In continuing my discussion about my experience at QuiltCon this year, I have to say that I am so extremely thankful to have gone to the keynote presentation with 4 of the women of the quilters of Gee’s Bend. I did not spend much effort trying to get photographs of the women; I focused on taking notes of their testimonials and videos of their incredible singing. I hope their stories and songs touch you and help you find joy, gratitude, and thanks in your own life.
These are just the notes I jotted down as each woman spoke. I hope the power and story behind the words and in the strength of spirit of these women might still translate through in these notes.
12 to 15 quilts on the bed to stay warm
Quilts on the walls, windows, door to keep wind out
Pick cotton all day. 200-300 lb a day
Look back on my life to see where God brought me from
I am not telling you my story for you to feel sorry for me, but to appreciate where I come from
I started quilting at 7 years old, 9 patch block
On average, Gee’s Bend girls were 12 – 15 age range when they learned to quilt from their mom
Worked for 20 years in sewing factory: work had to be perfect
I don’t have to make it perfect when I quilt for me
Relax and have fun
June 2005 made first quilt for the Gee’s Bend Collective
Love to sing, love the opportunity to travel
Momma made me start to quilt when I was 12
I am not a big talker
Mother taught me to quilt when I was 13
I liked to quilt sometimes, but sometimes I didn’t: I wanted to go out and walk around
I am not a big talker either, these girls (China and Mary Ann) are the talkers
I got to keep telling you that God is good and worthy to be praised
My mother had 11 children, one died as a baby, a girl
My mother raised 10 of us on our own
My father left and went to Montgomery and married another woman and had 7 more kids
I had 3 kids, one died as a baby
29 year old son in Tampa
Daughter in Birmingham working for the government
My daughter tried to learn to quilt but told me it wasn’t for her, and I said that is ok, you have opportunities I did not
My momma sold quilts for $1, $2, $5
Back in the day we threw these quilts away
When I first went to Houston, Texas, and saw the quilt hanging on the wall I never knew that it could look that good
When I sold those first quilts I could pay my car note, my house note, feed my babies
It is good to be my age and get some understanding
I am 58. That is what my momma and daddy told me, that is what they put on my birth certificate, I don’t know how old I am.
I got 2 whoopin’s from my momma. I found out that was love.
Be careful what you ask The Lord for. I asked to get some exercise on this trip. I didn’t know what I was asking for.
I saw my momma’s quilt hanging on the wall and it made me cry. I saw fabric from dresses she made for herself. Jeans my daddy wore in the field.
Back in the day they did not spank me, my momma did not whoop me, she beat me.
With broom handles, pants, belts, sticks… When they let me go I couldn’t sit down
But now I can go to her grave I can kiss it
I didn’t know I was making art
I didn’t know nothing about art when I was in school
I love triangles
I tape up my fingers to keep them from hurting so bad
I like red as you can tell
Notes during the Q&A period
No men in the collective, but young boys have been interested and have learned; we are willing to teach anyone who wants to learn
China and Lucy classmates; graduated high school together
Gloria 60 in May
Women not with us in their late 70s or 80s and when you fly you got to run sometimes, so they don’t travel far
Singing while quilting – yes!
The collective does not work together, we make our tops on our own
When we get together we tend to talk or sing
Lucy still does it all by hand, Gloria does it all by hand
Quilting all done by hand (no machine quilting)
Trash to treasure, China threw things away and Mary Ann dug the scraps out of the trash and started a new project
“I see colors but nothing here going to inspire me to change.” -Mary Ann
There is no wrong way to make a quilt
For more information about the women of Gee’s Bend, here are some additional articles online for you to peruse:
- Fabric of Their Lives (Smithsonian)
- Gee’s Bend Quilting Techniques and History (Video on Martha Stewart)
- Gee’s Bend Quilting Techniques (Video on Martha Stewart)
- The Future of Gee’s Bend (Deep South Magazine)
In closing, below is a video compilation of the gospel songs the women sang at the keynote, preceded by their introduction by Jacquie Gering.
What are YOU thankful for this week? Here’s how to link up:
- Link up any blog post the past week that discusses something that you are thankful for, no matter how big or small (Did you win a giveaway? Did your seam ripper save the day? Did a friend do something simple and kind that made your day?).
- To link an Instagram photo, click the Instagram icon at the bottom of the link-up screen, and use the URL of your IG feed as the link (for example, my URL is http://www.instagram.com/quiltingjetgirl). Please hashtag #ThankfulThursday.
- If you are linking to a blog post, please link back here to my blog somewhere in your post.
- Comment on at least a few of the other Thankful Thursday links, either IG or blog—commenting on the two or three links directly before yours works well to make sure everyone gets comments!
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