Loretta Pettway, b. 1942
Four-block strip quilt. Circa 1960. Cotton twill
and synthetic material (men's clothing). 78 x 73 inches.
The Quilts of Gee's Bend, p. 74
I've been thinking a lot about improvisational quilting lately. It is honestly my favorite way to work. For me, it's much more exciting to create a quilt as I piece the blocks, changing the layout and designs as I sew, instead of following the precise instructions of a pattern. With improvisational quilting, anything works, so there's also less frustration if the finished blocks don't turn out "just right."
Some of my favorite improvisational quilts were made by the women of Gee's Bend, Alabama. I was looking through the book "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" and came across a quote by Mensie Lee Pettway (b.1939), who states:
Didn't use patterns for quilts, neither. None of this family have used patterns. We got a tradition of the old peoples' way...Everybody made their own designs. We was taught there's so many different ways to build a quilt. It's like building a house. You can start with a bedroom over there, or a den overhere, and just add on until you get what you want. Ought not two quilts ever be the same. You might use exactly the same material, but you would do it different. A lot of people make quilts just for your bed, or to keep you warm. But a quilt is more. It represents safekeeping, it represents beauty, and you could stay it represents family history.
I couldn't agree more.