Category Archives: quilting

How I Learned to Think Diagonally and Sew with My Soul the Gee’s Bend Way

Mary Ann Pettway

Mary Ann Pettway

The long leaf pines swayed in the mountain breeze. The atmosphere inside electric with color, song and humming sewing machines. This past week I attended a 4-day Gee’s Bend Quilting retreat in the beautiful rolling hills of northern Alabama. We were in the midst of two inspiring Gee’s Bend quilters: Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway.

The Pettways have an interesting way of teaching. Demonstrating, then observing. Showing, then praising. They loved us through the process until we “got it”. The quilting itself was not the Big Thing. The Big Thing was the small voice inside that spoke through our hands as we worked. From time to time the Pettways would break into song – sounds of praise so deep, the voices of the two women reverberated in that room so that anyone would have thought there was a choir of twenty.

basil

Basil ready to slice his strips into angles

There were fifteen quilters. Basil, the only male quilter there, is an art quilter from St. Louis. Arleen brought her Gee’s Bend Quilts book for the ladies to sign. She worked quietly in the corner and produced gorgeous angles in her blocks – obvious that she had studied the style prior to the workshop. Others struggled to let go of all they had learned about quilting to learn a new way of sewing tiny pieces of fabrics together.

“Yes, you’ve got it! You’re quilting the Gee’s Bend way.”

When one of us heard that, we knew we finally understood that we were slicing and dicing our way into a new way of quilting. On the 2nd day, I finally got it. Allow the Spirit to take over in your sewing! Sew with your soul instead of what the world says you should do.  Forget about straight lines. Forget about patterns. Forget about bringing a preconceived notion of what you will make. Let the quilt develop into what it wants to be.

Arleens

“You’ve got it.”

“That’s where the art is,” China Pettway says.

What have you learned to do in a new way? When have you realized that they way you have always done something may not the only way, the best way?

pettwaysI’m sending out a huge Thank You to the Gee’s Bend Quilters and the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell!

almost finished

 

gees bend quilts

a few quilts the Pettways brought with them

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Culture of Lack

My husband Robert and I have worked together in Honduras and Panama. One of the things that impressed us was the resourcefulness of the people in recycling goods. There was very little trash. They used up everything they had. Picked up used nails. Wove baskets from weeds, stitched clothing from scraps. We could not help but think of all that our culture of abundance throws away.

My mother was born in 1915. May father in 1912. Depression era mentality. Culture of lack. My father never threw away anything. My mother used to melt together the leftover small slivers of soap. I have stories.

Today I completed a hand-stitched quilt made of throw-a-way fabric. Small pieces of linen leftover from garments I have sewn. Small lengths of embroidery threads. A small piece of loosely-woven multi-color cotton homespun-type fabric I’ve been hoarding for a long time.

quilt1

front – embroidery and hand stitching

quilt2

back – We are all made of stars

 

 

I have a difficult time throwing away small scraps of fabric. Among other things.

What do you have a difficult time throwing away?