A Flair for Fabrics

These three talents of design reside in Birmingham's backyard, creating beautiful fabrics that show up in well-appointed homes here and beyond.

Mary Catherine Folmar posting with pillows make from her fabrics.
Photography by Mary Fehr

Mary Catherine Folmar

Cotton & Quill

Mary Catherine Folmar has been drawing for as long as she can remember. She credits much of her artistic sensibilities to her creative mother. While she majored in industrial design at Auburn, Mary Catherine always had a penchant for the world of interiors and fashion. After working in Atlanta and then at her husband’s company in Birmingham, she launched Cotton & Quill 10 years ago.

“At first we were just offering finished products like pillows and hand towels, but then people starting asking for cut yardage,” Mary Catherine says. “That’s what we’ve become known for the most.” (Cotton & Quill also added wallpaper in 2014.)

Mary Catherine’s Southern roots, along with her extensive travels including study abroad in Taiwan, inform her designs. Her experience in Asia resulted in a love of chinoiserie that is reflected in several patterns, such as one of her first ones—the popular foo dog Shi Shi design—as well as the bamboo print Bambusa. She takes tradition and pokes holes in it, which is evident in the bold, often-unusual color combinations and a sense of whimsy in many of her patterns.

Mary Catherine’s unique style is certainly getting noticed—a collaboration with Hive porcelain started in 2019, and one with Jaye’s Studio on pajamas, trays, ginger jars, lamps, and cachepots debuted in March this year. She also has a collection of placemats and coasters with Holly Stewart Home.

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On the horizon are additional partnerships, including one for archival prints with Urban Garden Prints. While the development into a lifestyle brand keeps her busy, Mary Catherine also enjoys time on the family farm in South Alabama, where she and her husband relax and recharge. “But after the last couple of years, I wouldn’t mind a trip to Italy,” she says. “Maybe Spain and France for some inspiration as well.”

“I really lean towards classical motifs interpreted in fresh ways through scale and color.”

Mary Catherine Fomar

Influences & After Hours

Most Memorable Meal:
A picnic of sandwiches my husband Tyler and I made and enjoyed while sitting on the ruins of Pompeii while honeymooning on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Wellbeing Touchstones:
Coffee, red lipstick, perfume (I love Lancôme’s La Vie Est Belle or Valentino Donna Born in Roma Eau De Parfum), books, and flowers.

Go-to Outfit:
Distressed casual jeans, a loose-fitting shirt, Birdies sandals or slides, diamond earring studs, watch, and an Ex Voto simple brass cuff.

Inspired by:
Michelle Nussbaumer, James Farmer, Mario Buatta, and the late Gloria Vanderbilt

Meaningful Aha Moment:
Changing from pre-med to studying industrial design at Auburn University my sophomore year. Without that change, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and Cotton & Quill would not be here either!

Happy Places:
At our farm or the beach with the hubs and our pets, Butters and Mr. Kitty

Favorite Food Indulgence:
Blackberry cobbler

Favorite Things About Birmingham:
The culinary scene, history, Sloss Furnace, Oak Mountain, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Three Favorite Movies:
Twister, Home Alone, and Christmas Vacation

Heather Chadduck posing with rolls of fabric

Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Heather Chadduck Interiors & Textiles

UP NEXT: Heather has been appointed designer-in-residence at Colonial Williamsburg where she will decorate the circa-1695 Nelson-Galt House. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she says. “I’m so excited to delve into the archives of this historic place I’ve visited since childhood and return to my roots in rural Virginia. And the fact that it’s my house for the next two years, and my husband David and I can live there when we want, makes it all the more meaningful.”

Heather Chadduck Hillegas spent many years as a stylist and magazine editor before putting out her design shingle and dipping into fabrics. In the 1990s in Dallas, she created dreamy retreats for luxury bedding manufacturers such as Peacock Alley, Yves Delorme, and Neiman Marcus. She moved to Birmingham in 2004 after accepting the style editor position at the nascent Cottage Living magazine. She then spent time at Coastal Living and Southern Living. Readers enthusiastically reacted to her editorial work, and soon Heather was inundated with requests for her talents. As a result, she opened her own interiors firm in 2008.

Heather first came to fabrics when she found a lack in the market for elegant hand-blocked prints on linen, but it wasn’t exactly a stretch for the designer. “I had studied screen-printing in studio work at college, so I had the knowledge to develop the pattern and look I wanted.”

Her initial desire involved a specific botanical print. She debuted Lillieberrie in 2014, which continues to be a go-to for designers. Instead of always launching new patterns, Heather likes to play with her existing ones by introducing unexpected colorways, like shrimp, paprika, apricot, melon, and chocolate. She also varies the scale. “I am very intentional about adding a new print,” she says. “I want our textiles to speak to each other and keep the focus on what we do best—classics reinvented.” All textiles are printed on luxurious imported Belgian linen and produced in U.S. mills.

