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.
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.