Bars and string-pieced columns

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
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95 x 76 inches
Collection of
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco museum purchase American Art Trust Fund and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Jessie T. Pettway’s versatility is represented by an elegant design of tapering strings in shades of red, yellow, blue, and gray, all framed by columns of bright red. The composition, suggestive of waving grass, resembles the oscillating pattern in the quilt that Gertrude Miller gave to her. Jessie appears perplexed by admiration of this quilt. "That's just a lot of strings sewed together," she insists. "I wasn't trying to keep nothing in order. I turned the narrow end next to the wide end and just sewed it together." Her disclaimer is another indication of the distinction Gee's Bend women make between "pretty" and "ugly" quilts, or between those created for display or sale and those made for everyday use. As she never worked for the Freedom Quilting Bee, all her quilts were intended for home use only.

This is one of ten Gee's Bend quilts to appear on a U.S. postage stamp in 2006.