Gee's Bend Quilts

Our favorite Gee’s Bend Quilts

Have you heard of the Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers? They’re a group of artists in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, who live so beautifully in their cultural and familial heritage of making quilted textile art. I’ve gathered some of my favorite Gee’s Bend Quilts from the quilters’ online shops, and I’m thrilled to share their work with you!

You can learn so much about the Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers and read their stories at soulsgrowndeep.org. You can also find out more about them through Nest, which is a nonprofit that has given the Gee’s Bend Quilters a bigger platform for selling their art. There’s even a documentary on PBS about them, which I’ll be watching this week. I’ve also noticed a few books like this one and this one. And this children’s book that recently came out! Clearly I’m obsessed 😉

I’m excited to share the Gee’s Bend Quilts with you because it’s old news that I’m obsessed with quilted things and the rich heritage related to quilting. You’ve seen my quilted coat fascination (on more than one occasion), the coat that I enlisted Romy of Sew Like Romy to make for me last year, the quilted eye mask that I made from some of the extra pieces, and you’ve found out about the big feelings people have about repurposing quilts. I even quilted a patchwork bandana and scrunchie this spring. I know, I know, we get it! Lars loves quilts!

Gee’s Bend History

Gee’s Bend is a small, Black community surrounded by the Alabama River where families have been passing down a quilting tradition since their enslaved foremothers, who lived on the local Pettway Plantation. repurposed whatever material they had access to into colorful quilts. At different points in history the Gee’s Bend quilters have used deadstock corduroy and discarded work clothes in their work.

Gee’s Bend quilts have gained a reputation for being some of the most vibrant, artistically boundary-bending quilts in the American art tradition. They remind me of some of the best Modernist paintings in that the Gee’s Bend quilts are full of color, geometry, and an acknowledgement of the human hand.

 

Even though the Gee’s Bend quilts are now acknowledged as a vital part of American art history, many of the quilters aren’t consistently paid their worth. When I realized that you can buy Gee’s Bend Quilts directly from the artists on Etsy I knew I had to share! So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite Gee’s Bend quilts and quiltmakers!

Quiltmakers

You can read about lots of the individual quiltmakers here. I love reading up on each artist’s story and seeing the ways that their families have passed on quilting traditions. For example, here’s a quilt by Amelia Bennett, who used to quilt with her neighbors and passed her legacy on to her daughter Sally Bennett Jones.

A multicolored quilt made of concentric squares and rectangles.
Amelia Bennet, Housetop 12-Block Variation, photo by Stephen Pitkin

Many of the living Gee’s Bend artists have work available on Etsy. I’ve linked to each individual artist’s shop, so click on their names for more!

Sharon Williams

Katie Mae

Doris Pettway Moseley

Doris Pettway Hackets

Caster Pettway

Lou Ida

Emma Pettway

Claudia Pettway Charley

Stella Mae

Delia

Mary Margaret Pettway

Kristin Pettway

Loretta Pettway Bennett

I love the ingenuity of these Gee’s Bend quilted masks!

I would love to hear about your favorite artists, especially Black artists whose work you’re loving! Let me know in the comments!

And if you’re interested in supporting women makers around the world like those of Gee’s Bend, consider donating to Nest.

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