Skip to content

Dear Ann,

Right on time. It’s summer, so naturally I find myself at the bottom of a deep, cool well of love for Alabama Chanin.

Last summer, the fever hit me in France. The malady was expected, seeing as how I was at an Alabama Chanin retreat, with members of my sewing circle, new sewing friends, and Natalie Chanin, at the time. I made a pencil skirt with an actual kick pleat. I completed it, start to finish, at the workshop. I was only a tiny bit crazed by the end of the week.

Then I came home, and knitting reasserted its dominance over my crafting life. Sometimes, I couldn’t even get it together to find my Alabama Chanin sewing to take it to work on at sewing circle. I just sat there knitting, resting on the tolerance of my sewing sisters.


But on July 4, when I cracked open my Alabama Chanin Flag Quilt kit, I was a goner. I have been in a frenzy of Alabama Chanin love ever since.  Every spare minute, I’m sewing. My Instagram feed is my witness. I’m running about a block a day. They are so compact, and speedy, the blocks that make up the pieced stripes of Old Glory in this kit.


I started out following the chart as closely as I could. My goal was to finish this thing. To git R done as fast as possible (which was still going to be a very long time).  I used the most speedy technique I know: reverse appliqué using running stitch. We ain’t got time for back stitch!

But when you spend hours sewing, your mind starts working. I started thinking of the big and small ways I’d like to make this project my own. All of these ways will take more time. Some of them will involve back stitch.

First thought: I’d like the palette of my flag to be a little less tea-stained, a little less Early American, a little more sparkly and bright. So I started using white thread, and tomato red thread instead of wine red. I started thinking about whether I had any stenciled white cloth that I might sub in for some of the dove-colored strips.

Second thought: The flag kit does not come with beads. But beads would up the sparkle factor. And I happen to have three packs of Alabama Chanin beads, from last August when we were packing up after the workshop, and a Voice told me, Kay, take the beads. You may need them. So I took red, white, and silver glass beads from the Czech Republic. And now I have a use for them.  I love the heft and swing that beads give to a fabric.


Third thought: I need to involve my friends, somehow. Maybe I can get Melanie to lend me the stencil she designed. Maybe I can get a few friends to do a block, here and there. Maybe I can do some stencils with text, and seed them into the beautiful floral and geometric stencils in the kit. I love text in quilts, and maybe this quilt needs a few more words.

In the meantime, I keep sewing whenever I can. It scratches the same itch as knitting, which is both a good and bad thing. It’s good, because I love knitting and the feeling of calm purposefulness that knitting (and sewing by hand) give me. It’s bad, because sewing cuts into my knitting time, and I have lots of projects on the needles.

Meanwhile, it’s summer, and I feel at one with the universe.





  • I love this insight into your process! And I love where you are taking this project. Or where it is taking you. Looking forward to seeing more.
    I haven’t sewn anything for ages, but I just had a flashback to handsewing and embroidering a sort of smock-top and even a long dress when I was – gulp – a teenager. Probably not long after the Beatles were singing that tune – thanks for a zippy earworm on a(nother) rainy morning. SO much better than 90% of the crap that gets stuck on autoplay in my head these days 🙂

  • Love this KAY!! One question….are you hand sewing or machine sewing this gorgeous quilt?

    • All by hand, baby!

      • That’s incredible!!! Now I’m even MORE in awe of you!

  • It is so beautiful! I love the beads. Share more please! Tell us how you got the darker colors, too. Are they drawn on? I’m rooting for you!

    • The blocks were stenciled with fabric paint at the Alabama Chanin factory in Florence, Alabama. All I have to do is sew!

  • YES!! Love, love, love! This is the best thing I’ve read in ages. I know just how exhilarating this type of fall can be!! I love seeing your progress, and the process — making it your own. It will come as no surprise that I’ve already assessed my t-shirt stash with the idea of a flag quilt of my own! LOVE!

  • Ooohhh, I know these feelings. Enjoy the fall, and please keep taking us along for the ride! I’m particularly looking forward to seeing some white blocks…

  • Oh, such fun to just stitch a few beads onto fabric before breakfast. You’ll have it done by Labour Day!

