A Day in Gee's Bend
On Monday, May 20, I took a trip close to home to a place many people from across the country travel much longer distances to discover and celebrate: Gee’s Bend.
I rode the ferry from Camden to Gee’s Bend. Gee’s Bend resembles an inland island, surrounded by the Alabama River on three sides. The ferry shortens the 45-minute road trip to 7-10 minutes. This saves the residents both time and money.
Visitors make the trip to Gee’s Bend, with a population of about 270, to view the famous Gee’s Bend quilts made by locals who have achieve national prominence for their work.
After arriving in Gee’s Bend, I went to the Welcome Center. There I met and talked with Miss Doris Mosely. The welcome center features several quilt displays featuring her colorful work.
She said it usually takes her about two weeks to create an entire quilt. “It takes me a day to cut my scraps out, a day to put it together, and then two weeks to actually quilt it. I don’t really ever know what I’m going to do. It just comes in my mind and I do it,” Miss Mosely said.
Quilting for her now is a hobby. In the past, it was a matter of necessity. Quilts, she explained, were made from scraps of old clothing to provide warmth. “Ever since I was able to sew, I was sewing,” she said.
After leaving the Welcome Center, I headed to the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective. It is an older building with two rooms. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by Mary Ann Pettway who immediately started telling me about the quilts and the quilters themselves.
She shared that she joined the quilters in 2005 and has been hard at work ever since. In the back room, all the quilts that have been made are ready to be sold on shelves and tables. Chairs set up in the front room are surrounded by sewing machines.
While she worked, Pettway explained that her favorite colors to use when quilting are red, white and black.
She said most of the time she sews in the Collective by herself while other Gee’s Bend quilters work at home. Currently, 15 to 20 women in Gee’s Bend are creating quilts.
Pettway said she is keeping the legacy going and even training her grandsons in the art.
After finishing up at the Collective, I drove back home thinking about all that I had learned that day. The history behind the quilts is deep.
As time passed, the Gee’s Bend Quilters became known around the country. No longer made just for warmth, these colorful quilts now provide income and national recognition for the families.
Visitors from near or far who would like to visit Gee’s Bend can learn more at these two sites: