1905 – 2000

Della Mae Bridges


    Helen McCloud talks about learning to quilt from her mother, Della Mae Bridges:

    Mama the one show me to make quilts. When I was living there with her before I married Almos, she show me how to get the frame together, whip the cotton. She get a big needle, go around, whip it around the frame, put the cotton down. She show me how to cut the blocks, cut the strips.

    She did a lot of quilts. I can remember way back yonder when I was ten or eleven, something like that, helping her beat out the cotton, pad the quilts. When I was coming in about twelve or thirteen, she tell me to get me a chair and start to sew me a part of a quilt, and she show me how to do a row of stitches. I didn't make one myself. I was twenty, back with my mama, I pieced it and quilted it myself, my work. I had to prove to my mama I could do it. I took that quilt to my marriage with Almos. Then I made me one out of overalls and some overall material my sister give me—that was when I moved here in '64. After that, I went to tacking them. It's a quicker way and a better way. My sister Annie Pearl worked at a sewing factory down in Mobile, and she give me a lot of old cloth scraps and old clothes and things, so I didn't want to see them go to waste, so I went and made quilts out of them. We didn't have no blankets then, so I had to keep making them things. I had to run six beds, children sleep two in a bed back then, sometime need four and five quilts on a bed, according to the weather.

    Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

    Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

    Gee’s Bend quilts carry forward an old and proud tradition of textiles made for home and family. They represent only a part of the rich body of African American quilts. But they are in a league by themselves. Few other places can boast the extent of Gee’s Bend’s artistic achievement, the result of both geographical isolation and an unusual degree of cultural continuity. In few places elsewhere have works been found by three and sometimes four generations of women in the same family, or works that bear witness to visual conversations among community quilting groups and lineages. Gee’s Bend’s art also stands out for its flair—quilts composed boldly and improvisationally, in geometries that transform recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks, and fabric remnants.

    The Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend

    This uplifting, Emmy-winning PBS film tells the modern-day "Cinderalla" story of the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Artists born into extreme poverty, they live to see their quilts hailed by a The New York Times art critic as "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced."