New Gee’s Bend Quilt Kits And Fabrics

Guess what!? The press release for the new Gee’s Bend quilters’ partnership with Baum Textiles / Windham Fabrics was sent to me yesterday – with pics! Starting this November, four quilt kits (shown below) and 19 different solid fabrics will begin shipping to quilt shops.

Each quilt kit is comes in a cute bag and includes instructions, fabric, and binding. The designs are based on those by Gee’s Bend quilters Mary Lee Bendolph, Mary L. Bennett, Qunnie Pettway, and Rita Mae Pettway.
One of the most interesting things from the press release was the description of each design:
Housetop, measuring 52” x 64” is based on the same titled design by Rita Mae Pettway – manufacturers style # 30551. Mrs. Pettway (b. 1941) made her first quilt at the age of 14. She was raised by her grandmother, quiltmaker Annie E. Pettway, and still lives in the house that her grandfather built for the family in the 1940s. “Onliest thing we did after everything else was done, we sit by the fireplace in the wintertime and piece up quilts. Me and my grandmama Annie. She didn’t have no pattern to go by; she just cut them by the way she know how to make them,” says Rita Mae. Piecing quilts, according to Rita Mae, was done individually but quilting “we all did together.” Rita Mae, along with her ancestors and her daughter, renowned quilter Louisiana Bendolph share a penchant for creating strip quilts in concentric squares resulting in Housetops or Hog Pens, each artist though has a unique style and variation on the theme.

The Strips and Strings quilt kit is based on Mary Lee Bendolph’s design of that name. The manufacturer’s style is # 30552 and the final quilt measures 75” x 50”. Mrs. Bendolph (b. 1935), the 7th of 17 children, descends from generations of accomplished quilt makers. She learned to quilt from her mother, Aolar Mosely and a network of aunts and female in-laws. She worked in the Alabama fields and attended school intermittently until she was 14, when she began her own family. Bendolph was one of many Gee’s Benders who accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. in his march at Camden, AL in 1965. Her quilt making style marries a flair for improvisation to traditional construction techniques that emphasize rectangles and squares. Her minimalist patches, small compositions of cloth, build to create intricate overall compositions that contain humorous touches and autobiographical references.

Housetop 4-Block Variation is 57” x 65” and styled after the work by the same name by Mary L. Bennett – manufacturers style # 30550. Mrs. Bennett (b. 1942), granddaughter of Delia Bennett (1892-1976) ancestor of many quilt makers in Gee’s Bend. Mary L. Bennett pieces primarily “Housetop” and “Bricklayer” compositions and imaginative variations on them. “I was born down here in Brown Quarters and got raised by my grandmother. I started out working in the fields for my uncle Stalling Bennett. I didn’t get no schooling – every now and then a day here and there. Didn’t nobody teach me to make quilts. I just learned it by myself, about 12 or 13. I was seeing my grandmamma piecing it up, and then I start. I just taken me some pieces and put it together, piece them up till they look like I want them to look. That’s all,” states Mary L. Bennett.

Lazy Gal Variation, based on the design of the same name by Qunnie Pettway measures 52″ x 62” – manufacturers style # 30549. Mrs. Pettway (b. 1943) is the great-granddaughter of Dinah Miller who is said to have arrived in the United States aboard a slave ship from Africa — the Clotilde that docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama prior to the Civil War. Qunnie learned to quilt House Tops under the tutelage of her mother, Candis Pettway. In 1960 after she married, she found her unique artistic voice and began making patterned quilts including Wedding Ring – which she learned from her sister – Chestnut Bud, Bear Paw and Crazy Z. Qunnie’s daughter, Loretta P. Bennett is one of the youngest quilters actively creating extraordinary quilts today.

One of the other really nice things is that a percentage of the royalty that each of the four quilters receives is in written contracts to be routed into The Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective and The Gee’s Bend Foundation.
One shop is already taking pre-orders because of the anticipated order volume.

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