  • This is going to be SO stunning Kay! I love hearing how your creative spirit is beginning to hijack the process and throwing in wonderful little ideas to add your own special touches – can’t wait to see some of them come to life! As a quilter (primary) and a knitter (dabbler) I well know the dilemma when the fever for one takes over and the other must languish for a bit. Aren’t we lucky to have such problems? :*)

  • I love this, too! So glad you are adding your own touches, and are not a “blind follower”, as EZ would say. I especially love your addition of the beads and the story of how you “saved” them last summer. The beads also remind me of Ann’s lovely AC creations from a few years back. With regard to text, are you going to put some words from the Declaration of Independence or Constitutuon?
    Thanks for sharing this, Kay. The discussions about quilting always hold a special place for me.


  • Wow, is that going to be a heirloom for sure. Patriot things get a lot of use all year long I have found out. Loving the updates to follow it. Alabama Chanin works are really beautiful. I know the battle of needlework arts. It’s needle versus needles, should I knit or sew? It’s a constant battle that I continue fight, then it dives between the projects in a group… right now there’s new garden flags to sew, a tshirt quilt to finish for a child ( who’s 30) a new blouse cut out to be embroidered …. a cute doll to sew for my granddaughter. Then on the other team it’s the sock knitting that looks at me when I sit down and I think that gradient watermelon yarn sure is gorgeous… and I’m almost to the heel… AND it continues! ( all that was just yesterday I might add) Welcome to the club I’ll send you a VIP card and welcome kit ( bag of scraps for EEP (English Paper Piecing) so small and compact to stitch, easy take-a-longs. Just something else to do battle with!

  • Let me know if you need a few extra hands to appliqué for you. It would be a joy and an honor to be do a piece in your flag (and since I don’t wear red a chance to bring a dash of bright to my sewing without having to actually wear it!) kudos for the personalization – it seems like Natalie would approve!

  • I am loving reading (and seeing on IG) your progress. And I think adding the beads is a great idea!

  • Love the post and the idea of some words sprinkled about the stripes. Maybe — “Three cheers for the red, white and blue!” Or those lines from “Barbara Frietchie” by John Greenleaf Whittier: “Shoot if you must, this old grey head, but spare your country’s flag.”

  • Oh, the beads!! Just the perfect touch. I am guilty of following instructions way too much. Seeing your project may be just what I need to take the plunge.

  • Okay, now I’ve reserved all the Chanin books in the St. Paul Library system. Gorgeous!!!

  • As soon as you posted about your flag quilt, I bought the Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns Book. I’m itching to get started on an Alabama Chanin project myself! Sadly, I’m at a professional development workshop all week, but I will resume my previously scheduled teacher summer next week.

  • Can’t wait to see this all together, Kay. Those varied reds will make it vibrant!

  • AHH..MAZE…..ING! Talent AND patience. I want those genes next time around.

  • LOVE the beads! What a great idea! It’s going to be amazing.

  • I also have been by the Alabama Chanin bug. It’s all new to me and I’m not very good at sewing but I’m learning!

  • Meanwhile, Olive reports ominous noises coming from the closet containing the Big Floral Damask Thing….

  • Wow! Beautiful quilt, beautiful work, exciting “make it your own” choices. This is the most inspiring blog ever! I want to leave work right now and get busy making something.

  • Beautiful. Love the beads! I also very much love how you described the creative process; “But when you spend hours [crafting], your mind starts working. I started thinking of the big and small ways I’d like to make this project my own.” All those hours I’ve spent on my own knitting, making changes to almost every project, and I never thought of it exactly that way before. That’s right up there with “Knitting is Supposed to be Fun,” and anything EZ said!

  • Gorgeous! So envious of your creativity and skills! Silver lining for me (no pun intended) is that I had crossed quilting off my “learn to do list” for reasons too boring to wrote about, but you’ve put it back on! And are seriously increasing my desire to learn how to sew!

    Enjoy your lovely summer!!

  • Sure. You can use my stencil. I’d love to sew together!

  • What size will the flag be when it’s done? And do you think it would be suitable to hang outside in occasionally windy weather? You might just get me (temporarily) off my knitting and needlepoint jag.

  • I’m right there with you. Did my first Alabama retreat in June and just finished a dress yesterday. In the meantime I made an American version of Tibetan prayer flags which got put in an art show. I can not stop sewing. Sashiko pillows are going to be my travel project to Berlin but also the MDK. Fingerless mitts from Field Guide #1. Going to try working both sides of my making jones.

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping