Alabama Chanin: Authentic, intentional, FUN!

The original impetus for traveling to Portland a couple of weeks ago was to attend an Alabama Chanin workshop.  I’ve saved the best for last.  Before I met her I admired the intentionality she brought to her clothing and her business, now I’m a fan.

I say often about sustainability, becoming an environmental leader and social responsibility – all catch phrases that are over- and mis-used now –  it’s not about the end result, it’s about the process, about the becoming, the mindfulness that you bring to the subject.  Every business is smarter about how to effect these changes within than any government entity could be and while I’m thankful that more companies have come into awareness about it’s waste streams and it’s procurement practices, there is still an authenticity that is, shall I say, lacking.

The Alabama Chanin company is true to it’s commitment to local, regional and authentic foodways, sourcing and production (if 25 women sewing by hand can be called ‘production’).  All of the fabric is locally sourced and sewn.  The garments are sewn by hand, keeping the traditions and the stories of that craft alive and vibrant.

During the workshop, Natalie said something that has stuck with me, as it should anyone who values authentic, original, unique experiences.  Someone commented on how much work the sewing was and said, “Now I know why your garments are so expensive!”  Natalie said gently in response, “No, now you know why they are worth so much.”

That was an ‘aha moment’ for me.  Our trips on the Riggin are the same:  how much is clean air worth?  How about a week’s worth of locally-sourced, hand made food?  What about wide open spaces, pristine scenery or the feel of the boat as she sails from one island to the next?

This is my project.  It’s one of four panels which will eventually become a skirt.  Two layers, one of gray and the other a patterned black, are sandwiched together and then hand stiched.  Eventually, I’ll cut the centers of the leaves out and the second layer of gray fabric will be visible.

We’d love to have you join us on the Riggin this summer for the real deal.

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Tree to People Ratio

To travel somewhere and experience differences and then to relish in coming home is a delicious feeling.  Last week, I traveled for five days with friends to Portland, Oregon, where the weather was so temperate, I didn’t even need the coat I’d left in my car in Portland, Maine.  I’m told by locals that it’s not typical, but at the same time, many of our dinners were spent in open, airy spaces where whole walls were thrown open to allow the dry, warm air to seep in through the interior spaces.

And even with all that fresh West Coast air, I stepped out of the car after a LOOOONG day of return travel to Maine and breathed deeper than I had in days.  It’s so FUN to travel.  AND it’s so good to love home.

The trip was full of firsts.  It’s the first time I’ve left my family for such a long time and the first time to Portland.  I love to travel, but it’s been a long time since I’ve actually gone somewhere that didn’t involve visiting family.

As you might imagine, any trip outside of my own kitchen is food focused.  Outside of Maine and it’s ethnic food focused, as Maine has got to be the whitest state in the country and hence is somewhat bereft in the ethnic-food-of-any-sort department.

My friends are shoppers of the Olympic variety so our first day was spent wandering through shops in the Mississippi neighborhood exploring hand crafted clothing and design stores coexisting with a fabric store, home and garden design stores, all things paper and one antique car restoration shop who’s owner was kind enough to allow us to wander in to see his work.

A Plymouth wagon – all fixed up and waiting to be owned.

There is a certain rightness about all of these stores living side by side as they all have one thing in common – a respect and affinity for the art of the hand crafted.  It comes as no surprise that I fell in love with this area.  We made our way past the Rebuilding Center – a place which I’ve serendipitously recently researched only to find that it is a solo store (I was hoping for one in Maine) – to Porque No.  Our Mexican lunch, wrapped in hand made tortillas, was accompanied by my first, but hopefully not last, carrot, cucumber margarita.  It’s actually MUCH better tasting than it sounds.  Carrot, cucumber and honey juice combined with the already perfectly delicious Margarita drink they serve.

A window collage at the Rebuilding Center – Maine needs a store like this.  Oh, wait, we have them everywhere:  the local dump where hopefully more is dropped off than picked up.

Juice hanging out on the counter waiting to be slurped.

I bagged out of the second half of the planned shopping and Margarita drinking in favor of a massage, but not before purchasing a yard of fabric at Bolt to make napkins for the new kitchen, a sewing book by Amy Butler, In Stitches and a block of Himalayan salt from The Meadow.

Dolls at Bolt – reminding me so much of the Waldorf dolls I’ve made for the girls.

Back home – where the ratio of trees to people is higher

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