The Quilt Royals and Me

I don’t really know how to introduce this because it’s just so insane. So I’m just going to spit it out: Last month, I had lunch with and spent the afternoon in a back room of a museum studying early 19th century quilts with Barbara Brackman and Merikay Waldvogel. Just the three of us.

Here’s proof:

Yes. That Barbara and that Merikay.

Their current joint research project is chintz panel quilts, of which there are several fabulous examples at the Atlanta History Center Museum. What an honor it was to be any part of that with them.

You can read about the Atlanta History Center chintz quilts in a series of posts Barbara’s doing on her Material Culture blog, starting with this one. And you can read more about the chintz panel quilt project here.

I defied death to take photos from the top of a very tall ladder. It was more than worth it.

~Tara

Improv Workshop with Gee’s Bend Quilters

We do not remember days, we remember moments.

~ Cesare Pavese

Yesterday’s Gee’s Bend workshop at Heritage Hall in Talladega, Alabama was filled with beautiful moments.

China caught me picking apart some fabric strips (which I thought was going rather well), took them from me and just started pulling them apart. Just grab and pull. I would have thought that would warp the fabric or something, but nope. They came apart as if she’d already pulled the stitches out. My table mate and I got a huge laugh at me over that. I really wish I had it on video because it was hilarious.

Of course, China and Mary Ann sang as we worked.

What I admire most about the women of Gee’s Bend is their spirit. These women and their families have known true hardships, and yet they arrive with joy in their hearts and love to share.

They give more than they take.

A lesson for all of us. I have running water, insulated walls, and food in my belly. I’ll bet you do, too.

The Ladies Pettway brought in a bin of fabric odds and ends and we tossed in a few bits of our own. In the bin I found a hand-painted panel depicting pastoral birds, which sent me off in one direction because I had some silly notion that it was meant to be that I work with this thing. Well, I guess it was meant to be in that it taught me that I shouldn’t always listen to silly notions.

Have mercy, y’all… this thing is ug-ly. (Except for the birds. The birds are really pretty.)

But it was terrific fun and felt liberating to sew on something that had no plan, no destination, no pattern, no rules, no deadline. It was freeing. I think I’ll use improv in the future as a way to clear my mind between (or during) more structured projects.

xoxo,
~~ Tara