16 September, 2006

The U.S. Postal Service has recognized the quilters of Gee's Bend, AL with the supreme honor of depicting their wonderful, graphic and colorful quilts on postage stamps. What a fitting tribute!

Gee's Bend is located in southwest Alabama on a sliver of land five miles long and eight miles wide, a virtual island surrounded by a bend in the Alabama River. Without a ferry service for decades, the residents were confined by the river unless they made the hour-long drive to the county seat of Camden, directly across the river from Gee's Bend.

Gee's Bend was named after Joseph Gee, the first white man to stake a claim there in the early 1800s. The Gee family sold the plantation to Mark Pettway in 1845. Most of the approximately 750 people who live in Gee's Bend today are descendants of slaves on the former Pettway plantation. Their forebears continued to work the land as tenant farmers after emancipation, and many eventually bought the farms from the government in the 1940s. Isolated geographically, the women in the community created quilts from whatever materials were available, in patterns of their own imaginative design.

As a quiltmaker myself I am amazed and inspired by this determination to make do with what one has available. I cannot relate, as I continue to think if I only had this or this or this I could make any quilt that I'm working on even better... be it a different thread or a new fabric or an exciting trim or embellishment. It's simply a matter of a quick buying trip to the local quilt shop and I can accomplish whatever my mind has imagined. I'm going to remember the women from Gee's Bend the next time I think I don't have just the right yellow or the proper pattern. I'm going to go with what I've got and learn a valuable lesson from the ladies of Gee's Bend. I'm thankful for the recoginition bestowed upon these innovative women and I will proudly affix these stamps to all my mail as long as they're available at the post office!

Life is Good!


Flake said...

"Comment" :P

Jim V said...

I found a website just for these quilts. They are incredible, because at first blush they seem "tossed together" because they don't use the traditional neat and sqaure corners and perfectly straight lines that quiltmakers are famous for.

But there is something naturally beautiful about them that I can't quite put my finger on. And I'm no quilter, but it seems like taking non-square pieces and making a square quilt is at least some kind of challenge.

What I have a hard time with is the colors. They put colors together I would never consider, but it works perfectly.

You can also make donations on the website, and see lots of quilts.


Jim V said...

Hey! It turns out the donations they seek are not money, but fabrics and threads. I'll talk to Lisa and see if she has anything to send over. Maybe our fabric will be in a Gee's Bend quilt...

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Jim, Right you are! In fact, regarding donations; this disclaimer is on the Gee's Bend website:

Sewing supplies (including but not limited to the following):
Sewing machines in good working condition
Quilting needles

Please note: donations are not tax deductible at this time.

Also, and maybe even better--

You can purchase a Gee's Bend "gift card" (actually a Visa Debit Card) where a portion of the $ goes directly to the community of Gee's Bend and the quiltmakers who live there! Win-Win!! :)

quiltkeemosabe said...

Does this mean no more trips to MaryJo's????? I certainly hope not. Or does it mean you will now take some of the scraps that I am always taking to do something with them????

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Hello, quiltkeemosabe! Welcome!! I certainly think jaunts to Gastonia remain on the horizon, let's be realistic after all.

Shelina said...

Ahhh, what a well written post. You are right, we need to be more appreciative of what we have rather than always wantin more.