Designer Quiltmaking: Alabama Chanin
The Alabama Chanin warehouse is in a historic area of Florence, Alabama—a group of buildings that, back in the ’70s, was the T-shirt-making capital of the United States. Outside it is beige. Inside it is transformed, every surface coming alive with some small act of creativity: a small city of thimbles, a chair reupholstered in scrap fabric, antique quilts embroidered with the oral histories of quiltmakers and stitchers in the region (one clip reads, “It was said that the smell of bread baking in the kitchen brought magical powers to the quilt being sewn."). The soft cotton jersey used for the clothing lines—the cotton is grown in Texas, spun in North Carolina, knit in South Carolina and dyed outside of Nashville—sits on one set of shelves, and complete pieces hang across a wall, embroidered, beaded and appliquéd as examples to help visitors as they choose designs. Once an order is placed, Chanin and her staff cut the fabric and assemble the materials. A local seamstress completes the piece and sells it back to Chanin. On our visit, the endlessly generous Chanin gave us lessons in sewing and appliqué, describing the physics of each stitch. It’s as peaceful an experience as you can imagine. Workshops are available to all; materials, knowledge and delicious food is provided. 462 Lane Dr.; 256-760-1090; alabamachanin.com.