alabama were all represented at this year’s event. Alabama Chanin set up shop next to our several of our neighbors and friends, including artist Audwin McGee, Scout By Two, Billy Reid, Zkano, and Butch Anthony.
Each month, we highlight one of our favorite embroidery techniques through our Swatch of the Month Club. As a companion to that monthly series, we have also put together a selection of projects you can create with your completed swatches. This month, we have created a beaded clutch bag, which you will need one finished swatch to complete. We created our bag using May’s beaded ruffle swatch.
Supplies for May’s Swatch of the Month (or your favorite swatch of choice)
1 – 10” x 10” medium-weight cotton jersey panel, unembellished, for pocket
1 – 10” x 1 1/4” strip cotton jersey (cut across the grain), for rib binding
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat, ruler, tailor’s chalk, needles, thread, pins.
Complete your Swatch of the Month according to the instructions – or create a swatch using your own personal design choice. Refer to Alabama Studio Sewing + Design as a resource, if you need additional guidance.
When I was a young girl, my mother’s mother would cook green beans for what seemed like every meal. They would be fresh from the garden when in season or, during the winter, they would come from her reserves of “put up” vegetables that had been canned and stored. By the time I was about 10, I couldn’t stand the sight of a green bean. Though it took years to reawaken, my love of green beans did eventually return.
All of this cooking and storing of green beans and the bounty of summer took place in the makeshift “outdoor kitchen” that was nothing more than a concrete platform that was the roof of my grandparents’ storm cellar. The tools of this summer pop-up kitchen included a single garden hose, several dull paring knives, and a variety of galvanized buckets and tubs that had seen the better part of several decades. Beans, fruits, and vegetables of all sorts were initially washed and left to air dry on the shaded expanse of the concrete roof, which remained cool from the deep burrow below in the hot summers. Kids and adults alike gathered there in random pairs to shuck, peel, and prod those fruits and vegetables into a cleaner, more manageable form that would then be moved from the outdoors to the “real” kitchen inside. In her small kitchen, my grandmother would boil, serve, save, can, freeze, and generally use every scrap of food that came from the garden—a tended plot large enough to serve extended family and close friends. The preserved treasures would then move from the house, back outside and into the cool depths of the storm cellar to await their consumption—just below the makeshift kitchen, and alongside a family of spiders and crickets who made that dark place home.
I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but by offering up that summer kitchen to any willing hand (and by serving all of those green beans), my grandmother was providing love and nourishment the only way she knew how—while teaching all of us kids the usefulness and practicality of growing our own food. Stories unfolded over those buckets of produce, and because of her patience and generous time sitting on the edge of that storm cellar, I learned that food could be used to pass down a love of nature, the earth, family tradition, and culture.
It has been said that holidays like Mother’s Day are actually manufactured celebrations, created only to sell cards and gifts. It is not really true that Mother’s Day was created to boost sales and create commerce, but that’s not to say that the evolution of the holiday didn’t cause quite a commotion, especially by its own creator.
Holidays very much like our American Mother’s Day have been celebrated globally for centuries. There were festivals in Egypt and Rome honoring the goddesses Isis, and Cybele and Rhea, respectively. European celebrations of the Virgin Mary were expanded in the 1600s to include all mothers with a celebration called Mothering Day. The Mother’s Day as we know it today in America was established by a woman named Anna Jarvis. Her mother, named Ann Jarvis, had attempted to establish Mothers Work Clubs in the late 1860s, meant to help clean cities and tend wounded Civil War soldiers. After the war, she established a Mother’s Friendship Day to unite families from both sides, North and South.
Ann’s death devastated Anna, who began what has become our modern Mother’s Day. She wanted it to be “Mother’s Day” (singular), rather than “Mothers’ Day” (plural), so that each family could focus on their own mothers and not all mothers, everywhere. It was meant to be a day to spend time with your mother, to thank her for all that she had done for you. Jarvis campaigned heavily for Mother’s Day to become a national holiday, finally finding success when Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it so in 1914. The carnation became the symbol for the holiday, simply because it was Ann Jarvis’ favorite flower.
Newsletter #16 features our Mother’s Day Gift Guide, workshop specials, and more new products (like Short Stack Editions and additions to our DIY Kits).
Stop in to The Factory Café this month as we feature The Kitchen Sisters—Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva—as part of The Factory Café Chef Series.
