Comin’ Around the Bend

I had been quilting a year before I saw in person what other quilters were making. I didn’t grow up around quilters. I didn’t belong to a guild. I hadn’t had any in-person classes.

I learned the art of quilt making through watching YouTube. Relentlessly. One video led to another led to another. I’d watch them all, regardless of whether they were traditional or modern, art quilts or lap quilts, improv or well-planned. English or Spanish or Portuguese. (My Spanish is very limited and my Portuguese relies on any similarities I can find in my Spanish, but a flying goose is a flying goose, folks.)

Then I heard about QuiltCon. (cue: the song of angels)

I cobbled together some funds and got myself out to Austin, Texas. It was February 2015. I kept to myself mostly and studied the quilts in the show. I walked around as if in a dream. I attended a few lectures.

Among my transformative experiences that weekend was this:

The quilters of Gee’s Bend delivered the keynote. I had read about them and knew. I knew this was big. They sang gospel. I grew up with gospel. It felt like home to me.

L to R: Mary Ann Pettway, Lucy Witherspoon, China Pettway, Gloria Hoppins. The Quilters of Gee's Bend, QuiltCon 2015
L to R: Mary Ann Pettway, Lucy Witherspoon, China Pettway, Gloria Hoppins. The Quilters of Gee’s Bend, QuiltCon 2015

L to R: Mary Ann Pettway, Lucy Witherspoon, China Pettway, Gloria Hoppins. The Quilters of Gee's Bend, QuiltCon 2015

This is the song they sang:

I don’t want nobody to praise me when I’m gone
I don’t want nobody to praise me when I’m gone
I don’t want nobody to praise me when I’m gone

Ohhh, give me my flower whiles I yet live

The flowers that you give me
I can’t see their beuty
The flowers that you give me
I can’t see their beauty
The flowers that you give me
I can’t see their beauty

Ohhh, give me my flower whiles I yet live

I don’t want nobody to praise me when I’m gone
I don’t want nobody to praise me when I’m gone
I don’t want nobody to praise me when I’m gone

Ohhh, give me my flower whiles I yet live

The flowers that you give me
I can’t tell nobody
The flowers that you give me
I can’t tell nobody
The flowers that you give me
I can’t tell nobody

Ohhh, give me my flower whiles I yet live

I don’t want nobody to praise me when I’m gone
I don’t want nobody to praise me when I’m gone
I don’t want nobody to praise me when I’m gone

Ohhh, give me my flower whiles I yet live

So a few days ago when I heard Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway of the Gee’s Bend Quilting Collective were soon teaching a workshop only a few hours’ drive away from my home, I sent my registration request off in a flash.

In fewer than three weeks, I’ll get to spend a few hours with Mary Ann and China. I’ll get to learn from them. Hear their stories. Let their histories inform me. I feel remarkably blessed to have that opportunity. I hope they’ll hug me if I cry a little.

xoxo,
Tara

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4 thoughts on “Comin’ Around the Bend

  1. Enjoy! I got to spend a day with Mary Lee Bendolph a couple of years ago at a workshop at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum when they hosted a Gee’s Bend exhibit. It was such a fabulous day!

    1. Oh, that does sound fabulous! The IQSCM (is that their acronym?) has many great programs. One day I’ll get out there!

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