An outsider from across the Alabama River who married into Gee’s Bend, Helen McCloud lives in one of the least traveled parts of the Bend, at the end of a dirt road that runs off another dead-end dirt road. Nevertheless, she has bonded herself to the community through her solo singing at churches throughout the area. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Des Moines Art Center and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
I was born down in Clifton, out from Annemanie. My mother was 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.