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xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
“There are still traditions that bring communities and families together instead of propelling them apart. And there are people out there pumping new life into old traditions and inventing new ones, people for whom food is an all-American reason to slow down and pursue some happiness.”
– Alice Waters, from the foreword of Hidden Kitchens
Here is what we have going on at The Factory Store + Café this week, Monday, May 5 – Friday, May 9:
Come and browse our selection of gifts for Mom (featured in-store and online). Treat the mothers in your life (or yourself) to something special.
Also, don’t forget about First Mondays at The Factory. Come sit, sew, and enjoy the company of fellow stitchers.
Call Carson at +1.256.760.1090 for more information.
Store Hours Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Stop by any weekday at 2:00pm for a guided tour of our space, including The Factory, the Alabama Chanin production and design studio, and Building 14.
Back by popular demand, this week’s special features tomato soup and grilled pimento cheese—the ultimate comfort foods. We’ve also added several new recipes to our menu—like vegetarian chili and poached eggs. Come and explore the tastes of hidden kitchens from around the country, as part of our ongoing Chef Series.
Café Hours Monday – Friday, 11:00am – 3:00pm
*Lunch service begins at 11:00am
One of our Mother’s Day Gift Guide selections, the DIY Magdalena Shawl is versatile in design and function. The Magdalena stencil is a bold design that dresses up casual wear. A shawl is a simple way to adjust to the changes in weather that tend to occur on a whim this time of year and acts as a perfect canvas to display the Magdalena design.
I like to keep a variety of shawls on hand for chilly mornings and to use as a pillow or blanket on long airplane or car rides. Depending on how you wear your shawl, it is possible that both the front and the back may be visible, showing off the intricate stitches and handwork used to finish it.
The Swatch of the Month for May demonstrates our beaded ruffle stripe technique. This is a variation of our random ruffle technique, featured in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. You can add several rows of ruffles for a more elaborate textural design or use just one if you want to highlight the technique itself.
Detailed instructions on how to apply ruffles can be found on pages 107-108 in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. To add ruffles to your swatch, you will need to use tailor’s chalk to draw a line (or several lines) on the right side of your top layer fabric. This will be your guide for where to add your ruffles.
To make a ruffle stripe, cut a 1”-wide strip of cotton jersey, sew with a basting stitch down the middle of the strip, then pull on the ends of the basting thread to ruffle, or gather, the strip. Attach the ruffled stripes to your double-layer fabric swatch by first basting them down (along your chalked line) with an all-purpose thread and then securing them with a stretch stitch or another decorative stitch down the center of the ruffle. We used a zigzag chain stitch on our version of the swatch.
For our swatch, we have opted to add chop beads to the stitches securing the ruffle to the base fabric. The beading adds a bit of sparkle, dimension, and detail.
The hi-resolution photograph above of our swatch with the random ruffle, for use as your computer desktop background, is available for download from our Resources page.
This May, Alabama Chanin is featuring two of my personal heroines (and, now, dear friends) as part of our ongoing Chef Series at the café. They might not be chefs, but Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva are The Kitchen Sisters—independent producers who create radio stories for NPR and other public broadcast outlets. Davia and Nikki are two of the most genuine and real women I know. Without their dedication to telling the real story, I would not be the person I am today. Route 66 changed my perception of storytelling in the autumn of 1994. I remember the first moment I heard their tracks: in the third story of a rented house on a square in Savannah, Georgia. Just like that, my life changed.
Davia and Nikki met and began collaborating in the late 1970s, hosting a weekly radio program in Santa Cruz, California. Their name was taken from two eccentric brothers—Kenneth and Raymond Kitchen—who were stonemasons in Santa Cruz in the 1940s. One night, they were discussing the Kitchen Brothers, who were featured in a book about Santa Cruz architects, as prep for an interview with the book’s author—while also cooking dinner for a group of people on the commune where Nikki lived—and got caught up in legends of local masonry (chimneys, yogi temples, Byzantine bungalows…), and food prep fell to the wayside. Dinner that evening was a disaster, and The Kitchen Sisters were (laughingly) born.
Oral histories heavily influenced their style of radio production. Over the years, they have produced a number of series, such as Lost & Found Sound, The Sonic Memorial Project, The Hidden World of Girls, and Hidden Kitchens. Regardless of topic, Davia and Nikki find a way to build community through storytelling.