"Housetop" with "Bear Paw" center medallion

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Cotton and cotton/polyester blend
96 x 79 inches
Collection of
Souls Grown Deep Foundation

One of the Freedom Quilting Bee’s outlets in the early 1970s was Artisans Cooperative in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, which featured a "Bear Paw" from the bee on its brochure's cover. Estelle Witherspoon, one of the bee's founders and its longtime co-manager, created a quilt in 1972 for her own use employing the "Bear Paw" motif as a single-block medallion in a traditional "Housetop" format. Most quilting bee workers made quilts all day for money and then returned home to make more quilts for family use. Often they would take a pattern that they used repeatedly at work—where stitches and color combinations were predetermined—and vary it at home in ways that barely resembled the quilting bee's advertised patterns and products.