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.