In 2021, Heather also created a limited edition collection of towels with Weezie, showcasing her Grand Fronde.

“Every yard is hand-screened with artisan tech- niques that date back to 1937. I am so drawn to the result—there’s beauty in the imperfections just like in the antiques I so frequently use in my work.”

Heather Chadduck

Influences & After Hours

Ideal Saturday:
Sleeping in, then a visit to the farmers market followed by a hike with my husband and dog on one of the beautiful hiking trails around Birmingham. My current favorite is Turkey Creek Preserve.

Happy Places:
At Round Hill in Jamaica or on an installation. It’s all about the yin & yang of relaxation and work, I guess.

Well Being Touchstones:
Green juice from Whole Foods; a kaftan; comfortable wedge shoe; an empty SUV; and a deep tissue massage

Type A or B:
For a creative person, I am incredibly goal oriented. Other than that I am pretty laid-back, so I would have to say I am a hybrid.

Most Memorable Meal:
This one is difficult, but having dinner on a small island in Maine at the summer home of Sister Parish is at
the top. Three generations—Apple, Susan, and Eliza—made a wonderful Thai dinner, and my boyfriend (now husband) was in attendance as well. The home is decorated as Sister left it— colorful, timeless, and inspiring.

Inspired by:
Suzanne Rheinstein, Amelia Handegan, Charlotte Moss, and the late Nancy Lancaster

Go-to Outfit:
A kaftan—I have a bedroom-turned- into-a-closet dedicated entirely to them.

I love to cook, but true relaxation is staring into a fire at the end of the day.

Jane Shelton in front of a wall of fabric watches

Jane Shelton

Jane Shelton Fabrics

TRIED AND TRUE: While Jane introduces new collections each year, some patterns have entered the iconic category, including Quentin (a faux bois linen stripe) and Chestnuts & Lilacs (a subdued botanical chintz).

When reflecting on her years in the fabric business, Jane says she is content with where the line is today. “It took us years to develop the relationships that we have in the fabric world,” she says. “I am proud of what we’ve built, and I’m not interested in straying from our distinct point of view that our clients expect from us. They didn’t leave us during the neutral decorating trends of seasons past, and we want to keep them happily in the fold.”

As an interior designer in Memphis, Tennessee, Jane Shelton frequently met with fabric reps to see their collections— and she couldn’t help but offer her opinions. “I’ve always been outspoken, and I gave out unsolicited comments about how patterns could be changed or what was missing,” she says with a laugh. Eventually, Samarkand took those asides seriously and asked Jane to help on an upcoming line. “We traveled to fabric shows in Paris, London, and Frankfurt,” says the designer. “It was a wonderful introduction to and education in how the fabric world worked.”

Soon after, Jane Shelton Fabrics debuted at Travis & Co. in Atlanta where the line is still represented, now expanding to seven more design trade showrooms in the U.S. as well as one in London.

While the company was originally based in Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi, for 35 years, it was Jane’s son Tom who took the reins in 2016 and moved the operations to Birmingham. “Tom owns the business, but I still serve as a consultant,” she says.

Jane considers herself an editor, not an artist. “I take existing fabric documents that I source from everywhere and I rescale them, recolor them, or add to or eliminate from them,” she says. “There’s a lot of trial and error before we eventually settle on the final fabric.” All the fabrics
are screen-printed and hand-blocked, although the company has dipped its toes into the digital world as of late with mixed results.

When putting together a collection, Jane also includes related wovens and trims to accompany the prints. This allows designers to have a one-stop shopping experience.

Jane’s fabrics are firmly rooted in tradition but with subtle and sometimes more pronounced variations from the expected. This makes them fresh while keeping that timelessness that is so important to her devotees.

Influences & After Hours

An Ideal Saturday:
Reading the The New York Times in bed with my coffee, vising local plants shops, and dinner with friends

Dream Dinner Guests:
Deborah Mitford, Bunny Mellon, and Vita Sackville West

Favorite Restaurants in Birmingham:
Chez Fonfon, Hot & Hot, Gianmarco’s, Gilchhrist, and Gus’s with my grandchild.

Inspired By:
John Fowler, Sister Parish, David Hicks, Tom Scheerer, Mark Sikes, and the late Nancy Lancaster

Go-to Outfit:
White blouse, black pants, and a scarf for color plus some gold bracelets and earrings—a layered look with chunky and delicate styles.

Favorite Places To Stay:
The Lombardy in New York—a lot of people don’t know about it, but it used to be an apartment building; Villa d’este in Lake Como; Villa Saint Louis in Lourmarin, France

Favorite Movies:
From the sublime to the ridiculous – Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Rebecca (the Joan Fontaine version), My Cousin Vinny; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Why I Love Birmingham:
I love the villages of Mountain Book and not having to drive my car all the time. I enjoy the distinctive character of the neighborhoods. It has a small town feel with the amenities of a city—botanical gardens, fine dining, symphony, museums, and the like.

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