This is one of my paternal grandmother’s quilts, and it is over 100 years old. My Mammau. She was from Bayou La Fourche, Des Allmandes and Jacoby, Louisiana. I have no idea what happened to her other quilts but I am very pleased that this one was put in my care, moved from house to house, lovingly packed each time. The colors are still lovely, vivid and clear. The fabrics appear to be clothing remnants, flour sacks and such. The star patterns are not all the same design.
The faded, rough backing
The backing is also interesting – I have not been able to identify what the textiles are. Loosely woven work clothing perhaps, faded whites and blues, and the batting layer is still intact and very thick. The entire quilt is quite heavy, large and of course it’s all hand-stitched. My Mammau taught me to sew on her 1918 Singer treadle machine.
I would love to try and duplicate her patterns in this quilt but the thought of all those little pieces gives me a headache. Ok, I love to quilt – just not with pieces this small. So how do I reconcile my love of quilts and quilting and my aversion to tiny piecing? Because I know how quilting and sewing can enhance a life, and even change one’s emotional perspective. It’s all about creativity and community.
Therefore, I want to join with Scott Fortunoff of Blank Quilting Company in starting the “Sewing Revolution of 2018”. In his most recent blog, he said the following:
- I am going to continue to urge people to teach others how to sew and quilt.
- I am going to try to convince people to get a new machine and give away their old one to someone that can’t afford one.
- I am going to keep selling more fabric, of course.
- I am going to continue to donate fabric to those who can’t afford it.
If you say it more and more, people will believe it and they may venture to jump in. And in Scott’s words: “We cannot allow this great art to wither away and become a lost art” when it is so easy to embrace. “What is going to be your contribution to the Sewing Revolution?” Let’s do this and let’s have fun doing it.
Sew………. are you with me?
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 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.
“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?
I’m sending out a huge Thank You to the Gee’s Bend Quilters and the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell!
a few quilts the Pettways brought with them