The drive from New Orleans to Boykin, Alabama is a long one…the landmark cities click by…Biloxi, Mobile, Creola, Thomasville, and then I arrive in Boykin, home of the Gee’s Bend Quilting Collective. Maryann Pettway comes out on the front porch to greet me–“well, Margaret, we were wonderin’ where you were!”…and the conversation begins.
I first came to Gee’s Bend in 2007 bringing sewing machines and fabric but mostly, just wanting to meet the women responsible for these amazing quilts. Generations of quilters have lived in this tiny bend in the river, their eyes seeing slavery and its abolition, civil rights marches. The quilts are incredible. Once made from old clothing and whatever scraps they could find–utilitarian–they needed something to keep warm. Today the quilters still use every little piece. “See that tiny piece there? That’s where I started,” Maryann Pettway says as she points to a teeny red patch in the middle.
The Sewing Machine Project has delivered 4 shipments of machines to the quilters. Machines they use in house and machines they use to teach the children in the area (lucky kids!) A visit is an invitation to the color, the warmth, the grace of these remarkable women.