Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

It would be very hard not to mention these stunning quilts when compiling an exhibition of denim. While the quilters of Gee’s Bend in Southern Alabama have made many beautiful patterns and quilts, using whatever fabrics were available, the denim work-clothes quilts resonate with both a communal, historical moment and a local, specific story. Many of these women worked the cotton fields in the day, and gathered together to quilt in the evenings, using recycled clothing from the family and community, piecing together a means of surviving cold winters.

The town’s women developed a distinctive, bold and sophisticated quilting style based on traditional American (and African American) quilts, but with a geometric simplicity reminiscent of Modern art. The women of Gee’s Bend have passed their skills and aesthetic down through at least six generations to the present.

Lazy Gal
Loretta Pettway, born 1942. "Lazy Gal" -- "Bars," ca. 1965, denim and cotton, 80 x 69 inches.

Loretta Pettway, born 1942. "Logcabin" -- single-block "Courthouse Steps" variation (local name: "Bricklayer"), ca. 1970, denim.

quilt strings
Loretta Pettway, born 1942. String-pieced quilt 1963, cotton twill and synthetic material (men's clothing), 80 x 74 inches. In the early 1960s, Loretta Pettway fashioned three quilts from the same batch of men's clothing scraps.

Annie Mae Young, born 1928. Work-clothes quilt with centre medallion of corduroy strips, 1976. Denim, corduroy, synthetic blend, 108 x 77 inches.

Work Clothes Quilt
Lucy Mooney, ca. 1880-1969. Blocks and strips work-clothes quilt, ca 1935, cotton, denim, wool.

stella pettway
Stella Pettway. Work Clothes Quilt.

'Reflections on the art of Gee's Bend' Jane Livingston, Tinwood Books, 2002.

These and more images can be viewed here. All images courtesy of Tinwood Media.


  1. these quilts are stunning. I found them very moving too. Real, for wanting of a better word.