Sunday, June 27, 2010

Inspired by Gee's Bend



Last summer I got to be in a short workshop with some of the Gee's Bend gals in Sisters, Oregon. It was nothing short of a spiritual experience--truly!

There were about 7 of the ladies there, all ages. First they sang some rousing gospel-type songs. Then they scattered around the room and started working with us. No lecture, no introductions, just gather the inspiration and start.

China Pettway came over to our table, and began to work with my sister-in-law, Bonnie, and me.

The first thing she said was, "Where are your pieces?" I pointed to my nicely folded stack of fabrics. She said, "Well, we'll need to cut some pieces first." OK. I grabbed my rotary cutter and mat. "What are doing with that thing?" she asked. "Get some scissors over here." Lesson one--no rotary cutters.

She took the scissors and cut two rectangles, free-hand, one peach and one red. Then she said, "Sew these together." OK. Then she cut a piece of turquoise and said, "Sew this onto there." Yes, Mam. Then the red polka dot.

I asked her how she decided to put these particular fabrics together. She just ignored me. I asked THREE times over the next hour. No response. Lesson two--let the spirit move you.

As I added fabrics in the same way, she kept saying, "Now that's beautiful, just beautiful." I felt like a little girl with the most encouraging mother at my side. Lesson three--be sweet to yourself.

We made two blocks this way--the top two in this piece. She offered her signature. I went straight back to our cabin and made the other two. I was hooked!



I came home and kept going, humming one of those Gee's Bend songs.


I just finished quilting this one for my sister, Kimber, who lives in Idaho. The back includes a strip from a shirt that belonged to our Dad. Now she can wrap herself in a hug from him--and me--anytime she wants!

10 comments:

Sujata Shah said...

Love, love, love! I love the quilts you made and the stories behind them too. What a perfect way to give your sister hugs from both you and your dad!Once again, very inspired!

beth said...

Ooooh! that is so beautiful! You were so blessed to have taken the class and now you're going to bless your sister with some sweet memories.

Spangle said...

Great lessons. I just need some music and some sewing time!

shellysquilts said...

Gorgeous stuff! I luv it! And of course, I luv a pieced back (your Dad's shirt was a nice touch.) Happy sewing!

Victoria said...

What a fabulous experience!! (I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't a little bit jealous!) I know that when I saw the Gee's Bend exhibit, it did feel like a spiritual experience, as so many of those pieces felt as if they lived and breathed... they were that full of spirit. The air in the room must have felt electric being with the woman, listening to their voices lifting in song, and having their encouragement. Wow.

Love what you created!

amandajean said...

i can't imagine how fun and inspiring the whole experience must have been! it seems apparent that we overthink our quilts. what great lessons you learned. what a stunning finished piece!

AmyJo said...

I am so inspired. I love the Gee Bend quilts but have been a bit afraid to try my hand at it. I may have to try it out in doll quilt size first.

Tonya R said...

I love it. what a fabulous experience - I'm VERY jealous of that and the Gwenny class. I have to admit, I'm still hooked on the rotary cutter, even if I'm not using it to measure. haven't been fearless enough to just do scissors. hmmm....

Bonnie Hull said...

This was such a lovely memory.

blueheron91 said...

This entry brings back such good memories for me.... I too was fortunate to take a workshop with ladies from Gee's Bend in London,ON this summer and am working on quilting the piece I made with Lucy. China spoke at our lecture. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your project!
Susan K in ON