"Pinwheel" variation

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
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    Photo: William Arnett
Cotton and cotton/polyester blends
88 x 85 inches
Collection of
Souls Grown Deep Foundation

As worldly influences increased in Gee's Bend during the twentieth century, so too did the number of quilt patterns, which became available commercially and could be swapped, copied, or purchased. "New," adopted patterns rarely took hold inside the community, however; they usually mixed into existing styles, then disappeared. Reasons for their limited use are revealed in interviews with the many quiltmakers who prefer to put together quilts to suit their tastes. Some "didn't feel comfortable with cutting little pieces to put together," "didn't like book patterns," or, as another has said, she "didn't have pretty materials, so [she] couldn't make pretty patterns." Sometimes a pattern block will be "twinned" with an improvisation of its elements, as occurs in the six unique variations in Essie B. Pettway's "Pinwheel" which she created using fabric remnants of the dresses that she made for herself and mer mother, Mary Lee Bendolph—a sort of cross-generational portrait in pinwheel shapes and green floral prints.