From our very beginnings, Alabama Chanin has approached design from a sustainable and zero-waste perspective. Our earliest Collection garments were t-shirts taken apart and pieced back together, sometimes using scraps for appliqué or decoration. We are always looking for ways to use scraps in clever or utilitarian ways. Sometimes that means building our patterns so that they fit together like puzzle pieces, in an attempt to get the most use out of every yard of fabric. Other times, we search for projects that will put leftover fabrics to good use.  

This way of using every piece comes from a long history of people who had to “make do” with what they had; they didn’t enjoy the luxury of buying more fabric when they needed to make a piece of clothing or wanted to start a new project. Quilts were often made from what was on hand, including fabrics like sugar sacks and recycled dresses and denim. Mending was also a way of life. Valuable dresses, shirts, and towels could not be tossed away immediately. Instead, they were repaired, reused, and were repurposed into something else.  

Perhaps we can look to the South’s unofficial poet laureate, Dolly Parton, for inspiration: 

Back through the years 
I go wonderin’ once again 
Back to the seasons of my youth 
I recall a box of rags that someone gave us 
And how my momma put the rags to use 
There were rags of many colors 
Every piece was small 
And I didn’t have a coat 
And it was way down in the fall 
Momma sewed the rags together 
Sewin’ every piece with love 
She made my coat of many colors 
That I was so proud of 
– “Coat of Many Colors” 

Most makers have leftover pieces on hand – or yards that we may have been meaning to use and never found the right project for. Our organic cotton fabric is available by the yard and scraps are available by the pound.  

The world has asked us to slow down, and so we must. Pick up the projects you have been putting off. Use your fabrics to make something that will represent the creativity that will come out of this time. Browse our links below for inspiration and use your mothers and grandmothers, your communities and memories to encourage your work. Make something beautiful as we continue to create #togetherapart. 

String Quilting 

DIY Organic Wrapped Wreath 

Heart Chair 

Tilleke Schwartz + A Skirt 

DIY Organic Cotton Bath Mat 


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Click to read 5 comments
  1. Stephanie Guillory

    I don’t sew much because I’ve never been good at clothing! I make the occasional quilt or curtains or even pillows! But I found an old sheet, rarely used, a Waverly Garden sheet, in my small fabric stash! I cut out a simple dress, a shift, to make. I loved being able to take my time, think through each step. I love the results! I must tell you that getting your emails have inspired me! Thank you!

  2. Putnam Sheryl

    Fabulous ideas. On the skirt, which pen or marker did you use to write the script before embroidering?

  3. deborah barnes

    Sweet scrappery!
    I am emailing this link to a like minded person, Dee of Sew Up Seattle.
    I haven’t seen her in awhile as our paths haven’t met since 2016 when she helped me offer a free re-fashion sewing studio at a local community center.
    She saved fabric scraps for her many projects and once had a clutch of old sewing machines, bins and boxes of fabrics and notions in her basement;. Which I found remarkable, as space was prime in her home share arrangement.
    I am so happy I found your name in the book Fashionopolis, as it opened a good flood gate.
    thank you!
    FYI: I bought a maroon sleeveless top when I found it at a a thrift store and though it is too big, it hangs in my small studio as inspiration.

  4. Susan Levitt

    Hi. Hope all are well!! I’m loving the masks I purchased from AC

    Is there any chance you have scraps of tied dye fabric that I can purchase.
    I really need and want the tied dye look….

    Thanks and stay safe.

  5. Kim Procknow

    Just finished a crocheted bath mat using old t-shirts I’ve set aside for a ‘project’. Thanks for the inspiration. I love it and will be making more!